Can I Have Casual Sex?

Q: I've encountered some people who interested me as partners for a more casual sexual relationship, but I got the impression they just wouldn't consider me for that because of my disability. Why can't I have casual sex, too?

A: My theory about what people are thinking when they reject a disabled partner for a casual encounter is that their assumption is that you are desperate for sex–because you have such limited options to be sexual, their thinking goes–that you will necessarily become possessive. If they agree to have sex with you, then you’ll keep coming back for more, since they must be one of the rare ones willing to be with you. This, of course, could be true of anyone, so it’s unfair of them to assume it’s a feature of disability, when it’s really an issue of self-esteem.

Someone special

Or, they think that the only way someone could be sexual with you is if they love you enough on every other level to override whatever adjustments they imagine must be made to have sex with you. “Boy, it must take someone really special to be with a disabled person,” I imagine them thinking. But we know that need not be true, and if you’re open to a casual liaison then I expect you know your sexuality well enough to make a mutual connection with someone that doesn’t entail any sacrifice.

But we also have to look into what casual sex is about for you. What is it you’re really after?Certainly people should be free to have sex with someone with the understanding that they have no intention of being in a full-time relationship with them. Mutually. It can be friendly and fun and erotic and kind of exciting. Sometimes friends find themselves attracted and just want to have an experience together to sort of get it out of their system, and it can be OK. At the same time, asking a friend for sex can really mess up a good friendship, and plenty of people who are attracted to each other sensually are not cut out for partnership, and it’s often better if they just have sex and leave it at that!

But it’s naïve to think that casual sex entails no emotional dangers. It’s rarely as simple as just being attracted to someone and jumping into bed–or maybe you prefer the kitchen table!

Having sex is an intimate act of trust, no matter what the context, even if you’re only with someone once. There should be some respect involved, because sex should never be demeaning to one’s sense of self–and self-esteem. Having a casual encounter can touch on feelings that might surprise you, especially if someone doesn’t honor you properly as a person. Don’t take the emotional risks lightly, just because you want to prove that your disability does not preclude you from a casual encounter.

Interested in more

When it comes down to it, I think we all crave recognition for our unique identity and what makes us special. Having sex should feed our life force, not drain it. If someone doesn’t evoke that feeling for us, we’re likely to feel let down–or even humiliated, however subtly. And if someone does provide that for you, then you just might find yourself interested in more than a casual encounter. Why wouldn’t you want more of that kind of affirmation?

And being sexual with someone with a disability does entail a certain level of understanding. It takes someone with enough presence and sincerity to see that it’s exactly not about pity or sacrifice. So many people who are into casual sex as a lifestyle are not going to have this kind of depth, and maybe it’s not such a bad thing for them not to choose you.Because of the intense social pressures to be sexual, because of how difficult it is to find partners in a fast-paced world, because of how the natural impulse to counter our sense of being minimized for our disability by maximizing our sexuality–all of these things can make casual sex look like a good answer. In truth, what we might really be after is something deeper and more satisfying than a brief physical encounter. Pursuit of casual sex might even indicate a fear of getting involved in an authentic relationship, considering commitment, being vulnerable.

And of course there is the increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases that comes along with multiple partners. If you’re going to go this route, make safe sex an absolute priority.

So while being rejected as a casual partner might push that button of feeling set aside based on your disability, don’t let that override your thinking clearly and honestly about what your real needs are and whether casual sex will serve your goals and your spirit at this time in your life.

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