In the summer of 2014, I wrote a blog post entitled, “Boys and Girls in Chairs: The ‘Right’ to Get Off”. In the post, I spoke pretty candidly about my experiences with masturbation and the trials and realities of performing this act when one is as disabled as I am. It was light and funny with a few quips here and there about “choking the chicken thrown in for brevity”. Towards the end of that post I asked, “What happens if one can’t do it themselves?” At the time, I was talking about a hypothetical person. I never considered -- really considered -- the realities of what it might feel like to not be able to achieve self-pleasure. I was very happy that I was, in my limited fashion, able to please myself; using only one finger and my thumb I could bring my Queer Crippled self to states of ecstasy independently, and that was indeed a liberation like none I had ever experienced before.
Over the past while, I have noticed that my disability has changed over time. With my spastic Cerebral Palsy being what it is, my dexterity has decreased while my spasticity and muscular tension has increased (I feel like there might be a sex pun in there somewhere). By all accounts this is a pretty common occurrence for people who experience my level of disability; what the doctors refer to as “severely disabled”, but what I will refer to as “severely sexy”. On the one hand, I’m not surprised or stunned by this development, but I have to admit that I am angry and scared of what this means for my sexual health and mental well being overall. I worry about what this means for me as a disabled person, sexual being and as a queer cripple working in sex and disability.
I remember when it first happened a while back. I wasn’t able to sleep late at night. I was lying in my bed listening to the sounds of night envelop me; the ticking of my clock, cars revving their engines and people coming home from nights out. I could see the bright red lights that bathed the city as I stared at my iPhone as it blinked 3 A.M. The best way to cure this bout of insomnia was to get off, I thought. I typed in my favorite porn site into my phone, and as the scene was starting I snaked my hand under the covers. I tried to get my thumb in its familiar position so that I could start enjoying myself. I immediately noticed a marked difference; my hand wasn’t doing what I wanted it to. The muscle contractures were too strong, and I couldn’t relax enough to find any rhythm or momentum. I was doubly annoyed because I could hear the muted, mumbled voices of the porn stars enjoying each other in their scene on my phone. I bet that they had no clue how much I wanted to rub one out to them. I was simultaneously angered that I hadn’t heeded the advice of my physiotherapist when I was younger. I wish I had done those seemingly unimportant finger strengthening exercises then - that mobility would come in handy now (pun definitely intended). Goddamnit! I was determined to keep trying. I contorted my body and hands as best I could, but to no avail. For a split second, I began laughing uncontrollably thinking, “Maybe God does punish you for masturbating. Or maybe it’s just the disabled kids?” I then let out a reserved sigh of anger and frustration, which was wrapped in a huge overwhelming ball of fear and uncertainty that I can’t even really describe in words. I rolled over in my bed and forced myself to turn off the porn and try to sleep. The fear churned in my stomach and I started to cry, angry that this was happening, and thinking, “What do I do now? Why me?”
I had so many questions that were whirling around in my head. I wondered what my sex life would look like now? I was worried that people would see me as even less of a sexual being than they already did. Would guys still want to do me? Am I still sexually attractive? There was even a small part of me that was concerned with my performance of masculinity as a queer man with disabilities. Intellectually, I understand and agree that queer men’s obsession with “masc4masc” is rooted in oppression, internalized homophobia and frankly utter bullshit, but I can’t pretend that this recent change in my functionality didnt make me wary of my status as a disabled man. There’s something very primal, independent and downright masculine about a guy being able to whip his dick out and please himself if he so chooses. This is his moment to be with himself, it’s all his, and now that sense of bodily autonomy was stripped away from me without warning. That hurts, there’s no other way to say it. I also considered my professional persona with my brand DisabilityAfterDark. I didn’t know if I was even really allowed to call myself a sex educator anymore. How could I talk about sex if I couldn’t even have it with myself?
All those feelings kept nagging at me and bothering me, and they haven’t really subsided even now. Every time I see someone stroking themselves (which, when you are as horny as I am, and work in sex positivity, is a fair bit), I get resentful of their ability and the privilege they are employing that I no longer have access to. I want to scream at them, “imagine what would happen if you couldn’t do that anymore! How would you feel?” I wish they could understand how I feel about this loss.
I have always been someone who adapted to things thrown at me. I often didn’t have a choice. But, honestly, how the fuck does one adapt to this? Who do you turn to? I’ve thought about asking my friends for help here, but this feels like a definite crossing of boundaries that even for me, someone who prides themselves on being a saucy, seated individual and a provocateur with disabilities, this feels somewhat unnerving. How would that conversation even start? “Hey man, if you’re not too busy today, do you think you might help me get off?” You’re not meant to ask your friends these types of questions, and even considering that as an option feels altogether icky and off-putting.
There have been a rare few moments in which I have been genuinely angered by my disability. I have always considered it an integral part of me. I still do, of course, but in many ways this feels like bodily betrayal. I don’t have much else to say, except that I am worried that I will have blue balls or have random emissions without wanting to. I miss all that which I held (and rubbed) so dearly and hope that I can calibrate my own joystick again soon.