By Roberta Travis
EDITOR: For her own reasons, Roberta Travis does not wish to make known her line of work or place of residence. In her preface to this article, she said, “I had many fears regarding its publication, like being misunderstood, offending gay men or women, or, worse yet, getting accused of being another white, temporarily ablebodied woman chasing gimps. In this world of double standards and sexual phobias, the negative outcomes are all too probable.”
She acknowledges that her story makes a sweeping generalization or two, and reminds readers that there are always exceptions to every rule. We agree, but find the story altogether irresistable.
I am a woman who loves to make love. I like intense sex, with a lot of verbalization (words are OK, too), with men and women. I lost count long ago of how many people I’ve been with, but an extended number of years in various colleges, coupled with enduring polyamorous desires, has fueled my field experience. It’s not a numbers game for me at all, though. It’s some of the best, intimate, really human experiences of my life, and I take it seriously as long as a lot of fun is involved. Freud was on the right track about a few things, such as that, given the opportunity, most of us would rather be having sex instead of, say, working for a living.
Of all my partners, the best lover I ever had was a man who was paraplegic. I’ve been with quads and people with other disabilities, too, but this guy took the cake. He was completely in touch and at ease with his body (and mine) in spite of limited sensation, a moderately functional erection and inability to ejaculate. It just didn’t matter since neither of us cared to focus on these so-called “negatives.” I have now come to understand they are actually positives.
So what made him the best? His style. He was incredibly responsive and seemed to never get enough of making me feel wonderful. I think he’d say I treated him the same way. Ours was a relationship filled with lust, giving and receiving pleasure as long as we had the energy. Well, yes, he was truly skilled, having had close to 30 years’ experience as an adult. And, yes, he’d done plenty of reading and wasn’t afraid to try out or ask about what he read. What was really delightful, though, was that he wasn’t there to show me how great he was, and he wasn’t hung up on performance — mine or his. Ecstasy, plentiful as it was, wasn’t needed to confirm his sexuality. The truth is, men who can’t get past personal performance make me want to get up and leave before we get started.
Finally, a light bulb went off in my head — this guy made love like a woman! No wonder it was so delightful. He cared about me and my pleasure. He wanted to talk about what I liked, what he liked, what we were doing and, especially, how it felt, physically and emotionally. He immersed himself in the moment of intimacy, all fears and pretenses swept aside. He was not, like so many men, primarily penis-oriented and in a hurry to climax. It was an exploration of skin, sensation and tastes. Time stood still and every part of our bodies became erotic. How positively glorious!
Some of the other disabled guys I’ve been with have shared this style that makes sex so much more fun and adventurous. That’s another greal thing about having sex with men with spinal cord injury — each body is unique and requires more than a cursory exploration. Like women, these guys typically love having their nipples sucked, neck bitten, ears nibbled, head rubbed and skin caressed wherever they can feel it. And even if they can’t feel it, they like to watch. If I’d never made love with women, I wouldn’t have realized this similarity. It is a fabulous gift.
Our lovemaking also lasted longer, which is what most women want. Total arousal of mind and body takes time. Why else would it be possible for women to climax over and over again? In heterosexual sex, while men take the time to “get it up” again, precious intimate moments are unwittingly wasted. But using that time to pleasure your partner contributes to the overall arousal of both parties. If only nondisabled men could figure this out, there’d be a lot more satisfied women walking the planet.
I don’t have a disability, so I’m not certain why so many crips really do get it. I do know that being with a person with a disability makes me explore new ways to pleasure them, especially if their genital sensation is limited, and that they, in turn, must do the same with me because of their own physical impairment. It’s that mutual exploration that contributes to the expansion.
And then there’s the much misunderstood “phantom” orgasm. A lot of women can orgasm at will, usually through fantasy alone. Gina Ogden, psychologist and author of Women Who Love Sex, called this ability “thinking off.” Yeah, well, isn’t this exactly what is happening to people with SCI who experience climax?
I now feel I’m virtually guaranteed of better lovemaking with a paralyzed man than with a nondisabled man. (Sorry, even you guys with SCI are not better lovers than women.) It’s like being with a man and a woman in bed at the same time, only more focused because you’re with only one person. Men with disabilities would do their partners a great favor to make the most of this style if they’ve got it, or do anything they can to cultivate it.
Perhaps Rebecca Chalker, co-editor of A New View of a Woman’s Body, is right when she says a “woman-friendly” sexual revolution is in progress. Women, being more responsive to polymorphous arousal, have — at least subconsciously — always known this.
Here is what I think. Men should throw away their old scripts and forget about performance. Why not take a ride on the wave of the more inclusive sexual revolution that’s now taking place? In contrast to the wave that exploded in the 1960s and later bombed, this one also happens to be “disability-friendly.” Female partners of men with paralysis may already have the best of both worlds and may understand more about bisexuality than previously imagined. We should explore our desires, focus on pleasure and have fun. Rejoice in that something extra, and while you are at it, think off!