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Sex & Love As a disabled person, I masturbate for sexual empowerment

Nov. 8, 2019
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Since I hit puberty, I’ve been fascinated with our connection to our bodies. Like a lot of folks, I thought porn was interesting. Not the making of it or the fakeness of it, but the idea that people are entertained by something that’s the opposite of real life—sexual science fiction, if you will. 

Even though I knew all of that, it took me a while to feel connected to my body. Touching yourself isn’t as encouraged as conventional sex is, and in high school you think everyone is having sex and you don’t want to feel left out. But when you’re disabled, it’s an entirely different story. You’re not even thought of in terms of sex, especially not in high school. People just assume it’s something you don’t do. By societal default, sex is an able-bodied privilege. A medicalized body is automatically counted out when talking about sexuality; hell, even sex toy manuals are ableist. 

The more I’ve thought about this, the more I’ve realized that disabled adults are largely considered child-like. Like, before I had a chair that could elevate me to the height of an able-bodied human, people would look down to talk to me. You know what else you look down at? Children. It’s a de facto transfer of power, putting disabled people at a disadvantage and taking away autonomy that we may not have in any other form. 

I’ve never really figured out the logistics of sex with another human, because I’m still not totally ready to share my body—mentally, physically, or emotionally. So for me, masturbation is really a means of exploration: if I figure out what my body likes when I’m alone, I’ll be able to communicate that when I’m with someone else one day. You could say that’s the case for everyone, but it’s different when you have a body that isn’t always in your full control. It isn’t normal for me to be able to control my body’s individual parts. My brain and body don’t communicate that way, so knowing what makes me climax is an extra important, meaningful thing because it’s what I know I can control in terms of my body. 

It took time, patience, and an understanding of my body’s limitations for me to even try masturbating. I’d hit puberty like everyone else, so the curiosity and the biological urge were there. My arms and legs don’t straighten out completely, but I knew I could reach what I wanted. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that I was initially a bit scared of doing it, though. I didn’t know what would happen—could my body only feel a certain way if it was stimulated by another person? Was it supposed to feel like this or that? But in the end, I just went for it, figuring that was the only way I’d find out. In the process of sexually discovering myself, I realized how empowered it was to touch myself—because my body cooperated. It did exactly what I wanted and made me feel good.  My legs stretched further than usual as the endorphins kicked in, and my body relaxed in a way it normally can’t. Even if I can only control my body during those intimate moments, it still makes it easier for me to accept myself as opposed to being angry at my body.

For some folks, sex might start with picking the right person. There might be pressure to just do what you think feels good for the other person— even if you’re no longer a naive teenager. For me, though, it starts with me. I want someone else to learn my body only when they understand that my body is different from most people’s. Right now, knowing myself and what works and rubs me the right way is top priority; if the person I’m officially with one day can’t understand a body that works differently, then they can’t have access to it.