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Loree Erickson is the Porn Star-Academic Championing Disabled Porn

When she couldn’t find porn featuring bodies that looked like hers, she decided to make her own

Loree Erickson’s 2006 porn debut, Want, begins with a statement of intent: “I want to be a girl you picture naked.”

When her face flashes into view, her mouth is open, moaning lightly as sunlight streams through an apartment window, illuminating the genderqueer co-star rubbing a plastic-gloved hand beneath her skirt. Later, a different co-star peels off Erickson’s underwear as she giggles softly, her power wheelchair nestled into a candy pink-painted nook of the bathroom where the action is taking place. Erickson’s voice returns: “I want to be known as not only a good friend, but also as a good fuck.”

The scene is a perfect introduction to Erickson, a lecturer at the University of Toronto and a pioneer of queercrip porn” (porn made for, and often by queer, disabled people). In 2015, she submitted a groundbreaking dissertation on the pornographic lives of the disabled, a much-lauded work which argued that for those with disabilities, porn can be an act of political resistance. Part of Erickson’s strategy for the dissertation involved making porn with other people as her research method. “It’s a pretty great method,” she laughs, recalling her reputation amongst collaborators as a “Porn Fairy Godmother.”

Statistically, there’s little information on the number of disabled performers in mainstream porn, but a small handful, including Billy Autumn and Andrew Morrison-Gurza, founder of the activist group Deliciously Disabled, have begun to pave the way. Yet, obstacles remain. From the lack of wheelchair accessibility on sets to the ongoing stigma around sex and disability, there’s a long way to go before the porn industry truly embraces the power of representation. “Even in queer and feminist porn, I didn’t see bodies like mine,” Erickson tells me. “One time, I saw a shoot with Nomy Lamm, and it was like, ‘Wow, a visibly disabled person!’ That really inspired me to be like, ‘Well, if I’m not seeing this representation, I’ll just have to make it myself.’”

For Erickson, this means openly showing her disability and depicting the regular care it requires. Prior to the pandemic, such care and scene partners came from a collective of friends, lovers and fellow activists with whom she’s developed intimate bonds. Now, they stay with her for weeks-long stints as she works from home, lecturing at the University of Toronto on everything from transformative justice to sex work activism. She also includes the porn she makes in her course curriculum. “It’s always a roll of the dice when you show porn in the classroom, but when it features yourself and you’re a sessional instructor…” Erickson pauses to laugh once more. “Every day I do it, I’m like, ‘Is this the day I’m going to lose my job?’”

It’s worth noting that the queercrip scenes she plays in the classroom are tender and tasteful, miles away from the money shots, acted orgasms and tired clichés still associated with the typical mainstream porn studio offering (and that her students have been overwhelmingly supportive). “It’s not about creating a voyeuristic experience,” she explains. “It’s about community-building in the whole sense. You’re creating something so that you can see yourself, but also so that other people can see you and then maybe see some of themselves. Then, the circle continues.”

This, of course, is radically different from the image of disabled sexuality Erickson grew up with. Throughout her upbringing in rural Virginia, Erickson was only rarely allowed to imagine how she wanted to be seen or treated, let alone fucked. “Desexualization is a common experience for anyone with a visible physical disability,” she says. “You’re always seen as the friend, not the date. I was in lots of relationships with people who were attracted to me, but because of ableism, they couldn’t go there.” Fortunately, things changed in college when Erickson connected with a “radical queer, disabled community” and spontaneously agreed to be photographed after getting her nipple pierced. “My best friend took this picture where I’m topless and looking up at the camera,” she remembers. “It was the first time I had seen myself in a way where I could say, ‘Oh, I’m not totally undesirable!’”

But when the time came to cast Erickson’s Want co-star, her doubts resurfaced. “I wasn’t dating anybody at the time, and part of me felt like I wouldn’t be able to find anybody,” she says. In a moment of serendipity, cameraman David Findlay recommended his friend Sam, who turned out to be the sexy stranger Erickson had seen around at “cool activist academic” events. “I just messaged him like, ‘Hey, do you want to make porn with me?’” she tells me.

Her voice softens at the memory, as well as the recollection that Sam casually mentioned his ex was also a wheelchair user. “I almost fell over,” she says. “It showed that we both just really saw each other, and it’s part of what made that day so magical — well, plus I got to have so much sex with this person I thought was really cute! Fifteen years later, we’re still sweeties.”

Accurate representation was important to Erickson, but so was reframing the realities of sex as a disabled person. That made the idea of “access intimacy” — getting closer to your partner by asking exactly what they need to have sex pleasurably and comfortably — core to Want. “People’s access needs weren’t treated as this burden, but as a point of connection,” she explains. Case in point: There are scenes of her partner helping her position herself comfortably in the wheelchair, laughing and kissing as they do so. “When you talk about sex and disability in workshops, it feels like people are like, ‘Yes, yes, disabled people are sexual — I get the memo,’” she continues. “But I want them to see and feel that.”

These days, a full 15 years after Want, Erickson’s efforts are primarily focused on building up a new generation of queercrip porn creators. “I really enjoy creating spaces for people with stories that are excluded from traditional porn narratives,” she says. “I want to help disabled people of color and trans people. I want to enable and support them in telling the stories that they feel are urgent.”

It’s an ever-growing porn movement. Erickson credits the likes of Lyric Seal and the aforementioned Nomy Lamm as pioneers, and name-checks Krutch, a short film by Clark Matthews and Mia Gimp, which was inspired by Erickson’s own film Sexxxy. “That’s a very short porn movie about my power wheelchair,” Erickson explains, describing the minute-long film that consists completely of porn-y close-ups of her gleaming-metal wheelchair interspersed with shots of her face, all soundtracked to Cyndi Lauper. It ends on a simple, witty tagline: “Who says wheelchairs can’t be sexy?”

Irreverent as that might be, it underscores Erickson’s primary mission — to create porn that never shies away from awkwardness and embraces that sex can be challenging. “When you’re having sex in a power wheelchair, you can hit a button and the chair can go flying across the room,” she laughs. “But that’s just part of it.” 

Which is exactly why she left in a candid scene in Want where her wheelchair is accidentally left on. Cradling her face, Sam nonchalantly flicks the switch and drops an adorably cheesy line: “I’ll turn your chair off, but I won’t turn you off.”

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