Indian film “Margarita with a Straw” explores disabled woman’s desire for sex

Published: March 3, 2015

Kalki Koechlin in Margarita, With a Strawon

Kalki Koechlin in Margarita, With a Straw

When Indian filmmaker Shonali Bose asked her sister — who was born with acute cerebral palsy — what she wanted to do for her 40th birthday, she was completely “taken aback” by her response.

“She said — loud and clear with rare distinct speech, slamming her fist down on the table — I want to have sex!” Bose wrote in an email to Vancouver Desi.

While Bose admits she gave her sister a “trite” response and said something like “it’s not all it’s made out to be” — the thought stayed with her.

“It was an aspect of disability I hadn’t ever considered,” said Bose. “She was a gifted writer, double MA’s from England, award winner … how the hell did sexuality matter in the face of such achievement?”

It wasn’t until her sister’s defiant 40th birthday wish that Bose realized “this had been a driving need her whole life, which had been suppressed by society and her family.”

With that realization, Bose’s latest film, Margarita, With a Straw — the opening night film at Vancouver’s Women in Film Festival on Wednesday — was born.

The film follows the story of Laila, a young woman in India who’s undeterred by cerebral palsy. After facing rejection from an able-bodied boy at her Indian school, she leaves it all behind and moves to New York City, where she ends up navigating the world of dating — experiencing a lesbian relationship and sexual discovery.

“Sexuality in and of itself is pretty taboo and rarely seen in Indian cinema,” Bose said of the film, which is yet to release in India. “The sexuality of the disabled is taboo the world over and definitely bold.”

So Bose hopes the film “changes the way (the audience) views people who are ‘different’ from them — whether gay or disabled. That they see them as human beings.”

According to Carolyn Combs with Vancouver’s Women in Film Festival, Margarita, With a Straw was chosen as the opening night film because it’s “a look at something that we don’t normally see.”

“It touched upon important issues,” said Combs. “We don’t have a lot of exposure to the life and thinking of people with disabilities.

“So it’s refreshing to see that. And it’s a strong female lead.”

According to Combs, it’s “a rarity” to see such a strong female lead in a film outside of “hero films” (for example, like the female lead in the Hunger Games).

“To see ordinary and strong female leads is rare — and this is really rare to see a woman with cerebral palsy as a lead,” she said. “It’s a feel good film and the main character is so delightful that you just want to watch her.”

Margarita, With a Straw screens Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at VIFF’s Vancity Theatre. The Women in Film Festival runs March 4 to 8. For more information on screenings, scheduling and to purchase tickets visit womeninfilm.ca

lcahute@theprovince.com   twitter.com/larissacahute

Sexuality & Disability: SCI How-to Sex Position Videos

Thank you Doctor Mitch Tepper!  I think many disabled individuals and their significant others have at one time or another jokingly said they should make some sort of “real sex” video. However it is an extremely delicate subject to handle properly so that it gets shown to people who need to see it without being labeled as taboo, perversion, or pornography. Doctor Tepper has done a GREAT job.

Check out Dr Tepper’s videos on the Broadened Horizons’ Sexuality & Disability webpage within the Independent Living section (including the Sex Positions for SCI Women video removed from YouTube) along with many, many others covering everything from erectile dysfunction to using vibratory toys as a form of sexual assistive technology. Ironically the video on Sex Positions for SCI Men was not taken down?

Jul 01 2013

It’s funny. Despite all the inane, possibly “offensive” videos that remain on YouTube, a how-to-have-sex-with-SCI video made byDr. Mitch Tepper, is getting some static.
YouTube took down “Sexual Positions for Women with Paralysis,” a how-to with Anne, a T-9 paraplegic, and her boyfriend. It shows how they get into some of their favorite positions in bed that are both comfortable and safe (with them both clothed). It’s a 7-minute video, with Dr. Tepper — one of the best sexologists in the world specializing in the sexual health of the disabled — in his chair by the bed narrating. They show some awesome things, including her on top and positioning using a Liberator wedge pillow.
BUT no matter. All of Dr. Tepper’s videos are still on Vimeo video channel, including the male position how-to videos that are just as good (these videos strangely were not pulled by YouTube). In one video, Dr. Tepper shows how he positions himself in bed with his partner using a long body pillow, and how he shows how he uses a Liberator wedge pillow for oral sex.
And the reason Dr. Tepper is so great — he’s disabled himself. A quad since a diving accident in 1982 when he was a lifeguard, Dr. Tepper really cares about the subject of sex. Speeches and articles are great, but video can explain things so much better when it comes to sexual positions. He also covers Tantric sex and talking to your partner openly.
And don’t worry — watching these videos is a PG-13 affair. All of the participants in each video are clothed, and the topics are shown a very straight-forward way. Serious videos, covering serious topics, but done with taste.
These videos need to be shown at rehab centers across the world. Gotta love anything done at this level of realness.