It's been about two years since we last heard from the Gothenburg Cooperative for Independent Living (GIL). Back then they wanted to shine light on shitty pub circumstances for the handicapped with the help of their own brewed beer – which seems to have been working out pretty well. "Our beer has won several prizes since we last spoke," Anders Westgerd, spokesperson for GIL tells me over the phone. But the reason we're talking this time isn't because of a beverage. It's because he sent me a dildo with a weird handle on the post last week. A Swedish company called Secreta AB, which specialises in making masturbation a mechanical routine, manufactures the dildo that comes with a special manual (you can watch it below).
The sex tools make sex a pretty awkward business, both for the disabled and the assistant. The process includes sanitary clothing and mechanical jerking off movements. It's probably one of the least sexy situations you could ever imagine.
However, Secreta AB isn't a real company – thank God. It's GIL's way of communicating issues surrounding the lives of people who rely on assistance. I obviously had to talk with Westgerd to get my head around how a dildo, a fleshlight, and something called the "Fist of Adonis" can become activism.
VICE: Thanks for the dildo!
Anders Westgerd: I'm happy you received it. Your sex toys, I mean tools, have been especially developed for the Live and Function fair, right?
Yes, exactly. It begins [today] and will continue until Thursday. There's where the main launch will take place. It's Scandinavia's largest fair that deals with care and assistive technology. There's a lot of focus on assistive technology but not so much on how to actually live. And that's something we want to change. This campaign isn't really about sex; it's just a way for us to reach out to people. Sex and disability is pretty much taboo. It all comes down to escaping from the idea that other people decide how we're supposed to live our lives. We're like anybody else and we want the opportunity to live like anybody else, too.
What are the most common preconceptions about the sex lives of people with disabilities?
Sex is something that takes up a lot of space in magazines, TV series, and media in general. But no one ever talks about sex and individuals with disabilities, and if you do, it's more from a perverted or freak show-ish point of view. Having sex as a disabled isn't something that we talk about particularly much. Also, there are plenty of people who think that [sex] isn't something that we do and are like, "they're not sexual beings."
It's as if we were sexless objects instead of humans who experience lust.
In what way will this campaign remove that way of thinking?
I hope that people will understand that we're individuals and not sexless objects. This isn't only about sex. It's about our entire living situation that's more or less on schedule, dictated by someone from above. We're not regarded as common people! It's a lot about how everything should be scheduled and where other people come in and decide on what terms we should live our lives.
So it all comes down to shining light on all kinds of scheduling abuse and how the disabled are objectified.
Exactly. We're human beings who want to live common, free lives that we're in control of.
What about your "Fist of Adonis"? Isn't it possible that it will move focus away from what you're actually about?
People will probably misunderstand, but sometimes you need to get people to react and make sure people get involved and start to think about things. Looking back at our previous campaigns – like the beer and the doll – it's usually people without disabilities that get into the debate and like to tell us how things are supposed to be. But usually if you get the chance to have a conversation with them, they start to reconsider things.
How are these tools going to be presented at the fair?
We're going to have a really dull booth where you get a feeling of authority in the same way we experience our situation. We'll be dressed up as Secreta AB.
Where did you get this idea?
We've always worked with trying to reach the general public and not so much towards politicians and authorities. Even if that's important too, I think democracy starts with the individual. We need a collective change of view if we are to be regarded as every citizen. Campaigns like this one helps us reach out to people who normally wouldn't pay that much attention to our situation. I think a debate works best if it includes obvious opposites. Sex is a way to open up doors.
Makes sense. Good luck, Anders!
Find more information at Secreta AB's website.
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