As it is Pride Month, I thought it wise to talk about something that we all know, love and, frankly, take for granted: masturbation, getting off, choking your chicken, clicking your mouse.
The art of self-pleasure is something that I personally mastered quite young -- at age 11, to be exact. That year may have been the greatest few months of my young life! But as I started receiving attendant care and being made to wear pee bags (for my own freedom, they claimed -- really?), I noticed that my ability and desire to freely "whip it out," as it were, had waned with my loss of privacy. Now there were all these barriers to self-love:
1. The setup: When you want to get off, you usually do it in the shower or in your room, with lube or vibrators or whatever your own sexual-pleasure device may be. Now imagine, for just a minute, that all those moments that put you in the mood had to be created for you not by someone having sex with you but by a care worker. If that's not a boner killer, I envy you. How exactly does one ask their care worker to facilitate their sexuality? "Hey, could you just grab me the lube, please?" Or, "Hey, man, can you just take my pants off and come back?" By no means am I shy, but asking a caregiver to help me get off can be absolutely mortifying. And the setup can be particularly troubling and costly if you are wearing a leg bag to pee in. Just to get off, you have to remove this condom full of pee, which costs between $3 and $5 a pop. Think about that for a minute: Would you be willing to endure the embarrassment of asking for help getting off on top of spending $5 to $15 a day to do so? (Hey, some people do it lots!) These are some of the things that people with disabilities (PwDs) have to take into consideration just to "jerk it." Crazy, right?
2. The pop-in: So you're now in the mood, you have the porn ready to go, you somehow managed to get your pants off, and you are about to go to town when... "Hey! I just came by to put away your laundry!" And there you are with your junk out. This has happened to me on many occasions. One time the attendant was so shocked that she tried to convert me to Christianity. No joke. My first thought was, "Wow, am I so big that you are calling on Jesus? Amazing." I can laugh about it now, but it indeed makes the act of self-pleasure that much more daunting.
3. The cleanup: When you are done with the fun down there, you usually get a towel or hop in the shower. Again, what if those physical options are not available? There you are, all out of breath and euphorically satisfied that you finally achieved climax (cue Usher song), and then you are met with this feeling of dread: You've finished, but how do you tell your attendant? Sex is awkward for everyone already, but cleaning someone else's sex off them after the fact (or having your sex cleaned off you while your attendant wears two gloves and a mask) can make it even more so. It can make the PwD feel as though their sexuality is invalid. For instance, there have been a few times where I had a nocturnal emission, as it were, and was immediately met with, "Oh, did you have an accident?" Wow, way to make a person feel even less sexual! That may have just been their first thought, but it plays into the misguided stereotype that PwDs have no sex life. (At the very least, I hope my posts have dispelled that myth.)
4. The workplace-vs.-home debate: My home is the attendant's workplace. The majority of policies are put in place to protect the worker from sexual harassment in the workplace. While this is a necessity, of course, where does this leave the PwD who just wants to come? The policies that I reviewed give the client the theoretical right to be a sexual being, but there was no policy for how that is done. Let me be the first to say that as a queer PwD, I have no desire to have my attendant get me off (unless, of course, my attendant were Hugh Jackman, Colby Keller or a male model), but I would like them to hand me the porn or the lube, or pull my pants down, if needed. Ideally, I'd like to do this without feeling the shame that comes when so many PwDs express their sexuality.
5. Ability: What if you are just physically unable to do it? What do you do? You have the right to pleasure yourself, but due to the powers that be, you just can't get into that spot. (You know the one.) What happens then? Are you expected to grin and bear it? I fully advocate rewiring one's erotic adventure to include other body parts, but that takes time and concentration. Sometimes you just want to get to the goods and need a hand... or two, in my case.
So as you are rubbing one, two, or three out this Pride, take a second and be glad that you can do it on your own. Also, sharing is caring, so lend a hand if you can!