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Sexless in the City (For No Fault of Mine)

A picture of disability rights activist Malini Chib sitting on a wheelchair. She is has black shoulder-length hair and is wearing glasses. Her top is white with black stripes and her trousers are black. The text beside her reads 'One Little Finger, Malini Chib'

If a woman likes a man, she seduces him with her charm, wit and humour. This, I have seen, works. Well, almost. Because it had never worked with me. It’s not because of a lack of charm, wit and humour in me. On the contrary. I have been told that God has given me an overdose of these. But even this excessive dollop does not help me because I am disabled. After all, women on wheelchairs are not allowed to fantasize about sex.

Sex and intimacy are subjects hardwired into your brain, no matter who you are. You don’t have to consciously think about them. Do you need to be told to think about sex? Well, neither do we. So what if our hands and legs don’t move properly, or we don’t have eyes to see, or we live all day in our wheelchairs, or we can’t even hold a hand even if we do get a hand to hold? You see, people forget that the most important/significant sexual organ in the human body, is the brain. If it is intact, we will think of sex, whether we want to or not.

But you cannot help your fantasy, can you. You are a woman, you have a body and you have feelings. Want it or not, god has given you desires as well. The problem is not about fulfilling these desires. But the problem begins when you begin talking about it.

Thus the ‘taboo’ of sex becomes the final frontier in the story of the disabled. Talk about anything, but don’t talk of sex if you are disabled.

In most societies, even to this day, being a woman is a disability in itself. A man is free to do what and how he chooses, but women still has to cater to the needs of the society at large. Women are expected to fit inside watertight compartments. A woman is a caregiver of the family, a mother, a sex provider for the man and one who is expected to give much more than she receives. How will a disabled woman ever fit into all of these stereotypical roles?

Thus, being a woman on a wheelchair is like living with a double disability. Would a non-disabled man care for such a woman? Would he agree to the role-reversal that comes with having relationship with such a woman? Would he be willing to go the extra mile, keep his apprehensions alive and have sex with a body that is far from being ‘normal’? Is it fair to even expect him to?

Hence, while it might be ‘sex in the city’ for the average woman, for a woman with disability, it is ‘sexless in the city’. And it doesn’t matter which city in the world I live in or go to including the two cities I have lived the most in – Mumbai and London.

I have a fair, smooth skin, an above-average IQ with a double MA one being from the UK. I am attractive, I am witty and I can retort back and forth with you. Yet, I have never had a romantic relationship in my life.

But I am not depressed about it. Things are changing and changing fast. There are many people in the world who are writing about these taboo subjects, breaking the spell, freeing others in the process. The problem is not just that people like me, of whom there are millions in the world, don’t get to have a romantic and sexual intimacy. The problem is that we are scared to even fantasize about it. Societal taboos, affect the disabled more than others.

But things are changing fast. People are changing fast. People with disabilities are changing fast. They are not embarrassed about anything anymore, including their sexual needs. I have read and seen documentaries and films about sex workers specialising in catering to the needs of the disabled. We are a class in ourselves now and that is indeed heartening to know.

Yet, things need to change much more. Attitudes need to change much more and much more rapidly. There is still a long way to go before all of us truly break out of our shells, come out of our closets and become a part of the society at large, a little different yes, but a part of the whole nonetheless.

But at the back of every non-disabled mind especially the youth of today, the feeling of charity and benevolence comes in that ‘I am so great, I look after a person’ or the disabled person may be too comfortable in a relationship and let her able-bodied partner do everything. In both these scenarios the relationship will end quickly as both partners take the other for granted.

For sex or an emotional involvement, they has to be a two-way involvement. The disabled person obviously has to give more to make the relationship work. The disabled person must be more accommodating than the non-disabled person.

The point is not whether we get sex or not. The point is that we are prevented from even thinking or talking about it. It’s like we suddenly become untouchables and despicable creatures just because we think, talk and demand sexual intimacy.

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