No Sex Please: We’re Disabled

When I was about fifteen or so, I was scrolling through some disability-related books, not paying much attention to most of them. I became very alert, however, when I stumbled across a book (whose title escapes me) about society’s puritanical de-sexualization of wheelchair users. The book also delved into the experiences of other physically disabled populations, exploring the myth that we are not and do not want to be sexual creatures. This was a new idea to me, or so I thought. But, as I continued to read, I realized it wasn’t new at all.

I cast my mind back to a family trip to Mexico when I was about thirteen. This is well past the age when girls generally become convinced that kissing someone would be more fun than icky, and I was experiencing a tame awakening of my own around that time. As my sister and I walked down the sidewalks, with our elaborately braided hair and colourful bathing suits, the eyes of nearly everyone slid over me completely, or opened wide in fascination as they noticed the long white cane—that conspicuous symbol of otherness. These wide-eyed stares came from all genders, and I remember several people running back the way they’d come just so they could get a better look! (My sister and I joked that people should forget about taking pictures with monkeys and take pictures with me, for a fee, naturally.) If you’ve got it … flaunt it, I guess?

Now, if I was as stunning as my sister, it may have made a difference in the way people looked at me, but I’m not convinced of that. People tend not to actually see visibly disabled people, unless they’re gawking, that is. Beyond making us feel like monkeys ourselves, it can also seriously stunt our love lives.

I’ve talked about feeling like I wasn’t a real girl, and how I’m only just discovering that I’m satisfactory the way I am. That does not mean, though, that the rest of society has caught up with me. All throughout grade school, only other blind people showed any interest in me at all, and they could only communicate with me via the internet or telephone. (Most of them were as desperately lonely as I was, so I didn’t put much stock in their judgement.) I’m sure many sighted people didn’t flirt or approach me at all because they simply weren’t interested; that’s not a big deal. You can’t be everyone’s cup of tea. I am quite sure, however, that many boys I grew up with simply didn’t consider me based on my broken eyes, even if they did so unconsciously. There were girls, and then there was Meagan: normal enough to be friends with, but too alien to date.

Once I started talking to other disabled people about this, I discovered that they, too, were often rejected outright because of their disabilities, with people only realizing how attractive disabled people can be once they could get past their discomfort (assuming they ever did). If I put my cane out of sight and manage not to bump into walls, I don’t look blind, and I’m told that people actually look at me differently. Suddenly, I’m a human–a young woman who is potentially attractive to at least one soul out there somewhere. As soon as that cane comes out, though, I’m reduced to an asexual, undesirable creature who is off limits to everyone, romantically speaking anyway.

The worst bit is that some people apparently believe we want it this way! They believe that we wouldn’t want to become romantically involved, or that we don’t like or can’t enjoy sex. I can understand the confusion when it comes to severe cases of paralysis, though people need to do their research and be more open-minded even then, but it baffles me that someone whose body is in fine working order would still be de-sexualized. Even those whose bodies aren’t up to statistical standards of normality should not be ruled out; you’ll just have to get creative. Aside from all this, a disability should never rule someone out as a potential romantic partner right off the bat, based solely on the idea that they’re not datable. Judge them by their personalities, general physical traits, outlooks on life, and all the other attributes you’d evaluate in any able-bodied mate. Preferences are fine, but ignorance is not. We’re not children, and we’re definitely not puritans by design.

Next time you see a pretty girl in a wheelchair, go talk to her. Next time you meet an attractive blind guy, go have a chat. Next time you encounter someone with a disability who appeals to you, assume they’re a viable option until you discover otherwise. Finally, never, ever write them off as disinterested by default. How can you know until you try?


17 thoughts on “No Sex Please: We’re Disabled

  1. I like this post Meagan! exactly! you never know until you try but that goes with just about anything. and yes, if I myself find somebody attractive it’s often the sound of their voice and their caring nature that tells me that somebody’s attractive Whenever I have my cane out people may come up and talk to me but there isn’t really the question of my blindness never mind I’ve got my cane out my sunglasses on and any badges I may wear. Now, you might not be very happy when I say I wear badges but i’ll give you a reason why I wear them and no where I come from wearing any form of label isn’t offensive. I was encouraged to wear sunglasses and a name badge when I did work placement. it was to break down any barriers so to speak as often when I was up the street with my mother the questions from toddlers would be why my eyes were closed so wearing sunglasses would minimise those questions. I wear a vision impaired persons badge when I go out particularly when I go shopping or am in crouds so that people can see that I’m vision impaired so I’m not tripped up. This was also done particularly when I would go shopping because there was an elderly gentalman who would ride a mobility scooter around the supermarket who often went at speed and this was so that I could get around without the gentalman possibly knocking into me while I was doing my shopping. Back to the subject of attraction and so on, sometimes a sighted person will comment to me that a woman is rather attractive but if a sighted person tells me this I take their word for it. this is because being unable to see makes it that I can’t really confirm this unless I hear the woman’s voice and make my judgements that way. I’ve never really thought of myself as undesirable either. somebody once told my parents that when I was old enough to date someone that they would have to tag along just to show me where to put my hands. A visiting teacher also took me aside one day when I was in year9 and said if I kept up my touchy feely behaviour nobody would want a relationship with me and I’d spend my life as a dirty old man. I will acknowledge I did do a bit of inappropriate touching in my school days but I’ve changed my ways now. Even if I’m given consent I will still step back and I will look around me just to make sure that if there are other people are around that they can see the facial expression and that the consent was jenuin. Ever since I was almost expelled from school for groping a girl on the breast I’ve made it my mission to be on my best behaviour. When you’ve had it drilled into you to not cross boundaries you don’t always know what’s appropriate and what’s not. I’ve also made a plan that if I’m going to date somebody I’d preferably date somebody closer to home as a friend who has said she’s wanting to get to know me more with a view of a possible relationship works out of town now and is primarily living close to where she’s working and she’s only in town every second weekend but as for contact between us, it’s often rare and the contact is only every few months and I feel I should probably go for somebody who’s not going to just contact me once every few months or once every few weeks. Fear of rejection is the main monkey on my back and always has been.

  2. Another well writen and very thought provoking article. Thank you so much for sharing yourself and your thoughts with the world.

  3. I can so relate to this, although when I was a single person I did not necessarily assume my being rejected or overlooked was because of the blindness overall but might have been because maybe I was just not considered so interesting of a guy, too weird and nerdy, etc, or could it have been that I wasn’t rolling in money and didn’t own a car. Still, whatever the reason was, my single days were quite miserable ones.

      • Yeah, and sometimes it’s not so easy to tell because people would rather protect your feelings and say nothing than just come out with whatever the reason might have been. So for me it’s not always fair to assume it was the blindness thing all the time although I did notice that fully able-bodied sighted women seemed to pretty much want me as a friend but nothing more. Women who were blind or who could see but had other disabilities seemed to be open to the idea that I might be a potential partner. Interesting how that works.

  4. yes Meghan right on I’m a totally blind guy of forty-six I’ve expereinced the treatment of us as asxual objects since I was a teenager and started to get intterested in grils, from the prom where no one talked to me or danced with me, ecept the kid who commened that my eye s looked almost real, to going to dance clubs and bars where no one will talk to you and where it’s hard to mke conversation, to so many other things. I have no idea what to do about it…you only become sexual to well, in myh case, a lady, if they get to know you better and maybe start seeing past it, it’s left me very disappointed in life, and I can assure you I’m very charming. thanks for speaking out on this issue.

  5. Dear Meagan,

    My name is Ashlee. I’m co-founder of the Youshare Project, with the mission to connect people around the world through true, personal stories. I recently stumbled across your blog and read the above post entitled “No Sex Please: We’re Disabled.” It’s so honest, beautifully written, and incredibly compelling. I think it would make a wonderful youshare, because your message is important for people of all abilities, all around the world, to hear. I think you could spark a really important dialogue on our site.

    If this sounds interesting to you, I would love to email you directly with more information and formally invite you to adapt your story to youshare and share it with the project. You have my email address and website. I hope to hear from you soon.


  6. Pingback: Just a little (link) love: human + jaguar edition | A Gai Shan Life

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