Going on National Television and revealing how I lost my virginity to a sex worker was one of the scariest things I’ve ever had to do. Now the dust has settled and the nation has its arms up in the air with disgust, I want to address a few things that critics have been saying.
There has been a lot of unfair criticism towards TV3 about the way that the story was presented.
Brothel owner Mary Brennan, the other woman who was interviewed in the story, summed up the entire point that I was trying to make when she said the following line:
“For someone who is physically disabled and who has only ever felt the touch of anybody through a latex glove, it is huge to feel another body”.
The reality is that this is how it is for a lot of disabled people, especially those at the higher end of the disability scale who live in residential services, rest homes, or even in hospitals in some cases.
It is not simply asking the government to pay for disabled people to have sex with prostitutes. It also isn’t a question of, “well if the government will pay for the disabled then why not me, because I can’t get laid either”.
The point I am making is that surely everyone deserves the opportunity to experience sex, in whatever way that is for them in their situation. I am speaking about disabled people, young and old, who can’t even do the most basic of everyday things… like shower, go to the toilet, dress themselves, or eat their dinner.
It goes without saying that there is a significant difference between sex and love.
CCS Disability Action, my employers, argued that sex is a personal responsibility and it is up to the disabled people themselves to fund it. That is entirely fair, but not to those extremely disabled young men and woman who are so severely limited that work, even part-time work, will never be possible due to many different factors, including access to the community.
What then? Do we just forget about it and hope said person loses their sexual desire?
Helping people access sex workers is one thing, making it happen, with all the variable barriers a disabled person faces in the bedroom, is entirely another.
Simply saving money received from the Supported Living Payment (a benefit for disabled people paid by the government) is a piece of advice that misses the bigger issue.
The issue here is that sex, whatever that means for people with high-end needs due to their disability, needs to be discussed and looked at in a different way than has been the norm up until now. Sex is one of the most natural pleasures of all, and some of the people I am talking about have never experienced any sexual or romantic feeling whatsoever.
Their disability is a big reason for this. They need support to access sex, and they need support to engage in sex. Without that support, sex, eventual intimacy, and hopefully true love, will never be possible.
I want to thank TV3 for opening the door to this issue, because it is something the disability sector needs to shine the light on.