Who Gets To Be Sexy? - Nicola
The image is of the artist/photographer, Lisa Gunn, sitting sideways in a wheelchair, with her back to the audience. She is only wearing a corset, her face, arms and legs cannot be seen. It is styled in black and white, to resemble Victorian Era photographs.
I chose this artifact because it depicts how ‘sexuality intertwines with disability’ (DeMirjyn 2017). This photograph exposes the audience to the fact that people with disabilities are, like able-bodied people, sexual beings. By depicting both, the woman, and the wheelchair, it reveals the intersectionality of discrimination faced by people with disabilities, for their disability, and their sexuality. The image critiques the ‘concept of normativity’ (Löfgren-Mårtenson 2013) that our world has developed: who gets to be deemed sexy in modern society? Why are people with disabilities exempt from the discussion and education of sex?
The woman is depicted as a sexual being, in a way she chose to be viewed. She takes control of her erotic power (Lorde 1984), her ‘power as a woman’ and her ‘sense of sensuality’ (DeMirjyn 2017), rather than suppressing it to fit the normative perceptions of society, such as the infantilization and ‘de-sexualization’ of people with disabilities (Santos & Santos 2017). This artifact presents a space for the discussion of sexuality, and how women have historically been disempowered, especially by removing their autonomy and control over their own sexuality. This artifact is significant, as it sparks a discussion about the perceptions of people with disabilities, and how outdated, historical views may still evident today.
I am interested in Disability and Sex because both are pertinent to our everyday lives. Every person has a sexual identity, and some people are granted more freedom to express their sexuality than others. To understand sex and disability better, is to understand the broad spectrum of human experience better, and being educated is the first step to creating a world that is welcoming of all walks of life.
My own journey of discovery, and the questioning of my identity, is what led me to be interested in this topic, and to truly engage with the content; it provided a place to better understand myself, which allowed me to learn about, understand, and empathise with the experiences of others.
This subject has impacted me by expanding my knowledge of disability and sexuality, and how they interact with one another. Before starting the subject, I had no knowledge of the experiences of people with disabilities, and the struggles they have had with sexuality, due to societal beliefs. My knowledge of sexuality and sex was also very limited, and this subject taught me information I will forever remember, such as Dailey’s (1981) Circles of Sexuality Model.
This subject provided a safe space to learn and be educated in a meaningful way; a way in which I can also be an educator to some degree, such as with family and friends. It allowed me to critically reflect on my own beliefs and understandings, and to question why, as a society, we hold so many norms, especially around Disability and Sex. Through this knowledge, I feel empowered, with a better understanding of my own sexuality, and sexuality on a broader scale
I hope this artifact inspires viewers to question their beliefs and biases about disability and sex. I hope they can take action in reducing the stigma and discrimination experienced by people with disabilities, instead of contributing to it, and consider how much of what they consider ‘normal’ and ‘guaranteed’ in life, may not be the same for a person with a disability.