It’s Valentine’s Day this week, so I figured now would be as good a time as any to address a topic that doesn’t get enough play in the disability community — sex. That’s right people: we do have it, and if we’re not having it, we want it (shock of shocks). Of course, our current cultural landscape has other ideas, just take a look at this long decried commercial from Mothers Against Drunk Driving that made me want to sponsor an organization for Fathers Against Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
According to MADD, as soon as you acquire a disability you’re screwed. But worse than that, no one is screwing you. (Well, some people are, but not in the way that feels good.) For MADD, if someone was ever having sex with you, you can bet they’ve long since re-invested the future of their family tree into strong, capable, 100% pure, grade A, able-bodied stock. This type of rhetoric is all over the place.
There’s a scene in an episode of Sex in the City that has always stuck with me. Steve shows up at Miranda’s apartment an emotional basketcase because his doctor just removed a cancerous testicle. With only one ball, he questions whether he’ll be able to perform, or if any woman would ever sleep with him again. Putting his worries to rest, Miranda gives him the ultimate confidence boost and mauls him right there. Now, that’s a great message to send. The only way anyone would sleep with a disabled guy is out of pity. (Of course, they’re doing us a favor out of the goodness of their hearts, we should applaud their effort.) I think I’d rather pay for it, thanks.
It’s not just that the culture takes us out of the game as viable sexual partners and possibilities, (Ladies, how many times have you been in a club and mentally undressed a guy in a wheelchair? Maybe you stopped at the waist? Or maybe you continued, but your practical side stopped short of the approach) it’s our biases and preconceived notions, on both sides of the ability line, that do too. A relationship with a disabled person means different things to different people.
Maybe you think you’ll have to help them physically, but you don’t think you’re strong enough. Maybe you just don’t have the patience to wait for things that might take a little longer, or maybe your life’s going along swimmingly, so why complicate things when the abundance of able-bodied candidates could potentially eliminate the hassle.
Even I have reservations about dating someone with a disability because I feel like I don’t want to take on the extra challenge of assisting someone else, when my own disability already gives me enough to manage. At the same time, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think dating an able-bodied person wouldn’t make my life easier in a practical sense. Of course, all of these care giving/home management issues can be solved by a third party — A fact so many forget to think about. If someone who hates to clean can hire a cleaning lady, then someone who needs help can hire a staff person. No one else knows how to manage their disability better than the person who has it, so why not leave it to them? (Unless they ask for your help specifically.) All of this then leaves you both time to make the relationship the primary focus. In some ways it’s more complicated than that (As much as I try, I can’t manufacture attraction or chemistry). But maybe next time you walk into the club, you’ll make that approach, and know that everything else can be handled as you both go along.
Aaron is a freelance journalist living in Toronto. His work has appeared in Financial Post Business, Investment Executive Newspaper, and TV Week Magazine, along with Askmen.com. He is a regular contributor to Abilities Magazine and is currently plotting a weekly web comic called GIMP, with artist Jon Duguay, about a handicap school bus driver who wakes up after a crash to find he’s the last able-bodied person on earth — and he’s being hunted.