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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Sexuality and Disability/Life in Paradise

In the disability community, discussion of sexuality seems far more taboo than in mainstream culture.  “Sex in the City” never featured a blink or a crip, even the show on taboos on the Sundance Channel never included people with disabilities but I do have one old friend who subscribes to a very obscure pornographic publication called “Amputee Update,” which, as the title implies, features people who have had limbs removed participating in all sorts of kink for the pleasure of its readers.  Most organized gatherings of adults with disabilities also try to prohibit any romantic interludes between attendees, typically segregate dormitories by gender and sometimes even scold adults of opposite sexes for being alone together.

The organizations that have dormitories, guide dog schools, independent living centers and other similar places say that, although their students are adults, that gender segregation and discouraging romance helps maintain order within the group and prevents rumors, jealousies and other nasty behaviors on behalf of the students.  Having spent a month in guide dog school last June, I can understand why the staff would do almost anything to minimize internal conflict as their jobs come with about as much stress as one can imagine and adding more cannot possibly help the situation.  On the other hand, the students must be adults to come to the school and romance and sexuality are part of being a grown-up.

This week, there will be lots of adults with disabilities attending the CSUN conference in Los Angeles (BC did not go as he and his crew are still hiding in the Everglades and sent in this report via satellite Internet – Gonz).  These adults will have no supervision.  The people at the Marriott, Hilton and other hotels really do not care who sleeps with whom.  Why, then, do mainstream venues treat people with disabilities more like grown-ups than facilities specifically set up for us?

The other day, I received an email from Isaac Goldstein, a reader of BC who is also web manager for American Sexuality Magazine.  He wrote to tell me about a special issue they have published on sexuality and disability.  The following is the majority of the note he sent me with links to some very provocative articles about this seemingly taboo subject.

American Sexuality Magazine is proud to announce the following articles:

1. User's Manual for the Paralyzed Penis: Love after spinal cord injury
By Tre Trefethen

2.  Freak Fucker: Sexuality and disability in British art
By Ronda Gowland

3.  A video on a art show of nudes, created by people with developmental disabilities, by Joyce Nishioka. It's up on YouTube here:
http://youtube.com/watch?v=WrmTgvg3Uyg

4.  A summary of our special Disability and Sexuality issue of our
Sexuality Research and Social Policy Journal.

You can reach the journal directly here. The official launch of the
Journal new issue will be next Monday:

5)  And last but not least, two reprints from BENT magazine:

- One on a guy who was chubby as a youngster, lost weight, became a beautiful gay man, and then lost his hand:

- Another on a guy from Scotland who as a disabled man didn't fit into any gender stereotype, denied his sexuality, and discovered he was gay in his middle ages.


Isaac Goldstein
Web Manager
National Sexuality Resource Center (NSRC)
San Francisco State University
2017 Mission Street, Suite 300
San Francisco, CA 94110
e: isaacg@sfsu.edu
nsrc.sfsu.edu
www.sexliteracy.org


Afterward
By Gonz Blinko

We’re still stuck on a mosquito infested oyster bar that pretends to be an island off of the western edge of the Everglades.  I have an entirely new respect for the Calusa tribes as they lived in this area for 20,000 years or more without having invented Deet.  I must admit that the sun feels nice and the ocean breezes make one a bit more comfortable than otherwise and we do have good coffee from Samhara’s espresso machine so life could go far worse.

Blind Christian, after calling this excursion “a lifestyle decision,” refuses to talk about anything but fishing.  He rambles on endlessly about the relative merits of one color of plastic shrimp versus another.  He’s boring the hell out of all of us.


“Hey look,” exclaimed Caroline, “It’s Flipper!”

I’ve had enough experience with dolphins to ignore her call but the X-Dog wanted to find out about the excitement and ran into the water near her.

Suddenly, I heard gunshots firing toward the water.  “Christian!?!  What the fuck are you doing?!?”  I yelled assuming our leader had gone completely around the bend.

“Get the fuck out of the water!” I heard Samhara yell, followed by a few more blasts from what sounded like a 9 millimeter.

“What?” Yelled Caroline.

“It’s ok, I got it,” yelled an exasperated Samhara.  

“Why did you shoot Flipper?” Cried Caroline, now in tears.

“Dolphins have horizontal tail fins, that animal had a vertical one,” explained Samhara.

“And…?” Asked Caroline.

“You were trying to swim with a fucking bull shark you bimbo!”  Continued Samhara, “Gonz, teach your girlfriend how not to get killed please.  She almost got your dog killed too.”

I sat up and sighed.  Just another day in paradise…

-- End

3 Comments:

Anonymous Will Pearson said...

That's a very good point about the distinction about what society allows and what blink organisations allow. I wonder if it's indicative that society actually views blinks as more of a whole person than the blink organisations do. Maybe the blink organisations feel that at least some blinks don't have the social and emotional skills to deal with relationships, and they therefore impose a carpet ban on all individuals because it is easier than filtering out those who lack the required skills; after all, age just reflects how long you've been on the planet and not what level of skill you have in certain areas of life. Maybe it's the case that the blink organisations believe in eugenics.

I do think the situation is changing though. It's not that long ago that at least one European country sterilised women who had certain disabilities. I've noticed the change here in the UK as well. Some schools for blinks aged between 16 and 65 used to have unisex halls of residence but now have mixed sex halls, and as far as I know, the Guide Dog schools have never had unisex dormitories.

3:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nerve Magazine once did an issue on sex and disability.
I gave them an interview. I'm afraid I came off too vanilla. :)

12:42 PM  
Anonymous Jake said...

Point well taken. I heard rumblings about an upcoming workshop on disability and sexuality at Center for Independent Futures, a nonprofit organization of which I am a part. During one of our recent activity nights, this topic came up. I think there are times when it isn't appropriate to mix the sexes, and there are those times when it is appropriate. Each apartment in my organization houses either all males or all females, yet the community room in my building has a unisex bathroom.

5:49 PM  

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