Lucy Beall Lott tells us of the difficulties of dating with a physical disability and the prejudice and cold-heartedness she has encountered in the past. She discusses various incidents, how she reacted to them, and how she moved passed them. She gives a candid commentary on the way our society views sex and disability, and asserts that, despite having a physical condition, this does not negate her sexuality or stop her from being a sexual being.
When I was seventeen, I was talking to an older guy who I thought was interested in me as a person, who saw my value beyond the label of my condition. That was before he said: “Would, like, really rough sex make your vagina fall out?”
No. It wouldn’t. That was one of the first times I was confronted with the fact that, due to my skin condition, people saw me differently in more ways than just one; just because I have scars and have to have the occasional surgery does not in any way mean that I am not a sexual person. I remember when I published my first article about living with my condition for Cracked.com, I made the rookie mistake of reading the comments. While the overwhelming majority were positive, some struck me and I was very taken aback. People were speculating about my sexuality, saying I would “obviously” be incapable of having a sex life and who would want to embark on a relationship with someone who had a skin condition such as mine anyway? I was appalled. Were they correct? Why was I presented with this in the first place?
In the United States, the topic of sexuality is still spoken about in hushed tones and the topic of disabilities (especially adults with disabilities) is often ignored altogether. Combine these two topics and it is hardly ever discussed. There is no representation in the media of adults with disabilities who are also capable of having sex and relationships. If there were, would that change the minds of those who left the comments on my article, or the guy who made such an outlandish assumption about my body?
It is normal and healthy to speculate about our sexualities, but whenever sexuality falls outside of the “norm” then many begin to recoil and feel uncomfortable. Especially in America, where many disabilities are met with a sense of shame, there seems to be no connection between differently-abled individuals and a sex life. People are unsure of how to approach it, and we are often alienated in the dating world because of this. Growing up in Texas, many guys did not want to date me because they thought I wasn’t capable of having sex, and they did not want to be seen with someone who had visible scars. In the UK, on the other hand, it has not been an issue whatsoever. I am happily in a relationship with no questions ever being asked about my skin condition. Yet many of my friends with my condition in the United States feel as though they'll never meet someone due to the adverse reactions we get from people when we have to say that there is something "wrong".
Again, this can boil down to the fact that in America we only see one body type represented in the media, airbrushed perfection, and anything that differs from this is seen as undesirable. We are beginning to show people of different sizes, which is fantastic, but those differing abilities or people with scars? Not so much. In the UK, we don’t see adverts for plastic surgery and scar removal in towns where farm animals out-populate people, as is the case back in my hometown.
“Sexy” is mostly not seen as a broad term, it is finite, only belonging to a select group of people. I remember boys in high school telling me that I would have an amazing body if it weren’t for my scars and bandages, which made them uncomfortable. Well, what if I had the same body but also had crutches, a wheel chair, an IV?
Perhaps if we saw more people of differing abilities represented as just gorgeous human beings, as opposed to being beautiful despite their conditions, these mindsets could begin to change. I’ll continue to feel sexy and at peace with my body and I will continue to feel the empowerment I feel from writing about my experiences, but, maybe, soon I won’t have to justify my opinion.