Great Sex & Relationships

Sex and the Disabled: Seeing Beyond the Wheelchair

Every once in a while, a guy who’s known on Twitter as @TrojanViper and I will talk about sex from his perspective. Like 99% of the men I correspond with as a sex blogger, he and I can talk about sex on a very intellectual and respectful level, even about very personal matters.

But in a big way, @TrojanViper isn’t like most of those men.

@TrojanViper is 36 years old and a virgin. It’s not from lack of trying. It’s not because of bad looks or poor social skills. It all has to do with having spina bifida. He lives independently with some help, but he’s unable to walk, stand or masturbate.

Every once in a while I’ll come across an interesting story about sex and disabled people, but they’re almost always written by able-bodied writers on assignment for a magazine or newspaper. I usually pass those stories along to him since they rarely come up on my reading radar. But the story I rarely hear is what it’s like to have a disabled body but not a disabled sex drive.

I was incredibly grateful when @TrojanViper asked me to write about sex – or the lack of it – from his very honest point of view from our email conversations and his blog and podcasts.

@TrojanViper says the biggest barrier that keeps him from finding a girlfriend, let alone having sex, is that people can’t see past the wheelchair.

“One of the misconceptions is that we can’t,” he says. “People think that we can’t, and usually that’s it. Case closed, end of story … A lot of people think that we’re asexual, we don’t like it, we can’t do it. I don’t like that people don’t dig deeper into the ideas they come up with.”

What @TrojanViper means by “digging deeper” is asking him or other disabled people ways they can have and enjoy sex. He talks about it often.

Even as comfortable and open @TrojanViper can be talking about sex and disabled people in general terms, he admits that it’s difficult to ask a woman out on a date.

“I haven’t been on a date in a long time, and lunch with a girl (friend) isn’t really a date, is it?” @TrojanViper says. “I would consider dinner a date, in which case, never. I’ve asked girls out to eat, lunch in the past, and more often than not, almost always, they’ve said, ‘No.’” Rejection is hard, especially if it happens repeatedly, so I’ve very rarely asked women out.”

And yes, he wonders what people, especially women think of him.

“Do women not want to date me because of their ignorance, what they don’t know about me, physically, mentally, as well as emotionally?” @TrojanViper says.

Body image is also a big impediment that gets in the way of his sexual and self-confidence.

“A lot of this comes from poor self-image,” @TrojanViper says. “I think that part of my embarrassment comes from my lack of size. I think I’m rather small due to my disability. I’m not an unattractive man, but I have scars from many surgeries. I have an abdominal hernia, which means that my stomach bulges.”

Living with spina bifida, @TrojanViper has had a lot of contact with healthcare providers, but finding one that can help him address the questions and concerns he has about sex has been difficult.

“I have a physician and I’ve brought up my sexual issues to him before, but I felt like he was uncomfortable in a way in talking about these things,” @TrojanViper says. “A few months ago, I asked him if he could refer me to a therapist. He gave me a few names, but they didn’t accept my insurance. I had a social worker that I could talk to, but I was recently taken off of her case load. I spoke to a therapist two months ago, but I decided to not see her again. It wasn’t a great vibe.

“I have a (personal assistant) who is more like a good friend that I can and have talked to about these things. She’s wonderful and I can and so far have told her many things. And she’s been great in helping me do things, and giving me advice. I can and have been very open with her about all things sexual.”

Does @TrojanViper want sympathy? Hell, no. What he wants is better communication and better understanding about sex and disabled people. He thinks that will do a lot turn a lot of people’s misconceptions about “invalid” into “sinvalid”.