The Times of London takes an intriguing look at the love (and sex) lives of people with disabilities and their partners, which stands as an interesting companion piece to Daniel Bergner's book on fetishes.
Clark talks frankly to disabled people, their partners, therapists and sex workers for her piece on what sex is really like for the differently-abled — and like sex for the rest of us, it pretty much runs the gamut. From Anne, who contracted polio as a child, and Norman — who have a son together and call sex "meaningful and passionate... sacred and not to be taken for granted" to "actress and disability campaigner" Julie Fernandez, who jokes that her brittle-bone disease makes her double-jointed in bed, the story is touching, funny and an exploration of what many of us some day might be dealing with due to age, disease or accident. And — despite what you might think before reading it — it doesn't seem remotely grim.
There's this, from photographer David Steinberg who photographs disabled couples during sex:
"Probably the most significant thing I've learnt is that people can be wonderfully sexual in many ways. And that being fulfilled sexually is not particular to any one sexual act or sexual way of being. I've seen looks of unmistakable ecstasy on the faces of people who many would consider severely limited in what they can do sexually. And looks of profound love from people who cannot perform sexually in ways that most people consider absolutely essential to sexual happiness."
That actually sounds pretty hot.
Then there's the story of Andy and Michelle, who met after his wife left him after he became an amputee. They became friends and then more and Michelle now says that her husband's disability means that they have to be more open about what feels good... which leads to better sex.
"I was sexually active when I was 15. Sex with Andy is the best I've ever had. We don't hold back, and no subject is taboo."
The ability for couples to communicate about their disabilities and their sex lives are a running theme in the article. Sarah and Barney Storey echo it in their part — Sarah was born without one hand. Barney says:
"Don't just assume what you think is right during sex," says Barney. "Talk about what you want and you'll both get more from it."
This is actually starting to read more and more like a not-crap sex advice column in a ladymag!
Dawn Gerrard, who is blind, has something to add as well:
In the absence of sight, she says, sex is often more sensual, with more touching, feeling and talking. "You shouldn't be scared to try anything in the bedroom. Blind people are often attracted to a tone of voice rather than looks, as well as a person's outlook on life. This can make relationships more meaningful."
So, basically, talking, foreplay and not getting obsessed with your own body or the other person's makes sex better? Who'd've thunk?
Dominic Webb, who was paralyzed from the neck down in a car crash, had his first post-disability sexual experience with Sue Newsome, a "Tantric-sex worker" who massaged his head and neck for 45 minutes:
Dominic came alive: "I felt things I never thought I would experience. It was like someone was touching and stroking my whole body. It was relaxing as well as stimulating and really gave me pleasure."
So let's add: sex isn't all about orgasm or penetration.
The one downer in the piece is James Palmer, who walks with crutches and insists he needs to frequent sex workers at least once a week because he's never had a girlfriend.
"My life is ruled by sex - I'm a sex addict," he says. "I was at a party when I was 20 and I got glandular fever from a kiss. Two weeks later I was in a hospital bed, unable to move. I'd contracted encephalitis.
"I've found it bloody impossible to find a girlfriend, but I have 25 gallons of testosterone that I can't switch off. So I search the internet for porn and I've gone to sex workers."
Yeah, so, it turns out that a jerk is a jerk is a jerk. It's less about the crutches and more about the attitude. You know, like it is for non-disabled people.
Sex And Disability: What Can We Learn? [The Times]