Do cripples dream of electric wheelchair sex?
This week’s Angry Cripple column is brought to you by Simon J. Green, a Melbourne producer and writer. He has cystic fibrosis and all his limbs. Reach out to him at simonjgreen.com. NOTE: There’s some naughty words and stuff in this column.
Cripples have sex.
That’s what I discovered the other week when I published an article for US-based online lit journal The Nervous Breakdown. In the article, I explained that I’m technically a cripple, and that I’ve also had sex. I wrote:
I have cystic fibrosis, a chronic genetic disease. We who are disabled strive for a life as close to normal as our respective maladies allow. A normal part of life is sex. The beast with two backs, or rather, the beast with two backs but one of them suffered a severed nerve, became paraplegic and is now dragged along by the more able back. The horizontal rumba, or maybe more of a hokey pokey that requires a little sit down to catch breath between shaking it all about.
I asked readers if they’d be interested in hearing the war stories of people with disabilities, diseases and acquired injuries, who might talk frankly about their sex lives. Ideally they’d represent a mix of perspectives: gay, straight, legless, half-brained, chromosomally challenged, right down to mutants like me. We’d talk about the unique obstacles blocking our way to the squishy palace:
- What part does a stump play in lovemaking?
- If you can only feel one half of your body, can you only feel one half of your peen? Only feel one plip*?
- Does the location and size of the tumour dictate the sexual position?
To get the ballsack rolling, I even shared a bit of my own tragic sexual history:
For instance, there’s no greater turn on than when you’re really gliding that schooner home to port, and suddenly a great, panic-inducing thoracic shut down has me going immediately soft and reduced to a clump of coughing, gagging, gasping purple. When I tell a girl what I like in bed, I make sure to include, ‘Being able to rub my back and run to get a glass of water while I fail to breathe, tears streaming down my face from the sheer shock of it all.’
Sexual congress doesn’t matter much anyway, because one of the delightful side effects of cystic fibrosis is infertility. Even if I were to ride an oxygen bottle all the way to ejaculation, my payload would be a dud. On the up-side, in a stable long-term relationship I don’t need to worry about a condom to avoid accidents.
On the down-side, it was my nana who took me to the fertility clinic to confirm I shoot blanks. It was really quite sweet. We both knew what was going on. At the desk, Nana helped me fill in the obvious bits of the form, then suddenly found an interesting magazine when I had to describe my sex life. Once I was ready, she checked to see if I was OK, then said she’d be just outside if I needed anything. I really, really doubted I would.
What followed in the comments section was a delightfully encouraging response. People were fascinated by this world that’s always been here, but under the pressing weight of awareness, treatment and cures, is smothered out of disability discussions.
Together, we envisioned an honest conversation, full of laughter due to the always hilarious nature of sex enhanced by leg braces, missing limbs, deflated organs and panic. Normals (‘normies’ or ‘reggos’), were both supportive and curious. One sensible commenter cautioned that we don’t veer off into blatant titillation, fetishism and voyeurism.
We respectfully discussed the caution, admitting that in these sorts of chats, inevitably we’re filling up spank banks, but that that needn’t reduce the serious side of understanding and releasing.
People also shared links. There was one about sexual surrogacy in which a polio-twisted chap worked with a shrink-who-sexes in order to overcome crippling self-esteem issues.
Another had Christopher Reeve giving sex tips for the wheelchair bound from beyond the grave. I was made aware of two organisations set up to work with these sorts of issues: Touching Base, an advocacy group for sex workers and disability-accessible sex (link); and the spoon theory, the best way to describe less visually obvious diseases (link).
Bringing this subject into the light is one of the nicest things I’ve been a part of. I’ll wrap up with my final words from the article:
Why, like my sputum, aren’t these stories brought up more? Disease, death and decay are awkward subjects and though charities and not-for-profits try to raise awareness about the maladies themselves, they often struggle to fully humanise their clients.
I think audiences love to hear about the disgusting, stupid, silly parts of sex. It’s funny and interesting and we feel that brief catharsis that comes from talking about something we all experience, but keep quiet. Add the extra dimension of cripples and the handicapped and you’ve got a warm, sad, but mostly funny perspective on a shared experience.
Let’s discuss sex with our disabled friends and family more. Odds are you’ll either suffer a malady or be a carer for one at some point in your life. Wouldn’t you like to know what to look forward to?
The original article and its comments can be found at The Nervous Breakdown.
* The Punch didn’t know what a plip was either, but we found out and so can you.
** The Punch chose this headline even though the story doesn’t even mention electric wheelchairs because, well, we just liked the sound of it.
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