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Cory Silverberg

Access Sex

By October 26, 2007

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When I think about sex, which I do a lot, I usually think about it from a perspective of access, or what some might call a “disability perspective”. When people meet me and hear about what I do for a living a lot of them ask me why I’m so interested in disability. I don’t currently live with a disability, and even though they usually don’t know that for sure I don’t “look” disabled, so they assume.

Because I get asked this so often I have a list ready of reasons to explain why I’m so interested in sex and disability. Here’s part of the list:

  • I’m interested in everyone’s sex lives, not just people who look like me (I mean really, have you seen the picture of me on this site? Can you imagine if everyone had that hair, it would be like a world full of Tin Tin’s having sex). Sex for everyone means sex for everyone.
  • I’ve learned more about myself sexually from mentors, partners, and friends with disabilities than I have from anyone other than my parents.
  • I plan to be disabled one day (if I’m lucky to live long enough, that is) so I consider talking about sex and disability as an investment in my future.
  • Possibly the only generalization you can make about people living with disabilities is that they have fewer sexual rights than anyone and they are the most sexually marginalized group of people on the planet. This means when they fight the power and express their sexuality it’s radical and awesome. It’s not heroic, don’t get all teary eyed, but it’s a heck of a lot more interesting than watching celebrities have sex.

I was thinking about this tonight as I attended Body Language, a photo exhibit that is part of the Abilities Arts Festival, just one of several disability arts festivals that happen across North America each year. The above image is of artist Kyla Harris and was taken by Sarah Murray as part of a collaborative project called Access Sex (you can check out more of their work here).

Because I arrived early to the show I had a chance to take the art in well before the crowds arrived. This meant I had the chance to watch and listen to people interact with the work in the gallery. Most of the work in the show had the kind of clarity and intensity that Harris’ work has. People were clearly engaged and many were obviously aroused by the images. This left me with many questions about viewers interpreted their own prurient interest in the photos.
If they saw these photos as hot, did they have to ignore the disability to do that?
Do they pretend it the pictures aren’t hot because these are people with disabilities?
Also, how do these images make them feel about themselves? The fact is most of us have a relationship to disability or chronic illness. But we’re only “supposed” to talk about that relationship in negative and fearful terms. The work of the three photographers in Body Language not only challenges social norms, it offers all of us a radically different way to experience our relationship to disability. A way that’s positive, and visceral, and, sexy.

See more – Kyla Harris/Sarah Murray: Access Sex

See more – Belinda Mason-Lovering: Intimate Encounters (click on Exhibitions then Intimate Encounters)

See more – Rasso Bruckert: Completely Unperfect

Image courtesy of Kyla Harris. Photo credit: Sarah Murray

Comments
October 29, 2007 at 11:33 pm
(1) Duane says:

in my limited experience (sigh) sex can greatly diminish the effects of disability.

November 7, 2007 at 12:08 pm
(2) ngk says:

remarkable work. in between, its possible to forget the purpose of viewing.its even possible to miss the disabiity part of it.a sensibly, sensitively portrayed work of education, art and science! well done!!!

November 7, 2007 at 10:21 pm
(3) Hank says:

Sarah Murray is incredibly sexy – more than any able-bodied woman. Just a normal guy’s opinion.

November 7, 2007 at 11:01 pm
(4) Michele says:

Thank you for bringing this out to light. As a (what I think) sexy woman with a disability this is the miconceptions concerning how I am in bed (btw, no one ever complained) is one of the reasons why men don’t look at women in wheelchairs as sex objects and even though able bodied women say they don’t like it, they do. If only women in wheelchairs can have more of those options.

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