I live not-so-far from Toronto and visit there fairly frequently, so I know that it's not on the cutting edge of accessibility. Only 34 of the city's 69 subway stations are accessible, for Pete's sake (but all the subway trains are accessible, so that's something, I guess). So good on you, Toronto, for hosting Deliciously Disabled, a sex party that's completely accessible.
Well, not that it's a city event. More like it's just being held in the city. But significant nonetheless.
Deliciously Disabled is a private event being organized by disabled activist and academic Stella Palikarova and Andrew Morrison-Gurza, disability activist and consultant. The event will be taking place at the Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, which is fully wheelchair accessible, on August 14.
Deliciously Disabled - What I Like
The thing that I really like about Deliciously Disabled is that it's not just for disabled people, and that the organizers are really trying hard to get that message across. I've been to events for disabled people supported by specific agencies that were also supposed to be open to the general community, but really did end up being segregated events - the way it seemed to work was that community members wouldn't be turned away at the door, but it wasn't an issue anyway, because they didn't know that they could come. I love that there are actually 40 reserved spots for non-disabled to come and enjoy a sexy evening (which isn't just sex, this article says - there's a place for sex and nudity, but "guests can also don masks, watch a burlesque performance, or attend a toy workshop.")
I also think that it's just a great idea in general. Sexuality can be a bit more complicated for disabled people - potential partners can't always handle talking about barriers, or their concerns that they're going to hurt the person, or any questions that they may have. This seems like a great, inclusive opportunity for disabled people (and their partners, for those that have them) to explore sex and sexuality in a barrier-free environment. There are 25 spots reserved for wheelchairs., and a call has gone out to support workers to volunteer to provide assistance to those who need it.
Deliciously Disabled - What I Don't Like
Actually, there's nothing about the event itself that I dislike. What's frustrating me is the icky ableism that the media coverage of Deliciously Disabled is bringing out in Jon Q. Public, and in some of the media coverage itself - the Toronto Sun in particular. I don't know why I'd expect anything else from the Toronto Sun, but Mike Strobel's article on Deliciously Disabled was...problematic.
First, it was inaccurate. This isn't the first time Toronto has tried something like this - in 2007, organizers tried to get something similar, Acexxxable, off the ground, but it seems, from the limited information that I could find on it, that it had too much trouble finding an affordable accessible space. Second, Deliciously Disabled is not an orgy. It'd be nice if a national newspaper took this seriously enough to get its facts straight.
Second, while not outright mocking, Mike Strobel's piece definitely edges on it. This bothers me because...this stuff isn't a joke. I like that there's a really celebratory tone about Deliciously Disabled, but there are some serious issues prompting it, and a journalist skirting the edge of mocking it isn't appropriate - it invites others to mock it, as we see in the comments:
"It must be a hell of a sight - someone with cerebral palsy having an orgasm! Hilarious!"
"Oh my, who will change the diapers?"
and this bit of "hilarity":
Q: What is the most difficult thing about eating a vegetable?
A: Getting her back into the wheelchair after.
Granted, there's a hearty of mix of comments from these very ignorant people and from pearl-clutchers who may be responding more to the word "orgy" than to the idea of disabled people participating in one. It's difficult to say. However (and I acknowledge that this may be just me) I find the mocking more offensive than pronouncements that Deliciously Disabled is "disgusting" and an example of the world's "depravity", or just a step away from a "pedophile sex party" hosted by a "lady so sick she needs her head examined". I can shrug that shit off, quite frankly, because it's so profoundly ignorant. But mocking implies that a person know better and yet still making a choice to be ignorant, and that's harder for me to take. Especially from a journalist.
And as for me...I really need to stop reading comments on articles, because between this, and all the Caityln Jenner hate (great article on that here, btw) and Duggar support last week, I'm worn out.
However, the poll on the same Sun article did say that people who responded were overwhelmingly in support of Deliciously Disabled. I don't know if that means "Good on them, as long as I'm not involved" or "Good on them, I'd love to join in" or "I'm checking this because there isn't a 'I don't care' box", but maybe it means that the negative comments are just coming from a small fringe of people who really are opposed and/or ignorant. It's just unfortunate that sometimes those small fringe groups can scream really loud (look at the birther movement around Obama.)
Deliciously Disabled - How Can You Help?
Talk to people about events like Deliciously Disabled and why there's no reason to be threatened by them.
Talk about the myths surrounding disabled people and sexuality. Let people know that the information that society gives them about disabled people and sex and the assumptions that people tend to make based on those assumptions (like, "Disabled people don't like to have sex") generally aren't true.
Parents with disabled children in the school system, ask teachers what kind of sex education your child has already received and can expect to receive and why it's differing from what non-disabled children are receiving (if this is the case). Disabled children, like all children, need sex education that teaches about boundaries, self-esteem, and safety, as well as the biology.
Make sure (whether it comes from school, medical staff, and agency, or you) that your child's transition plan for high school to adulthood includes the education on relationships, sexuality, and sexual safety that they're going to need to safely explore this part of life that most adults need to make them feel whole.
As Stella Palikarova said, "This is really going to take the co-operation of everyone in society,”
So, what are you doing on August 14?