Sexy in Cyberspace

 

A Revealing Look at GimpsGoneWild.com

Growing up, Bonnie felt like an outsider at her elementary school and considered herself “extremely ugly and different looking,” a belief that carried over into her teen years and adulthood. Her disability set her apart from others, and it didn’t help that she couldn’t find any role models in mainstream culture. “The media had nothing in terms of disabled people except human-interest stories, which really didn’t talk about being adults,” she says, adding that her summers at a camp for persons with disabilities were the only times she felt normal. “I was even popular.”

Bonnie and her siblings grew up in a household that didn’t shy away from discussing sex, love and respect. Her mother even let them look at Playboy. “She told us that these women do it because they feel beautiful and want to show the world,” says Bonnie, who is now 38 and lives in Southern California. “I thought that was a wonderful thing. So many children are brought up to think sex is dirty or bad and go through life feeling guilty for normal feelings.”

To help change people’s perspectives, Bonnie and a friend started GimpsGone-Wild.com in 2001. She revamped it on her own when the two parted ways about three years later, and it has received “a huge positive response.” (The site is restricted to viewers over 18.)

Bonnie describes the site as a place that enables people with disabilities to express themselves sensually. The mission statement, available on the site, explains the vision shared by Bonnie and “Diablo,” who is the site’s co-owner and her fiancé: “We created GGW as an outlet for the disabled person to express himself or herself without having to be scrutinized and judged by what society deems as ‘beautiful’… We chose to name the site Gimps Gone Wild as a play on words. The word gimp is a slang word used in humour… The name is all about fun, expression and a humorous way to cope with some of the struggles we face as disabled people.”

At press time, Gimps Gone Wild had about 40 models with various disabilities, such as paraplegia, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida and cerebral palsy. Dressed in lingerie, leather or nothing at all (and, in the case of one man, a kilt), they look relaxed, confident and sensuous. Brief profiles describing their backgrounds and hobbies appear alongside their photographs, which viewers can purchase. Video clips and prints are also for sale, and some models do calendars and webcam and phone sessions.

Bonnie, who has osteogenesis imperfecta (also known as “brittle bone disease”) appears on the site as “Kitten,” and her photos include poses on a motorcycle, on the beach and in her boudoir. Although she started posing to make some money, she says it became a lot of fun. “[It] made me feel desirable and sexy, which I had longed for since I was a teen.”

The site also offers a glossary of disability terms, a message board, and information about becoming a model. Gimps Gone Wild also has a MySpace page (www.myspace.com/gimpsgimpsgimps).

When models sell photos and other merchandise online, Bonnie gets 30 per cent of the price, which she says covers the website’s domain name and hosting. “I run the site for the message I want to send, not really for profit.”

Bonnie has also launched a new website, DIStinguished Modeling (distinqmod.com), which also features photos of models with disabilities, but with a more upscale, professional look and feel. The new site supports Bonnie’s mission to broaden representation of people with disabilities in the media. As Gimps Gone Wild’s mission statement points out, “The media has pretty much shut out disabled people except for the usual geriatric wheelchair ads or to be seen as some pathetic needy type person, a freak, or the bitter disabled person.”

It also mentions how different artistic venues, such as fashion magazines, adult magazines and television, just to name a few, have neglected the disability community. Bonnie believes society has a desire to see perfection. As a result, it has trouble accepting people with disabilities. She compares the situation to the music industry, which often favours artists based on appearance rather than talent. “It’s all about how good they look in a video,” she points out.

She adds that she rarely sees persons with disabilities in lead roles. “Especially physically attractive roles. They are usually depicted as a disabled person and that’s the main idea of the storyline. Hardly do I see them as being an everyday person, and the disability not the main concept or issue. And usually they aren’t even played by a real disabled actor. We rarely see them in sexy-type magazines or commercials.”

Bonnie’s website, which showcases men, women and couples, has received positive and negative feedback. Some people – whom she refers to as “ablebodied haters” – think that the site takes advantage of people with disabilities, something that she disagrees with.

“Exploitation, to me, is doing something you really don’t want to do to make money…” Bonnie says. “All my models came to me to be on the site, and they send what they want to be posted on there. I think my site is way less exploitative than all the crap you see on reality TV and other forms of media.”

Bonnie believes that her critics don’t see people with disabilities as adults who are capable of making their own choices. “The negative stuff is usually because people do not really take the time to actually see what the site is about,” she explains. “The disabled haters usually are the ones who haven’t accepted being disabled and can’t possibly see themselves [as] ‘normal sexual

Bonnie has also received supportive messages from people who say the site has changed the way they look at people with disabilities. “They never viewed people with disabilities as adult or sexy or attractive until they saw my site,” she says, adding that it is this type of reaction that “makes all the bad stuff worth it.”

Bonnie adds that most of her models have gained a sense of freedom from participating in her site. “Many have told me their confidence level has risen a great deal since joining the site. A few here and there only do it to make money, which I try to steer clear of. Yes, they make a little extra cash, but my site is mainly for the expression and the message.”

Scott Bremner (bremner.scott@yahoo.ca) is a freelance writer from Oshawa, Ont. He has written several articles for Abilities.

Bonnie, also known as

Bonnie, also known as “Kitten” (shown in a photo from GimpsGoneWild.com), says that her website aims to counteract stereotypes about disability.

 

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