Sex & Disability: The Sector’s “Complex” Topic

As I will state on social media when I post this blog; I want to reaffirm the message that I am writing this blog as myself, and not a representative of any organisation in the sports journalism field or the disability sector. These thoughts are entirely my own and are my version of events.

It was December 2015, and I’d been thinking about sex and disability for a long time. I knew that I really needed to turn my thoughts into action.

I started writing as much as I could about the subject. I came at it from the perspective of a disabled person, but I wanted to advocate for those who weren’t lucky enough, or brave enough, to make the decisions that I’ve made in the past. That’s right, seeing a sex worker, and especially losing your virginity to one, is a brave choice to make for anybody. It’s not the way you’d imagine that first experience going, and it’s very daunting. Following that, all the moralistic thoughts and emotions are another battle on their own.

Without CCS Disability Action, my employers at the time, the thing with TV3 would never have happened, and that’s when the subject reached a national audience.

To the surprise of nobody, the feedback was relatively negative. The ‘powers that be’ at TV3 Story turned it into a profile about a guy in a wheelchair asking the government to fund sex worker visits for all disabled people. However, most of the country saw it as the guy in the wheelchair wanting all the money for himself, and it sparked massive uproar.

In that story, I am quoted as saying that sex is more accessible for most people than it is for those with disabilities. What I should have said was that it was more acceptable, acknowledged, and probable. Because it is; people with disabilities are not seen as sexual beings capable of having sexual thoughts, desires, or abilities to engage in a “good” sex life.

The week after the story hit the media, CCS Disability Action wrote a column in the NZ Herald that labelled the topic of sexuality as it pertains to the disabled “a complex issue”. Due to my employment with them, I couldn’t exactly go public with how infuriated I was at some of the things Joy Gunn wrote in that column, and I congratulated her on social media.

The story had drawn so much criticism, and many people in CCS Disability Action were uncomfortable. An insider has informed me that the whole reason why TV3 got the tip of my work was because of a partnership between CCS Disability Action and a company called Ideas Shop.

Apparently, the story had put sexuality for the disabled into a somewhat negative light, but I was just glad that the light had been shone on it at all, because it was about time.

Joy Gunn left the organisation just a couple of months later.

One of the things I was disappointed in was when Gunn said that the organisation didn’t support my idea that the Government should fund “his need”. It was never about my needs at all, I was simply sharing the experience of how I had lost my virginity, I wasn’t asking the government to pitch in financially towards my own sex life.

Secondly, Gunn never once discussed the lack of access to money that many disabled people in New Zealand have. Yes, some disabled people work, and others are on the Supported Living Payment, but particularly in that second example, many aren’t able to save any money, let alone save enough to hire a sex worker.

In the months following that saga, CCS Disability Action released their first Sexuality, Gender Identity, and Intimate Relationships policy.

It’s my hope that CCS Disability Action and other leading organisations really do begin to start more robust discussion around this area. Advocating on sex and disability is indeed a very complex task, but it’s not an impossible one. Government funding sex workers for those with disabilities isn’t the ideal scenario, but it’s an option for some disabled people in very unique situations. Perhaps more research into such unique situations needs to occur.

Positive & Edgy media portrayal of disabled peoples’ sexuality is needed

Two of the best examples of motion pictures that have attempted to enter the world of disability and sexuality have been released in the last few years.

In 2012, The Sessions hit theaters and portrayed a disabled man who seek’d the services of a sex surrogate to lose his virginity and explore physical intimacy. In 2016, Me Before You hit the cinemas and was met with a lot of criticism from some members of the disabled community.

While Me Before You didn’t hit on the sex lives (or lack thereof) of people with disabilities as much as The Sessions  did, both movies had a common underlying theme. Continue reading Positive & Edgy media portrayal of disabled peoples’ sexuality is needed

Sex & Disability: Looking At Ourselves

Hiding your disability to a potential sex partner or romantic interest may just be the worst thing you could do.

The more research I do on the area of sex and disability, the more I am finding that a lot of disabled people are expressing their feelings of frustration toward how they are perceived to be asexual or ‘incapable’ of physical intimacy.

People meet and engage with new friends or potential lovers through Social Media, and research shows that this is now occurring at a near equal rate as through the traditional means of going out and meeting someone at a bar or nightclub.

In some ways, Social Media acts as a good barrier for people in those initial stages and it minimises, but doesn’t diminish, the danger aspect. If nothing else, it makes conversation a little easier and it helps someone decide if they like the person enough to arrange another encounter, perhaps this time in person. Continue reading Sex & Disability: Looking At Ourselves

Sex & Disability – “I’ll Need To Ask My Carer First”

Privacy is a huge barrier that presents itself to people with disabilities who want to have a loving, physical, and intimate sex life.

People with high-end disabilities know it all too well, but for a new partner, the idea of someone else helping their boyfriend/girlfriend into bed to have sex is not only a foreign idea, but is also very awkward.

Let’s get some facts out of the way.

Sex isn’t something that you just get old enough to do and suddenly know everything about, it is a learning process, and you understand more about yourself as a sexual being the more times you engage in it. Continue reading Sex & Disability – “I’ll Need To Ask My Carer First”

Assumptions About Disabled People’s Sex Drives & Seeing An Escort

It has been said before, but society in 2016 is highly sexualised.

Young people in particular are often focused on their image and what that means to others. With so many avenues providing instant gratification, including sexual gratification, the disability sector has a long way to go in order to address the general public in a way that will help youth.

There are a lot of assumptions that are made about disability out in public, and like anything, the mainstream idea of disability is either to pity or to portray as inspirational. In terms of sexuality, a lot of people think one or two common things:

  1. Physically disabled people are paralysed, so they can’t feel their intimate areas.
  1. It hurts the physically disabled to have sex, so they don’t.

The assumptions aren’t limited to that however. Perhaps not to the fault of their own, another idea people have is that those living with a disability have far bigger problems in their day-to-day life, so therefore, there is no room for sex.

Everybody has problems, disabled or not, and the question then becomes do people realise the positive therapeutic effects that sex can have for somebody?

If therapeutic,  is it time that disability organisations started taking a harder look at the entire area of sex, intimacy, and how that can be worked for someone living with a disability. Or, is it not up to these organisations to tackle such an area?

Many organisations in the disability sector cringe at the idea of lobbying the government to take a more serious look into how the sex lives for disabled people can be addressed.

One organisation The Real Michael Pulman spoke to said that sex is a personal responsibility, but what happens when a disabled person is so limited that this is not possible? Should it just be forgotten about?

With that said, many organisations do offer help to the people they support in the area of sex.

Advocates have tackled nearly every other aspect of disability and often they’ve done this directly speaking to the community.

Why not sex?

The problem facing anybody trying to advocate for the sexual expression of disabled people is that sex, by its nature, is such a dividing subject. Another problem these advocates face is the disabled people themselves, because research shows, a lot of disabled youth and young adults have a very negative view of themselves and their ability to engage in sex.

Being sexy, in many ways, is being confident in ones self.

What also must be kept in mind that many in the community are parents of disabled children and youth, and often, they won’t go near the subject either.

Yes, disabled people are very vulnerable, but is it not their right to make a decision on how to discover sexual pleasure?

That brings the conversation, very often at least, onto the subject of sex workers.

The sex industry in New Zealand is alive and well, but a lot of people still think that prostitution is still illegal.

For a disabled person, as bad as it may sound to some people, seeing a sex worker is often the only way a sexual experience is possible.

That in itself opens the door to another lot of assumptions.

Depending on where you look, some sex services that are on offer are actually of very high class, are clean and professional, and aren’t riddled with dodgy drug dealings behind the scenes. It would be fair to say that no one wants to lose their virginity to an escort/sex worker, disabled or not, but that doesn’t mean that a person utilising that service should be condemned for doing so.

The Disability Sector Is Ready To Get Sexy

It is easy to think that it is all too much and all too scary to try and advocate for disabled people and their sexuality. It is also scary to talk about it, and in some cases, want to experience sex, whatever that may be for the individual.

Look at society, it is more sexually orientated than ever before, sex is mainstream and it is available at our very fingertips. Anyone tried Tinder?

The disability sector is seriously lacking in this area, but not for the lack of trying. However, the trying is not happening on a regular basis.

It isn’t about putting disability and sex in a bubble, but sooner or later, young people living with a disability will need to accept that, yes, you will require very frank and open discussions to achieve this.

Organisations have tried, to open up these discussions by running workshops and having information days. These attempts by the disability sector to have conversation are not a free ticket to getting laid however.

The reason why workshops and information days haven’t been well attended isn’t an easy question to try and answer. They have a danger of bringing on more frustration, but it is a start at least.

However, there is no doubting that disability organisations in New Zealand could be doing more, but those who have tried to broach the subject of sex have been met with disappointment.

This is not down to disabled people having no desire for sex.

Would it be fair to say that a lot of disabled people, especially those with very high-care needs, have adopted a thinking that doesn’t help the cause?

That thinking is that sexual experience is in the too hard basket, and this is where organisations and advocates need to sit down together and have very open conversations.

How do you remove the mindset of sex being in that too hard basket?

The bigger picture is key. It is more than just the act of sex, many physically disabled people cannot have penetrative sex and instead will rely on experimentation in the bedroom. The use of sex toys to reach pleasure is one thing, but out of all the discussions that have been had about the “ins and outs” of sex for disabled people, it hasn’t been stated enough that each disabled person is different and will have certain requirements and assistance in order to achieve something close to a normal sex life.

It isn’t a question of resources or interest by the people, it is a question of if those people really want to put themselves out there and try to broach the subject.

Sex shouldn’t be so taboo for the disability community, but at the same time, it is up to that same community to help those who are trying to make a difference.

This is done by speaking out.

Discovering Sex: A year on and still learning

I don’t think I can honestly describe how important being sexual and having a sex life is to me.

handicapped-sex-brothel-wheelchair

This time a year ago, to say I was a bundle of nerves would be an understatement.

I was more than nervous – I was terrified and excited at the same time.

Terrified because of the potential that I couldn’t and excited at the possibility that maybe I could.

I can’t describe that feeling during sex or solo play, it is just like nothing else in life. It isn’t always great either, sometimes it is just a little meh, it really does come down to how you are feeling I reckon.

At least for me anyway.

As I wrote in April last year, discovering sexual freedom and sexual ability really changed such a big part of how I felt about myself as a person. I could have lived with not being able to have sex and not being able to orgasm, but boy it would have been a really tough pill for me to swallow.

It just felt like a massive weight had been lifted off my shoulders, relief that after so many years wondering I finally knew that I could, and then discovering just how enjoyable it was.

Sex, even though I am somewhat limited in what I can do in the bedroom, is up there with the most powerfully good feeling that I have ever had.

In the last year since losing my virginity so many of the “what ifs” surrounding my sexual abilities have been answered, and if not for this experience I wouldn’t have discovered masturbation.

One of the things I revealed back in April was that prior to losing my virginity I had never masturbated, so therefore had never felt anything sexual at all. Physically I couldn’t, still can’t today, but through the experience of sex for the first few times and a little experimentation and research, I have found a way to discover sexual pleasure all on my own and today I can experience that every single night if I want.

To some, writing a blog of this nature will be a little offensive, to me it has always been a subject I have been quite passionate about.

Disability and sex is something I really think needs to be talked about a little more.

Whilst my sex life isn’t exactly booming, the greatest thing about the last year has been the knowledge in me that I actually know I can now.

To sit here on January 15th 2015, a year on from that question of if I could or not being answered, is something I am very very proud of. Not a single regret.

My Journey To Sex: Part 3

It wasn’t just the moment I lost my virginity, but the entire experience that afternoon which absolutely astounded every sense of my being.

It felt like I had been on this journey for years, almost a lifetime, and so many questions along the way had suddenly been answered all in the space of a couple of hours.

I performed, I had my first orgasm, I made her orgasm, and I finally knew what sex felt like.

It was such a terrific moment of clarity, and share relief. I had never been so relieved, so thankful, and so floored by such a powerful and quick feeling of emotion which came as quick as it left.

handicapped-sex-brothel-wheelchair

My first orgasm was indescribable. I didn’t know what the hell was happening to my body, at first I actually thought I was about to pass out or that maybe I was having a stroke or something., my head kind of exploded and went all dizzy, I lost focus on what I was doing, and then out of nowhere that wave of pleasure hit me, so powerfully, and so quickly. It’s like you’re entire being shifts into overdrive, it just feels amazing. Better than any feeling.

When you reach your end you kind of lose all sense of reality. The world around you just explodes into a massive rush of excitement, relief, and pure pleasure.

But greater than that, if sex is done with the right person, the cuddles after the act itself are just as pleasurable as anything you do when getting all hot n heavy.

I love cuddles, sometimes nothing is said, you sort of just lie there with the girl and hold hands, kiss for a bit, and just enjoy being close.

To me, sex is more about being close with a person than actually getting the person to orgasm.

On January 15th 2014, my sex life began, and in many ways my entire life changed in a small way as well.

I had hoped, prayed, and wished for sexual performance, that was all. I just wanted to be able to do that stuff, and despite all my concerns and doubts going in, there was not one thing I wasn’t able to do. I was able to give and receive oral, do penetration, orgasm, and every other thing you do in the bedroom. It was a surprise in many ways, but one that was welcome.

You have to remember, I didn’t even know 100% wether or not I could even get an erection before my first sexual experience.

So in summary, and I really don’t know how to finish this blog. All I can think about is how relieved I am that I can actually sit here tonight, and finish by saying yes, I can actually, and did actually have sex.

Again, the reason of knowing if I could or if I couldn’t, is completely unknown to me. Even now.

Losing my virginity, my journey to sex, all the doubts and concerns, and all the taboo of the subject, it is clear to me that sex was perhaps the greatest challenge that my disability threw my way so far.

There will be many more challenges in the future, some of which I wont be so successful in, but I made a promise to myself long ago that I would try, just try to not let my disability stop my belief in anything, including having a normal and healthy sex life.

I don’t feel like I am in a position to give advice to anybody with a condition like mine, and I won’t do that. Because make no mistake about it, this disease effects people differently, and you have to be prepared to accept that you may not be able to have sex, but go into it hoping against it all that you will.

That’s all you can do, just hope.

And keep in mind, sex isn’t all there is to life. It really isn’t, things that are more important are what should motivate you. Like school, family, love, hobbies, work, being a good person, keeping true to who you are and what you believe in.

You can’t describe what sex feels like, and no matter how OCD and obsessed I become in trying to do so, I wont ever be able to describe that wave of pleasure and how powerfully it takes over you. It just feels like a tremendous surge of everything pleasurable. Lets just say, think about how great you THINK sex will be before you do it, and then triple that by around 100, that is how awesome an orgasm feels.

That’s how it feels to me anyway. And no matter how many times I do it, it never ever stops feeling that great.

Finally, I just feel very proud and quite privileged to have shared this story with you. I hope you enjoyed the last three blogs. I was scared to share this story, but I wanted to tell it as well.

My next challenge?

I don’t know really, I am busy as hell with Wintec these days and working on my Journalism degree.

There are many girls in my life too, haven’t quite found the right one yet, and I am quite scared to try as well because I have been hurt so many times before, but as I proved recently, it doesn’t scare me away either and I hope date 3 with the girl from my class goes well.

You can’t force love, it comes to you. Sex is awesome and I glad I can do it, but it isn’t the end goal for me.

My goal is to be myself, and be true to the girls in my life. After being true to myself.

I will make my mistakes too. In fact, I have already. My confidence with girls is terribly low and it will take a long time to gain it back. But like everything, you believe in what you are doing, and I guess you just have to hope.

Plus, I have dates to go on soon, and that girl is awesome too! Don’t know if it is officially dating or what, we are just mates.

I hoped with sex, and I achieved it. I hope with a girlfriend one day, I want to be the best boyfriend in the world, and I will achieve that too. I just believe in that.

Regards,

Mike

My Journey To Sex: Part 1

January 15th 2014 will be a day that I will never forget.

Throughout my life there have been many moments that will be fondly remembered, but losing my virginity, in what I think was a good experience, ranks right up near the top of the list, and for so many reasons.

Before I had experienced intercourse, I was always a very sexual person I think. I say this without any evidence, but it didn’t take much to get my mind going down that path, guess I was easy to seduce. Isn’t every male a little easy to seduce? I was no different. Still aren’t.

handicapped-sex-brothel-wheelchair

The opportunities for physical experiences were nil, but in my mind I had been thinking about what sex would be like for years and years. At the age of 12 I began to get interested in sex for the first time, and I think like many kids at that age, my eyes were first opened to the whole thing when we had sex education classes at school. But back then I was more interested in the company of girls, I didn’t care less about sex because I didn’t even know the mechanics of it. Getting a girlfriend was a big goal of mine, but I didn’t really understand what a girlfriend would be, it was more a friendship based thing I suppose because at that young age you simply are not ready for a proper relationship, chances are you don’t know what a relationship really is.

My journey to sex began so long ago now that it feels like ancient history. It is a history I know every single detail of and could list every major milestone off the top of my head.

For anybody, going through the teenage years was brutally tough for me in the sexual sense. It was tough for many reasons, but a big one was the dawning of sexual curiosity, and the beginning of what felt like sexual abandonment. I don’t want to generalise modern society, because there are some good level headed teenagers out there, but in today’s world, sexual experiences are occurring at younger ages. By the time I was 17, I think nearly all my friends had experienced sex in some form. Throughout the teen years I spoke with a few different specialists and doctors about my sexual concerns, and most people were helpful, but as it had always been for me, there was always something a little taboo about sex in general, and that made my frustration all the more worse.

It was an elephant in the room at MDA too, but an issue that was effecting so many young people with these muscle conditions, but no one really wanted to address it. Sex is so taboo, mainly because it can be a very controversial and uncomfortable topic.

The frustration was deep rooted, for the most part I tried to rise above it, but as the disability slowly started to take more of a powerful effect on my body, the fear was beginning to creep in.

If the disability is making my body so restricted, then surely my sexual capabilities will be affected too. I don’t think, as a guy who was very sexually minded, I could explain to anybody reading this how scared I was. I was terrified that I would never experience. Utterly terrified. I couldn’t talk about it because if I did I would cry.

There were no clear answers, I didn’t know for sure if I would ever be able to achieve sexual gratification, it was just the way things were. Over time I began to wonder if it would ever happen. Deep down I knew it would, but I also knew that potentially, sex would be something that I would have to make happen for myself.

But how do you make something as amazing, important, needed, natural, complicated, impactful, and enjoyable as sex come to you before its ready to happen?

It felt like sex would happen for me when it was ready to, but my impatience and growing concern about my sexual capabilities for the present, and into the future, were also completely natural and expected as well. It was always going to be one of my greatest, and most natural challenges.

Like I am today, back then I was always a very passionate person. I kept myself busy, as you do, and the reality that I was a virgin and had never had a single sexual arousal or feeling was difficult to accept, but made easier to deal with by how happy I was in all the other areas of my life. I grew up in a terrific family, with two parents who were supportive, nurturing, understanding, and above all else they kept me on the path of positiveness. With a disability such as this, or any other, positive thought and proactive action is key to keeping the belief alive in the person dealing with the disability, which could easily take over your thinking if you let it. I don’t want to sound like I was always positive, because there were many times when I wasn’t, but for whatever reason why, every day was a new beginning.

I tried to never let the fear that I may not be able to have sex stop me from believing that one day I would.

The root of the frustration was the inner confliction I was having with myself. On the one hand, I wanted to have sex but I didn’t know why I wanted it so badly, maybe it was just because I could say I had done it, as if it was something that would make me feel a little more normal so to speak. But that only aided the inner confliction to grow, because I believed I was just as normal as anybody else and for my entire life that hadn’t changed, even with a disability which in many ways does make you different. The third confliction was that I didn’t want to perceived or thought of to be just another horny teenager, but I couldn’t help but think that I was. So I didn’t talk to anyone about it really, for years I kept my concerns primarily to myself.

Those few years as a teenager where you think you can deal with it all on your own, and honestly sex isn’t always something you should talk about with all in sundry anyway.

I knew for sure, one reason why I wanted to have sex, and it was to know wether I could or couldn’t. But the issue was, I was never going to know the answer until I did it.

* TMI WARNING.

My body was that restricted, that weak. I couldn’t even masturbate. I didn’t know if I could get an erection, I had never even orgasmed before.

So I had no idea whatsoever what I was going to get into, get out of, and if that would effect my life in a terrific way, or a terribly depressing way.

So to end part one of this series of blogs, probably my most personally revealing piece of writing ever, I have this advice.

Before you have sex for the first time, be prepared to live with the real possibility that you may not be able to. I mean not be able to, no sex, no performance, no nothing. That’s what I had to ask myself. Could I live without ever having those experiences. It would have been such a blow to my belief, in myself as a man, and it was so scary to think about, but think about it you have to. I don’t know why it was so important to me, maybe it was because many of my friends with the disability had died without ever experiencing, maybe it was all just a giant over thought on my part, maybe it was fear, I just felt as though I had a set timer ticking away and I needed to act, and act fast.

Fast forward, even days out from my first time doing anything sexual, in the hot awesome summer of 2013/2014, my journey was only just beginning, and I had absolutely no idea just how life changing it would be.

Regards,

Mike