I know my disability scares you; here’s why that’s okay.
I can always tell when a guy that I am about to hang out (read: date or hookup) with is afraid or apprehensive about my disability. The signs are telltale, and any cripple who has tried to go on a date or a hook up has undoubtedly experienced this in one way or another. You have “storyboarded your sex/date” and explained all the ins and outs of your disability to this person, and their initial response is to overcompensate to laughable levels.
You can see it happen: they become altogether too comfortable with the prospect of navigating your disability. Phrases like, “Should it bother me” or “Why would that bother me? You’re just like everyone else” start to be thrown about with reckless abandon. In my youth (and sometimes now still) I would lull myself into believing this meant that they were 100% comfortable with my “spastic sensuality”. I would hype myself up before each and every encounter with mantras like, “it’s cool. They know everything.” That would work out just fine, until they got to my door, gave me the usual once over and eventually said something to the effect of (this totally happened a few weeks ago): “Wow, there is a lot of work involved in dealing with you.” This is not something that you should say to anyone ever, particularly not just before coitus with a cripple, but I understand where it comes from, and I think it’s time we discuss it.
Disability is scary, and while we all know that to be true on some level, nobody wants to admit that on any level because that would seem very politically incorrect (read: uncouth, because I love that word and really want to embrace my inner Downton Abbey). We all want to think that we’re open to something, but when the reality stares us in the face (if your mind went elsewhere with that phrasing, you get 10 pts.), it can be a different story entirely. I promise you, if my partner entered the room with an extra arm, I might be somewhat unprepared to process that (unless “extra arm” was a euphemism).
I want to tell you that it’s okay to be scared of my disability. Truth: I am more suspicious when someone is completely cocksure of what to do. I know that, usually, it’s totally out of many people’s wheelhouses – guess what? Sex with you is out of mine too. I think it’s important now to unpack a few of the common fears around disability and sex, and discuss why it is okay (at least by me) you have them:
1. You don’t want to say something inappropriate: When people encounter disability, they start walking on eggshells. They get really quiet or really curious. Inevitably, this leads to a build up of questions and queries that overflow at the worst possible time. My point here is that you will probably end up swallowing your leg before you swallow anything else. Go ahead and ask me the tough questions, and don’t be scared. What’s most terrifying to me is thinking you’re okay, only to find out later you were scared the whole time and won’t be returning.
2. I will hurt them: I understand this one, totally. What would happen if during a really hot moment where you picked me up and threw me against the wall, you accidentally broke my leg? You don’t want to make my circumstance any harder, because the mythology around disability would suggest that without my wheelchair I am like Tony Stark without his suit. True fact: If it hurts, I’ll tell you. And, also, doesn’t all sex hurt in one way or another? Reviewing the mechanics of the act itself, I would say, yes. Thinking that you will hurt me during sex is a totally valid concern to have when it comes to disability (especially considering the variations of disability that exist), but it is more often than not wildly misinformed.
3. You will have to care of me forever afterward: My desire to be the Meg Ryan characters in any 80s-90s rom-com aside, this can be a real concern for partners I have had. Some have said that they can’t hang out because I might need too much help. You know what? That’s extremely fair. The idea of helping someone with so much care after a hook up can be really strange. Believe me, having been on the receiving end of a lot of post-coital care, it is difficult to discern at what point one goes from lover to laborer. Usually, the cripple has an attendant available if needed, so I don’t want you to help me for eternity, but I have no trouble asking for a hand (or two) if I need it.
The mythology around sex and disability is forever rampant and never ending. In my most humble opinion, this is in large part due to the fact that we never allow ourselves to talk about it. Moreover, we don’t allow people to admit when they are scared of it. I can honestly say that in the past, I have gotten really angry with potential lovers for telling me they were uncertain or afraid. I would immediately presume they were some ableist asshole. I would dismiss their fears, and expect them to “learn on the job”, as it were (insert fellatio joke here). This would result in a blameworthy sexual encounter that left us both wanting and needing more.
I truly believe that the only way that to really have great sex with me, or any cripple, is to acknowledge the fear that will rear its head (along with others) at some point in the evening. Once we embrace the fear and truly unpack it, we can get to the more interesting, exciting and downright fun business of embracing one another.
If you want to find out more about my efforts to raise awareness and my work as a Disability Awareness Consultant, and book me for speaking opportunities, please visit: www.andrewmorrisongurza.com.
Editor’s note: All language as originally used by author.
Originally posted at HuffingtonPost.
Photo courtesy of the author.
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