Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Sexual Eunuchs?

[Image description: wheelchair user icon with another person sitting on wheelie's lap facing wheelie.]

I imagined having a photograph at the top of this article. It would have been of two naked men having sex. Nothing unusual in that one may consider. However, I wanted one of the chaps to be in a wheelchair or at least visibly physically disabled. Alas, I could not track one down.

To me this was rather surprising. Inputting 'gay disabled sex' into the Google search-engine returned 178,000 hits. Over the first six pages only three items were serious articles, the rest were links to porn sites. I clicked on a few, but none really seemed to offer what was on the label, but rather were simply channelling able-bodied pornography.

Perhaps I should not have felt so astonished at my inability to locate a photo. The issue of straight (heterosexual) disabled sex only really started being the focus of feminist writers in the 1980's. No doubt I just have not found them, but the only article I discovered that directly referred to men was T. Shakespeare's 1999 article "The sexual politics of disabled masculinity". No wonder I could not find items relating to gay/bisexual/queer disabled menfolk! (Actually, after a subsequent brain-wave, I did locate some academic research articles via Google Scholar (q.v.).)

We seem to be almost invisible, at least to the mainstream. Why is this? I rarely frequent Manchester's gay village as many of the venues are not accessible. Moreover its streets are uneven, and I am likely to fall when able to walk and I am too embarrassed/proud to be wheelchaired, as I prefer to be independent and wheel myself when needing to use my chair. I am not saying they do not exist, but I have never seen anyone in a wheelchair there. Nor anyone with dark glasses and a white cane. I have never seen an amputee. Nor someone physically mutated by pharmaceuticals. I have never seen an obvious burns victim. Never even seen someone else walking with a stick. The only visibly disabled folk I have observed in bars are the deaf, with their hearing-aids and signing.

Perhaps gay culture's obsession with the body beautiful is at fault? Or, perhaps it is we disabled folk's fault: for not asserting our right to participate, to be accepted; for not accepting ourselves in our physicality and sexuality; for not pursuing alternative eroticisms?

Research has demonstrated that most able-bodied pity we disabled or, worse, abuse us. We are objects for charity. Certainly not erotic objects of desire. Usually we are perceived as being child-like or asexual - 'sexual eunuchs' if you will.

Many factors militate against disabled minds and bodies being able to engage in sexual relations, including: accessibility; negative attitudes; transport; assistance; and, above all, trying to find that willing desirable someone. (All of these could be the germ of an article in themselves.)

Manchester has dozens of support groups for gay this, queer that; but I could unearth only one for disabled folk, the hearing-impaired. (Bless 'em!) However, there is nothing I could join. I once wrote to the main Mancunian LGBT support group enquiring whether they knew of any gay disabled groupings. They did not even bother to reply. (This particularly hurt because, when able-bodied, I used to do volunteer work on their behalf.)

I perceive myself as almost imperceptible: partly due to being mainly house-bound; partly because I do not feel able to fully express who I am. I'm not after sex three times a day, once a week, even once a month; but every now and then would be a great start. I still have needs and desires. My disability did not geld me.

I wish I could have found that image of queer wheelchair sex in the real world, not just in my head...


This article is part of "Blogging Against Disablism Day".

34 comments:

  1. Great topic!

    I wish I had the answer to how people with disabilities could be seen as viable romantic partners, but it's a question I've wrestled with for years without finding a solution.

    I think making a noise about it a great start, though, and that's what you're doing here!

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    1. Ruth, thanks for your positive response.

      I was worried I might be upsetting or offending lots of folk. My own internalised censor advising me not to discuss 'sex' I suppose!

      Cheers! %)

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  3. Great, candid post. I'm glad your internalised censor's advice was overruled.

    Have you seen a book called Queer Crips: Disabled Gay Men and Their Stories? No idea if still in print, but an interesting read.

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    1. Kev, thanks for your comment. Glad you appreciated the blog article.

      The book sounds right-up-my-street, but at £80.00 is rather unaffordable (even second-hand at £40.00). Sad to see that the tome was published almost ten years ago and, it would seem, there has been little tangible progress. %(

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  5. "I perceive myself as almost imperceptible" ~ an excellent turn of phrase, and so spot on for what you're discussing. I wish you could've found the picture, too.

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    1. Thanks for commenting. Wasn't sure about that actual phrase - in fact it was the one I mulled over the most. So, really pleased somebody liked it!

      I have tried all sorts of searches but cannot find an image to go with the one in my head.

      If there is a photographic artist out there, we disabled folk could do with someone taking some frank snaps in flagrante delicto. Oh, and I'm game! ;)

      %)

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  6. There is some work on queer disabled sexualities - Tom Shakespeare also wrote a book called "The Sexual Politics of Disability: Untold Desires" which is brilliant; it might not be up your street, but there is a book called "Playing with Disabilities", which covers BDSM and disability, but it's fairly old and not particularly academic. I'm about to start reading "Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability", which looks promising.

    The issue of sex and disability is really important to me - and just talking about it makes a difference. Academic research in the area is growing - although a lot of it is focused on either learning difficulties and sex ed, or straight men - and there is some really interesting stuff about, but a lot of it is in journals that aren't easily available outside of universities - or even in them.

    Great post! Keep talking about it!

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    1. Thanks too for your article. I credited the feminist movement in my aricle, as without them we would not even be where we are today which - as I think you also acknowledge - is not that great of itself!

      Between us, we can keep the conversational ball being passed around...

      %)

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  7. Thanks for this, Criquaer. It woudln't have been the first time Blogging Against Disablism Day had featured nudity, but possibly the first time it had featured an image of actual sex, so I *might* have had to place a wee warning next to the link. ;-)

    I did think of a sexy, if not explicitly sexual image of two men, one of whom has visible impairments, from a few years back: voila (that was before Abercrombie & Fitch got in trouble for forcing one of their model-beautiful staff to work out of sight of the public because she had a prosthetic arm).

    I hope that things improve for you.

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    1. Thank you so, so much for the link to that image. It made me cry. I know it is not sex; but at least it is intimacy.

      I am actually a very optimistic and happy chappy most of the time. I just get randy from time to time. And then frustrated. %S

      Thanks for BADD 2012 and for letting me join in.

      %)

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  9. A comment about the article has appeared on MetaFilter (http://www.metafilter.com/115495/Blogging-Against-Disablism-Day-2012):

    The Sexual Eunichs (sic) post is interesting. I used to tend bar in a rust-belt city's only gay bar much smaller than Manchester. On Friday or Saturday the pretty, pretty boys would hold court. But on a Sunday I would serve everyone else: an older crowd, the alcoholics and a few individuals who were visibly disabled. Nice chaps, most of them. It is unfortunate how we self-segregate.

    Though, I do have fond memories of dancing with a boy in a wheelchair. He grabbed my hand and pulled me on to the floor. I suppose that is how you survive: you compensate for what the group views as a negative by having massive balls and pursuing what you want.

    posted by munchingzombie at 12:45 PM on May 1

    Thank you munchingzombie! %)

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  10. It isn't much better on this side of the pond as a disabled lesbian, sadly. Lesbians like to talk about inclusivity and all that, but that doesn't mean they actually want to date or have sex with someone who is disabled or chronically ill. On the rare occasions I try to do any online dating or anything, the responses just leave me feeling unfuckable. It sucks.

    I don't know if this comment will come through. I'm having issues posting it. Also, I don't know if you know you have Captcha for comments, which will prevent many people with disabilities from commenting.

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    1. You had better enlighten me re Captcha as I don't know what that is - I have only been blogging just under a week! Can you suggest what I could use instead/additionally?

      I am currently doing research for an article on dating via the internet for disabled folk. So, may be come back some time.

      Thanks for managing via tenacity to add a comment. %)

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    2. CAPTCHA is those 'prove you're not a robot' things where you type in a phrase from a picture. Inaccessible to blind people or people with visual problems, though in some cases they have auditory versions as well. (Still inaccessible to deafblind, of course.)

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    3. Ettina - is that what that is called. Drives me mad! Cannot find a setting that was titled as such; but did turn word verification to 'No'. Hope that changes things for the better!!!

      Cheers! %)

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  11. Thanks for your contribution!

    There was an intriguing web magazine called BENT: A Journal of CripGay Voices. It was edited by Bob Guter from 1999 until 2007 as the only comprehensive webzine devoted to the lives of gay men with disabilities. You'll find BENT's archive here.

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    1. Thanks jesse-the-k for the link to the archive. A fab resource! That's going to keep me busy for weeks on top of the BADD 2012 blogs. %)

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  12. Hi! Good you're raising the subject, it's important that you do. A few days ago, I ran across this: http://www.crippencartoons.co.uk/cartoons/gay/gay01.shtml It's not what you're looking for, but you might like it.

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    1. Louna,

      Thanks for that. It really did make me laugh out loud! %D

      I am reposting the link as it is worth folks taking a peek: http://www.crippencartoons.co.uk/cartoons/gay/gay01.shtml

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  13. Not offensive at all! Heartfelt and candid. Made me sad for you and others dealing with invisibility. It make me think of all the marginalized of society that must feel the same way, gay, transgender, the elderly, disabled, chronically ill, disfigured, obese people, etc, etc. But, you're right, when you combine 2 or more of these categories (like gay and disabled) the invisibility factor increases. This makes me think of the music video "Beautiful", by Christina Aguillera, although, if I made the video I would add even more types of people to represent the "shunned" people of society.

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    1. Thanks for your comments, Kristi; they are appreciated. %)
      I have just Youtubed the video of "Beautiful" as I had never seen it. Think the video adds to the songs lyrics, in that neither deeds nor words can influence our amour-propre unless we individually allow them to. I think I have plenty of self-confidence, just no outlets to use it! %S

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  14. Icon added 27th August 2012.

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    1. So sorry Nick - I did not mean to delete your comment; I was trying to reply!!!!

      "Nick Jewitt has left a new comment on your post "Sexual Eunuchs?":

      Hi, interesting article. As another M.E./CFS sufferer, clearly not as bad as you, I have been seen in Manchester's gay village with my two sticks, twice (I don't live in Manchester, across the way in North Wales).
      The cartoons are indeed wonderful!
      Take care"

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    2. And I was going to say, that if you are over M/cr way again (not Winter) and fancy meeting up for a chat over a beverage, let me know - that's if my deletion has not offended you!!!
      %D

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    3. Ha, no problem, easily done. Thanks for the suggestion, I'll bear it in mind!

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    4. Took me a while to find this again. I sent you a message on FB last Friday to take you up on this but maybe you did not connect that message with this one. I'd like a yea or nay if possible so I can move ahead on accommodation, advance booking of train, etc,

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  16. LOL.
    You haven't had much luck with LGBT groups either then?

    Yes, I think we have one and just the one dedicated to deaf LGBT people here in the West Midlands. I thought I'd put that to rights, especially since they were opening a new, state of the art LGBT drop-in centre here in Birmingham. I contacted them and proposed the possibility of a disabled LGBT drop-in session but hey ho, I never bothered to get a reply either. Thanks for your support there Birmingham LGBT!!

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    1. Having tweeted on this, M/cr's LGBTI group just tells me to write for them and they'll blog it. Not really willing to champion those of us who are chronically sick/disabled unless HIV-related. If I was not house-bound for the vast majority of the time and actually had strength and energy I would start a grouping... %S

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