By Mark E. Smith
My friend was recently interviewed on a television show. And, based on my friend being a triple amputee, the subject of sex came up, and the interviewer was bold enough to ask, “Can you?”
My friend answered, “Yes, I do well,” and both he and the interviewer chuckled.
However, I sat on the edge of my seat waiting for the real question to be asked relating to the subject: “What about true trust and emotional intimacy – are you capable of having that?”
But, the question was never asked, keeping on par with how skewed both our personal and cultural perspectives on sexuality are.
I mean, many question whether those with disabilities can have sex, and it’s an assumed that those who are able-bodied can have sex. Yet, few ever ask anyone or ourselves, Are you truly capable of exceptional trust and emotional intimacy? – which is a far bigger part of sexuality than the physicality of jumping in bed (which is absurdly easy). In fact, the physicality of sex is often a mask or mechanism to avoid true intimacy. For many, physically engaging in sex is far easier than engaging in emotional intimacy – there’s less vulnerability involved. Physically acting is easy; opening ourselves up to be emotionally vulnerable is a much tougher, scary process. I read a wonderful quote that said, “Truly making love means allowing ourselves to be emotionally vulnerable and finding security and pleasure in it.”
I see many of my peers – regardless of disability – who use sex as a way to avoid real feelings, or confuse it for feelings. If we have esteem issues, body image issues, vulnerability issues, having sex is a quick, validating fix. I must be a real man because she’s having sex with me – see I am worthy! But, such superficial validation is never lasting (and often merely has negative results on our emotional issues in the long run – the validation leaves with the sex). Sure, feeling desired in the moment can chase away all kinds of insecurities. But, once the moment passes, all of our emotional struggles are still there, only magnified for the worse. Put simply, physical sex for the wrong motives can often drive us farther apart from real intimacy with others, and emotionally isolate us further.
In this way, we often have the process backward: Sex doesn’t lead to true trust and intimacy; rather, true trust and intimacy leads to great, healthy relationships – and all of that leads to truly healthy sexual experiences that then encompass the mind, body, and soul (it’s the difference between staring at the ceiling versus making the Earth stop in its rotation, time standing still).
Therefore, forget the question of, Can you have sex? It’s an absurd, moot point. And, start asking the question of, Are you capable of true trust and emotional intimacy? It’s only then that we’re on our way to deep, loving, lasting relationships.