I thought it was complicated navigating the murky depths of dating and sex before. In the throws of PTSD from a previously abusive sitch, the universe decided I had to traverse intimacy-rebound with a disability too! So lets get into it and uncover the joys, challenges, and awkward encounters that come with rekindling passion and romance crip-style.
1. When You Should Swipe Left - Online Dating Agony:
In an era of online dating, where a simple swipe determines the course of fate, disabled women often find themselves in a peculiar predicament. I could be armed with a witty bio, stunning photos, yet face an onslaught of folks who match purely out of curiosity. As if I base my next meet-cute on how I got my wheels? Nothing says relaxing romance or fiery passion like hard-core medical trauma!
There’s the fixers looking for a project; "We could see it as yoga”. The evangelists looking for a miracle; "Don't worry, I'll pray for you”. The unconventional physicians who declare they can “screw you into standing” or that they’re antics in the bedroom are “intense physiotherapy”. The psychopaths who are thrilled that you "can’t run away".
According to a study by Thomas et al. (2017), disabled individuals face unique challenges in the digital dating realm, with misconceptions, stereotypes and outright disability-specific sexual harassment running rampant. And this isn’t just exclusive to anyone actively dating; Nope! People feel inclined to insert themselves between my legs in general conversation out of concern, curiosity or clout. Heads-up to the chronically online; when you are any kind of prejudiced creep (online or not), hot crips take note, we laugh in pity, and we tell ALL our friends about it. Including the able-bodied ones.
2. "The Wheelchair is a Chick Magnet" - Public Reactions:
Public reactions to disabled women embracing and displaying our sexual desires or sexuality is laughable. We stroll along, hand-in-hand with our partners or simply flaunting our bodies, and we get curious stares or congratulatory smiles, as if we've unlocked the ultimate achievement: finding love in the despair of disability. But like…there’s no actual sex, right? Disabled people only have those one-sided relationships; anyone interested must have some kind of caregiver-fetish. Or, the worst, they're absolutely taking advantage of her inability to get away from them.
Studies show that society often views disabled individuals as asexual beings, making any display of affection, desire, or eroticism akin to seeing a kangaroo doing a strip-tease. Kudos to us for defying expectations and demonstrating that love and intimacy are not reserved for the able-bodied!
3. "Adventures in Adaptive Devices":
So! Adaptive devices - a disabled person's gateway to a world of sensual exploration! The creativity involved in finding the perfect device is all part of the adventure. From strategically placed pillows to high-tech contraptions, consider it Sex-toys—R-Us! And like most ‘accessible’ devices, they generally create opportunities for everyone to enjoy life (in this case sex) better!
Adapting to physical changes can be both liberating and challenging. Seamless soft-glow transitions are for wet-dreams and R-rated movies circa 1994. We’re comfortable with the hard-core reality of sex; confusion, mess, communication, maybe a good laugh, and a bond (however temporary) with our partner over an assortment of devices that would make Rube Goldberg proud.
4. "Disability: The Ultimate Icebreaker":
Forget pickup lines; being a disabled woman in the dating game is the ultimate icebreaker! Potential suitors, eager to display their open-mindedness, often ask intrusive questions, such as "How do you... you know...?" or "Can we still have a 'normal' relationship?". That old classic: “…you can feel stuff down there right?”.
Studies have shown that disabled individuals often become the unwitting educators of others on disability matters. Nothing breaks up the conversation with a potential hook-up than reassuring them that you are, in-fact, capable of doing what you turned up for and reassuring another that they won't require a medical degree to follow-through! I get it, you’re scared that YOU won’t be able to…you know… but that’s absolutely a YOU problem. I know what I’m hungry for and I know how to chew and swallow that meal. If you don’t…bruh, why you sit down to dine? I ain’t no mummy-bird!
5. "The Pillow-Talking Diagnostician":
It's incredible how many self-proclaimed intimacy experts emerge when you're a disabled woman seeking romantic connection. Complete strangers become eager advisors, offering their unsolicited dos and don'ts of disabled intimacy and the focus is ENTIRELY on your body…or their general perception of your body and it’s capabilities!
While communication is essential in redefining intimacy after a disability, relying on well-meaning advice from those who've never rolled in your wheels leaves you feeling patronised and marginalised. If I didn’t ask, and all you’re going to do is regurgitate a generic sex-help book on me, just recommend the book and move on to…ME! Because it’s me you’re gonna be getting intimate with. Not Fig. 3 on page 120.
It's weird that rediscovering my sexual intimacy as a disabled woman has revealed the intense private passions of many potential partners to become a psychotherapist, physiotherapist, or a diagnostician… none of which I tend to think about during or in the run-up-to sex. Why didn’t you put that in the bio, dude? Imagine being face-down, biting the pillow and, suddenly, your lover begins robotically listing the intricate anatomy of the spinal column. If it’s you’re thing…can’t deny, I’m curious. But it’s absolutely not mine. Maybe afterwards while we awkwardly decide who’s going to call the taxi, or if I’m gonna stay for breakfast (BTW: I never do. I gladly escort myself out. I have a cat and an obsession with my own bed.)
Witty banter aside, I have a genuine desire for inclusivity and understanding. Disabled women are not defined by their disabilities but by resilience, humour, and the full capacity to find sex and love in unexpected places, in unexpected ways. You know? Positive adult-human traits...that every adult-human has the aptitude for (but seem to spontaneously forget when interacting with a hot-crip they want to get to know intimately)! Please, feel free to engage in those qualities, and get friendly with me.