Before Deliciously Disabled held its first official event this past weekend at Toronto's Oasis Aqualounge, I was told a number of things: That it was not an "orgy" like so many media outlets had purported it to be; that there would be 125 spots available; that there would be all forms of entertainment, including a dick painter (a man who paints with his dick, not a man painting dicks); and that the event was there to allow people with disabilities of all forms to interact with each other in a space where they felt both comfortable enough to express themselves and safe enough to retract and just watch the show.
As VICE previously reported in an interview with the organizers, the event was designed to be fully accessible, with gadgets like hydraulic lifts and harnesses being set up to allow participants to explore each other sexually and, if they want to, even get some good ol' banging going on. There was also booze—lots of booze—along with various forms of entertainment, from DJs to burlesque dancers, all for the reasonable price of $20.
The event, which happened Friday night, proved all those things to be true and more. Andrew Morrison-Gurza, one of the co-founders of Deliciously Disabled and organizer of the event, explained to VICE in an interview Saturday that while he was shocked that an event of this size spawned from a hashtag he and his friends dreamed up, the whole experience represented something bigger than just sexualization for him.
"Sexuality is obviously a big part of it but a lot of people didn't even end up getting full-on sexual," he said."There was flirting, playing around, but the playroom wasn't used by everybody. One of the most thrilling parts about the whole thing is just the thought of being free to do so if you pleased. The possibility of sexuality is more exciting than really anything that could have occurred."
Morrison-Gurza also talked about the larger narrative at play in his mind, which was the fact that the event was "starting a discussion that's not being had."
"To me, it was all about the people. Seeing all different types of people—both disabled and not—gather together and party really made me realize how important these kind of events are," he told VICE. "People talk a lot about an orgy or this or that, but it's really more than just sexual exploration. People had fun and they had fun without feeling like they needed to fit a mold. It's going past what we generally think about disability and the people affected by it."
"Also, getting a lap dance on stage was pretty cool. I definitely liked that part."
Since I a) am a journalist and b) do not have a disability, both the organizers and I felt it was best that I not attend. In my absence, however, was a friend of mine and someone volunteering for the event, Chandler Borland. Through him, I tried to get a grasp of what kind of night played out and whether penis paintings are really all what they're hyped up to be.
VICE: So, how was last night?
Chandler Borland: It was awesome, honestly. Being that I'm also someone with a disability [cerebral palsy], it was awesome to see a mix of the disabled and sex-positive community come together in one place like that. The event sold out and everybody had a good time.
You were a volunteer, right? What was your experience being the observer like?
I was basically responsible for overseeing to make sure everyone was getting along OK, the rules were being followed, and that all disabilities were being accommodated for. Obviously, we had strong rules of consent and such, so me and a few others were out to keep an eye on that, as well making sure that all the harnesses and lifts were working properly.
With alcohol in the mix, consent must have been a big concern. How did you guys handle it?
We had an "ask once" policy that basically gave people one chance to get it right. We were constantly watching and if we felt anything was up, security would have the person removed immediately. Everything worked out fine, thankfully. Lots of people were happy with the event.
Off that point, I know there were a lot of devices for accommodation there, so it must have been pretty hectic. Did you guys run into any issues?
There were a lot of things to take into account. We had to make sure all the furniture and beds were in place, harnesses to get people in and out of wheelchairs. Everything went pretty smoothly, really.
Tell me about entertainment. I'm really interested in the guy who painted with his penis.
Yeah, we had a lot of different acts there, one of which was an exotic male artist who uses his penis as a paintbrush. He'd basically dip it in paint and create patterns on paper to hand out to people. It went along really well with everybody.
That's pretty fucking awesome.
Definitely. That guy in particular was also doing a strip tease of sorts while dressed like Wolverine, so that was pretty neat. Aside from that, we had a lady giving a speech and doing a workshop, a few DJs, one whom played music for the night while completely naked. It was all really relaxed, though. The performers just integrated with everybody else.
What were the main attractions at the event?
Sex positivity was definitely a big aspect of it—we had a playroom where people of all different disabilities could go and engage in sexual activity. I was walking around the venue most of the night and I didn't spend a lot of time near the playroom, but there was definitely a good amount of people who used it. It was really cool because there were a lot of people who were experiencing their first sexual encounter with another disabled person. Like, people with guide dogs, the blind, people in wheelchairs. They were all able to interact and explore each other, both socially and sexually.
I know when speaking to the organizers that the use of the term "orgy" wasn't totally accurate and that this was more about a safe space for disabled persons to express themselves. What's your take on that aspect of the event?
Y'know, the best way I can describe it was that it was much better than a club atmosphere, at least to me. A lot of regular venues don't accommodate disabilities or are just flat-out discriminatory. It was a lot different last night—everybody felt comfortable just being themselves. Having a drink, talking, flirting, whatever it may be, it was a place that you could just kind of relax into without feeling like you were walking on eggshells. Sex was obviously present because it's something that a lot of people don't discuss when it comes to disabilities, but it was far bigger than that.
Will you be volunteering again?
Absolutely. There's nothing else like it.
Follow Jake Kivanc on Twitter.
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