Sexuality and reproductive power in question

Although he has had two children with his first wife, Marcel Nuss has often faced doubts as to his paternity, with many people questioning the fact that he could really be sexually active ("How did he ever have children?" sniggered an applicant for a position as carer during a job interview with him (Nuss, 2008a). Others, despite the fact that they know him well, still wonder if he can really have sex. Sexual power is always linked to the image of physical domination by the male, the domination of an active man over a passive woman . . . and it is far from common knowledge that a quadriplegic can have a fulfilling sex life when there is no rupture of the spinal cord.

The reasons for this denial of sexuality are probably also related to the fear of engendering and reproducing disability,4 especially among the parents of disabled young men. These parents might themselves have experienced, at the birth of their children, a sense of procreative failure and guilt for having engendered disability. Fear is, therefore, associated with sexuality and procreation (as if they were necessarily related to one another), and the disabled man inherits much of these parental representations, which he encounters when he considers becoming a father himself.

For you can never become a father alone, without being part of a lineage. A man disabled from birth has to solve a problem of lineage from the outset, especially because of the cultural importance attached to resembling one's parents. The disabled son is an unrecognisable descendant, whom some parents even refuse to consider as their son, because they cannot see themselves in him. There was not reproduction in the strictest sense, but the engendering of an individual marked by difference. It is difficult to identify with this son, to survive through him, because he does not resemble his parents closely enough. This individual, who is less than a man, and only anecdotally sexual (with a penis serving merely as an indicator, like hair colour) will never attain a satisfactory phallic potency. He will not readily be able to take the place of a father whose physical abilities will always be greater than his own, even when he reaches adulthood. Worse still, sometimes the son is not even expected to live as long as his father. Under these conditions, the position of the Father is unassailable: he will always dominate you, and might even outlive you.

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