Sorry. Just thought I’d get that thought out there before anyone else thinks it.
I have a notoriously high sex drive. I love it. I have described it in the past as “That hobby that I can do when I’m too short on brains to do anything more complicated.” but it’s also a nice way of interacting with other people for the sake of interacting with them, or for having lots of nice physical feelings, or for feeling closer to the other person, or just to be nice to someone, or to find out a new sex-thing, or for all sorts of reasons.
And I am very, very aware of the importance of consent. Several years ago, the original shoelace-tier waited until I’d taken my evening medication, and raped me. That was a mess. Before that, an ex used to wait until I was so stressed and angry that I dissassociated, and then have sex with… Well, the other thing. I can barely remember. He stopped, when the other thing left him in a bloodied heap. Another used to semi wake me up in the morning, or at night, then pressure me into sex before I was fully awake.
And on a more personal level – I really hate the thought of having sex with someone who isn’t incredibly enthusiastic about sex at that time – Whether it be because they really want sex with someone now, or because they really want sex with me personally now, or because they want to try out a new thing, or give me a bit of a present, or try out a thing they’ve just heard of and thought I’d be good at, or whatever. I physically shrivel at the thought of hurting someone, or having someone be too polite or frightened to say “Actually, no, I’m really not interested”, or of continuing during sex with someone who has mentally checked out, but is acting the part so as not to offend me.
For the record, I know that sex with me isn’t always the easiest thing in the world.
I have Ehlers-Danlos Hypermobility. I can’t always support my own weight, or coordinate my movement. My joints dislocate easily, and at least my hips and shoulders, and usually my wrists, do as well during sex. Every time. Yes, I can put my feet behind my head. Yes, I can get my hands to places that you’d never normally expect to manage. But honestly, being alive and in this body all the time hurts, to the point that ninety eight percent of the time I’d rather just have a quiet wank in the company of nice people, and leave it at that.
I keep seeing a repeated meme in consent culture; “You can’t consent if you’re intoxicated. If you’re too high to sign a contract, you’re too high for sex”, and to a certain extent I agree that, if you’re beyond a certain degree of intoxication, you can’t consent. If you’re completely blackout-drunk, you can’t consent. There’s a big uncertain zone in the middle where you might really consent at the time, but where a sober-you wouldn’t consent. And then there’s where I exist, all the time.
I take morphine. A constant, low-level trickle from 20mg of slow-release a day, with more on top of that in the form of Oramorph – 10-30mg at a time. To be pain-free enough to even contemplate sex, I generally have to have taken about 20mg of Oramorph within the last half hour. At that point in time, I wouldn’t be able to sign a contract, drive a car, remember my seven times table or play chess. But it’s the only time I have in which to have really satisfying sex, that doesn’t hurt, that I enjoy, and that is practically possible.
Current thinking on consent means that, in order to toe the party line, I have to be celibate.
I don’t agree. I enjoy sex. I enjoy sex with other people, more than masturbation, and I want to be able to keep having it, even though I am usually “too intoxicated” by the “can you sign a contract?” metric. I have had a lot of sex whilst intoxicated which has been some of the most joyous of my life. I have experimented with new kinks and new partners. I don’t want all of that to be immediately grabbed by people with no idea of nuance who will scream “You’re in denial!” at me.
How’s it done? Talking. Endless talking. Discussion with anyone that I’m likely to have sex with which talks about what we both do and don’t like, and what consent and non-consent physically looks like whilst under the influence. Plans in advance of when it is all right and not all right to initiate sex. Discussions of the notable non-correlation of my physical response and my actual consent (Morphine can make you a little bit impotent, and conversely can give you inappropriate hard-ons at a slight breeze. I can be very up for it, but not quite up for it, if you see what I mean. Lots of lube and care needed). Slowly introducing any new sensation or position, and checking during the act whether we’re both fine with it. Gradually becoming more ambitious and fluid with repetition and familiarity and lots of non-verbal communication.
Not less morphine. Many, many years of painkiller avoidance has taught me that less morphine isn’t the answer.
So why does it annoy me so much, rather than just being another basically-good idea that gets lost in the nuance-free shouting of most internet discourse? “Nothing whilst intoxicated” is a good rule of thumb, isn’t it? Unless you’re really good at very honest communication, to a level of honesty that most people are scared by, just avoid the drugged sex and you’ll be fine. No big hardship.
But no. It’s not fine, because it’s just another thing which suggests that disabled people don’t have sex. It ignores that a fair number of us need drugs which affect our moods and judgement (Whether directly or indirectly) just to get through the day. We don’t need to feel lik, by having sex whilst continuing to take our medications, we’re doing something irresponsible or off-message. Our partners don’t need to feel like they’re probably raping us every time we have sex. If nothing else, it takes away our ability to define for ourselves that some interactions are consensual, and some are rape. The second person that I confided in, about having been non-violently raped whilst high on my own painkillers (Taken according to the packet instructions, thank you Tramadol), insisted to me that there was no difference between that and consensual sex with my partner. Repeatedly. Told me over and over that if I wanted to call ST a rapist and a bitch, I had to say the same thing about my partner. Until I was actually crying, and they were making sure that they’d won the argument with “I know it’s upsetting, but you have to accept that you’re being raped all the time!”
GPs, physios, and therapists over the years have been variously horrified, incredulous and disgusted that I was having sex at all. I’ve had one burst into giggles at my frustration at a medication which briefly destroyed my libido. I’ve had one actually say “Oh, but of course [loss of sexual function] won’t matter to you because…” and only stop when I gave her a stare that nearly made her combust. I’ve mostly just encountered dismissal and disbelief that my sex life could be a part of my life that I valued.
And this is because, in the public opinion, disabled people aren’t sexual creatures. We go to bed early, and drink cocoa, and have strange, beige appliances all over our houses, and wear ugly clothes, and socialise at carefully-shepherded daytime events. You’ve never known futility until you’ve tried to get a wheelchair taxi at 3am when you’re drunk. Our friends are angels and our partners are diligent carers, nun-like in their habits and acting as our chaste companions.
But yes, effectively – Until we get around the idea that someone can be on a lot of prescription medications that alter their mood or inhibition, but still be willing and able to consent to sex, we’re adding to the idea that disabled people aren’t sexual. And that adds to the infantilisation and othering of disabled people, and the isolation of their partners, and the dismissal of their relationships as somehow “not quite normal”. And that’s really, really damaging.
If you’ll exuse me, I’ll be in my bunk.