Citizens who mostly fall outside the category of ‘normal’ are preached at to brush aside their strong natural desires, resulting in an increase of frustration, stress and emotional instability veiled in the guise of being the ‘right thing to do’. Among such groups are people belonging to LGBT communities and persons with disabilities.
It is my personal experience that many discourses prescribe to us the establishment of platonic relationships, in which the option of forming an intimate bond with another person is absent. Socio-cultural norms play a significant role in conditioning our minds to the idea that the inability to independently perform activities of daily living with chronic problems is equal to the inability to meet one’s sexual needs. Our sexuality is never allowed to blossom.
Years back, as a young adult with disability, I used to feel a sense of apprehension, horror, shame or embarrassment when anyone talked about sex and sexuality. And now, during my professional life as a counsellor, I often witness many young men and women with disabilities becoming absolutely silent when asked about their sexual desires, just as if they have been caught red-handed committing a crime or stealing something. They find themselves unable to have the kind of intimate encounters they want, which disconnects them from their inner selves and affects how the outer world defines them.
The response of society towards disability and persons with disabilities has been the defining factor in making their lives asexual.
It is quite likely that people with disability grow up having a sheltered life and a total lack of privacy. Their engagement in heteronormative institutions like matrimony and parenting is almost forbidden because of stereotypical gender-based roles in the society. Similarly, the prevalence of sexual violence against the disabled is used as one of the justifications to negate any sexual possibilities in the guise of protection and safety, while the violence itself goes unaddressed. All this, advertently or inadvertently, leads to the suppression or repression of their physical urges and needs.
Repression of any kind is unconscious and is meant to prevent threatening thoughts from becoming alive, whereas suppression is conscious. In both cases, the person is prevented from expressing his or her sexuality. Sexual impulses are linked with feelings of guilt or shame. Chastity becomes an imposed burden.This is unhealthy because it forces people to live unnaturally. The ultimate result of all this is ‘sexual depression’, which is defined as the experience of feelings of depression regarding one’s sex life.
Weakness of the human body and muscle breakdown with diminished physical activities with age are natural. Women go through lots of hormonal changes that reduce their craving for sex. All this impacts their sexuality. But when abstinence is involuntary, as in the case of the disabled, the outcomes can be anger, self-doubt, frustration and depression. People with disabilities develop a feeling that they aren’t where they’re supposed to be, according to the norms of society.
There is a unique and complex relationship between depression and sex. While absence of sex can make a person feel worthless and depressed, depression can also steal one’s sex drive and diminish the yearning to feel attractive. Sex boosts the mood and act as a cushion against the effects of depression.
A disability might reduce some physical sensations. But getting sexually depressed is no solution. We can try to break this vicious circle of suppression, repression and sexual depression. By focusing on what physical sensations we have, we can adopt a more specific definition of sex.
It is true that sexual release, or orgasms are not only important from a physiological point of view, but that sex also validates the feeling of being desired and loved, both mentally and physically. It makes us feel alive, and human. For this, we must remember to replace the emphasis on ‘outcomes’. Do not focus on the end result, but on the process of exploration. Emphasise the journey rather than the destination. If we do this, we may be able to connect with a great partner who will be equally excited to join us on a journey of sexual discovery.
Featured image credit: Nicole Roggeman