Clothespins, sex, and cerebral palsy

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By: RachCC BY 2.0

Carrie is a Los Angeles-based writer who’s written about her experiences with kink and disability. In this excerpt, she’s describing her first kink experience with her lover (and gives us an awesome suggestion for a safe word):

I never asked her to stop, which is a shame, because our safeword was dinosaur and I still think that’s amazing. But alas, there was no dinosaur, and when she took the blindfold off, I saw that my chest was covered in clothespins. (When you’re in your twenties, nipple clamps are expensive, so you work with what you have.) I’d never seen my body look like that. She must have been pretty impressed, because the first thing she said was, “I’ve never been able to do that before. Nobody has been able to take that many.”

It’s not often (i.e., almost never) that I get told I’m good at a physical activity. But now my body, which had spent so many years letting me down and making decisions without my consent, had gone and done something absolutely right — and done it better. It had done something other people’s bodies, “healthy” bodies, hadn’t been able to.

Read all of “Know Me Where It Hurts: Kink, Sex, and Cerebral Palsy,” over on Autostraddle. Then, let’s get a conversation going about how sex can help you in surprising ways. We’d especially love to hear from Homies with experiences with sex and disability.

PS: Thanks to Catie for emailing us about this!

Comments on Clothespins, sex, and cerebral palsy

  1. I have spastic diplegic cerebral palsy, and much like Carrie, I fall in that weird space of “Huh, you’re not normal” and “OH MY GOD, I’m so sorry and you’re so strong and-”

    Cut the crap.

    I’ve been through lots of things in my life, and all of them have made me who I am today. Like Carrie says, there’s Old Pain (which is familiar and almost comfortable in its own way) and New Pain (which is terrifying because really, when you’ve got a disability and lots of other stuff on top of it, “WHAT ELSE IS WRONG NOW, DAMNIT?!”) I was never interested in sex or kissing or anything (outside of fanfiction) because my body wouldn’t work that way, and certainly, no one would ever look at me like I was desirable.

    While Carrie mentions the idea that “someone will accept you for who you are” tends to be “feel better so I don’t feel uncomfortable”, my partner did. My partner looks at me and sees all the physical problems (and the problem that I hate laundry) and accepts all of them. On one of our first dates, he looked at me and told me that I was beautiful because I was strong and that he didn’t care about my scars. Nor did he care about the flare-ups that sometimes make me look like I’m having a seizure. He wanted ME. I was desirable, even with scars, and even with my random checks of gravity to make sure the floor still exists, or my absolute inability to walk with two full glasses of water in my hands.

    As for sex? We had to get creative. While I’m not inflexible, and do practice yoga- I’m not flexible either. Both of us did a LOT of research and watched pron together and commented on how we could modify positions. Sometimes, a position he loves absolutely doesn’t work for my body, and we have to move. The best thing we’ve found about my disability and sex is that because my nerves are always heightened, I’m incredibly responsive “compared to normal girls” (his words, not mine). So we play with fabrics and feathers and I’ve got a ribbon collar. We like temperature play a lot. D/s allows me to safeword out if anything isn’t working for me physically, or if I need him to shift.

    We’re mostly like other people when it comes to sex, really. (as much as sex is normalized? whatever that means.) But appreciating my body for what it can and can’t do has made us closer as a couple, and more aware of each other in many ways, whether that’s sex, or the simple awareness that we’ve both got our own limits (physical or not) and has allowed us to learn how to compromise. That’s carried over into our relationship as a whole, and it’s made life easier.

    After all, compromise is kinda one of my favorite things. (Especially if that means my hands get tied over my head!)

    • I used to take (maybe still take but it’s been 2 years now) seizures and I LOVE LOVE LOVE your description of them. Now whenever someone asks why I don’t drive I’m using that description.

      • I believe the leg tremors we see when our legs are propped up or we get cramped are called “clonus”. As for the spasms that travel up your spine and make your head and neck twitch, well. Those are just crappy. 😛

        For all able-bodied people reading this, let me try and clarify a bit. (Don’t be afraid to ask questions of me, at least! I’d love to have a discussion and open up a dialogue!)

        Imagine that you’re perfectly relaxed, and everything is calm. A bit of wind gusts over you, and all of a sudden, everything hurts. Your muscles are twitching and you can feel the blood pounding through them- you don’t want to twitch. It’ll make people ask questions- but whoops, your neck just went to the side for a moment without you controlling it at all.

        Personally, MelRuth, I do drive, but mostly in town. If it’s long trips, I have to stop at least once every hour to get out and stretch, or I drive with my SO. He’d say he’s my driver. 😉

  2. Whoa. I, too, mix kink and cerebral palsy. I’m a submissive. What Carrie says in the full piece is right on: pain and I go way back, so a Dominant should be worried LESS because of my disability, not more. Within reason. It’s also true of me that I kind of revel in being able to handle and enjoy what some other can’t, because there are many other activities from which I have always responsibly excluded myself. Very cool… you think you’re all alone in the world, and then the Offbeat Empire posts something that hits VERY close to home!

  3. I once was fooling around with a massage therapist, just finishing school and getting into the working world of massage therapy. For months we had a fabulous arrangement where he would call to see if I was busy, if I wasn’t I would go over to his place (or more rarely him to mine) and he would practice a massage routine the day before an interview. Usually after the interview practice was over, he’d just massage me until I was done, he was, or it devolved into not-massaging. Everyone wins.

    Thing is, with my fibromyalgia, I get lots of knots in my muscles. He was a toppy type person, I was a bottomy type person, and he really did take delight in making me wince and hiss and moan every time he found a new knot, but the orgasms when he worked through each one were amazing. Well after a couple months of regular massage work, he was able to get my muscles relaxed again more and more quickly with each session. And it got to the point that he was massaging muscles he’d only HEARD about before, because between the fibro pain being so constant and being a masochist anyway, I could take a lot more deep tissue and that good kind of pain than anyone he’d ever met before (and as I’ve heard it reported, anyone ever since too).

    That’s when I felt powerful in my disability for once. The dull, aching, thuddy pain of a deep massage or flogging or paddling is perfect for me, and I can take more than a lot of tops are used to dishing out. I had a few years to explore that before I moved away from my community, and I think losing that powerful feeling contributed to my descent into depression afterward. I don’t know if that’s a way back out, but MAN it was cool while it lasted.

  4. Oh my gosh. So this is the first time I’ve ever commented in all the years I’ve been reading the offbeat sites….because this article really clicked in so many ways, only I’m not the one who’s disabled. My partner has Spinal Muscular Atrophy, and we’re both kinky, and a ton of the things in the article are things we’ve dealt with or discussed over the last few months. So many things are resonating here that I don’t know where to start! Hehe.

    I think the one thing that stood out the most is this bit:

    “It’s not often (i.e., almost never) that I get told I’m good at a physical activity. But now my body, which had spent so many years letting me down and making decisions without my consent, had gone and done something absolutely right — and done it better. It had done something other people’s bodies, “healthy” bodies, hadn’t been able to.”

    He is by far the best sex I’ve ever had, and not just because he’s my favorite human. In part, his SMA is one of the big reasons it’s so good. His muscles are weak, so he’s got a very soft, gentle touch, and things have to go slowly when it’s him pleasing me, almost torturously so, which is perfect and exactly what I need (having things withheld drives me crazy because I’m so impatient, in a good kinky way!), and as a result of being less physical and more cerebral in general, he’s really good with words and is much better at dirty talk than anyone I’ve ever met. It all works so perfectly for me, and the first time I told him he was the best I’d ever had, it was exactly as the author mentioned here…his body is exactly perfect for me in a way nobody else’s can be, and it shocked him. He told me he never expected to be someone’s best given his limitations, and I think it took him by surprise. The truth is nobody else can do what he does.

    He also has some kinks that women in the past have been reluctant to indulge because of his disability. He enjoys certain degradation/humiliation type things, and in the past it’s as if women already kind of felt “bad” for him and couldn’t bring themselves to participate in that kind of thing, almost like they’d feel guilty about it. I’ve never had that issue with it though. I mean, regardless of his physical body, what turns him on turns him on!

    There are so many other points but I think I’ll leave it at this one for now! I wish sex and disability were a much more frequently discussed topic!

  5. As an OT, reading this and all of the comments makes me scream, YES!!!!
    Having a disability does not make one non sexual (unless that is your choice).

    I dated a paraplegic who had no erectile function, however is was one of the most intimate relationships I have ever had. Boys that make you go, MMMMMM.

    I love people who embrace their disabilities and utilize their amazing abilities.

  6. Thank you for an article about disability and sex, this is really great! I have muscular dystrophy and to be honest I’ve gone the other way, I used to be ‘fancy’ in my sex life but now that I’ve married my loving supportive husband my sex life is more vanilla and frequency is low but I think after worrying about this,I’ve stopped worrying so so much, as its a companionate hetro marriage not focussed on sex, we are affectionate and sexual but my disability has affected flexibility and strength so I’ve ‘settled’ for a vanilla sex life that is loving and doesn’t cause me pain. I used to find pain pleasurable somewhat but as my disability progresses any extra pain now doesn’t turn me on. Hope this helps anyone where acrobatics in sex are no longer an option to know that I feel more myself and at peace in my married sex life than I ever did when my disability was less pronounced when I was single and dating and the variety of sex was greater and more physical.

  7. I have Cerebral Palsy too. (Spastic Right Hemi Diplegia.) I’m not (as of now) as adventurous as some others, but I enjoy sex with my partner. Sometimes there are positions that need to be adjusted, and it’s not always a smooth and graceful transition, but we work together. And of course there are days that I just don’t want to because it’s an “off day,” and things hurt. Thanks OBH for featuring this writer and this issue!

  8. I have several painful diseases (psoriatic arthritis, fibromyalgia and IBS being the most relevant to sexy time) and am a masochistic sub. The tough balance for me is that I need enough “sexy” pain in order to ignore the not-sexy pain in order to enjoy sex. I like my sex rough, but my body is not often up for it. My hips, spine and sacroiliac joints are among my most inflamed areas, so you can imagine the difficulties that creates for flexibility, holding a position, and anything overly enthusiastic… We’ve developed something like an unspoken language for communicating what isn’t working so that I don’t have to interrupt the d/s flow with a mood killing, “OW, no, stop pushing on my spine”, etc. The magical thing about kinky sex is that when we get it right, I really don’t feel my ever present shitty pain because it’s drowned out by more positive sensations.

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