Tough. - Nina D.
A wooden horse riding crop, carefully bound in black leather with a leather paddle.
I chose this artefact because it has the ability to evoke a multitude of emotions and sensations. To the ‘untrained’ eye, it appears to be a whip often seen in horse riding. Yet, to members of the Kink and BDSM community, used correctly, it is a tool used in ‘play’ to inflict pleasure and pain.
This simple object can symbolise power, consent, freedom, creativity, play, joy, dominance, submission, safety, pleasure, pain, desire, respect, boundaries, having your needs met, loss of inhibitions and much more.
Society has linked vulnerability, physical barriers, and an inability to provide consent, with disability. Yet, many people living with disabilities are members of the Kink and BDSM community. Kink and BDSM are strongly linked to power, assertion and above all, consent. The juxtaposing beliefs about these groups and how they come together, leave many people confused, and often uncomfortable. This is due to a lack of education and the severe under-representation of disabled bodies in the media.
Contrary to popular belief, the Kink and BDSM community encourage a judgment-free space where consent is paramount. It is an environment which prides itself on trust and connection, which makes it a brilliant topic to help carry my discussion around sex and disability.
I am interested in Disability and Sex because even in 2022, they remain ‘taboo’ topics. The ‘taboo’ nature of these topics appear to increase when the two are discussed in relation to one another.
I believe that at the root of oppression is fear. I am angered (and a little fascinated) by members of society who know little on either topic, yet who insist on instilling their beliefs on others under the guise of protection. I would argue that removing an adult’s right to choose who and what they engage in does quite the opposite; it harms them.
In-depth conversation on sex and pleasure remain largely undiscussed in mainstream society. Yet, our media is saturated with over-sexualised content modelled by young, caucasian, able bodied individuals- 'poster children' of ‘health and strength’. In this way, society has centralised the white heterosexual experience, which has over time worked to solidify a narrative that in order to be considered a person with desires, and who is desirable, one must possess such characteristics.
Individuals’ living with disabilities are often paternalised by society. This only slows progression and places them at a further disadvantage. Providing better education and access for individuals’ who want to explore their sexuality, and access sexuality services, should be at the top of the agenda for governmental bodies and institutions.
No one should have to fight to prove that they are a sexual being.
The “gem” I’m taking away from the research I conducted in order to complete this project, were the results found after multiple studies conducted on links between trauma and BDSM. Results showed levels of psychological distress in individuals’ who engage in BDSM were no higher (and in fact lower), then the general population. These results were maintained across other comparisons such as past sexual abuse and coercion, as well as attachment styles involving control. (Burnes, Singh, A. A., & Witherspoon, R. G. 2017)
I hope my artefact inspires viewers to consider their own views on disability, sex, kink and BDSM. I hope viewers reflect on their own sexual history and the ways it helped shape their desires and who they are today. To perhaps consider what it might be like to have assumptions made about you… or worse, decisions made for you, based on the arbitrary opinions of others who claim to ‘know what’s best’.
How could something as personal, private and complex, such the way we want to give and receive pleasure, be up to anyone other than ourselves?
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