You never really know what direction this blog is going in. Well, here’s a hell of a turn off the beaten path. Let’s make this clear: I am sharing my observations and thoughts, not my experiences. If you’re someone who thinks this may be “inappropriate”, I say close this page. If you’re hesitant about reading on, be good to yourself and reflect on this…
-Anyone with a disability has thought about this. Perhaps specifically about sex, or about intimacy in general. I would think any person with any disability of any age has thought about this.
-If you’re a parent or family member of one with a disability, you have probably been curious as well. Will my child/family member have a challenge in experiencing intimacy? Yes and no. Challenges are what we make of them. By “we”, I mean those with disabilities as well as those without disabilities.
In my opinion, culture can view one with a disability as being nonsexual. Stereotypes always seem to make their way to the forefront of our thoughts and dominate our notions of others. These stereotypes may include the assumption that anyone in a wheelchair can not feel a thing from the waist or neck down. In that case, this may lead others to assume that those in wheelchairs do not have interest in sex or intimacy, because they must not be able to feel a thing. That is not so true. Many folks in wheelchairs can feel and even get out of their chairs every day. Indeed, there are some people who have extremely limited mobility and perhaps physical sensation, but this does not mean that sexuality in the mind is vacant. Intimacy is a need we all have in various forms. For folks with disabilities, it may just be expressed and explored differently than what you view in the limited mainstream media. The needs for intimacy are the same, but the means by which we all achieve this will vary.
For me, I think there are some myths about intimacy and how the visually impaired explore and express this part of their desire and affection. For example, touching a person’s face. I do not do this with a whole lot of people. Really, that is for intimate purposes, I do not express that with new friends. For me, that is a romantic thing to do. For me, that takes a lot of trust, it’s a very sensitive and delicate moment to share between two people. Also, do not ever assume that a visually impaired person wants to feel your face. I once met a woman and upon shaking hands, she took my hand and placed it on her cheek. She did not know what the hell she was doing and the words she spoke at that moment did not make any sense. She looked like an idiot. I believe my response was “I’m all set”. Yeah, don’t ever do that.
I also wonder if some people with disabilities may even experience being perceived in an exotic manner. Back in college, a very close friend of mine told me about a dinner conversation she had with some of our other friends. Some how, I came up and so did sex. A friend of mine who shall go un-named said that I must “be good because I am all tactile”. I found this to be quite funny, because there is really no basis for that statement. Apparently, being able to slice and dice food with no vision nor cutting myself must mean I am amazing in bed or being able to touch type must mean I am one incredible lover. Interesting. I am sure there is a plot for a terrible adult movie in this blog somewhere.
I wonder if the perception of people with disabilities and sexual behavior is derived from culture and movements like I mentioned in “The Nazis weren’t the only ones”. We had people stating that those with disabilities should not reproduce. So not only can or has culture taught society that having a disability is less than those with no disability, but that those with a disability should not be seen as having reproductive rights nor quality of contribution to society. Bottom line, we are not sexual beings. So when those with no disability are attracted to one with a disability, there is conflict with emotions and messages, which is sad. When the opposite is felt, one with a disability may feel intimidated or doubtful of reciprical feelings. That’s just my perspective, though.
In short, just because someone has a disability does not mean that they can not connect on a very physically intimate level. Some folks with disabilities may do things a little “differently”, but don’t we all?
Below is a link to a really interesting documentary about young people with disabilities doing outreach and panel discussions on sexuality in conjunction with having a disability. I think most of this is spot on with how I also feel. It’s also hilarious:
Sexabled: Disability unsensored