Sex Diaries: 'Just Because I'm In A Wheelchair Doesn't Mean I Don't Want Sex'

I'm 28 and have had quadriplegic cerebral palsy all my life.

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I’ve been in a wheelchair my whole life – I was born with quadriplegic cerebral palsy as I arrived 14 weeks prematurely. Although I haven’t been affected mentally or academically, I am physically disabled and have to use a motorised wheelchair to get around. I live at home with my parents and brother because of the help I need and have a team of carers who come in the morning to get me ready and at night to put me to bed to take some of the strain off my family.

I’ve never had any sexual experience but as I get older it’s something I know I would really like. I know for a fact that I am a sexual individual and would like to have sex within a loving and stable relationship.

I have been in love once. I was 17 and went on a holiday with a group of other disabled people. He was one of the helpers on the trip and I fell for him. But it was unrequited – he had a girlfriend, it was complicated. I wasn’t channelling my need for love in a healthy, way but I’d never felt feelings like that for someone before. I had to learn to switch those feelings off because it wasn’t going to happen. It was a dark time for me.

That was over 10 years ago now so I’ve been feeling like I want to have sexual experiences for quite some time but still haven’t. Now, partly due to my age, I am way past the stage of merely being excited by the idea of romance and flirting. I want to genuinely experience it for myself firsthand as many of my contemporaries have done already.

“Society doesn’t see disabled people as sexual, or as potential sexual partners”

I’m not tempted by dating apps for several reasons. Firstly, I am not really into the idea of casual sex. I don’t judge anyone who does it, but that’s not what I’m about. When my confidence has been at its lowest, I’ve considered it as a quick solution but I know deep down I don’t want that.

Secondly I’m never quite sure of people’s intentions on dating apps and there’s a lot of risk. I’m obviously quite severely disabled and that’s a big ask of someone. But, because I don’t use apps, it has been quite hard for me to meet any prospective partners. There is a fear factor, but also logistically my life is quite regimented. For example, my carers come at 9pm for the evening shift and I have to be at home to meet them. So planning to go out gets a little tricky – I’m not as free as other people.

I think one of the other main problems I face is that society doesn’t see disabled people as sexual, or as potential sexual partners. Disabled people are viewed as those to be pitied or viewed through a medical lens rather than as desirable. We are seen as having fragile bodies to be kept alive at all costs, because if not, the consequences would be dire. People also have misconceptions of what I might be able to do sexually – I do understand where that comes from but it’s not fair.

Because of these preconceptions, those who do find us sexually attractive are seen as perverts – which is a stigma I attach to them, too, sometimes. I want to have confidence in other people that not everyone who fancies someone with a disability, or at least wants to try dating us, is a pervert or fetishising us.

Sometimes, when I’m feeling low, I also wonder if I deserve something as simple as a sexual relationship because my life isn’t simple. Do I really deserve it? But then I remember – I should be able to experience sexuality in the same way as everyone else. Disabled people have the right to explore rites of passage, too.