I sat there, my queer crippled body encased in the bright blue and yellow mesh fabric of my transfer sling. As I went from wheelchair to bed, the large motor made a loud whirring sound as it crossed on the track in my ceiling. During this transfer I could see myself in the mirror; my bum peeking out below (one of the few times I have actually seen it), my cock safely tucked between the straps, narrowly avoiding being smooshed. If I'm honest, right at this moment, I kind of look like one of those rescued whales at SeaWorld. Finally, I am lowered into my bed with two bed rails on either side of me so that I can't have a spasm and fall out of it. While I am settling in for a night of Netflix followed by dreams of a midnight make out session, I let out a giant, belaboured sigh. A mixture of sadness, anger and fear that my new transfer routine wasn't at all sexy, and no one would want to do me like that.
When it comes to adaptive devices, I have always accepted them as a part of the disabled experience. They are necessities that help me access the world around me. My wheelchair helps me move about my environment, getting me from A to B. My sling and transfer lift were designed to carry me safely between my bed and my chair. My bed rails act as my nighttime protectors, guarding me from falling should that midnight make out dream become a little too real. Each of these devices has been given to me by a very specific team of therapists, attendants and professionals, who have outlined for me the precise and proper ways in which they ought to be used.
Of course, none of these "expert" individuals will be there when I bring that guy home from the bar or Grindr, and he wants to throw me on the bed and have his way with me, will they? They won't be there at 3 a.m., after I have assured him that sex with me will be totally worth it, only for him to discover he might need an operations manual to do it. Will he want to spend 15 minutes learning how to transfer me before we get it on? Will he be able to get me out of my chair using the sling, getting all the straps placed correctly to ensure safety, and, the most important question of all: "Can you make out with someone cocooned in mesh?" When it comes to my sex life, these devices terrify me. I worry that they will get in the way, that they will make the sex too different, and that they will make me look more unsexy than my disability already does. Before every hook up or date, I go from anxious to anger to acceptance, that I don't have a choice in the matter, and that like it or not, I had better learn to get dirty with my devices. But, how exactly do I go about this? I wish there were a handbook that outlined some of the improper ways these devices can be used, and I'd like to explore some of the ways this can be done.
Given our misguided notions of what the wheelchair means in our culture; sickness, inability and an inherent "otherness", I think it's safe to say that the wheelchair isn't necessarily an emblem for ecstasy. I'll admit, as a wheelchair user, it can sometimes be hard to get it on in one. I have had many the experience where myself and my lover would be fumbling; grabbing at each other, trying to find the best position to play in, while simultaneously making sure that the chair was not in DRIVE mode (I've always fantasized about pinning my lover up against the wall, kissing them so passionately they can't breathe, but actually using a 300 pound chair to do so, isn't cool). I had a few partners who got so into our makeouts that they would climb up on my chair. This was really sexy to me because it meant that my wheelchair was a part of the experience, and that they understood the wheelchair was a part of me. I love it when, during a makeout session, a guy straddles his legs over my chair, anchoring himself for the sexy, seated ride ahead. I like the intimacy the chair brings to the experience; my body is positioned in such a way that my lover has to look in my eyes, truly see me to get things started. I remember a session where I never even got out of my chair at all, and instead kept switching positions in the chair so that we could access each other better. When we were done, I leaned my chair back and we cuddled for awhile, holding one another close, the quiet click of my chair keeping us company.
2. The Sling
Each and every time I see a sling and motor, I can't help but think of Personal Support Workers, doctors and the medicalization of disability. It makes me think that no one ever wants to lift me in a passionate embrace, because I'm "too much work"; it's a symbol of all that I cannot do for myself. The other night though, as I saw my bum in it, sexily cupped in the hole, I began to realize that there were opportunities to consider. I have been wary about backdoor play, because I worry that if I can't see my ass, I have no control over what's happening, but the sling and motor might allay that fear. Slings have been a part of the kink scene for sometime, and using one designed for the disabled body would be a great chance to try out some assplay in a safe, comfy, accessible environment that isn't an inaccessible basement lair. Also, have you ever been fingered in mid-air? The sling and motor make that totally possible. You don't have to contort your body to receive enjoyable anal; you can sit back, relax and take it all in (pun definitely intended). Lastly, the sling is pretty hammock like, so after you are all fuckered out (see what I did there) from all that posterior play, you could hang around (literally) for a nap.
3. Bed Rails
I remember when I got the bed rails. Two giant rods protruding out of my bed (sadly, no pun intended here) that would keep me inside a bed stuck in the "dead turtle position" unable to move. Again, I felt as though they were symbolic of my disability; proof that I needed protection, that I wasn't safe on my own. As I started using them more, I learned that I could grab onto them to roll myself over or steady myself in one position if I needed to. In my mind's eye, I am picturing my lover and I grabbing onto them as we writhe together in the throes of passion. The bedrails also mean that, in my case, my partner won't be the only one of us with the ability to move around. In the grand scheme of it all, this means a lot to me as a disabled man. Particularly, I won't feel ashamed that I can't move as much during sex leaving my playmate to do all the work... maybe these bed rails will get me that much closer to porn star status (okay, okay, but I can dream, can't I?)
This list isn't perfect or exhaustive, but I think it is an important step in how we look at sexuality and disability. Instead of seeing our devices as restrictive pieces of equipment, only to be used as prescribed and for nothing else (thanks to the way medicine and therapies consistently dehumanize disability), we can start to look at them as things that not only help us get on with our lives, but also help us get off when we need to. These devices and contraptions which we have been taught to medicalize, these inventions that categorically define us as disabled, might also have the ability to make us desirable too.