A common adage in the disability world is ‘lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice.’ Those of us whole have spent the majority of our lives living with a disability hope this is true; we have seen the worst, what else can happen?
‘Lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice’, was what my doctor said, snapping off his gloves dismissively, after he failed to get a pap smear from me. My involuntary movements brought on from my cerebral palsy were working against both of us. He was angry, or at least that’s what I tell myself now as a means of justifying the next words out of his mouth.
“I don’t think sex will ever be possible for you.”
Because every woman knows that good sex should be just like a pap smear.
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The idea that I am not at risk for a gynaecological cancer simply because I happened to be born with a brain injury shows not only an astounding amount of ignorance about basic medicine, but also a refusal to see my femininity at the most basic level. My disability does not negate any of the responsibilities I have in taking care of my sexual health, nor does it change my right to these access services.
To have my sexual capacity questioned (and denied) during a gynaecological exam strikes at the heart of how poorly equipped even the “professionals” are when it comes to seeing women with disabilities reach their full potential: intellectually, emotionally, sexually.
Is it any wonder with medical professionals out to simply erase my sexually when my body makes it difficult for them, that my sexuality is denied in the media, in the stories we tell, in men who flirt and then swear they’ve never thought of me “in that way”?
Is it any wonder that someone with a disability is twice as likely to experience rape and sexual assault than their able-bodied counterparts? In case you were wondering, in 91% of those cases the perpetrator was either a friend, a carer, or a member of the family.
Is it any wonder why women with disabilities experience the highest rate of personal violence of any group in our society? For one thing we are usually physically dependent upon our abusers, making it extremely difficult to cut ties at all. But there is another reason why we are more likely to stay.
If your doctor can’t even be bothered to see you as a sexual being, wouldn’t you consider yourself lucky to find one person who did? Would you care if he was manipulative, or forced himself on you, or left you without help when you needed to eat.
At least there’s one guy out there who’s willing to have sex with you. He’s clearly willing to put up with a lot if he’s with you. The doctor confirmed it when your legs couldn’t even sit still in the stirrups.
Why would you ever leave someone like that?
Partial sedation is just one of the options available for women who may have trouble with a typical cervical exam. Some GPs might not have mobility equipment to meet every need and might be better off referring a patient to a local hospital where those needs can be met.
There is no excuse for what happened to me to occur to any woman ever.
Lightning does strike the same place twice, and shitty things can (and will) still happen to you even if you have a disability… including cancer. What is more tragic however, is anyone who denies you the right to lead your most fulfilling potential simply because they are too ignorant to expect it.
How It Feels is a weekly blogs series which aims to shine a light on people’s stories, covering subjects where voices are rarely heard. If you want to get involved, please email firstname.lastname@example.org