January 8th, 2005


Kyle Maynard

This post isn't directly about queer imagery, but I'm cross-posting it to postqueer, because I think you all might have interesting thoughts about these images, plus Kyle Maynard's image is homoerotic in its own right.

I'm not very connected to pop culture, so I just learned about Kyle Maynard, the college wrestler who's an amputee and model for Abercrombie & Fitch's "Stars on the Rise" magazine. I learned about him at Bent Voices, an e-zine by and about disabled gay men. So much of what I'm seeing, reading, and thinking about in regards to Maynard reminds me of the writing I've done about Ellen Stohl, a wheelchair-using actor and speaker who raised a minor furor by posing for Playboy in the late '80s. I really want to spend some time with
these two imagesCollapse )

I have so many questions about Kyle's image and hope that the work I've done around Ellen can inform my thinking about Kyle. I'm just going to leave these as questions to return to later. I need to go back to bed soon to sleep off more of my flu-induced haze. Thoughts about these questions or additional questions would be great.

1) Is there anything redeemable about Kyle's image given its context in an A&F ad? If so, what? How is this different or the same as thinking about Ellen Stohl in Playboy?

2) What forces are in play around Kyle's image due to its homoeroticism and the sub-genre of amputee porn? While most disabled people are perceived as entirely asexual, there is an intense sexual fetishizing of people with amputations, particularly, but not exclusively, women, ranging from, on one hand, empowering sexual communities of amputees and devotees and pornography made and distributed by women with amputations to, on the other hand, stalking and sexual objectification of the really creepy variety.

3) How does all the super-crip language surrounding Kyle's and Ellen's images (courage, bravery, look the crips can type and drive cars and feed themselves, Kyle's tagline, "It's not what I can do; it's what I will do," etc.) undercut the images themselves?

4) I want to read more about Kyle as a wrestler. Here's a man who's rejected the use of prosthetics because he feels that they impair him more, not less. This is no small thing in a world where there's a lot of pressure to use prosthetics as a way of normalizing. He's a wrestler who turned down a NCAA wrestling scholarship and instead went to a university where wrestling is a club sport because he knew he wouldn't get much mat time with a NCAA team but would with a serious club team. He's an athlete who started his wrestling career by losing 35 matches in a row and is now championship-quality wrestler. Occasionally his opponents will forfeit a match rather than wrestle him. All of these stories are important. I want more.

5) Kyle is young and does some public speaking of the motivational kind where he essentially says, "I'm Mr. Normal," which of course is one of the reasons that he made it to be an A&F model. I feel so much ambivalence.

6) All of this, and I still find Kyle's image culturally hopeful and personally sexy. Am I a fool?

And finally, here's a blurb I wrote several years ago about Ellen Stohl. It's a much condensed version of a long essay of mine about disability and objectification. I'm posting it as back story to the above questions.

Ellen Stohl in 400 wordsCollapse )