Sex and Ableism
When I talk about disability justice, I mean my body.
I mean this fucked up body of mine. I mean the fact that I have been sick with bronchitis for six months this year, five months last year. With maybe some pneumonia mixed in.
I’m looking at you, endless string of concussions from riding horses as a child. Back before we knew concussions could fuck you up for life. Back when I believed my helmet would protect me from brain trauma, instead of just shielding my skull from fractures and death. My brain was rattled around an awful lot. Sometimes I forget names, faces. I word-hunt, like a very bad typist pecking for the right letter on a keyboard. I sound confused, my sentences garbled. In direct sunlight, talking becomes difficult. Focusing.
I’m looking at you, year straight of puking my guts out for no reason medical science was ever able to solve. I own a pharmacy’s worth of herbal supplements and yeah, they work, because now I can digest food properly most of the time. This counts as a major life accomplishment for me, okay?
When you’re disabled, your world shrinks. It has to. Basic life activities are swept off the table of what is possible. Holding down a full-time job becomes as unimaginable as dunking on Michael Jordan. Childhood dreams fall by the wayside fast then faster. Your life transforms into one long experiment in the art of the possible, and the possible shrinks every year.
And, you have a lot of time to think.
You think about love, because you don’t have it.
You think about sex. Sometimes, you think about sex in the context of disability justice.
So you think about things like erectile dysfunction. You think about this idea that a man who cannot force his body to do what his mind wants, is failing. You think about this idea that a man’s ability to produce the next generation is supposed to act like a tool in the hands of his elders, that he is supposed to want whomever they tell him to want. You think about how many men you know who don’t really know what they want sexually, maybe not even who they want. You think about these men who get turned on thinking about one woman then fuck another, these men who want a woman for her soul then fuck the woman whose body they think they ought to find attractive.
You think about these men who find a woman who will make other men envy them. Who will impress the men they work with. Who will make the men in their life stop mocking them, stop disrespecting them. These men who treat the bodies of women like physical barriers against other men’s cruelties.
You think about how women accept that we are going to be objectified. How we focus on trying to meet an impossible ideal of ‘pretty,’ in hopes we will be the one chosen to go to the ball or even, even, marry the prince. How we believe that if we do it right, if we obey feminine norms and discipline our bodies properly and never eat in public and exercise off every calorie, then. Maybe we will find prince charming. Who will love us for our minds, sorta, but of course the disciplined body is a package deal.
I chose my body, a long time ago. I had to. I had been through so much. I chose my body over trying to become some lost boy’s fantasy. I do what I want with my hair and weight and exercise routine. I still hate eating in front of men I like, but that is because I am afraid of how they might see me. It is because the more a man likes me, the more afraid I am of him.
Men view real desire as a threat to their personas. They view sexuality as too dangerous, too socially awkward. They do not want to trip, spill food, feel vulnerable. They do not want to risk sex in front of someone whose opinion they care about. They do not want to lose control.
And so erectile dysfunction has become a real diagnosis. Not being able to have sex with someone a man does not want to have sex with has become a ‘disability.’ A flaw. Something to be corrected with medication.
I know, I know, many men are limited by old age or medical side effects in ways they would like to dodge. Okay. Okay! This is different. Agreed.
But still there is that man. Staring at the girlfriend or wife or hookup beside him, trying to convince himself he truly does want her. Telling himself to be a man. To fuck her, to fuck up her pussy, to do it, to dominate her, to do it right. As though this is what it means to be a man, is to harm women, to get off on the idea if not the act of harming women, to treat women like enemies.
To view real sexuality, real desire, as the enemy. To fight off women who bring this enemy too close. As though passion is the thing men must protect against. As though passion is a threat either to men or to the women they long so much to protect.
There is a secret: the rapists who blame their acts on misguided passion are lying. They were always lying.
Rape is about domination. Not passion. Always.
Men who try to force their bodies to obey, who try to seduce or manipulate or physically dominate women who do not want to, these men are enacting rape culture even if they are not enacting rape.
Sexuality is not the enemy. Rape culture is. Domination of women’s bodies in the name of preserving patriarchal civilization, is. And fighting misogyny is as simple as wanting what you want, and rejecting what you don’t, and telling that vulnerable, necessary truth of yours to the whole wide world.
Still there is that man who runs from the woman he really wants. Because what if he comes too fast, or too slow? What if he puts his hands in the wrong places. If he accidentally whispers I love you. If he cries. What if he cries?
I am an adult, and I know better than to treat sex like a performance. I know better than to score a man I care about on these things that do not matter. I know that passion is messy and deep and vulnerable and filled with feeling. I know I want to experience this mess before I die. To feel something this deep.
TV shows are full of female characters sitting around sharing private details of their partners’ sexual proclivities to a laugh track. I have shared stories about male fetishes or flirtations in order to score ‘cool’ points. I was not paying attention to what I was doing. I know better now. I am changing.
Sometimes people really do change. If we let them. If we believe for them in the person they are trying to be.
I have a lot of faith in the men of this world. I have faith in their bodies. I have faith in the wisdom of their own sexualities. I believe that the impulse to rape is the exact inverse of the impulse to lovemaking.
I hope one day the men I love will find a way to also believe.