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Desirability and Disability: Role of Adaptive Lingerie and Community


For many women, purchasing and wearing lingerie is no longer solely about pleasing sexual partners. Instead, it has grown into a form of self-love – an experience that helps define our sense of femininity, personal identity, and self-assurance. Who doesn’t feel an extra boost of confidence wearing their favorite set of lacy underwear? Even if no one else sees it, wearing something for yourself that makes you feel powerful, bold, and sexy can have a huge impact on self-confidence.

Everyone deserves that boost of courage, and while I love the push towards more size-inclusive lingerie with companies such as CUUP or ThirdLove, there are hardly any brands creating disability inclusive intimates.

Most disabled folks are all too familiar with the struggle of finding adaptive outerwear that is both fashionable and functional, and this becomes even more difficult when it comes to finding adaptive intimates.

My name is Emma Butler and I am the founder of Intimately, an accessible lingerie brand and community space for women with disabilities. I was first introduced to adaptive apparel after my mother, my role model and a self-proclaimed fashionista, was diagnosed with a few different autoimmune diseases that left her disabled. Together we tried to find clothing that matched her style while also accommodating her newly limited mobility.

Sadly, whenever we typed “adaptive underwear” into the google search bar, all we could find were ugly, medicinal intimates. It was anything but stylish, mostly modelled on elderly people, and the opposite of sexy. In my mom’s words, she described the experience as “dehumanizing.”

As I entered college, I met many women with different and similar disabilities as my mother. They all shared the sentiment that shopping as a disabled woman is incredibly difficult. Whether because of annoying hook and eyes, tiny zippers, or buttons that require sharp hand dexterity, my disabled friends clearly saw that mainstream clothing brands create items without their needs in mind. They felt unseen and unheard. This is why fostering a supportive community is equally as vital as creating more accessible products.

Today, thanks to social media we can connect with people who have the same diagnosis as us within seconds. Many disabled activists unabashedly share their experiences on social media like a diary that shows who they are instead of only portraying the good days or best sides of themselves. Connecting with people who understand disability and chronic illness, and who have experienced the same ableism and challenges as you have is vital to feeling seen and connected to those around us.

This sense of community is a big aspect of Intimately as well. Our community page offers a space for women to connect and share their thoughts on anything – from sex and dating, to self-love, to travel hacks. All of us are beautiful, and a little boost from accessible lingerie along with a supportive community behind us can make all the difference. 

Instagram: @intimately


Emma Butler is founder and CEO of Intimately, an inclusive lingerie brand that aims to empower disabled women through fashionable and adaptive undergarments. She is a ’20 Brown University graduate and currently a candidate for her MBA at Duke. Any given day you can find her drawing and painting, learning how to cook something other than her famous mac & cheese, or reading a mystery novel.

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