It was a regular day in my office. I was having lunch with my female colleagues and we were discussing casually about food preferences of males and females. Suddenly, the conversation changed and unexpectedly, one of the girls asked us all to share one sexual fantasy each! Everyone was left stunned as if she had mentioned an alien topic! “Come on guys, there is nothing to get shocked about. Agree or not, just like men, we too have sexual fantasies. It is just that we never express ourselves. Now, without wasting any time, let’s discuss it”, she retorted.
I was impressed and applauded her covertly. The way she had expressed her thoughts was admirable. We were sitting in a circle and the conversation started. But wait! I was skipped at my turn. Was it an intentional disregard or an unwitting mistake? The positive image of the girl in my mind shattered in a mere few seconds. I decided to clear out the things before my mind could blow it out of proportion. Sexuality and disability continue to remain a massive taboo topic for others and the ignorance about the wishes and needs of people with disabilities is baffling at best!
Sex, Intimacy and Needs: People with disabilities also feel the same as others do!
“Hey, I think you have skipped me”, I said. There was a pin drop silence around the table. They began to stare at each other as if I had said something extraordinary. But I don’t think it was an abrupt interruption. After almost one minute which felt like an eternity, the one who had started the conversation initially, acknowledged the fact stating, “tumhe kya zaroorat hai” (why do YOU need it!). She said it with a confident, single assertion. For few seconds those four words didn’t agree to sink in me. I was smiling overtly but my self-esteem crumbled to the size of a bread crumb.
My body seemed so hollow to me that night when I undressed in front of the mirror. I observed at my body for almost two minutes and instantly a mental monologue started, “Why am I deprived of the physical love which every girl desires and deserves? Why are my needs not being addressed? Is it just because I am a person with disability (orthopaedic impairment)? Does that mean my body can’t feel or reciprocate to the natural urges of the body?
Sexuality and Disability: Not just society, even people with disabilities are also averse to thoughts about sex?
I started thinking loudly! The lingering feeling of the topic of the day had a calming effect on my body! And just like that, I burst into tears. But were tears the solution to it? Certainly not! I could have reverted but I didn’t have the courage to counter it, then! I am not ashamed of admitting to it. I wanted to negate her statement but would objecting it resolve the problem?
There is a vicious cycle of such naive stereotypes which needs to be changed. The next day, I decided to talk to some of my differently-abled friends to inquire about their take about sex and physical intimacy. But to my astonishment, none of them were willing to discuss this. One of them deflected from the topic by saying that she would get back to me on this but she never did, while another one bluntly said that, “people like us already have so many challenges in our lives that needs to be sorted first. Sex is probably the last thing (if it is) to ponder over.” I frowned at her reaction. I could not decide who to blame; our society which holds preconceived notions about the sexuality of people with disabilities or rather, we (people with disabilities) ourselves who underestimate our own physical desires and reap the seeds of doubts sown by the society. Unfortunately, everyone has the same biased, age-old, misunderstood views when it comes to sexuality and disability.
Sexuality and Disability: Disabled people aren’t asexual and experience the same as others do!
The common perception is very skewed when it comes to a disabled person’s sexuality. Consciously or not, it appears our airbrushed society wants to assume that only abled bodied people should be getting laid. The general perception is that disabled people don’t have sex and are asexual. They perceive that anything and everything related to “sex” is somehow unconnected to people with disabilities and they would never ever be experiencing this urge in their entire life. As with elderly people and the under aged, they feel that people with disabilities are safely tucked up in bed alone. We are generally objectified as an emblem of mercy, lifelessness, nothingness or in some rare cases a figure of inspiration. The only needs that needs taking care of is to be washed and fed. I don’t even remember when was the last time I saw a disabled couple getting intimate on the big screen or a person with disability being portrayed in the mainstream media as anything other than brave or tragic?
I feel hurt when I see my own people (differently-abled) being indifferent to our needs when nature itself doesn’t do so. The sun rises for everyone; the rain pours for everyone; the water quenches everybody’s thirst and so everyone has sexual needs. The fact that I use a walking aid for my mobility or my walking gait is different than yours doesn’t conclude that my biological needs are dissimilar. I can undoubtedly say that I am caged by my body to some level but my desires are not. Yet, it doesn’t give anyone the right to form an opinion of my sexuality. Just like any other girl, I too have sexual needs, I too explore my body, and I too, bleed the same number of days as other able bodied females do! I don’t have any qualms in voicing the facts of life. It’s my body after all and it too has its necessities. When I am not treated unfairly by nature then why is society unfair to the needs of people with disabilities? Why can’t I prioritize my needs based on my whims, rather than placing it as the after-note in my life?
Having said all this, it doesn’t mean that a person with disability is easily ‘available’. The same laws of consent and dignity apply to people with disabilities as it does to others, too.
Sex, intimacy and physical needs are a necessity for everyone. People with disabilities may be different in some aspects of life but it doesn’t mean our natural instincts and desires are any different! We need acceptance from the society in every aspect and not just only on papers but in the minds of the people, too.
Let us live! Let us respire! Let us just be ourselves!
Please note: This is a part of our series on the topic of ‘Sexuality and Disability‘. For long, this topic has been under the wraps and we plan to start a conversation and help bring it into the limelight. The article contains the author’s views and need not resemble Inclov’s viewpoint. Inclov intends to provide a platform for thoughts and opinions only.