If you listen to what the media tells us, sex, pleasure, sensuality and all the gorgeous sexy sexiness in the world is reserved only for the beautiful people; the models, the rock stars, the airbrushed and Photoshopped. In advertising, movies, music and everything else we see that uses “sex” to sell, the images are always of trim, taut, terrific looking people with hardly a flaw or a wobble to be seen. For an average Joe this can be tricky and damaging to self esteem and self love… But what about if you’re absolutely never represented in the media as “beautiful”, “sexy”, or “desirable”? Like never. People with disabilities face invisibility in their everyday lives anyway, and even more so when it comes to sex, pleasure, fun and horniness, and I think it’s time to break down those myths and walls and start realising that sex and sexual enjoyment is for everyone.
People With Disabilities Are All A-Sexual
Yes. Some are. Good spotting, Sherlock. And, surprise surprise, some are heterosexual. Some are gay. Some are lesbian. Some are bi. Some are trans. Some of them are vegetarian too… Seriously. What a ridiculous myth to have to bust, but one that basically comes from the fact that society TREATS people with disabilities as though they’re a-sexual, not because they actually are. Not only are people with disabilities just as diversely sexual as everyone else on the planet, their needs and wants are just as varied. From wanting romance and intimacy, to the desire to be tied up and spanked. It’s all part of the awesome sexuality spectrum all humans live on, and just cos you have a disability doesn’t mean that part of you doesn’t exist.
People With Disabilities Don’t Think About Sex
What even? Like I hear this a bit, more often connected with sex education for younger people with disabilities and it not only breaks my heart, it pisses me off too. Being disabled in one area of your life (or body) does not mean the other parts are affected. You are still a human with human needs and wants, and love and affection and intimacy are all part of that. Treating people with disabilities like idiots with no emotional or physical needs is offensive and insulting and needs to stop. (I must also point out as an aside, but a very important one, that it’s also very very dangerous for young people to not get a proper sex education, because young people, especially in vulnerable situations, can be taken advantage of, and without the knowledge and education around their bodies, and intimacy, and what is appropriate and not, all sorts of really terrible things can happen, and without the education and support around them, can lead to some awful tragedies.)
They Can’t Have Sex If Their Bits Don’t Work
Well firstly, how do you know their “bits” don’t work? Have you asked? It’s important to take the time to get to know them, just like you would ANY potential partner. Take the time to educate yourself on what the person’s disability allows and doesn’t allow for. You may be surprised at just how few areas are “out of bounds” or less functional. Also, don’t let yourself fall into the narrow idea that only genitals are used for sex because if you do that you’re probably going to be a bad lay regardless of whether your partner’s “bits” work or not. Sex, sexual contact, and sexual intimacy includes the entire body, mind and soul. Eyes, mouths, hands, words, emotions… So much more than just “bits”.
People With Disabilities Aren’t Desirable
Well, speak for yourself, Buddy. The world is made up of billions of people with different likes and tastes and wants. What attracts one person is not necessarily what attracts us all and thank goodness for that. The thing is, desirability, lust, sexual attraction, all of that juicy stuff that makes us want another person intimately is completely subjective. For me, it’s words. You speak or write eloquently and intelligently enough then I am far more likely to be interested in pursuing something than if you just show me your muscles or pretty smile. Muscles are boring! Talk to me about life and art and Doctor Who!
Their Bodies Make Sex Look Gross
This is so disgustingly offensive I don’t even know where to start, but let me just say this… Sex, for the most part, IS a bit visually disgusting. I mean, when you think about it. It’s contorted, sweaty bodies mashed together making weird faces and noises and movements. Like I’ve said before, “It’s not called bumping uglies” for nothing. So seriously, get off your conceited high horse and take a look in the mirror. Your attitude is uglier than anything as pleasurable as shared intimacy will ever be.
I can’t get past the “crutch”
Look, I understand this to a point. Meeting someone who relies on a wheelchair or other disability aids can be confronting to able-bodied people sometimes but, as a friend of mine pointed out, “Just because someone has a disability/uses assistive equipment to get through life doesn’t mean they are less of a woman or man”. Let me be clear, it’s not about looking beyond the implements or ignoring their existence, but it’s important to understand that, just like if you wear glasses or orthopaedic shoe inserts, it’s as much an indicator of your personality or worth as what colour t-shirt you put on. As in, its completely irrelevant in the great scheme of life and sex and companionship.
Those assistive aids will get in the way of good fun
Again, this is something that you don’t have to look past, but that you need to look at in a different way. Sex with new people is always about exploration and experimentation. Just cos your last partner loved one thing, doesn’t mean a new one will love it too, so it’s all about getting to know what works and what doesn’t. Sure, with things like wheelchairs you might have to think outside the box a bit, but hey, who ever said getting creative and experimental in the bedroom was a bad thing? Besides, for so many people the “crutch” is just a means to an end (getting around more easily) but isn’t something they have to take to bed with them, or use in all areas of activity. Again, it’s about getting to know the individual! If the flesh is willing, the means will be found! It’s just a matter of talking, listening and finding the right way for you both.
I want to leave you with a quote from the late, great Stella Young, an Australian media personality who, among other things, lived her life as a woman with a disability.
“The notion of ‘looking past’ disability to somehow see the ‘real person’ is one I find deeply offensive. I spent my teenage years thinking that I needed to find someone who could ignore my physical body and see my ‘attributes’ - my intelligence and humour, my mad knitting skillz. [As I grew up] I realised that I didn’t want that kind of relationship. I didn’t want someone to ignore my body. I wanted someone who’d look directly at it and love it, wonky bits and all.” - Stella Young
And seriously… Isn’t that what we all want?
* This piece was written by me, an able-bodied woman, with the help of some friends who have the life experience of living with disabilities. Thank you C and T and J. :)