Sex Party Stoppers (Reasons Why PwD Might Opt Out of The No Pants Dance)

On a perfect planet, everyone would stop ogling the PwD-friendly sex party and just come already. But things (and people) are hardly ever that easy, and perhaps talking about the reasons that people are unable or unlikely to attend is just as important as the event itself.  Below are a few reasons why PwD might not show up at our gig.

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  1. Vulnerability. Let’s just get the obvious out of the way.Differing levels of nudity can be awkward, because feelings of being exposed and seeing others exposed can be awkward, and make someone feel vulnerable or generally uncomfortable.
  2. Because Good Help is Hard to Find. “Sure, I’d love to help you go a sex party and get naked and possibly have sex with a person you met 10 minutes ago!” is not a sentence commonly uttered by caregivers, friends, or parents (who sometimes double as caregivers). This is a huuuge barrier in PwD being able to attend the party. Not only do us disabled people have to be comfortable with our own vulnerability, but we often have to find an attendant who is also comfortable, open-minded and willing to help. A situational diamond in the rough.
  3. Because Sex Can Be Hard Our culture puts so much emphasis on spontaneity, it hurts. Movies  and porn glorify sex that it so passionate and quick it almost looks entirely accidental (which is in itself, problematic..).   And for many and most of us, disabled or not, sex ain’t like that–but it doesn’t mean we don’t hold the spontaneity standard close to our hearts.

The spontaneity standard can hit some PwD pretty hard–as it often just isn’t possible with the amount of figuring that goes into great sex; and the planning that goes into our lives, generally. Andrew and I term this sex planning “sex-storyboarding,” and as much as I hate it, communicating what works and doesn’t sexually (and expressing that before, during and after sex) is the surest way to a positive sexual experience. Unfortunately, sex-storyboarding requires a lot of pre-requisites, including patience (on the part of both parties), self-awareness of likes/dislikes, position preferences, and ability to communicate these specifics. In short: Sex can be hard.

Add to that the fact that disabled people have been treated as asexual for centuries, and you have a group of people that have not yet been given the chance to explore or understand their sexual fantasies and the like. Due to lack of opportunity, they may not be aware of their sexual desires, or have indeed internalized that they are asexual, PwD may not be able to storyboard their sex, making sex even harder.

5. Because Money Sucks. The big one. A high percentage of PwD live under the poverty line, many on fixed incomes, and even those of us who are privileged enough to work often struggle to make ends meet. There are so many factors that contribute the the systemic oppression that keeps almost all disableds that aren’t Christopher Reeves (RIP) or Stephen Hawking,  broke–I’m not even sure where to start.  Ableism that keeps  us unemployed (“You just wouldn’t get the job done as efficiently in this busy environment…”). Ableism that treats us like thieves for needing help when we can’t work. Ableism that asks us to “prove” we struggle to work and “prove” that we’re disabled–even if our disability is permanent. Ableism that only hires those that drive/ bike/ run.

Lack of finances means so much–maybe it makes us unable to hire attendants. Or travel. Or pay cover. It’s just another sex-party stopper.

6. Lack of Personal Agency Y’know that ableism we just glazed over? It can kill your insides over time. This means that as a PwD, you might often feel out-of-control of your own life, as it can so often be dictated by those more able than, and the systems that govern them (think: medical system, housing system, personal care system). In terms of sex party attendance, this might result in PwD not even realizing or believing that they can actually attend.

In terms of practicality, if you’re a person with a disability that’s been institutionalized at some point (as many of us have), then you might not even be aware of your own ability to access resources (such as attendant care, accessible transit), and you might be limited in the area of personal agency. I was 21 before I learned how the Ottawa buses worked, people. Twenty-fucking-one.

Point is, ableism is such a strong force, that some PwD understandably think that they can’t access certain resources or venues, like a sex party. Because before now, they really truly couldn’t.

7. Safety Sometimes we internalize that we’re vulnerable, because everyone tells us we are. Sometimes we truly are vulnerable. Whether grounded in truth or stereotype, the belief that a sex party puts our safety at risk (even though the party will have safety proctors to prevent anything unwanted…) safety will likely be a factor that keeps many PwD away.

Please, add things I may have missed, my perspective is limited.

My hope is that this play party will be one of many, that this will in fact become more normalized, so that at the very least, people can move on to sensationalizing something else–and disabled people can have access to sex parties, no questions asked.

More Reasons to Have A Sex Party Including PwD

T minus 9 days til the the world ends–er uh, disabled people have a sex party. Never in my twenty some-odd years have I seen so much negativity around sex as I have when it pertains to PwD–and this party (and the coverage around it) is proof of that.

Due to all this shitty, sensationalist, off-the-mark coverage, I’ve written reasons why this party needs to happen. Because we need to take a step back and remember the facts.

Fact 1: Disabled People Are Either Hypersexualized or Infantalized. 

That’s it–as a PwD, you have no other option.People are either fascinated by the fact that you’re having sex, and hypersexualize you into oblivion as a result, or they can’t deal with your sexuality and the humanity that might demand recognition along with it. The coverage of the 2012 paralympics is a sad example of this oversexualization, discussing ideas such as small-stature as a reason for extreme horniness–  as if they are concrete, scientific and somehow acceptable.

The trouble here is that hypersexualization is dehumanizing. It makes PwD into a spectacle. Do I have to spell out why? When we fuck at the paralympics, you best believe its not because we’re hypersexual, or that we’ve lost our minds, or because of the testosterone “whizzing around in [our] bodies,” (what the actual fuck?!)…It’s because we’re human and fucking is more fun than sports.Fuck sports.

On the flip side, you’ve got the infantalization problem.I’ve blogged about this to infinity and back, so I’ll simply say this: I’m 27, and some people are still genuinely shocked to find out I’ve had sex. It breaks too many people’s brains to hear that I’m not only no longer virginly, but that I also enjoy sex (as many humans do…). People just can’t compute that a child like me would indulge in such atrocities.

So much lit has been writ on the infantalization epidemic, Google it if you want more than my personal struggles.

The fact that these two extremes are the only picks for PwD lend to the difficulty we have with seeing disabled people as people. The tendencies to objectify and/or ignore our sexuality has left us (PwD) excluded from proper sex parties, dance parties, high-school proms. We not only need this. Our humanity deserves this.

Fact 2: Exclusion is Real and Really Shitty.

I didn’t go to my high-school prom because it was inaccessible. I only went to one house party in all my 4 years. I am a prime person to pre-drink with, mostly because main events are almost never at accessible venues.

These circumstances would be a lot easier to swallow if they were infrequent. But inaccessibility is an everyday occurrence. This will be the first party to try and counter the commonplace inaccess to parties, party places, and sex and dating spaces.

Fact 3: We Deserve The Chance to Get Rejected

Someone asked me recently if I thought this party might be damaging to disabled people. They mentioned that it might efuck-yes-meme-generator-fuck-yesexacerbate current oppression and rejections, as the nature of social interactions (and sex) is competitive.My response to this was: “The worst thing we can do is protect disabled people from these sorts of things. Disabled people are people, and part of personhood is being hurt.” We have a right to the shitty side of human interaction, because we have a right to social interaction, period. Enter, sex party.

Fact 4: Comparatively, Our Sex Lives Suck

“Sexpert” and Clinical Psychologist Dr. Danielle Sheypuk tells us that PwD have much less sex than our ablie counterparts, even though able bodies report a low sexual satisfaction rate. She then states that even though she [a person with a disability] “is a catch, her Match.com guy is much more likely to date,” and find sexual partners.

Statistically, all signs point to sad when it comes to the sexual frequencies of PwD. We don’t get enough of it, not nearly enough, because most of the population is hesitant to even meet us for coffee. If you don’t believe me, watch Danielle’s talk in the link above.

It’s our time to change the stats. Our time to change the dehumanization. Our time to rock the boat a little. And ladies and folk, we need a sex party to help us do that.

Wheelie Dating Struggles: The Case of the Casuals

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The struggle is still happening. Here’s what’s come up recently.

Casual dating is virtually impossible. And that sucks. Because I live in a world where nothing is casual–people come to help me at pre-booked times, and many aspects of personal care are discussed as though the world might fall off its tilt, even if it’s just about not having paper towels or something. A lot of what I can and cannot do revolves around the care I’m able (or unable) to access. This makes a lot of my life feel whatever the opposite of casual is–intense?

Anyway, I’ve tried to dilute intensity for both myself and others by taking a dog’s age to get to know sexual partners. My figuring is that if I know them well-ish, I can feel safe(r) and eventually explain just how disabled I truly fucking am, without watching them walk away. But therein lies the horrible truth: Nothing about vulnerability is casual. 

It’s a shitty conundrum, really, because I’m dying to have consistent casual sex, if only to say that I can. Also getting laid consistency is really…nice. So all my intensities take a back seat and I pretend to be more [able], [independent], [closer to “average” in whatever way I can fake]. I don’t tell them that I need help showering. I don’t mention that I attach to others quicker than you can say cool whip. And I definitely don’t let them know that  I can’t do a five-day work week because 3 days of work completely drains me.

I think  I’ve gotten better at communicating  that “Friends with Benefits” is an appropriate label for whatever type of relationship I’m gunning for, even though the process by which I do this seems anything but casual or friendship-y. This title allows me the freedom to fuck, without the burden of another’s judgement. In other words, I can escape your ableism, I don’t have to pretend like our lives our similar, because you won’t ask me about my day. I don’t have to watch you realize how different me and my circumstances really are–and then reject me on that basis. I don’t have to watch you take an interest in me because of my difference, and then lose that interest when you realize there’s nothing to see here. All this is curbed by never exposing myself in the first place.

Except, in my experience, sex doesn’t work like that. Not my sex anyway. I all-but have a check-list  of things I need from a sex friend– attractive, kind and the world’s best communicator, laughs at my jokes, the usual. Because to me, this person can’t just be a hot bod. They also have to be someone that can handle physical vulnerability in a partner. And if you are one of those people, well, that sucks, because I’m going to want more than casual from you. I’m going to want to be your friend and buy you things and making Christmas stockings with the names of our to-be kids on them and shit. Because you’re a fucking unicorn.

And here I am, back at square one, wondering how I can have my cake and eat it too.

Sexual Consent: What A ‘Yes’ Can Mean For PwD

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Relax, consent for PwD is just like consent for all you walkies, with a few additives. The couple extra pieces I will talk about below are equally as important, and rarely discussed. Pay attention, here comes vague references to my lived-experience.

How Consent Is Layered For PwD (And The Complexities of Our ‘Yes’):

Consent is predominately talked about by defining No. No means no, maybe later means no. Sorry, I have to finish my homework means no. But for all our no conversations, the implications of yes are left in the cold. It’s unfortunate, because when PwD say yes to sex,  we’re also saying yes to many other things simultaneously. Here’s a brief starter list of what our yeses are indirectly signing us up for:

Yes, you can see my naked (and probably differently shaped ) body.

Yes, you can watch (and pretend like you’re not watching) how I move.

Yes, you can put me on the bed.

Yes, you can see that my body reacts differently than most to penetration.

Yes, if there was a fire right now, or your boner died and you ran away, I’d be SOL, laying here naked like a bug on its back. Until the end of time.

Regardless of how much you can or cannot do physically, one thing is certain: As a PwD, you are saying yes to tangible vulnerability when consenting to sex. Not the emotional kind that Brene Brown or Elisabeth Gilbert discusses, as if they’ve just become human for the first time. Vulnerability in terms of physical safety. Vulnerability that means,” I’m relying on you to treat me with respect in these intimate moments, but if you don’t, I can’t up-and-leave.” Vulnerability that, during and after sex, means a level of physical dependence. This is important to mention because it’s a big part of our yes. In saying yes, trust in our safety is implicit.

As PwD we’re also consenting to you, our sexual partner, seeing the intimate extent of our embodied difference. This too varies with disability, but could mean anything from having a non-normative body type, to muscle spasms, pain, or differing body mechanics.  It could mean a different way of communicating. It might mean taking off a brace, removing a prosthetic, whatever. And as confused or unsure as you might feel about the level of difference in our ability, we might be just as unsure about showing ourselves to you. (We might also think we’re great and not give two shits how you’re looking at our differences—it really depends on who you’re sleeping with).

The Importance of Acknowledging Power

Fun fact: When you’re with a person with a disability, ablebodiedness=power. In fact, anything that you know about the person you’re sleeping with, is a form of social power. This is why it’s crucial that during sex, a person acknowledges their power. This might sound like a load of whack, but acknowledging power is the first step toward neutralizing it. And doing so can be a simple communication, starting with “Do you want this?” Checking-in is great too. I’d rather be asked a zillion times if I’m turned on/happy/comfortable than not at all. Consent is actually very sexy. It evens out power dynamics, and opens the lines of talk for a funner (it is too a word) time had by all.

Know that as PwD, our Nos are fat with truth, but so too are our yeses. If we want to sleep with you, it’s a risk, and if we’ve said yes, it’s one we’re willing to take. Feel free to add your thoughts on consent as it pertains to disability, if at all.

Huge Disclaimer: If you are a family member who likes to think of me as innocent, please don’t read this blog. Love you mom. They’ll be other blogs. That goes for you too, Uncle Steve.I’m rating this blog 18A because I can, and because the subject matter is not for kids.

A few weeks back, Andrew Gayness and I were having our usual conversation–which, if by some flaw in the universe you are unaware of Andrew and my routine–consists of mutual bitching about our lives, then competing (in a friendly way) over our recent successes, and then more comiserative (<–apparently not a word. Definitely should be.) lamenting with some angsty laughs and half-joking insults throughout. It’s positively magical and entirely thriving.

During this specific bitchfest, Andrew and I were broaching our favourite topic–sex (with other people; even if Andrew were straight, it’d be disgusting and impossible. Not because we’re both wheelies you ignorant bastard, but because we hate each other so deeply it’s admirable). I was talking about my most recent romp, complaining mostly, something about how I suck at sex and men aren’t very patient with me, when Andrew said something that surprised me:

” I know you’re feeling rejected on 5 levels, but dude, you don’t even like sex.”

I felt myself inhale, but I couldn’t exhale. He was right.

“Wha–no. What do you mean?” I swear, when people realize things about me for me, before I do (always), it feels worse than realizing the 90s were pretty much a decade and a half ago.

“Sex is painful for you at best,” he added patiently.

Even though Andrew regularly makes me vomit in my mouth, he has wisdom that is like a splash of cold water. His explicit grossness is kinda like cold water too though–today he explained to me the sexual act of feltching–.For all you kinky curious cats reading this, Don’t look it up. You can’t un-know it, and if you’re cursed with the knowledge of it, 1)I’m so sorry for your loss of innocence and 2) You can now fully appreciate how Andrew’s gross depictions are a dose of ice water.

Like always, because this is a blog and i don’t care as much as I should about writing style, I digress. From here on in, Drewsies and I deconstructed this idea of me not “liking” sex, arriving a different end points. His end point sounded very similar to his life mantra lately, which, if I may be so bold, is something like embrace your difference wherever applicable. He’s very much of the mindset that sexuality should be as much a sensual experience as a “standard” sexual one (whatever that is). If this cannot be achieved, le coitus should not be had. My endpoint looked something like a confused mix of denial, uncertainty,  conformity, and a whole bunch of other garbledeegook I’m too emotionally constipated to write about.

It’s common knowledge that sex is everywhere, but the internalization of sex because its sex, despite possible discomfort, is like this little tiny secret that is not even a fully formed thought and yet somehow has the power to change my behavior. Excuse the run-on sentence. What I mean is, sex is multi-layered, for me and maybe for other people, and depending on which layer wins out on any given day, can change my course of action. The layers look something like this:

  • Layer One: I’m a sexual being, attracted to pheromones, symmetrical faces and abs, with good personalities as a super bonus.
  • Layer 2:I’m a sexual being who’s got this motive for “love” crashing smack into it on my hierarchy of needs chart. Recipe for disaster.
  • Layer 3: I have a sex drive (just kidding, mom).
  • Layer 4: conventional sex hurts me.
  • Layer 5: I’m so focused on ideas of fun sex, acceptance and living it up that I actually manage to block out that most typical sex is somewhat unpleasant for me.

The layers go on and on for ever, but I’ll spare you the full-blown diary entry. The reason I write this is because I know I’m not alone in this huge, murky pile of denial and carefully constructed standards. I’m standing here wading the the swamp of my own making, wondering how and when I’ll leave this denial. I like sex, but I don’t like sex in the way most people typically think of it. And I was so delusional about this fact that I’ve written an entire post discussing how everyone needs to stop assuming disabled woman can’t have sex. Don’t misunderstand, the stereotype of disabled people being asexual or unable to have sex does need to be destroyed, if for no other reason then that generalizations serve no positive purpose in a context like that.But I wrote that article with no thought to the intricacies of what I’m fighting for–to be viewed as equal, or the same, in many respects. In doing so, I totally just ignored the fact that sex is, for me and some other wheelies, always going to be different. Denial to the max.

I think I’ve got a lot of exploring to do.