Coming to Terms: Sex, Shame and Disability
I think it’s pretty natural that we all have those moments in the boudoir that we’d much rather forget; finishing too early, laughing at the worst possible moment, forgetting someone’s name altogether (this list is certainly not an exhaustive one), etc.
I have had many an embarrassing moment myself, and typically they have been connected to my disability. Let’s review: Locking someone out of my room and being physically unable to let them back in due to be naked and super crippled, getting pee from the condom catheter all over a perspective lover, etc., etc. These moments have been actually pretty amazing for me, as they have forced me to look past the scripts that we all buy into when it comes to the sexual experience, and realize that it will never be perfect and that is perfectly okay. Of course, this has taken a level of self-reflection that I am constantly crafting and tweaking. Rest assured, my internal dialogue during these moments was something like, “What the fuck is happening? Normal men don’t have these problems.”
The other day, I had one of those moments, and to be honest it shook me a little bit. I was hanging out on Facebook looking at something completely neutral/hilarious (I can’t remember, but it may have been a cat video or a baby laughing), when all of a sudden I had what I will actively refer to as a “spontaneous emission”. I wasn’t in the least bit turned on or aroused, and it just happened. Now, the minute it was done (after the initial shock that that just happened), I was flooded with this enormous sense of shame and guilt. In truth, I was a little bit angry at the whole thing. I didn’t plan this, I didn’t prepare, and I didn’t even get to enjoy the experience in any way. What. The. F?!
I was stunned for a second, realizing that there was no evidence of the event, because I was wearing the leg bag. As I made this realization, it subsequently reminded me that I live with a disability. In that few seconds, I had to come to terms (phrasing?) with the fact that my sex life will never be ‘normal’. One of the first things I thought was, “Is this what happens to guys who can’t access their sexuality?” and “Why me?” I had terrible day-mares about being in an important lecture and having this happen (for the record, the only time I want to have that fantasy is if there is someone hot with me in it).
Not only did it throw me in terms of my sexual confidence, it has also made me question what it means to be a MAN. I consider myself pretty liberal, and I understand that on a social level, some of the constructs and ideologies of masculinity and maleness are extremely outdated, and do not honestly reflect reality. That said, it is interesting just how quickly a moment like this, can make you forget all of this. I sat there and immediately thought that I am not a “real man” if I can’t even control that part of my life. There were many different thoughts running through my head, and each of them was inextricably linked to my lived experience of disability: access, shame, maleness, authenticity, and attractiveness.
I worried / still worry about what this means for me as a sexual being. It annoys the hell out of me to think that because access to my sex and sexuality is so compartmentalized and sporadic, “spontaneous emissions” will be a part of my experience now, knowing how much raw sexuality I have to offer another (yup, that did in fact just happen. You’re welcome).
Upon talking to a few people about this, and expressing the shame and fears that I hold about the issue, I was reassured. One friend in particular offered a unique perspective. They frankly suggested that this means I need to engage in self-love more often, as what my body was doing was simply ‘clearing the pipes’. The idea of masturbating in an attendant services environment is terrifying for a number of reasons: having to disclose, condom catheters, and the inevitable clean up. I cringe at the idea even now.
What I am realizing even now as I type this, is that my identity as a Person with a Disability and all the realities that entails, has scared me so much that I refused to even take the time to fully connect and appreciate myself.
So, I could see this “spontaneous emission” episode as something to be shameful about, worried that my disability has denied me yet again (believe me, those thoughts are ever lingering), but I want to look at this as a chance to remind myself that my sexuality is mine, and this is an opportunity to revise and rewrite my sexual script by myself, so that when you read with me, you’ll hang off every word.