Posted by The Mobility Superstore:
The recent Channel 4 documentary Sex on Wheels raised a few eyebrows, as it shone a light on the sex lives of four disabled people and their fight for sexual equality.
Whether certain sections of the general public wanted to avoid the issue or they simply disagreed with it being discussed in an open and honest way, there were people who claimed the documentary was voyeuristic and exploitative. Those views may not be without some credence, but the stories of the four disabled people in the show gave the issue of sex and disability an important forum; it showed that disabled people have all the same sexual desires, proclivities and hang-ups as non-disabled people.
Sex on Wheels featured the story of Karl, a 32-year-old man who had become paralysed from the waist down following a car crash. His penile dysfunction was the source of great distress, as he had been sexually active for his entire adult life. The documentary also shone a light on sexual promiscuity, as it told the story of Leah, a 23-year-old with brittle bones who enjoyed regular sexual activity with several different partners. However, not all the documentary’s subjects were so likeable. Pete, a 26-year-old with cerebral palsy, boasted openly about his sexual prowess. He bragged about spending thousands of pounds on escorts, and he talked candidly about his desire to be a porn star.
The four disabled people in Sex on Wheels were just ordinary people who had various physical conditions that made having a sex life a complex issue. In many ways, they represented a cross-section of society. Riddled with insecurities, sexual frustration and their own visceral desires, they could have been any four people – disabled or otherwise – chosen at random from bars and nightclubs up and down the country. Their stories, not always pleasant or endearing, demonstrated that sex is part of the human condition.
Perhaps more concerning, the show highlighted that the public’s attitude towards disability and sex is a far greater barrier to an active sex life than the physical limitations of a human body or necessary disability aids.
Three years ago, the Observer ran its ‘Sex Uncovered’ poll, and one of the survey’s questions asked respondents if they would consider having sex with a disabled person – 70 per cent said that they would not. It seems that social taboos have a far larger role to play than people’s impairments.
Unfortunately, there is a school of thought within society that promotes the idea of disabled people having different attitudes and sexual desires to those held by non-disabled people. Yes, disabled people might turn to sex workers for their own gratification, but so do thousands of non-disabled people. Sex and the desire to experience sexual intimacy is something we all have in common. It is a sad indictment on society, however, that people are sexually pigeon-holed according to their physical impairments.
Documentaries such as Sex on Wheels and The Undateables may be created by non-disabled producers and directors and have sensationalism at their heart, but they do highlight an intrinsic prejudice within society. With the use of mobility aids, a disabled person can enjoy an invigorating and fulfilling sex life in exactly the same way as anyone else. And although that might be a taboo subject for large parts of society, getting the issue out in the open should, over time, mean disabled people can traverse the sexual playing field on an equal basis.
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