March 11, 2011

Sex and Disability

(Photo: Ashley Savage)
While I was on leave with my family in Norway not too long ago, I led a conference workshop for The Norwegian Network for Sexuality and Relationship among the Physically Disabled (NFSS), at which I spoke to health care professionals about the potential benefits of erotic and pornographic film for physically impaired individuals. Recently feminist porn maker Erika Lust addressed the topic, "Sex and Disability - not sexual disability," in her blog. Lust points out the many stereotypes that continue to deny the sexuality of women and men with disabilities and not just in the sense of the construction of "negative asexualizing stereotypes." Individuals with disabilities are also denied ownership of their sexuality and to be sexually self-determined in other respects. Lust proposes this scenario:

"Think for instance about being in a bar and there’s a good looking guy or girl, but you don’t feel like starting to flirt, because this person sits in a wheelchair. A little hater pops up in your head and asks you ‘what will the people think?’ They’ll ask themselves how strange this guy/ girl may be having the hots for disabilities, trying to take advantage of this helpless being…’.

TLC Trust is a website that "provides opportunities, advice and support to disabled men and women so they can find appropriate sexual and therapeutic services." In its gallery of photographs by Ashley (Savage) that were exhibited at the Royal Society of Medicine in November 2009 to coincide with a series of lectures themed around disability, Ashley captures the beauty of women and men with disabilities. Writes Ashley, "Since beginning my photographic practice, I have been consistently drawn towards representing beauty that is strange and unique; and, as a trained counsellor, I am also interested in harnessing the therapeutic use of photography in exploring disability, sexuality, self esteem and body image." Scroll down on the gallery page to click on individual images and read the stories of the women and men who were photographed (refresh page to return to top). I found the story of this woman (photograph included above) compelling:

"Disabled people are generally seen as being asexual and genderless, and images of us are largely confined to medical or charity based usage. But in fact we are as able to form relationships and live life to the full as everybody else, and we are represented in every walk of life.

Ashley is a wonderful photographer to model for, as he is able to show beauty and strength where others see only ugliness and dis-ability. I have collaborated with him on several occasions for various projects, and I feel very proud whenever I look at the photographs he has taken of me."


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