The Difficulties Of Sex When You Have Cerebral Palsy

Seeking sex can be hard for all of us; one can worry about self-image, the possibility of rejection and a million different little things. Am I dressed OK? Is my hair right? Was that a joke? Should I laugh? But it’s much more difficult when you’ve got problems with intimate because of a disability.

Ryan O’Connell has cerebral palsy, and wrote about dealing with his own self-consciousness about his movements, his surgical scars, and how people would see him:

I experienced so many unrequited crushes. So much flat-out rejection. I remember being 19 years old, waiting in line at a gay club with a very attractive friend. A guy walked up to us, looked at my hot friend, and said, “Damn, you’re sexy.” Then he turned to me, scrunched up his nose, and said, “And you look like Harry Potter.”

His dismissal hurt, but I was used to men scoffing at me. A few months earlier, I tried to make a move on a boy, but he claimed he couldn’t kiss me because he had Lyme disease. When I was 24, my best friend and I hung out with a dude I had a crush in Palm Springs. After we parted, I texted him, “I think I have a crush on you.” His response: “I think I have a crush on your best friend, Caitie! She’s the best!” Two years later, I tried to kiss a cute Swedish guy at my doorstep, and he literally blocked his face with his hand.

Of course, I didn’t strike out all the time. I had my fair share of drunken hook-ups and dated a few guys here and there, but I always stopped things before they got too serious. I stayed celibate partially because no one great wanted to fuck me, but also because I suffered from serious intimacy issues. It was a vicious cycle. I craved physical affection, but the second a guy touched me, I freaked out and felt unworthy.The gay disabled guy does NOT get to have amazing sex, I’d think. The gay disabled guy does NOT get to have a relationship.

O’Connell also talks about how the lack of representation in gay media helped fuel his insecurity:

I blame part of my defeatist attitude on Queer As Folk. When I stumbled upon the DVDs one day at Blockbuster Video, I immediately blew through the entire first season faster than Brian Kinney blew through all the patrons of Babylon. I was 12 years old, in the thick of puberty and horniness, and seeing gay sex outside of a porn context was revelatory and exciting — but, as I later discovered, it also fucked me up. Queer As Folk presented a superficial world, where hot sociopathic guys with nice asses have mind-blowing sex 24/7 while smart, adorable gays hang by the sidelines. (The actors playing the smart, adorable guys all looked great naked, so I’m still not clear on how they failed to get laid.) The show’s message about the importance of physical perfection came in loud and queer for gimpy ol’ me. After coming to the umpteenth shot of washboard abs, I’d look down at my own body, which was undefined and covered in scars from various surgeries. I’d think, Well, babe, I’m fucked! And not in the literal way.

Thankfully, O’Connell has overcome his insecurities and has been in a relationship for the past year:

It took me a long fucking time to have the self-esteem to go after guys I wanted. I had to basically tell myself, “YOU ARE WORTH HAVING A DICK IN YOUR ASS” over and over again until I believed it. Once I did, I got a boyfriend and things became pretty chic, but by no means am I “cured.” In the last year, I’ve lost 30 pounds and have become obsessed with working out. Deep down, I think I want to become a hot gay on Instagram and have guys objectify me. Sure, I’m in a great relationship, and finally having regular sex, but I still want to post a shirtless selfiie so some random stranger online will tell me he wants to come on my face.

I could get in the best shape of my life and still never measure up. I can get abs by forgoing margaritas, I can get the perfect ass by doing squats, but my limp is here to stay, and my scars aren’t going anywhere. I’ve come a long way in terms of accepting my disability—a year ago, I wouldn’t even mention cerebral palsy out loud—but part of me still wants to somehow beat cerebral palsy, scrub it from my record one cardio workout at a time. But the more I talk about my disability, the less I feel stigmatized — that’s when real change can happen. If we give attention to gay men with disabilities, we can remove the stigma, and gay guys with disabilities will stop feeling embarrassed.

While O’Connell’s not in a wheelchair, there are options for people in them as well. There are special chairs for sex, like the Intimate Rider, and other adapted toys, like high-powered vibrators for people with reduced sensation.