Disability doesn’t make it ok to be creepy

Content warning: This post is about sexual creepiness, sexual assault, and using disability as an excuse to violate boundaries. Proceed with caution.

A reader asked:

How do you call out a disabled person who is saying they should get to do creepy or mean things because of their disability, without being ableist yourself? I know a guy in a wheelchair who will grope and touch women when they sit down next to him, and he has done this to me. And he’ll say things like, “Come on, I’m in a wheelchair.” if you try to move or act uncomfortable. And he says because most women aren’t nice to him, he should get to know a female’s touch.

realsocialskills said:

This guy is using other people’s desire to be good people as a weapon to get away with groping women. That is not something you need to have any tolerance for whatsoever. He’s doing something awful and he knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s violating people and then manipulating them into feeling like bad people for objecting. That’s a horrible thing to do.

And it seems like it’s working, given that you’re concerned that you might be wrong to tell him to stop, or that you might have to be very careful about how you do it.

This dude is groping people and telling them off for objecting. There are absolutely no circumstances under which that is an ok thing to do, and you don’t owe him a pass on it just because he’s marginalized by ableism. That’s the most important thing about this situation. It’s absolutely ok and important to insist that he knock it off.

It’s not ok to grope people. Being lonely doesn’t make it ok to grope people. Being marginalized and desexualized doesn’t make it ok to grope people. People with disabilities are often seen as non-adult and therefore nonsexual, and that’s a horrible thing to experience. That doesn’t mean that others owe them sex, and it doesn’t give them the right to grope people. The only thing that makes it ok to touch another person in a sexual way is consent.

It’s ok to insist that this dude stop groping people even if you have some ableist attitudes towards him (You probably do. Most people, including people with disabilities, have some ableist attitudes, and most people are more ableist towards people they have good reason to dislike.) You don’t have to wait to be perfectly free of all bigotry before you’re allowed to decide who you do and don’t want touching you in a sexual way.

If you want to tell this dude to stop groping people, I think the best way is to just completely refuse to engage with any of the excuses he’s making. The overriding issue here is that he’s violating people in a sexual way. It’s not ok for him to do that, and it’s not ok for him to tell people they’re wronging him by objecting. It’s better not to let him change the subject to ableism when you’re telling him to stop groping people.

I’m sorry you’re having to face this situation. He shouldn’t be acting this way.