Sarah Murray photographs Kyla Harris for Access-Sex

Access Sex

Sex is all around us until disability is concerned, there it remains a taboo subject in society. It may come as a shock to some but disabled people do have sex. Access Sex is a photographic collaboration of a woman’s exploration after disability. Becoming disabled in 2000, 21 year old wheelchair user and co-owner of the Main Artery Gallery in Vancover, Kyla Harris bravely breaks the mould in a revealing expose Access Sex.

One of the first questions I’m asked when I meet a stranger is, so… can you have sex? 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. – Kyla Harris

Sarah Murray photographs Kyla Harris for Access-Sex

Kyla Harris in Access-Sex

A collection of thought provoking images that raise questions Access Sex is a collaborative work of photographs taken by Sarah Murray featuring wheelchair user Kyla Harris in a range of provocative poses. Art being primarily subjective these images connect with the many different audiences that view them. The project Access Sex aims to change predetermined ideas and prevent future misjudgments on sexuality with a disability.

Often wheelchair users and 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, but that doesn’t mean people with disabilities can’t have sex or can’t enjoy it. 

According to the World Health Organization, sexuality is a basic need and aspect of being human that cannot be separated from other aspects of life. However, the world being largely media driven all to often people with disabilities are not portrayed in a positive sexual light, as able-bodied people have set the sexual standard.

In popular culture Playboy is the leading pornographic men’s magazine and has been setting sexual standards therein since 1953. All of Playboys models over that time have been able-bodied with the exception of wheelchair user Ellen Stohl, a C8/T1 incomplete quadriplegic who became the first Playboy bunny to model in July of 1987 and Aimee Mullins, an amputee from the age of one.

Aimee Mullins 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 quadriplegic wheelchair user Ellen Stohl and amputee Aimee Mullins, people with disabilities have largely been typecast as estranged victims, hospitalized seniors and on-set extras sitting in wheelchairs to provide an institutional atmosphere. 

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? – Kyla Harris

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After her accident in 2000 at 15 years of age coming to reach her sexual maturity and understanding, strangers often questioned Kyla about her sexuality and whether she could have sex. Kyla felt it necessary to contradict the stereotype of people with disabilities as asexual, a notion she herself questioned after her own spinal cord injury disability. Kyla began to identify with her sexuality and noticed how it was being denied.

In 2006, Kyla Harris approached fellow Canadian artist photographer Sarah Murray to produce the works for Access Sex. The theme evolved to present sexuality and physical disability together – encouraging a general audience to look beyond the confines of the human body. The splendid body of works in Access Sex have been showcased in Vancouver and Toronto at the Main Artery, the Joseph D Carrier Gallery and “Nuit Blanche” in October 2009.

Art and sexuality cannot be separated or extracted from life, Kyla recalls, it made sense to me to explain that notion in reference to my own experiences.

The project Access Sex to me has been successful on many levels. I’ve met an amazing friend, Sarah, whom I respect personally and professionally, my perception of myself has become more positive and made me more passionate about my art and opinions, and I believe the photographs have made a variety of people aware that people with disabilities are sexual beings. Now my hopes are to expand Access Sex and continue to challenge pre-conceptions and stereotypes. – Kyla Harris

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About Graham - Site Admin

Quadriplegic Founder and Admin of the Mad Spaz Club. Spinal Cord Injury Keynote Speaker and WRD Ambassador. I like meeting wheelchair users and sitting in the sun at the beach. Why did I create and keep this website running? The simple answer is I like to help people. To give voice to those unable to speak. As an advocate and keynote speaker for spinal cord injury awareness I am not afraid to discuss tough and controversial subjects. I have become a better man for listening to you the Mad Spaz Club members, and I thankyou one and all. So willing to bare your soul and share your precious thoughts many of you have touched me deeply. I have cried and laughed along with you, it has been humbling, empowering, and will always be my honor. To all the valued members of the Mad Spaz Club I look forward to learning more about you all for many years to come, sharing with open hearts our experiences through the freedom of speech empowering us and making all our lives meaningful positive and the richer.

8 thoughts on “Access Sex

  1. Malachi

    It’s NOT easy living with a Disability; I was assaulted 22 years ago now. Then, I was a Music Promotor,Life was good, at least decent living. Since I got into the Assault, every one I know abondant me, they ONLY came around when I have Money; yes money!I came to the realization, that if I wants to get Rish,financially Healthy, I have to seperates them from my life, and my well-being… So, I did!!!

    I am 44 years now, and I still live in apartment where I cloosed NOT to Live; I have the Intention to purchase my first Home,in Hawaii… I am with two Businesses, but one I am promoting right now.

    I am a Man, that LOVE, Zero Quetions about SEX… As I said, I am a Man, I love to have SEX With Woman ONLY!

    Any Comments,

    Lucky,

  2. Holly

    Are you still seeing anyone? I am a 42 looking to date a special man. I had a dear friend who was a Quad. I have no problem with the wheelchair. If you just want to talk that is just fine.

  3. Henry

    i have a question, i am male 45 C5 spinal cord injury, my girlfriend and i have a nice sexual relationship. one problem is that its alot of work for her during sex. i was wondering if there was a harness that she could wear thaT had loops on the legs that i could slip my wrists into to help her move up and down?

    any ideas would be great.

    ty.

  4. sara

    This is amazing work. Next will you do a piece on disabled people who can’t have sex and are humiliated for it.

  5. ghetto_vaquero_1776

    Great article. I dabble in likewise photography myself (see my gallery). Wonderful to know there are others!

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