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The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability

By Dan Savage · December 7th, 2005 · Savage Love
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I'm a 23-year-old straight male. Due to a rare autoimmune attack three years ago, I have been indefinitely confined to a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down. I was never sexually active before the attack, so now I'm left to face my sexual future from a significantly altered perspective. The important thing to remember is that I can still engage in sex.

I can't speak for all men who use wheelchairs, but I think a common misconception that many people have is that we automatically can't have sex. I have always been very healthy and, aside from being in a chair, still am. I would like to pursue physical relationships with women, but how do I let them know I can still perform without just coming out and saying it? "Hey, nice to meet you. I can still have sex, by the way. So, read anything interesting lately?" There's no casual way of approaching the subject. Perhaps I should just bypass the tentative and the apprehensive altogether. Are there any wheelchair fetishists out there I should know about?

-- Have a New Desire Inside Can Anyone Please Perform Erotic Deeds?

P.S. Sorry, I couldn't resist the acronym my sign-off would create.

"Many people think 'paralyzed from the waist down' means 'turned into a block of ice down there,' " the authors of The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability -- Miriam Kaufman, Cory Silverberg and Fran Odette -- wrote in a group e-mail. (We'll call the authors KSO for short.) That paralyzed folks don't have blocks of ice in their pants is something we fully ambulatory idiots can go our whole lives without learning. "(Non-paralyzed people) have been raised to believe that it isn't polite to ever ask a person with a disability anything about their disability, let alone about sex," KSO says, "at least when they're sober."

So how do you let a woman know you're ready, willing and able to bone her brains out? "The most important thing is to see yourself as a sexual being and put out that vibe when you are in the kind of places where you might meet someone," KSO says. "All those things people do, like making eye contact and smiling (sensuously, mysteriously, impishly), get the message across (staring at breasts doesn't usually get the desired effect). A comment like 'I can do anything in this chair except climb stairs' can also be useful. It might be a good idea to take someone on a first date to see Murderball (a film about athletes in wheelchairs) as it has some fairly frank discussions about sex.

It may not be in theaters much longer, but you'll be able to rent it soon!"

As for wheelchair fetishists, HANDICAPPED, they're out there and KSO has some good news for you: "They tend to be straight women looking for guys who use wheelchairs." Straight women -- they're just a bunch of kinky, sex-crazed freaks, huh?

I'm a 27-year-old man with cerebral palsy and a longtime reader who is hoping you can help me. I am dating a woman who also has CP, and if you don't know much about this disability let me give you a short rundown: It can affect balance and muscle tension, which renders all conventional movement void. So think outside the box, man. We have run into some difficulty when it comes to having sex. (I know what you're thinking: I don't need the mental image of two gimpy people getting it on in my head. But, hey, we need to get freaky too.)

Our bodies don't move like other people's -- we are both in wheelchairs and, while sitting is no problem, my stiff legs make the missionary position impossible. We have invented ways to get each other off, but as far as doing the deed we are stumped. We have tried many different positions, but we can't get the angle right. We have looked all over the place for help, including the internet, with little luck. There doesn't seem to be much info out there for us.

-- Getting Irritated (with) Missionary Position

You gimps seem to have a knack for acronym creation, GIMP. Nice work. OK, on to the advice.

"Things do get more complicated when both partners have disabilities," KSO writes. "Some positions that have worked for other people are: (1) on your sides facing each other, with one of her legs over you; (2) on your sides facing in the same direction -- this is a particularly good one if her legs are also stiff. And if either of you takes medication to relax your muscles, you might want to ask your doctor if it is safe to take an extra dose before having sex.

"Many people use a hand to guide the penis into the vagina, and if you both have problems controlling hand movements, getting started will take extra patience. And keep in mind that intercourse is not necessarily the be-all and end-all sexual experience."

I am 14 years old and I live in South East London. I am currently suffering from loneliness and I need someone to love. I'm not lonely in the sense of not having friends or family, because I have a lot of both.

But right now, I feel that I don't have a life. Sad, right? Some people may think I am too young for a boyfriend, but I just need a friend who is a boy. But I'm disabled. I have cerebral palsy -- well, a form of it called hemiplegia -- which affects the right side of my body. It seems to me that everybody has a boyfriend except me. Everyone's lives are moving forward, and I'm being left behind. If things continue like this, I fear I'll only have my love of reading. Please, please help me find a boyfriend.

-- Loveless And So Sad

"I know you will find this hard to believe," KSO writes, "but many girls your age, with and without disabilities, are going through the same thing. Everybody does not have a boyfriend, even if it seems like this to you."

So what do you do? Well, I would advise you to indulge your love of reading for now and trust that love will find you eventually, just as it eventually found GIMP -- but it may take some time. "There are going to be guys who will only see your disability or who will assume that you aren't a sexual person," KSO says, "but more 14-year-old boys will do that than 21-year-old guys because people mature as they get older." So you might have to wait -- and that's the same advice I've given to scores of able-bodied teenagers over the years, LASS.

Still, there are some steps you can take now, says KSO. "If your group of friends is all girls, maybe it's time to expand. Your girlfriends may be feeling the same way you are and be happy to invite some guys to eat lunch with you. Finding people with similar interests is also a good place to start -- school clubs, after-school activities and volunteer work are good places to meet guys you can connect with."

A final word of warning: "Remember that because you are feeling so needy," KSO says, "you are vulnerable to someone who just wants to have sex with you and isn't really interested in being a boyfriend. If someone says that you should have sex with him because no one else is ever going to want to, run the other way!"

 
 
 
 

 

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