By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
I'm writing on behalf of a 19-year-old guy with cerebral palsy. As you may know, CP is a brain affliction resulting from insufficient oxygen at birth, and it causes the part of the brain responsible for motor function to work incorrectly. Troubles for people with CP include muscle spasticity, weakness, and/or painful contraction, and, in some cases, a life spent in a wheelchair.My buddy is, like any 19-year-old, interested in finding out more about his sexuality. He has watched his peers develop sexually, but hasn't had the opportunity to do so himself. Intimacy aside, are there any services that you know of that could help him to experience sex for the first time? I don't mean buying the guy a hooker or anything like that, but I wondered if there are people who would assist him and a girl (disabled or otherwise) into bed.
Friend In Deed
"Your reader shouldn't make assumptions about what having sex or being sexual means to his friend," says Cory Silverberg, co-author of The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability. What if your friend doesn't want to get into bed with a girl, but head into a dungeon with one? Or two? Or what if your friend is gay? Or what if all he really wants is to make it with a plush toy or a picnic table?"Just like we do with everyone," says Cory, "we tend to assume folks with disabilities are straight and just want to have penile-vaginal intercourse and some oral sex. We're almost always wrong. So the first thing he should do is ask his friend what he's interested in."
Cory also suggests that you ask your friend if he's having sex with himself, since masturbation is the easiest way for a person to explore his sexuality. "Mobility disabilities can make masturbation tricky," says Cory, "but never impossible. Privacy and motor control can be challenging, but there are many workarounds."If your friend has or finds a partner and needs physical assistance during sex, you might want to help him find an attendant—a person who works with physically disabled people, who is comfortable positioning him and a partner in bed, assisting with condoms, and cleaning up. "In my experience," says Cory, "attendants who are queer tend to be more comfortable talking about sex and making that kind of assistance part of their job description, but that doesn't rule out straight ones."
So, if your friend has plenty of sex with himself and has a good idea about what he'd like to do but doesn't have a partner to do it with, what do you do then? "I don't have any new suggestions here," says Cory. "He should get out there, use online and virtual spaces, join a social group related to something he's passionate about—all of these are good ways to meet people. Paying for sex is also an option, but avoid the escort ads and try to get a referral from someone you know and trust."
I was in a chat room today, and a guy asked if he could see my belly button. Of course, my fetish alarm went off. Turns out this guy is 19, disabled, and feels like a total social/sexual outcast. Because of his physical problems and his fetish, he said he felt like he'd never have a normal relationship. I couldn't lie to the kid and say, "Don't worry, pumpkin, your soulmate will find you someday," so instead I offered: "Most people are assholes—and this comes from an able-bodied vanilla girl, so yeah, your life's gonna be tough."Then I thought there must be some kind of Internet group out there for disabled fetishists. It might also make him feel more normal, and he may be able to arrange an amazing you-can-fetishize-my-disability-if-I-can-jerk-off-in-your-belly-button relationship.
Trying to Help a Kid Out
"Your reader probably feels like she is doing a good thing," says Cory, "but she should tone down the condescension [about fetishes and disability]." Cory feels strongly that people with disabilities shouldn't be told they must look exclusively to disability fetishists for partners. "But there are people who have a specific sexual preference for people with disabilities," says Cory, "and they identify themselves as 'devotees'—and, in most cases, the disabilities they prefer are people missing limbs and people in wheelchairs."Ascot World (AscotWorld.com), according to Cory, "is still one of the biggest and best devotee sites and offers links to discussion groups, which, if this guy is interested, are one place to look for people."
Now, before angry able-bodied folks take offense on behalf of the disabled and fill my inbox with angry letters about creepy devotees, please wrap your able-bodied heads around this: If you believe in equal treatment for people with disabilities—and you do, right?—then that extends to sex. We all want to be objectified from time to time, and a disabled person has just as much right to healthy objectification as any able-bodied person. There's really not much difference between a leg man and a lack-of-leg man—well, except this: The more common a fetish is, the less likely we are to regard it as one.