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Friday, August 22, 2014

Disabled Pride/Disabled Pain: Center For Sex and Culture Opens Another Closet Door

Posted By on Fri, Aug 22, 2014 at 8:08 AM

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There's long been a misconception (held by some) that disabled people can't be sexual, or that "no one" would find a disabled person "attractive." This is of course a fallacy. Like all people, they crave the same things as everyone else does, including a little love and romance. Or maybe even a naughty roll in the hay. And on Saturday, August 23, from 6-8:30 p.m., The Center For Sex and Culture will present Disabled Pride: Disabled Pain: Stories of Kink and Disability. 

The Center describes the event as "a panel of bad-ass disabled folks for story-sharing centered on disabled pride, sex, power and (even sometimes) pain." Panelists Lyric Seal, Carrie Wade, and Corey Alexander (among others) will engage in a lively discussion of diverse topics, including Access Intimacy In Kinky Play, Coming Into a Sexual In Kinky Play, and much more.

The panel will be moderated by Sarah Orsak, a feminist/sexuality educator, who chatted with SF Weekly about the event.

SF Weekly: Tell us about yourself.

Sarah Orsak: Sarah is a white Queer Texan femme princess interning at the Center For Sex and Culture this summer. Sarah's academic studies of women's histories and of popular education have left her with a conviction in the importance of story-sharing and self-affirming as community building. Besides studying Women and Gender at Smith College, Sarah is working to honor our disabled bodies and minds in a practice of self-love that involves many mornings spent in bed.

SF Weekly: Can you describe the Disabled Pride/Disabled Pain event? Is it an LGBT or a general event?

Orsak: It's a panel discussion of disabled people sharing how their sexualities impact and interact with their disabilities, focusing particularly on Kink. While there are both Queer and trans disabled folks on the panel, people of all sexual orientations and abilities are welcomed and encouraged to attend. Because disabled people are involved in all sorts of communities, it feels important to represent both Queer and straight disabled narratives. 

SF Weekly: How would you describe kink to a novice outsider?

Orsak: Although I can't say for sure what goes on in anyone else's bedroom, I do think that most sexual people have probably experimented with some aspects of kink, whether it be restraint, 'dirty talk', or role-playing, to name a few common tropes, whether they identify as 'kinky" or not. For me, kink is about an intentional exploration of power, sensation and mental states. I hope that anyone who doesn't consider themselves kinky but who is curious about king can access empowering, accurate information about kink communities as well as consent and safety practices. 


SF Weekly: What do you say to those who condemn kink as "violent" or "pro-violence"?

Orsak I think in discussion around morality of kink there is an interesting tension between a politics of choice that claims that all consensual sexual acts are positive and a politics that solely looks at sexual acts as they exist within larger oppressive structures. Certainly some kinks are about consensual exchanges of power. Certainly there are violent people inside and outside of kink communities. As kinky people in a society that glorifies so many forms of interpersonal and structural violence, I think it is our responsibility to interrogate the way our kinks fit into these structures.

SF Weekly: What are some of the myths of disabled sexuality that need to be dispelled?

Orsak: Probably every disabled person you ask this question will give you different answers. My understanding is that many visibly disabled people, which I'm not, face an assumption that they are not or cannot be sexual. Everyone deserves to be seen as who they are, such as disabled people who want their sexuality to be recognized. Because our society places so much stake in, particularly women's, sexual desirability that values whiteness, thinness, and able bodied appearance, widespread desexualization of visibly disabled people goes hand-in-hand with the dehumanization of disabled people. This desexualization is directly related to the higher levels of sexual assault and abuse that disabled people experience.

SF Weekly: How difficult is it for disabled people to find sexual partners?

Orsak: Able people definitely have a lot of assumption and misinformation which can affect romantic and sexual relationships between able and disabled people. Disabled people also live in an ableist society which structurally oppresses disabled people and absorb harmful assumptions. Relationships between people who have different disabilities can definitely also be impacted by ableism. 

SF Weekly: What specific topics will be discussed at the forum? Will there be demonstrations or chances to play?

Orsak: The panel will consist mostly of story sharing between disabled people about coming into a sexual, kinky and disability identity as well as the relationships between disability, kinky play and other experiences of privilege and oppression. This will be followed by Q & A. There won't be any actual kink, either either performative or participatory.

SF Weekly: What kinds of disability will be represented?

Orsak: Part of the way disabled people are dehumanized include constant queries from strangers about the details about our bodies' functions or our medical histories. This panel represents experiences of physical disability, including chronic illness in both visible and invisible ways. Many different disabled communities will be represented as each panelist identifies as disabled and has different community ties and organizational commitments.

Disabled Pride, Disabled Pain: Stories of Kink and Disability, Saturday Aug. 23, 6 p.m., Center for Sex and Culture (1349 Mission), sliding scale ($7-$15);  note: this is a fragrance free event.

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