I remember when I got the Facebook message back in February. It was from a colleague of mine who was asking me to come on board and help them plan a sex positive party for Persons with Disabilities -- a party that actually celebrated them, rather than simply remembering they existed, and then being forced to include them as an afterthought.
I was excited, because in all the work that I do as a Disability Awareness Consultant, and as someone who lives quite proudly as a PwD, I had never once been invited to participate, let alone plan an event such as this. I was in!
I'll admit quite openly that the excitement over this opportunity stemmed from two very distinct reasons; one professional, and one not-so-professional (as you read that last line, it would be okay to envision me licking my lips at the anticipation). Professionally, I was thrilled that my consultancy work had been taken seriously enough, that people actually considered me to be a leading voice in the disabled community -- so much so that they sought my expertise for an event like this (believe me, every time I think or type that, I am baffled).
On a personal note, having never been to a sex positive party or anything of the sort before, I of course envision that attractive men will be there ready to see all the delights that disability has to offer (and I offer them in many flavors). I'm chomping at the bit to be sexual at this party. Let's just say I have reserves of sexual energy that need depleting.
The more I really sat with the idea of coordinating an event like this I realized that it is so much bigger than me. So many times, I have sat in front of conferences, lecture halls and on social media, and even in blogs such as this, discussing access to spaces for Persons with Disabilities, and what that means as well as what it feels like. Now I would actually get the chance to go from paper to practice on the issue, and that has been both completely satisfying and gut wrenching all in the same.
Soon our team was assembled, we had found an accessible venue (which, was in and of itself an accomplishment), and we were ready to start planning. Quicker than I think any of us had anticipated, the media got wind of our story, and here's where things got particularly interesting for me as a sexy, seated and single Person with a Disability.
Almost immediately, because the event was being organized by a sex positive space, the event was dubbed an orgy. It has quickly become known as "the first accessible orgy for people with disabilities/handicapped/ insert outdates reference for that population here". The media has been calling me left, right and center posing such inappropriate questions as, "are you gonna get plowed in your chair?" or, "can you even pleasure yourself?" After that last one, the look of dismay on my face, while live on-air trying to remain somewhat poised, was unmistakable. I couldn't believe that the majority of questions I was asked had only to do with my perceived dirty and deviant sexual behavior. Right, because anyone with a disability, who dares express their sexuality, must be really dirty.
What I am quickly learning through this experience of trying to organize something that celebrates People with Disabilities and their sensuality is that we as a society are fucking scared. We are utterly terrified of what this means, and we would rather make jokes about the all night sex fest with the cripples to assuage our discomfort, than bother to look at it from another angle. Those of us with access to our bodies and/or the body of a partner, who haven't even had to worry about when or if you'll ever get laid again (or, for the first time), can make those jokes.
What has been even more disconcerting is to hear these types of jokes from People with Disabilities themselves, saying things like: "Events like this make us look like freaks." I have to wonder, are we so scared of sex and disability that we'll even deny it to ourselves? Le sigh.
This party has never been a joke. To anybody living with a disability, pining after opportunities to experience their body (and hopefully others) in their entirety, craving a level of intimacy that is few and far between, this event is VERY REAL. It is one of those rare moments where the light you have inside you -- the one that sits deep inside your belly and glows with every twinge of desire -- gets turned on. The moment where you get to let it all hang out, crippled curves and all.
I look at this party as the jumping off point to really introduce the world to sex and disability. This will not be your Social Justice 101 class, where you can theorize and suggest that PwD should be sexual, and get a good grade for doing so. This party will bring that suggestion to life, with slings, caregivers and deliciously disabled bodies, and no one's quite sure how to feel about that.
To all the naysayers and fear-mongers out there, who are mired in misunderstandings about what this event is actually about, I have one question:
What if it were you?
What would you do if you had to wait for an opportunity like this to feel whole? What if this was one of the very first times you accepted yourself as a sexual being? What if the light inside you had yet to be turned on because of access, circumstances and attitude? And then, just when you have found a space that truly sees you as you long to be seen -- the whole idea becomes fodder for the masses -- your sexuality and sexual expression nothing more than a joke between jocks. How would you feel?
This is event is about so much more than about getting off. Rather, it is about getting onto the subject of sex and disability in real-time, a concept that seems only to have value in the classroom, but not in the club. It is about providing a space that puts PwD first. For once, I won't have to dim the light of my disability, to be seen as desirable. I can let you bask in its glow, and show you what you never knew you'd be missing.