The Reveal Narrative


I love when I see sex and disability talked about in the media landscape.  Almost all of my professional persona and my job is built on putting these stories out there.   I am hungry to see this stuff – this type of representation is so, so important, and often so lacking.  Every disabled person can almost guarantee that we won’t see ourselves represented unless we choose to be represented in very particular and often damaging ways.

Let me be very clear – I am a fame whore of epic proportions (you all know it’s the truth) and I will take whatever media attention I can, with the express purpose of championing my cause and the work I do, so that those after me have a guide post.   That is my ultimate goal, and I will do what I have to do to achieve that.  But, if I am really honest with you, there is a narrative around disability and sexuality as it is portrayed in the media that is starting to get, well, tired… overdone and overdrawn.  In fact, it is one of the only depictions of disability and sex that is readily available: The Reveal Narrative.

I was scrolling through social media tonight and I saw an article pop up on my Twitter feed that said, “5 People with Disabilities Reveal What Dating is Actually Like”.   The article itself was full of important information centered around the lived experience of dating while disabled.  I felt that this was the meat of the piece, and what the reader should be focused on.   But the idea of “The Reveal Narrative” stayed with me, and has irked me – even as I write this.  

A quick Google Search of past articles on sex and disability highlight that the reveal narrative is alive and well.   I found 9 articles that use the word “reveal” in the title to lead into a sensationalistic discussion of sex and disability.   Other articles used titles like, “What it’s Really Like to Have Sex and Disability”.   I even wrote a piece a few years back, where the editor changed the title to better fit “The Reveal Narrative”.

I find The Reveal Narrative destructive for all the reasons you might expect – its subversively ableist undertones remind us that sex and disability is still shocking and taboo.  It underpins the fact that we, as disabled people, are to be gawked at, and that our sex and sexuality is so secretive and different in scope and practice – that whenever we even deign to talk about it, in any context whatsoever, it must be uncovered or discovered, as if it’s this thing that is shrouded in secrecy.   The magazines and media outlets jump on this salacious and incendiary fact so that they can sell stories, but the embers of that flame, I think, burn people with disabilities in other ways, too.

Thanks to the idea of revealing/uncovering/surprising people with the idea of sex and disability, I have come to use that narrative in how I approach others.  There have been moments where I have seen my sex as overtly taboo or “special” in some way.  I have used disabled sex as some fabled currency to entice a lover over.     I have played with the ideas of sex and disability as being the “sex you never knew you wanted” or quipped that I’d show a guy just how good sex and disability could be.  I’ve joked with guys that I want to be their first cripple, in essence revealing to them the “truth of sex and disability” (whatever the hell that is).  That’s a whole lot of fucking pressure to live up to.   What if it is revealed that I’m bad at it?  What if you discovered that I just want to cuddle?  What might happen then?  

I’d love to see news stories and magazines that are willing to talk about sex and disability, do so in a way that is a little different.   Let the stories inside, told be the people who lived them, speak for themselves.  Those are the narratives that are the most critical and vital in changing the way we look at sex and disability.   If everything we do, see and read about disabled sex/dating is revelatory, how will it ever become mainstream?  How will I ever see myself as anything more than your novelty date, your first queer cripple or the first time you were with a guy in a chair?   Let me be real a minute.   Unlike the media suggests, when you hang out, date or get naked with me, the only big reveal will be that I am awkward, nervous, and fucked up.  Not too surprising, is it?    

4 Things You Should Never Say to the Queer Cripple During or After Sex

There are a few words I love hearing after sex.  I love it when we’re laying there together and my partner turns to me, his eyes all wide and tired with exhaustion (because I am that good), and he says: “Wow, I’ve never done that before.”   These words make me grin ear to ear, and I know that I have given you an experience that you won’t want to forget.  I love hearing this stuff.   Unfortunately though, I tend to hear some pretty weird stuff from sex partners after the fact, and I wanted to share a few of the most awkward things that have been said to me “post-cripple coitus”.


1.         Taking Care of You Isn’t So Bad.


So, we have just had sex, and I have asked you to help me get dressed and get back in my wheelchair.   As you are helping me with this, you will look me straight in the eyes and say, in this cloyingly sweet voice, “Taking care of you isn’t so bad after all,” OR “Taking care of you was kind of fun.”   I never know what exactly to do in this situation.   Do I say thank you?  Should I be grateful?   Either way, it’s super annoying when guys say this to you as a disabled guy after sex.   It completely negates all the hot sex we had, and minimizes our experience into something you did for me, because you felt bad for me.  Ugh.  See, I thought when we came all over each other, dripping in sweat from the ecstacy of the moment, we took care of one another.   You getting me dressed after I fellated you and vice versa should be no big deal.


2. Can You Get it Up?


I have mentioned this in many a blog post before: you should never ask a guy with a disability if he can “get it up”, period.   It is literally one of the most dehumanizing, desexualizing questions ever posed to a disabled man.   While you should never ask me this question if you want to get in my pants, you should especially never ask me this question while you are in the middle of unzipping/pulling down my pants.   I can’t even begin to count the number of times I have been just about to show a guy my “crip cock”, and he whispers this in my ear.   What the hell, men?   I am certainly not going to get a boner now, buddy.   Also, I just have to know, what would you do in that situation if a guy asked you that just before he was about to go down on you?   How might you react?  Probably not so well, amirite?


3. If I were you, I would kill myself.


To be honest, this one came out of left field for me.   I had met this guy at a conference, and we went back to my hotel room to play.   We had a pretty good time; clothes came off, bodies touched, things had gone pretty okay for an impromptu hook up.   As he was putting his shirt back on, he very nonchalantly remarked, “I don’t know how you do it, man, but if I were you I’d just end it.  I’d kill myself.”    I was utterly and completely taken aback.   Where did this come from?   More importantly, why did this guy feel the need to share this?   I ushered him out the door, closed it behind me; still shocked, I broke down.  So, he would sleep with me, and in almost the same breath, felt compelled to tell me that if he were me, he’d feel his life wasn’t worth living?   Talk about afterglow turning into “after-no”. 


4. You Remind Me Of….


Probably the most unsettling thing a guy said to me during sex was this.   Let me set the scene for you a little bit.  We were in the middle of a heavy, heavy make out session - y’know, the kind that’s so intense, you can’t really breathe, but you don’t really want to, because it’s just that good?  Yeah, that was happening.   All of sudden, he stops abruptly and looks at me straight in the face.    I was secretly hoping for a second he was catching his breath and regrouping, or something, but I kind of thought he was about to say something disability related.   I just didn’t expect this.    There we were, half-naked on my bed, and he says: “We have to stop.  We have to stop RIGHT NOW.”   I was like, “Okay, okay, no problem.”    Against my better judgement, I asked, “Why?”    He says, “It’s because you remind me of my ex’s 12-year-old child who passed away. They were in a wheelchair just like yours.”    I remember trying to be super sympathetic, but also I was super annoyed, and definitely shocked.    Not all disabled people look the same, and just because we’re both wheelchair users, doesn’t mean we are at all similar.  I was so very weirded out.   I also remember being mildly concerned that I resembled a 12 year old.   Ummmmm…. Awkward.


These are just a few of the things you might want to never say to the queer cripple during or immediately following a hook up with them.   Sadly, this list is not exhaustive by any means.  The next time you have sex with a hot guy in a chair, think to yourself, Is that something I’d want to hear after sex? Or will saying this thing make it unbearably uncomfortable for all involved?   I share these stories with you so that your next encounter with a sexy, seated lover will end with happy moans and cripple cuddles instead of groans of discomfort.