Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby.

Yeah, LP is the ripe old age of six months, and I’m ready.  It’s totally time, don’t you think?

I came across this fellow.  Google translate completely failed at telling me anything about this guy other than his name is Renan and the pictures in the link were from a shoot they did.  Something about a calendar, a queen, and an astral warrior.  I suspected that Google’s Portuguese is not as good as it thinks.  Anyways.  After seeing the pictures, my first reaction was, holy crap, I didn’t know there were young adult models with T21, how freaking awesome.

So.  I’d originally seen his picture on the International Down Syndrome Coalition’s Facebook page.  I clicked on the picture and see this comment:

Handsome young man…but I am saddened to see someone exploiting him that way…regardless of chromosomes, kids (Nor adults!) shouldn’t be posing as sexy and selling themselves based on appearance. I would expect as much from Abercrombie…but not IDSC! :((

Well, huh.  I’m not a huge fan of modelling in general, I see that there are clear issues with selling the image of your body to sell an item, a brand, or an idea.  I get that.  If any of my kids wanted to model, I probably wouldn’t jump all over it, like say, if they chose to go to medical school and find a cure for cancer.  Maybe that’s wrong, but yeah, that is how I feel.

But… what’s the real point, the messed up world, or that this young man is getting a shot at participating in our messed up world?  I recently just read a great piece about the lack of disability representation in body positivity campaigns.  The article basically questioned the still narrow view of beauty, suggesting that there is more to beauty than what the non-disabled body can encompass.  In the end, the writer wonders out loud, wouldn’t it be great if we were all beautiful, aren’t we all enough, simply because we are living human beings?  I’d wholeheartedly agree.  It doesn’t matter to me that he is putting his image out to a world that has some broken ideas, it is that he is out in the world, just as he is.  

Yes, we can debate about modelling.  We can debate about modern sexuality.  We can debate about our image-obsessed society.  I think those are all valid issues, I do, but does it take anything away from the fact that this guy is out there, looking like any other teen heart throb, extra chromosome and all?  I don’t think it does.

Then we come to the question of whether or not the pictures were sexually exploitative, I’m just not seeing it.  Exploitation to me would be an abusive, unethical use of his image.  I mean, it isn’t like the dude is greased up, standing in some lewd position. Yeah, some of his pictures are somewhat suggestive, but isn’t sexuality a part of human beauty?

Sexuality of that kind is not appropriate in a sixteen-year-old, you might say.  Is that so?  Most sixteen-year-olds are fully in the throes of their budding human sexuality.  That’s just part of the deal.  Is it so wrong for a kid to express a little bit of that?  And by a little, I really mean a little.  I did not find his images to be over the top.  What I saw were images of a handsome young man, budding sexuality and all.

I loved that.

I loved it because it seems like all I see are pictures of cute babies.  Don’t get me wrong, I love me some cute babies.  I think I happen to have one of those cute babies.  But one day, my cute baby is going to grow up into a teenager.  He might even think about sex (gasp).  He might even have a sexual relationship (double gasp).  He might run around with his shirt off, and someone might find him attractive.  Yeah.  Seriously.

Here’s the thing, I want that for him.  I want him to experience his own sexuality.  He may grow up with an intellectual disability, but I don’t see how that precludes him from partaking in the universal human experience.  Love and sexuality are a huge part of that human experience.

I don’t know what is in the cards for my children.  We all struggle to find the right kind of love and companionship.  We live in a flawed world, and the flawed ways in which we see sexuality is no doubt important.  I don’t know all the answers to those questions, but I do know that LP has no hope of finding his path towards love and companionship as an adult unless he feels included in the world, flawed may it be.

In fifteen years, if LP flips through a teen mag and sees a picture of Renan, I don’t think I’ll be upset at all.  Not at all.

My mom is talking about what?  That is just embarrassing.  Just move along people, nothing to see here.

My mom is talking about what? That is just embarrassing. Just move along people, nothing to see here.

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28 Comments on “Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby.”

  1. 3graces says:

    I found your blog via a babycenter group, and I just have to say I love your posts so very much! This is fantastic; thanks for sharing the pics of this beautiful, classy, stylish young man.

  2. Latke says:

    I don’t know what you’re talking about. Our teenage children will spend Saturday nights at home, playing board games with us. How do you not foresee that?

    • jisun says:

      You’re right, husband. I really wasn’t thinking. I take it all back. Board games, hot chocolate, and rousing sing-a-longs until they are 21, then off to the convent or monastery.

  3. Paulette says:

    I showed the pic to my 15 year old daughter who also has Ds. We agreed he looks like one of her heartthrobs, Taylor Lautner. She was excited that Ronan has Ds too. I wanted to show her this because she thinks many boys/young men with Ds are not too cute. She has had her heart broken by a typical, sweet, good looking guy. He was friendly to her and she decided he was her boyfriend. His mother wisely advised him to break up with her, rather than saying she had it all wrong.As she inevitably looks for a mate I am happy she could see that Ds does not mean he can’t be a cutie!

    • jisun says:

      Aw, I’m so sorry to hear she had her heart broken, the Taters aren’t old enough yet, but I imagine that is a little heartbreaking to see as a mother no matter what the circumstances. Best of luck to your girl! Dating is hard, no matter what! :)

  4. I saw it and felt the same way. Fantastic! Bravo for him doing what he wants to do. According to his sister, it’s his dream. It doesn’t have to be anyone else’s. And he is super cute. That anyone thinks they are too suggestive has never seen Brazilian people in any other pictures, apparently, because from what I have seen, they are all freaking hot and don’t wear many clothes. It’s freaking Brazil, people! Get over it!

  5. Lauren says:

    Thank you for writing this. My son, who is 15 and has Ds, loves to wear abercrombie t shirts, and with all the bad press about them right now I’ve been feeling bad about the fact that he’s still wearing their stuff. So i had this idea that I would send them his picture wearing abercrombie and offer to help educate them and their “followers” about what is beautiful and maybe help repair their bad image. I’m not a big fan of using your looks to sell something either, but people do it every day in every business,
    not just in the modelling business. But, if it can help begin to change people’s perspective about what is beautiful I’m all for it.

  6. Oooh he is dreamy. I think the photos are great and not at all overly sexual or provocative. I do worry if my son will have meaningful relationships in the future. I so want that for him! I want teenage crushes and heartbreaks, first dates, first serious relationships–the whole thing.

  7. Mardra says:

    Yup.
    And I love the caption to your little man’s photo too.

    I have a pic of Marcus holding a birthday cigar (his 21st b-day) at the Craps table on my website. I thought twice about posting it – but hey – He’s 21, he looks good, he had a good time. (Everyone won when he rolled, so you can imagine the friends!) But I digress. I guess I’m just to relate that, yes, the human experience is a buffet, let them partake.

  8. Natália Codogno says:

    Hello, everybody. ‘m Renan sister. I would like to clarify that I was surprised by this question of sexuality discussed in this review that Jisun transcribed.
    Renan has 17 years and is a teenager like any other – is finishing high school next year (the same where I studied) and thinking about college. He practices sports such as tennis, horse riding and academia (he loves gym!). Renan has a normal life. Has many friends and a girlfriend.
     Renan, like many young people, want to be a model. For this, we family, we support your dreams and fight for inclusion. To be a model you need pictures, do not know how to call there, but here we call “book”. And it is natural for all models in this book have several photos, including shirtless so that the agency can see the physical person. The fact take pictures shirtless does not mean sexuality. We did not want to expose his sexuality. We only took the photos needed to make portifolio for modeling agencies. Like any other model in the world!
    But what the world, and ESPECIALLY parents need to understand is that their children with DS are like any child, provided they are stimulated.
    My brother has a very active social life! My brother has many friends who do not have Down syndrome, and he is treated as an equal! My brother goes to parties, concerts, barbecues, gatherings with friends. Many were the times that I took him at parties with friends and sought after 2 am
    What’s the problem? He will have fun with friends. Just like me when I was his age. We were always caring, orient and explain about the world. He has his life, and his independence. Thank God my parents have always given the same education for both of us, and I believe that we learn right.
    And it’s not just my brother. I know other people with down syndrome here in Brazil we have a normal life, work, play with friends, get married.
    We have to come together to fight for inclusion. INCLUSION! Enough of this inclusion masked!
    I would like to thank all of you who support this cause.
    When we unite for the same cause we are stronger!
    Jisun, congratulations for the text!
    Thanks!
    Natália

    • jisun says:

      Thank you for sharing more about your brother, Natalia! I am loving that you take him out partying with you. I hope my girls do that as well. (When they are all of responsible age, of course!)

      • Natália Codogno says:

        Thanks, Jisun! But I must say that when he leaves to go to parties with friends, just with friends. He has his freedom. I’m the driver.
        But we left together for parties and night shows!

  9. modernmessy says:

    This is great! All I have to say is, I’m mightily wishing we were Brazilian right now. Doesn’t everything just sound sexier and more fun over there? Down syndrome? No big deal!

  10. Leigh Ann Arnold says:

    Been crazy busy lately and just read this post and loved it! It is so inspiring to see this young man pursuing his dreams and starting to destroy stereotypes. It is a great time for our boys to be alive, they too, I am confident, will crush many many stereotypes as they live and enjoy life!
    Keep writing, love it!

    • jisun says:

      Thank you! I’ve been ridiculously behind in my writing as well, so we seem to be in the same boat with our busy lives!

      I especially loved Renan’s story because as a parent of a BOY with Ds, I’ve thought many, many hours about what is going to happen to him when he leaves the “cute kid” phase. There don’t seem to be good images out there for positive masculinity as boys with Ds grow into men, you know?

      • Leigh Ann Arnold says:

        I totally get it as to having a boy with DS, I think that is why this was SO encouraging. It does sometimes make me a little nervous as to what life may be like for him when he is not in the “cute kid” phase and this was a wonderful peek into a possible future!
        Also loved your thoughts on school, I don’t like the traditional school setting a whole lot either, I strongly believe that kids are all so different and what works for one may not work for another and we have to find a way to maximize each one’s potential. I too wonder if I should homeschool, however I don’t think I am cut out for it!

  11. I love this young man’s photos!

    When my third typical son was born, I read in The Book of Birth Days that for optimal health anyone born on his birthdate “needed to have a healthy sex life.” Looking at the infant in my arms, how could I imagine him ever being sexually active? But they do grow up and at some point (ideally) become adults with all that entails, including sexuality.

    My partner and I have discussed how the Ds support sites, Facebook groups and many books all seem to focus on the babies. At a recent dads’ support group meeting, a father confessed that, yes, there does not seem to be the same support for families when the children get older. Frankly, I think many people feel less comfortable around older kids and adults with Ds than the babies.

    And even more frankly, human history has not been kind in the way it treats people with Ds in general, including attitudes on attractiveness. This young man reminds us that people with T21 are as human and diverse as the rest of the population. Which is a Civil Rights issue!!! Renan defies the discomfort of the typical community with photos that show him as not only an adult male with Ds, but pretty dang hot. And in so doing, Renan is breaking down stereotypes that limit us all.

    Rock on, Renan (and thanks kimchilatke for this post)!


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