Kyla Harris & Sarah Murray

Sex is a vital part of our existence yet it remains a taboo subject in society. Disability is also something that the courteous Canadian does not talk about. Combine sex and disability and contrast occurs… but why? Access-Sex is a photographic collaboration that’s focus is on one woman’s exploration of her disability in relation to sexuality.

“So… can you have sex?” this is one of the first questions I’m asked when I meet a stranger. When people meet me they are inquisitive. I am a relatively attractive young woman in a wheelchair. The reason why I’m asked this may be because of a lack in social graces, curiosity or plain ignorance. This and other catalysts, spurred me to work on a photography project with Sarah Murray called Access-Sex looking at disabilities and sexuality. The main reason why this issue needs to be addressed is because of misrepresentation (or lack of) of people with disabilities in the media.

Access-Sex will change predetermined ideas and prevent future misjudgments. Currently, people with disabilities are seen as asexual and few examples in the media contradict that message. Similar to able-bodied people, not all people with disabilities are sexy; that doesn’t mean people with disabilities can’t have sex or can’t enjoy it. The media and the arts presently do not show people with disabilities in a sexual light, as able-bodied people have set the sexual standard.

There isn’t a more mainstream pornographic magazine other than Playboy, setting some sort of a sexual standard since 1953. Ninety-nine percent of Playboys models are able-bodied with the exception of Ellen Stohl, a C8/T1 incomplete quadriplegic who became the first Playboy bunny to model in July of 1987. Another anomaly is Aimee Mullins, an amputee from the age of one, modeled for Alexander McQueen on the cover of Dazed and Confused in August 1998 and starred in Matthew Barney’s “Cremaster Cycle” in 2002. Apart from Ellen Stohl and Aimee Mullins, people with disabilities are typecast as estranged victims, hospitalized seniors and extras that provide an institutional atmosphere. Not very sexy.

This project is a tasteful display of provocative pictures that raise questions. Access-Sex is a collaboration of photographs taken by Sarah Murray featuring myself in a range of different poses. As art is primarily subjective, these images will connect with the different audiences that will view the show.

The project Access-Sex is necessary to not only make people aware of the fact that people with disabilities are seen as asexual beings but to also highlight the origins of their thoughts on disabilities and sexuality. With a range of images the connection between disabilities and sexuality at times is merely a suggestion to ease people into something they may have never consciously thought about. Ultimately the answer to the question is: Yes, I can have sex. Want to see some photos that might answer other questions?

Excerpt from articles and press releases by Kyla Harris.

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