Ever since The Sessions came out in 2012, there has been this pocket of fascination around the role sex surrogacy can play in disabled people’s lives. The topic has lifted the brows of all sorts of people, from health-care workers, to sex workers to disabled people themselves, and (finally) people have started saying what they already knew deep-down: Disabled people have sex.
It’s been great really, finally being able to write that out loud. And it’s liberating to write the follow-up sentences: Sometimes disabled people exercise their own choice and pay for a prostitute, and, Oh yes, disabled people are indeed sexual, sometimes they will even pay for it. People everywhere are starting to understand, actually, that disabled people are just as sexual as the rest of humanity, and it’s dandy.
Only, this post wouldn’t be happening if it were truly dandy, so let me walk you to the water. In all the upcoming awareness about disabled people and their relationships with sex surrogacy and prostitution, people are (somewhat inadvertently) enforcing an old, essentializing stereotype: That disabled people who have sex—free or not—are fucking badasses.
This morning I gobbled up an article detailing the reasons why disabled men have paid sex. The piece referenced a small study, and claimed that men with disabilities have paid sex as an assertion of independence, and to “prepare them for real relationships.” The article briefly mentioned how this provided an alternative avenue for sex when the guys didn’t know where else to get it.
In response to these “findings” I just have one question: What’s the difference between a disabled guy wanting to get his rocks off with a girl he’s trying to forget he paid and a ablebodied business man wanting to spend the night with a pricey lady stranger? Is the businessman not also asserting his ability to fuck? Isn’t he too trying to fill the abyss of lonliness that tugs at the edges of his heart? Is he not, in some way, giving himself a “life experience,” that may or may not ebb positively or negatively into his future relationships? Why is this special/significant then, when it comes to wheelies?
There’s also this article, which discloses one paralyzed man’s search for a woman to meet his sexual needs. He views his sexual expression as an important part of his self-identity (which it is, duh.) He also seems to internalize the fucking-makes-mebadass idea, as he says, “live with [the disability] in the best way possible, and not to exclude anything. You can still be a rebel on two wheels.”
I’m by no means faulting this guy—I’m guilty of the same thought process. I’m mentioning it because internalization is a good indicator of the power a stereotype holds. This guy wants to get laid because getting laid needs to happen, and also because he’s a “rebel”. For you know, fufilling a human need. Maybe he could go all-out and eat some veggies while he’s at it.
Are all the men who sleep with women rebels? Are the guys who pay for sex super-badass? Why is it that we have to make sex and disability its own entity, when the current explanation,“Sorry to bore, but I’m actually just like you,” will do just fine?
Please, stop discussing our reasons for paying for sex as if were badass or exceptional. As is the case with anyone, it is what it is, nothing more, and certainly nothing less.
Angry wheelie out.