Enjoying Sex: Going Beyond the Body
By Payal Jethra
Like any other experience of life, why shouldn’t intimacy and sexuality be a part of disabled people’s lives as well? In fact, as a visually impaired person, I feel that intimacy and sexuality is as important a part of disabled people’s lives as that of ‘normal’ people. Yes, disabled people do engage in and enjoy sexual and intimate relations, even though it sometimes depends upon the nature of disability. I would imagine any form of physical disability would make the entire experience of sex more adventurous and uniquely exhilarating. For example, the blind person would want to explore his partner’s body inch by inch using all senses other than sight.
As blind people make use of their other four senses viz: hearing, smell, touch, and taste to explore the world around them, so do they use these four senses to experience sex. Sense of touch may be used here instead of sight, as partners try to form a mental picture of what the person’s body looks like. As they feel Braille dots and form images of alphabets in their mind, so would they use their sense of touch, taste and smell to enjoy the fuller aspects of sexuality, while a sighted person would be more focused on the visual aspects of the physical structure of the body. Their partner’s body would seem to them like an unexplored territory arousing a sense of desire and curiosity. Just as s/he learns calculations moving around beads on the abacus or uses tactile diagrams to form mental pictures of maps and places on the globe, s/he would want to indulge in exploring a whole new body inch by inch. While leisure activities outside the home may not be as accessible for the blind, sex can be seen as one activity which can easily be enjoyed in the vicinity of their own home.
Sexuality is more related to types of people rather than disability, unless of course the disability hinders the act of sex itself. Among the types of disabled, the visually challenged, hearing or speech impaired would feel the least physical hindrance in the act of sex. The blind would be able to use their sense of hearing, touch, smell, and taste whereas the hearing impaired would be able to communicate gestures through their eyes, and the speech impaired would be able to use sign language. On the contrary, the orthopedically challenged might be able to take in and appreciate visual aspects of their partner’s bodies and enjoy intimacy in a way that the blind might not. Whatever the impairment, a unique level of mental compatibility or co-ordination is fundamentally essential in carrying out the act and enjoying it to the fullest. The extent to which the entire experience can be pleasurable also depends upon whether the partners possess the same values and/or ideas about love and sex. Having more or less the same level of interest in sexual acts will add to the level of compatibility.
The disabled need not deny themselves sex merely because of certain physical limitations. Sex can certainly be a pleasant and enjoyable experience for the visual, speech, and hearing-impaired assuming that the t partners are on the same mental wavelength. The problem may be a little more complex if the hands, legs, or any other part of the body is affected. In such cases, depending upon the extent of disability and coordination / communication between partners, the extent to which the entire sexual experience can be enjoyed could be maximized. Intimacy, as in sexual activities, could strengthen a relationship, becoming a bonding experience which can help conquer the insecurities that are often the effect of social factors, such as discrimination and isolation in the workplace or public arenas. An intimate relationship can allow one to experience the feelings of relaxation, satisfaction, bliss, and love.
Depending upon the type of disability, the couple might want to choose the sort of act that brings them utmost pleasure. They might focus more on foreplay/after-play rather than the act itself or suit their situation by choosing the latter and skipping the former. They might wish to indulge in oral or anal sex or merely caress and kiss, if that suits their bodies best. Ultimately, the best experience is what works best for both willing partners. There are unlimited means to get creative and physical disability need not a limit the one’s imagination.
Sex may be a physical act but it stems in the brain. The nerve endings in the brain send messages to various parts of the body that, in turn, get stimulated. If a person is by nature vibrant, lively, enthusiastic and creative, he, despite physical disability, will be able to create and enjoy an intimate environment. In most cases, the physically challenged person will be able create in her/his mind the entire sexual ambiance uniquely tailored to accommodate their physical limitations.
Sharing intimacy helps regain lost confidence among the disabled, takes away distress. The health benefits of sex that are known to benefit the lives of ‘normal’ people may also enhance and enrich the life of a disabled couple. The physically challenged should take advantage of sexual act as a form of, not a substitute, for work out. This activity could provide health benefits and leisure at the same time. The psychological and emotional bonding that can transpire between two physically challenged partners, as a result of sharing an intimate relation, cannot be emphasized enough. The entire experience of sharing their bodies could enhance their personal relationship and help resolve other issues that might creep up due to disability.
[Payal Jethra lives in Mumbai and works with a reputed public sector bank. She is blind and a single parent to her six year old son.]