Sunday, July 22, 2007

Wizard and WCD: Sex and Disability

I like sex.

OMG. Did I really just write that? Will my adult blog rating go up? Will those of you who lurk disappear? Will those of you who are regular readers be embarrassed/grossed out, and disappear? Will people be weirded out? Will my site become haunted by internet creeps?

Breathe. Breathe. Wow. That says a lot about my fears around sexuality. I often refer to myself as being sex positive, but I tend only to reveal that in long intense arguments about feminism, pornography, and sexuality. Or debates about sex, sexuality, and education in the US. I am publicly sex positive, yes, but I tend not to discuss what that means for my soon-to-be-not-so-private life.

Breathe. Breathe. In this post, Wizard and I will be writing about disability and sex. We will be writing in our own voices, about our own experiences and expectations. Beware. It's a very long post. And in places, it is pretty explicit. And, yes. This is Wizard's first post. Welcome, Wizard.

I like sex. I like the moment of anticipation. That unexpected quiver of arousal amidst quotidian activities. I like knowing that we will have sex later today. I like the warm memories and physical remainders/reminders of knowing that we did have sex earlier today. I am turned on by the communicative possibilities of sex -- by talking and writing about sex. I enjoy reading well-written sex -- though here I am less interested in the nakedness of body parts than my imagination of what is hidden -- the fear, excitement, happiness, sadness, etc. as people engage in their relationships. This turns me on.

Too much information? Come on, hang in there with me. Or is that perhaps my fear/shame speaking again -- perhaps this is not too much information. Perhaps this is what everyone experiences to some degree or other. Perhaps you are reading this post because you experience similar things but do not want to write about them. And this uncertainty is part of my motivation for writing. The rhetoric of privacy, chosen willingly by some and adopted out of fear for others, makes me feel alone. I don't know how others experience sex. I know what many people do. I want to know more about how others experience disability, sex, and sexuality. And I am willing to open about this. So -- hand extended -- read on.

Disability and sex. I kind of floated through my sex life prior to disability. I had relationships; I had sex; I had crushes; I loved. I brought with me a lot of baggage. My upbringing stressed the shame of homosexuality. Yes, my parents had gay friends, but that was for them, for those people. No one in this family was going to be gay. Bisexuality? Make up your mind, puhlease. I attended a women's college in the UK. My mother told me to watch out for those women. I watched all right. But not in the way she meant. I looked, and ..... well, sexual possibility seemed limitless. All I had to do was float along. And then came disability.

My first inclination that all was not well was when I explained that I had been prescribed a wheelchair. My mother's response was to ask whether Wizard still wanted to have sex with me. Even as I write this today, I am blown away. Err. What? Logic? What? Excuse me? We'd already been making accommodations. No. We had already been inventing new and creative practices to get around my RSI. A wheelchair didn't seem to be much more of an obstacle -- but it was.

On the public side of things, I learned quickly that disabled folk don't. Can't. Taboo. Nope. Not going there. I had to learn that disabled people had sex lives and that I could have one, too. I was pleased and, yes, surprised to learn about scholarly literature on disability and sex. Disabled parenting (that at least implied sex). The internet blew my mind. It wasn't so much that disabled people could have sex. It was the idea that people out there WANT disabled people. It wasn't just that Wizard was some kind of saint who could overlook the disability or even that he was some kind of weirdo. It was and is that there is a bunch of people who see, understand, and desire the body in all its manifestations. There is a world of people out there who desire people with disabilities (and not just in the devotee kind of way). And there is a world of PWD who are living and writing about their sexually full and enriching lives. I particularly enjoy Zephyr and Trinityva -- two especially prominent disabled sex bloggers -- but they are not the only ones.

On the private side of things, it was a whole different ball game. Wizard and I have been together, in a variety of configurations, for 16 years. Disability forced us to look clearly at what we were doing. I have never really clearly managed to articulate my hopes and desires for sex. I was sort of able to go along, making sure I was practicing safe sex and that I didn't get pregnant. Now, I have to think about what I want from an encounter, the mechanics of my body and the logistics of sex. In the past, I have not been good about communicating what I wanted. And my turning away from Wizard when he has approached or touched me with love has been difficult. We have had to talk about these kinds of things so that he knows that it's not about him. It's about my physicality, my body, and my own issues with that body. I now have to be honest and clear about my pain levels, my comfort in a particular position, my stamina. I should have been this open all along, of course. But I managed to skip on by. As long as both of us came, it was good, right?

I have a lot of things to think about. I need to protect my neck. No odd angles if we're doing oral sex and no weight either. We've had to figure out how to do the kiss thing -- press down too hard and all the pleasure disappears. Push my head back ... same thing. I need to protect my hip and lower back. Just because I am flexible and can open my legs at really odd angles doesn't mean I should. If you add your body weight on top of my leg, the whole thing can go belly up rather quickly. I can injure myself and that's no fun. You want repetitive motion? Hell, I want repetitive motion? That's a time limited activity. Better come quickly, then. Oh yes. Then there's the involuntary motion thing. Unexpected touch, light feathery touch, quick touch and ... POW! Sigh.

Sometimes just thinking about these things as prerequisites can be overwhelming. What happened to just fucking? To waking up, turning over, and simply having sex? To going to bed, making love, and falling asleep. Foam wedges, beanies, positions, arms, legs, necks, hands, hips, backs, painkillers ... spontaneity, anyone? And even when we have covered all bases, things can go "wrong" pretty quickly: a misplaced hand, too much pressure, a sudden turn, and ...

I am learning not to see the list as a list. It's not a list of things to be protected or nursed through a sexual encounter. It is the body I have. I have to recognize there is pain with the body I have. I have to recognize that there is variability with the body I have. That I can still enjoy it. That I can still have earth-shaking orgasms while protecting the painful bits.

I have to learn to trust Wizard and his desire for me. I have to learn that I can still express my desire for him, believing that he is open enough and sexy enough to welcome my sexual expression no matter what form it takes.

From Wizard:

WCD told me a few minutes ago that the next carnival was on disability and sex, and my first response was to jump right in. One of my favorite topics (sex) and one of my favorite people (WCD) -- two great tastes that go great together! But having begun to write, I want to start with sex first, and move on to disability and sex.

Even the able-bodied among us are disabled by the restricted expectations, discomfort, breathlessness, and general lack of knowledge about sex. I use "disabled" advisedly, as physical architecture and sociosexual architecture are both one-size-fits-all and if it doesn't fit you it's your problem. My family expected me to date a few nice Christian neighbor girls who didn't sleep around, wait to have sex until I was married to her, have sex with her only, and reading between the lines, to have only vanilla missionary sex in bed while completely naked with no one else watching. And I was probably supposed to be on top. Eventually this sex would lead naturally to one or more children, who we would take to church each Sunday until they left for college. I didn't even know there was an alternative. Just like I didn't know that a wheelchair user could be out on the sidewalk without being pushed.

Sex for my family and friends was simple: follow the rules and it would be satisfying, they said. Disabled sex isn't simple. If we kiss like we did in college, WCD's neck hurts. My gentle caress of WCD's arm may cause a spastic jerk strong enough to hurt me. When I was recovering from pelvic and sacral breakage and surgery, the sensation of WCD's hand on my cock was anything but stimulating -- it was jolting and eerily discomforting in some deep, old, reptilian part of my brain, and my facial expression and vocalizations communicated that. How would you feel if you were WCD, touching me with deep love and gentle caring, and I respond with disgust?

WCD may have loved it yesterday when I attacked her clit fiercely after a few short kisses, but today the very thought of touch there might lead her to curl up in a defensive ball. Hard repetitive strokes of fucking may begin a powerful feeling of connection but then, rather suddenly, become bothersome, annoying, or excruciating.

The good news is that we aren't alone. (Well, sometimes we're alone...) Able-bodied sex -- real-life, full-on fucking -- isn't simple either. Your partner may not share your love for porn, or for having spontaneous sex with your friends, or for latex, regardless of allergies and abilities. Your partner may not enjoy tying you up, no matter how much you wish him to, regardless of whether he can. Your partner will not see you as you see yourself, regardless of whether either of you can see at all. Hearing what your partner wants, and describing what you want, is tricky regardless of how ears and mouths work.

While writing this, I've shared several hot touches with WCD. I became very aroused from remembering sex with her, and writing about it; she stroked my hard-on and my tits, and I moaned deeply in her ear. I wanted her Right Then, but she asked me to wait while she wrote her piece. I've enjoyed honestly describing a small part of my physical love for WCD. I'm left wanting somewhere safe to talk about this -- what has been possible for each of us, what we wish for, what we were disappointed about.

A carnival is cacophonous and out of the ordinary, but after the carnival we can choose to live differently, day to day, because of our experiences there.


  1. I like sex, too.

  2. OMG, you like sex? Bleugh! What, with a man? Ew! Next you'll be saying you leave the light on. ;-P

    Well done, the both of you; very frank, very loving, very nice. :-)

    One regret I have in blogging the way I do is that I don't feel able to be explicit about the mechanical side of things, techniques or um, bits of kit which can be useful. If I could absolutely guarantee that none of my family members would ever be able to read it...

    Wizard's points about the non-disabled sex life are spot on; everyone has tastes, inclinations, dislikes and insecurities which are potentially problematic if a partner is not on side - or indeed, so problematic that a person lacks the confidence to get together with anyone.

    Ignorance is a big issue; at least with an impairment to work around, you have to educate yourself to some extent. Arguably, you may learn more about your own and your lover's body and sexual make-up than you would otherwise. Perhaps a greater openness between lovers is forced (if you don't like something, you may be afraid to say - if something causes you terrific pain, there's no grinning and bearing it).

    And personally, perhaps I am a bit weird, but I find it brings a lot of laughter to the bedroom. I mean, you can't take it very seriously when things go wrong - if you do, you both feel it so much, the disappointment, guilt or whatever. So you have to have a giggle.

    Anyway, very happy for the both of you. :-)

  3. yum. me likee sex too. !!!

    seriously tho, it's interesting how the ones who are supposed to be having the best sex, the young able bodied athletic etc--really aren't, when it comes down to it. the women are too scared to ask for what they need (that is, if they are old enough to even know what they need), and the dudes--well, i don't think they can appreciate a clit as wizard does. :p

    it's interesting how the stuff that is supposed to disempower you--age, disability, size, etc, is often the stuff that opens up new worlds.

    i'd be interested in reading about mental disabilities in the carnival--staying focused and on track can kinda be a problem in the climax dept, i've found. leading to a lot of the humor in the bedroom thing that goldfish talks about.
    looking forward to the carnival.

  4. I wonder to what extent the issues here--comments as well as original post--have to do with generational differences. My youth was spent post-sexual-revolution and pre-AIDS, and . . . well . . . I had my world in my time, as the Wife of Bath says. My life is very different now, but I'm glad I remember a time before safe sex, a time (and, I suppose, a place) when exploring bodies and talking about that process was . . . damn, here's that word again: normal. And then came the backlash that seems to have changed everything for people only a few years younger than I am. Well, sorry, enough old-fart-ism (my-how-the-world-has-changed-for-the-worse-since-I-was-young!). ;-)

  5. Thank you WCD!


    I'm prominent? That's both flattering and... disorienting :)

  6. Anonymous8:25 PM

    Thank you WCD. Best post I've read all week, hands down! Affirming and hot ;)

    Also thanks for mentioning that TAB people can desire disabled bodies without the weird "devotee" connotation.

    I see, understand, and desire the body in all its manifestations!!
    From crip shaky hands, to butch genderqueers to femme queens. I wanna explore and adapt and fuck outside of the binary. Please know, I'm out there!

  7. thanks you guys.

    That was a hard post to write. But it seems that we aren't the only ones out there. And that is kinda cool.


    The body is fun!!

  8. I am so glad you posted this. Whew! It was an amazing read and I'm left wanting more. Not necessarily more explicit-ness (I don't care about that part either way), but more of the experience, the challenge, the joy. Also: Wizard. It wasn't TMI IMO. ;p

  9. Joan Kelly9:48 AM

    Wow. I am a new visitor to this blog, clicked over from BFP's recent post where you were linked. I was really moved by what you wrote, WCD, and am glad for you and Wizard (liked your part too) that you each get to be with somebody good. :)

    BFP your comment reminded me of a conversation I had with my coworker recently. He was flipping out about his 15 year old daughter having a boyfriend, and his panic about her being too young for sex, and not knowing if she was active or wanted to be, and just feeling helpless. After telling him what I wish MY parents had done when they had that same panic (which he ultimately went with, thank god), I said, "Hey, if you want her to refrain from sex for a little while longer, just tell her the truth. Most teenage boys are terrible in the sack."


  10. the strength of your partnership shines through in your writing as well as apparently in the other realms of life;) thank you so much for this collaboration!

  11. Anonymous6:47 AM

    I keep hearing what other Disabled people say about their sex lives, and all I can feel about it is envy and sadness for my own situation. I wish I could debug myself of all the negative messages I had growing up as a Disabled person in a "special" school. I'm 39 now, and haven't had a relationship for almost 20 years - and that never reached beyond heavy-petting. All I've known since is rejection from those I fell in love with, and this has led me to feeling asexual and unwanted. If you have it, enjoy it.

  12. Awesome post, like nearly all the others in this carnival... so many more blogs to add to my blogroll now... thanks ;)

  13. Thank you for your frank and honest post. I'm married to a walkie with major depression, and we've both found ourselves that our disabilities have prompted a LOT more communication than when we were relatively-normal college kids.

  14. As people get older, all of these things eventually happen, even if one always thought of oneself as "able-bodied."

    I think one reason some old people stop having sex is just not knowing how to adapt to pain, or some kind of puritan belief that you simply shouldn't have sex if you are in any kind of chronic pain. In our culture, sex is for the young, pretty, thin, pain-free people.

    Your post was fantastic! Love your blog, WCD, my first post here.