Adult Baby Role Play and Disability Tropes

[Image: A Portrait of Stanley Thronton in front of a open field]

Image by: Stanley Thornton

So recently, there was an episode of Taboo. A series about showing the world the way that it is, with all the gross and strange details. One of the segments focused on consensual infantilism, better known as adult baby play. This is where a grown adult decides to dress and act as if they are an infant or baby. (Most famously depicted on CSI.) Some of the people who enjoy this kink have others that they play with. Usually, a Mummy or Daddy that take care of them as if they are a baby. During the episode, the baby, Stanley Thornton, showed off the crude website that he runs and the furniture that he made for his play.

However, things turned weird after the episode was aired. Apparently, a Senator in Stanley’s home state saw the episode with him in and decided that the disability living allowance that Stanley is receiving is not warranted. Now, it seems that there is an official investigation into the health status of Stanley.

When I first read about this, I was furious, and I really still am. I thought that if I left it sit for a while that my emotions would die down and I would be able to write something that is a bit more objective. However, I really can’t wrap my head around it. I did some research, and as I thought there would be, a lot of people are spewing a lot of ableist tropes. So, I thought that the first thing that I should to is break some of these down:

Trope: “He has shown that he is able to work, thus he shouldn’t be on disability”

The senator was the first to say this; however, there have been a large number of reports stating the exact same thing. citing the fact that Stanley runs a website and makes custom furniture as proof. This is shocking to me. Not that he is able to do either of these things while being disabled, but instead that someone would think that running a website is hard. Realistically, I am running a website right now, but I don’t really think that this qualifies me as just about anything. (You know, other than a blogger.) Also, when I went to the website that Stanley designed and gave it a good looking over, I noticed that it really isn’t anything fancy. There is minor javascripting and a demonstration of the basics of HTML, but not much else. This isn’t a website of someone that should be working as a website designer or developer, at least not a high paid one.

Next, in the show there was a mention that he custom makes his own furniture. Furniture that can hold his adult body in a position like that of a baby. He is even shown drilling a few holes for the camera. However, one thing that isn’t mentioned is how long that furniture took him to make. Do you think that he would be qualified as a carpenter if it took him three years to make a single piece of furniture? What about if it was a mere six months? Do you think that if he sold his furniture that he would be able to make a wage that would allow him to live?

Trope: “He shouldn’t be on disability”

This is part of the last one, but this is attacking it from a different angle. So, what makes you, or this senator an expert on who should be on disability and who shouldn’t? I think that this is just a flexing of able-bodied privilege. This idea that the abled can threaten to remove the money that you, as a disabled person, need to live on because you did something that doesn’t fit their limited view of what disabled and disability is.

Trope:”He doesn’t look disabled”

This one should be clear, really it should. But, here I go anyway. What does a disabled person look like? And does that mean that there is a hierarchy of “disabledness” based on what you look like?

I tend to think that people who are disabled should be believed to be disabled, when they tell you they are disabled. You don’t know what they have been through, what is going inside their body or inside their mind. And you have no right to compare and judge how bad things are for them. People with narcolepsy or epilepsy, can walk and talk and do everything that another person can. But sometimes they faint, sleep, or seize. Does that mean that they shouldn’t get disability? Does that mean that they should drive (assuming that they don’t have their condition under control?) What about someone with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or Autism?

Trope: “He shouldn’t be wasting taxpayer’s money”

There are two ways that you can take this comment, they are both really offensive and really ableist. The first is that those who have a medical or mental condition that makes it hard to work, but are able to work are a waste of money should they be receiving assistance. This is again that privilege lording. The other is that funding people with disabilities is a waste of taxpayer’s money. Let that sink in a bit. Do you think that is offensive now?

Trope: “Disabled people have it easy” or “I should apply for disability, if these are the people who get it”

Speaking as a person with a disability, would you like to trade? I would love to be able to read a book. You know without having to scan it into my computer, convert it to a new file type, pass it through a reading program and listen to it. I am sure that people with depression would love to give you their depression. I am sure that my friend, that was just diagnosed with MS, would give that away too. People with disabilities do not have it easy. We have to fight for every little right and privilege that we get, and living shouldn’t be one of those fights.

Next, in the United States (as well as in Ontario) those who are disabled do not make money. They are given an amount of money to live on. They are not allowed to have savings above a certain amount. This monthly amount varies based on severity of disability, cost of living, and a number of other things. Stanley gets about $750 each month. Let me say that again EACH MONTH. Do you think that you would be able to make that work? That is feeding yourself, putting clothes on your back, a roof over your head, paying for the internet or cable or phone, paying utilities and more. Here in Ontario, the rate is about $1000 a month. If you were living in Toronto, for that $1000 a month, you would get a one bedroom apartment (even with the rent allowance that Ontario gives out on top of that $1000), that you share with another person, ramen noodles or kraft dinner, a bus pass, and a new shirt once every three to four months. Sounds like a wonderful life doesn’t it?

Trope: “I know someone that abuses disability and gloats about it”

This one makes me whimper, every, single, time. There will never, ever, EVER, be a perfect system. There will always be people that are willing to lie and cheat and steal to get ahead of other people. On the grand scale of the entire disability system, people like that are VERY rare. In fact, I would argue that there are fewer people abusing the system than there are people that can’t get on the system, even though they “deserve it.”

Trope: “Disabled people just need to get a job” / “He is just lazy” / “We should help find these people work instead of paying them to not work”

I don’t think that I have the words to say how wrong this one is. Of those that are disabled or have problems with accessibility or ability to work, very very few of them are on disability. I, while disabled, am not on disability. Those who have severe enough conditions to be taken seriously by our doctors, our families, and our governments, are severely disabled. Disabled people have to prove to multiple doctors and the government that they aren’t lazy, that they really have a problem, and that it can’t simply be overcome by an accommodation in the workplace.

Hopefully, with this recapping of tropes around disability, you have learned to look at some of the other articles about Stanley a bit more critically. And if this wasn’t enough information about disability for you to trust the doctors and the governments that award access to the disability system, then maybe you should remember that the ENTIRE episode of that Stanley was in was a mere 45 minutes in length. The average working adult needs work 30-40 hours a week to make a wage that they can support themself on. So, we are comparing the 45 minutes (tops) that Stanley was working for the camera, to the 30-40 hours of work each week that working adults need to do. Does that offend you as a working adult? Does that offend you as a disabled person? That a senator, not a doctor, but a senator, can make the decision that you are able to work a full time job based on 45 minutes of a highly edited and staged show based on your life. That after having to prove to at least two doctors, and a government oversight board, probably being denied and appealing, and waiting more than a year, you can be told that you are a drain on the system based on a 45 minute evaluation by some body that has no expertise at all.

As a disabled person, it offends me.


Able-bodied Privilege Checklist [PDF]
FWD: Able-bodied privilege
The Able-bodied Backpack
Stanley’s Website


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