by Jonny Wilkinson.
When we talked about attitudes towards disabled people at Tiaho Trust, we recognised (as many other disabled people have), that there was an underlying fear of disabled people.
Where does that come from? It’s not like we can bound up and dislocate peoples necks with our toes. Why are people so scared?
It is widely believed that our ancestors have been hard wired biologically to seek out so called “healthy” partners to have babies with so we can follow Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.
This may be true, particularly hundreds or thousands of years ago, but in this so-called enlightened age, is it really necessary for us to behave like Neanderthals when it comes to the perception of beauty.
The idea that the sexual being is defined by spirit, not body, was behind Intimate Encounters: Disability and Sexuality, an international photographic exhibition by Belinda Mason-Lovering. We used this exhibition to challenge the myth in the Whangarei community that only the most glamorous, attractive and successful among us can lead active, healthy and imaginative sex lives.
The exhibition challenges archaic perceptions that disabled people can’t or shouldn’t enjoy healthy sexual lives.
The underlying theory of this photographic project is to challenge the deeply ingrained human biological paradigm that one should seek out a normal and traditionally beautiful looking mate in order to protect the gene pool of future offspring. It moots that this paradigm is at the root of fear which transcends into the discrimination and bigotry that continuously reinforce negative attitudes towards disabled people.
By bringing the issue of disability and sexuality to the forefront we provided a platform on which to discuss the basic fear of disability and the consequences of this.
The vital behaviour in holding this exhibition was that we were prepared to get down to the nitty gritty of why we think people are scared. We showed that we are sexual beings just like everyone else by demonstrating the rich smorgasbord of diversity that makes up any community in provincial New Zealand.
Here are some comments that came from non-disabled people who attended the exhibition:
- One of the best and most thought provoking exhibitions I have ever seen.
- Touching, moving and inspiring. Well done for leading out on such a beautiful exhibition.
- A wonderful, insightful exhibition. The written stories beside the photos gave a good insight into the subjects, their life and challenges. Highly recommended.
- Excellent, very striking images.
- Very lovely to hear voices and great images!!! Great stories.
- Like it a lot.
- Intriguing and wonderful.
- Spiritual for me.
- Awesome – would like to see agencies that deal with disabled people come to see this as to open their eyes to the humanness of us all.
- Thank you for the opportunity.