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September 2013

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Sexuality, Sensuality, Surrogates & Stripping Off (by Bella Hoy)

By | Disability, Lifestyle, My story, Undressing Disability | 2 Comments

Burlesque picture

Feeling like a sexual being, particularly with a physically disabling condition, can be something that society tries to rob you of. Relatives and carers may see sexuality as one of the last things to worry about with any given condition and those with disabilities can be left confused and uneducated about their bodies.

But denying perfectly natural sexual feelings can lead to frustration, loss of self worth and lack of confidence. Where there may not be the presence of a partner, sex therapists and surrogates can help delicately over come the personal issues associated with relationships and sexual discovery. While sex therapists work on the psychological and emotional problems a client may have concerning sex, a sex surrogate combines this while also working physically with the clients body. As vital an experience this has been for many disabled people, surrogacy has also proven to be a minefield of moral debate and a legal grey area. As the current UK law stands, sex work is legal as long as it is between two consensual adults and it is done privately. However, the socially ingrained image conjured up at the mere mention of a sex worker seems to be one of a vulnerable young woman. This then leads onto a whole separate, and rightly important, debate about women’s rights. But sex work is not a black and white issue, and where the system can be abused in horrifying ways, the good that can come of it when used responsibly is unmatched. It can empower and emotionally reward the workers (both female AND male) who CHOOSE this profession and it is no over statement to say that the work they do can essentially change their clients’ lives.

The hit 2012 film The Sessions starring Helen Hunt brought to life the thought provoking true story of Mark O’Brien. Originally an article written by him in the Eighties, it chronicles his emotional and physical journey with a surrogate. Mark contracted polio at a young age and was severely disabled from it, spending a large chunk of his life in an iron lung, a large machine encompassing his whole body to aid with breathing. He had sex for the first time at the age of 36. Because of his disability and his families’ Catholic moral code he was left with the assumption ‘that people should emulate the asexuality of Barbie and Ken.’

Finally feeling able to confront his inner demons, after just his first talk with a sex therapist, Mark felt that he ‘could take charge of [his] sexuality and cease thinking of it as something alien.’ After much deliberation, overcoming life long reservations about his body and the unfamiliarity of the opposite sex, he eventually has sessions with a surrogate. He learns that ‘sex is a part of ordinary living, not an activity reserved for gods, goddesses and rock stars,’ and emotionally recalls after his first sexual experience: ‘For the first time, I felt glad to be a man.’ His surrogate uses a variety of techniques and exercises with him in order to explore and feel secure in his body such as simple body massage. One of the most moving parts of the article is when his surrogate strokes his hair and tells him that it feels nice. Mark is emotionally mature enough to realise that his surrogate is not a full relationship replacement and usually they limit the sessions they have with a client so this type of bond does not form. Yet her simple words give Mark a kind of boost that he’d never experienced before, and he interestingly feels that, ‘having at least one attractive feature helped me to feel more confident.’

Picture from the film SessionsHis story shows just how beneficial this work can be and through the surrogates, clients can learn that being confident, sensual and sexual doesn’t necessarily have to come from other people’s perceived perceptions. It instead could be regarded as an internal attitude shift and a gradual acceptance of self, but of course nobody is saying that comes easy. Insecurities are an inevitable part of human nature time to time, but the niche practices of Naturists (or Nudists) are in a different league of acceptance.

Maybe we could all take a leaf out of their free hanging book and learn to flaunt our form, no matter what shape it’s in. It may sound extreme, and perhaps not for everyone, but it has been suggested that more people with disabilities could learn to embrace the naked
way of life. Not only does it help people get used to their bodies in a nonsexualised atmosphere, it can even be more practical and enjoyable whilst partaking in activities such as swimming which require awkward changing rituals. Naturists are a friendly and never judgmental bunch, occasionally misunderstood; they are always willing to show new people what they’re all about.

At the risk of sounding too flowery, sensuality can start with just being in tune to the world around you. Appreciating touch, sights and smells in everyday life can all help with getting to know your body, and far from being afraid of it, understand its power. As Mark discovered, sexual exploration is not a luxury and is just as fundamental and natural as eating or breathing. Knowing your own personal wants, needs and boundaries is essential before even considering a partner. And once those things are established, it can be hard to resist someone with that much self-respect.

Read Mark O’Brien’s Fantastic Article ‘On Seeing A Sex Surrogate’ Here:
www.thesunmagazine.org/issues/174/on_seeing_a_sex_surrogate

Some Pretty Good Resources
· TLC-trust.org.uk – Designed to connect disabled people to responsible sex workers, they have profiles of many surrogates from around the country, a forum and further links related to disability and sex.

· All-Nudist.com – Has a great section on disabilities and nudism including links to forums and other big nudist groups.

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!
Would you or have you used a surrogate?
Are you a surrogate?
Would you dare to bare all with some Nudists?
What are your body confidence tips?

I started escorting about 15 years ago… (Blog 2) by Caroline Dempsey

By | Disability, Lifestyle, My story, Undressing Disability | No Comments

Caroline Dempsey

I ended my last blog with a poem, written from the heart (by a songwriter, not me!), about how wonderful a gift that giving is.  Some joke that giving is selfish, because it feels so good to do it.  For me, that’s the right way to give; no strings, unconditionally.  When I visit a client as an escort, I feel excitement, not just sexual, but like I do when I give someone a present and I can’t wait for them to open it, to see the look on their face, hoping they’ll like it!

I want my clients to be happy, of course.   But I try to understand their needs as early on as I can, whatever they are, and some requests I get are as uncomplicated as ‘being held’.  So I try to feel connected to my clients as soon as possible, so they get the best of me, get what’s best for them, and I can do as they ask.  That way, we both enjoy the experience and give to each other.  I like to have a chat on the phone first to find out what they want, so when I arrive, the ice is broken, sort of thing, and they can let me know if there are any particular requirements that’ll make my visit the best it can be.

I do believe, though, that a really important thing is, if it’s at all possible, to be able to ask for what you want.  We can’t be truly ‘present’ if we’re distracted by thoughts of something, even as simple as needing to go to the bathroom, or wanting a drink of water, or wanting to move a part of the body to get more comfortable.  And if our needs are more like, “I wish I could be kissed like this,” “I wish we could just cuddle,” or “I would like to know how to please her/him, but I don’t know how to say it,” then sharing the message becomes even more important.  But things like this can be difficult for someone to convey, perhaps if speech is difficult, or if it’s been some time since intimacy, if ever, in which case, the right words may not exist.  How could they?  Shyness, embarrassment, fear of rejection; these are all things that can prevent us from speaking out.  But I always find a way in the end!  Just with a little mutually exchanged patience, usually.

Caroline DempseyOften, our conditioning has taught us that asking for what we want is wrong, especially if it’s very personal to us, and particularly if it’s to do with sex.  Many of us were taught that sex shouldn’t be spoken openly about, should be kept private, perhaps it’s rude or dirty.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

There are a million ways to give and receive pleasure.  As many as you can think up.   But the same reasons that prevent us from speaking out can also prevent us from finding ways to give and receive pleasure, whether with another or on our own.  It’s our right to enjoy the pleasures of the flesh – everybody’s right, we deserve pleasure!  I’m just sorry that more don’t recognise this – it’s important to the well-being of everyone.  Sex is a great healer.  But also sex isn’t about ‘performance’.  It’s about taking time to really feel and enjoy the other person, really wanting to please, taking time to understand and find out what makes them glow.   And it’s just as important to know how to pleasure ourselves, using feeling, wanting, and time, for ourselves, in just the same way.

I’ve recently begun visiting an older gent in his own home who has had mobility problems for many years now, due to an operation that went wrong.  He’s such a lovely man and very spritely for his advanced years and for someone who can’t get about!  He talks to me about his family, makes me tea and offers me cakes.  He also makes sure there’s plenty of time for pleasure.  There’s no intercourse, but that doesn’t matter.  And thank goodness he understands that there’s no expectation of performance.  It’s just the mutual exchange of caring, love and respect.  My clients are so special.  They’re all so different and mean so much to me.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit a lovely guy who’s been wheelchair-bound for 20 years due to a scuba-diving accident.  He’s 42 now and lives in the care of a Leonard Cheshire facility.  He was pronounced brain-dead and was in a coma for six months.  He’s a miracle!  He can’t walk or stand unaided and needs full-time care.  However, he hasn’t experienced any kind of intimacy since before his accident and he has, as you can imagine, missed it!  So not only has he had to contend with coming back to life, coming to terms with his disability, and maintaining as healthy a life as possible, but he also has all the feelings that a red-blooded male has.  Of course he does!  I was privileged to be his first sexual experience in all that time and it was passionate, and lovely.   We chatted at first, got to know each other and had a few laughs about different things.  He has a positive and inquisitive mind and keeps himself busy writing, amongst other things, and swimming when he can.

I consider myself fortunate to be in the sex industry, I’m taught so much, but I’m saddened at just how closed people are when it comes to discussing the needs of those who can’t make their own arrangements, like the guy I just mentioned.  Arranging my visit to him wasn’t made easy because there’s no way to facilitate it.  It should be a simple procedure so that disabled and those cared for are able to have as normal a sex life as the rest of us.

I mentioned in my last blog about carers at the care home I visit my gentleman with cerebral palsy not making eye contact with me.  I can appreciate that they may be embarrassed, but I would love them to engage with me, so I could speak to them about their clients’ needs.  I could help them understand that their residents aren’t asexual, and how easy it would be for them to help.  I suppose it’s because I’m older, but I find it hard to think of someone in the ‘caring’ profession denying their clients something as natural as eating, breathing and sleeping.   I can feel a soapbox moment coming on……

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DisGAYbled (by Arabella Hoy)

By | Disability, Lifestyle, My story, Undressing Disability | One Comment

Accessing the Scene

In celebration of Brighton Pride 2013, here at Enhance we wanted to explore what it means to be gay and disabled today.

As well as being a fantastic celebration of the strong and vibrant LGBT community and how far they have come in recent years, the parades presence reminds us of the regular difficulties and barriers minorities of any kind can still face.

This struggle is then multiplied when also factoring in a disability and now having to deal with being excluded from societies ‘norms’ on two different levels.

Dating with a physical, mental or sensory impairment can be notoriously hard work on its own. Channel 4’s hit show ‘The Undateables’ brought this to public attention, but didn’t factor in same sex couples. When your pool of potential suitors gets reduced even further because of your orientation, you may start to wonder if you’ll ever enjoy a fulfilling love life.

Adding to that there’s the notoriously high standards imposed by the gay community itself. In a world stereotyped with images of perfect styling and washboard stomachs, it’s no surprise that gay disabled people may feel the whole scene is a little closed-minded.

But of course you never know who you might meet once you get yourself out there. And being out there means quite literally being out… at night… in bars and clubs, which isn’t always so practical. Big clubs like ‘Revenge’ in Brighton don’t make it immediately obvious on their website that they cater for or are accessible for different needs. And at a sprawling 3 floors or so, it’s doubtful that the vast majority of the club is, at the very least, wheelchair accessible.

Luckily Brighton is one of the most gay friendly places in the WORLD so there is a varied selection of bars, clubs and other events to busy yourself with. But what if you live in a remote area, and considering there is an appealing resource for you, you then simply can’t get to it?

Thankfully with the wonders of the modern age it is now easier than ever to cast your net out to all of the fish in your dating sea and seek solace with those in similar situations. Dating sites like Match.com look sleek and have big advertising campaigns behind them, further reinstating online dating as the modern way to live and communicate.

But in the dizzying digital cosmopolis, it might be more appealing [and less overwhelming] to instead opt for specific sites over mega brands.

This would be fine if you were simply gay, or even looking for something trivial and borderline suspect like Uniform Dating. But being both gay and disabled apparently does not entitle you to a very large or attractive selection of websites.

You can’t ignore the good intentions of sites like Whispers4u.com with their own distinct ‘gay’ section. But the design and general feel pales in comparison to the more colourful straight, disabled ‘main’ portion. Why make it any less of an experience and suck all the fun from it?

And then there’s just the plain old bizarre Gaydisableddating.co.uk. The imaginatively titled site starts out by cutting out the market of lesbians altogether and then on closer inspection claims: “Gay Disabled Dating is discreet online dating club tailored to help lonely wives and neglected husbands safely explore their desires with someone who understands the science of discreet encounters and extramarital affairs.”

Huh?! Something doesn’t seem quite right here… Assuming that this is hopefully a legit site(?) they seem to be needlessly confusing their demographic.

Then on the more basic side comes the right to basic sex education, which can be ignored even when dealing with disabled heterosexual sexuality. For example, the deaf and blind gay community can be left vulnerable to HIV/AIDS if the information is not delivered to them in a format they can digest. These over sights are now not only isolating and insulting, but potentially life threatening.

Despite what still needs to be done for gay and disabled people, it is important to recognise that with struggles can emerge a completely refreshing and modern outlook.

Being different because of a disability can mean you are more resilient to being treated as such and therefore the empathetic understanding of other groups is stronger. Studies have shown that there is less homophobia in disabled circles and that means that disabled people may be more comfortable coming out.

As Phillip Rubin, the former president of the ‘Rainbow Alliance of the Deaf’ once said, ‘Perhaps we’ve learned to develop thick skin about being ourselves, whether we’re deaf or gay.’

Some Pretty Good Resources

Outsiders.org.uk – Offers some straight forward, sensible advice about being disabled and LGBT. Including a relatively healthy list of contacts, newsletters and workshops.

Regard.org.uk – ‘The National Organisation of Disabled Lesbians, Gay Men, Bi-Sexuals and Transgendered People’ is promising some updates soon so keep your eyes peeled. They have previously raised issues with London Pride about its accessibility.

Rad.org – ‘Rainbow Alliance of the Deaf’ is dedicated to maintaining a deaf LGBT society and on going conversation. Although based in the US and Canada their conferences might still be of interest if you can get to them!

There are many inspirational poster children for being disabled and likewise for being gay. But how many icons are proudly disGAYbled? You might be pleasantly surprised at this fact file:

Lord Byron picture

Lord Byron

 

Lord Byron

Who? English Poet

LGBT? Gay

Disability? Physical. Dysplasia (failure of a body part to form properly) on his foot causing him to limp.

Leonardo Da Vinci Picture

Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo Da Vinci

Who? All round Renaissance genius. Painter of the ‘Mona Lisa.’LGBT? Gay

Disability? Epilepsy

 

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Stephen Fry

 

Stephen Fry

Who? National Treasure and Actor

LGBT? Gay

Disability? Bi-Polar Disorder

 

 

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo

Who? Mexican Artist

 LGBT? Bi-Sexual

 Disability? Physical. After being involved in a bus accident as a teenager, although she managed to walk again, she suffered from crippling pain throughout her entire life. This could leave her bed ridden for months and she was sadly left unable to carry children.

 

WE WANT TO HERE FROM YOU!

Are you LGBT and disabled?

What do you think of the resources available?

How did you/are you going about finding love?

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