I have a very complicated and complex relationship with men for many, many, many reasons. But what woman in her 20s doesn’t? Like the majority of people my age, I haven’t found my “soulmate” and relationships in general are a hot mess. But I’ll pull out my “disability card” here…

I had my first “boyfriend” in kindergarten (hence the quotes). I was living in NY at the time and I told my dad that I didn’t want to move to NJ because I didn’t want to leave him (but honestly, my poor dad though… her six-year-old daughter already acting like a rotten teenager… his true feelings were revealed years later when he told me that the “boyfriend” called our new phone number various times but he told the kid that I was “unavailable.”) Ever since, I always had a significant guy friend/more-than-a-friend guy friend in my life.

But when puberty hit in middle school, I noticed that guys weren’t looking at me the same way that they were looking at the other girls. I know the concept of disabled people, especially disabled women, not being seen as “sexy” in the general public, is nothing new. Most people probably view us as asexual beings, incapable and undesirable of sex. However, shockingly, according to a study conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics in 2012, individuals with disabilities are three times more likely to experience sexual violence than individuals without a disability. Why is that?

In one realm,  we are not sexy enough to be desired, but in the other realm, we are “easy” enough to get in bed with. They put a notion in our heads that no one else will want us, so we mind as well “do it” with them instead. And we also have those sick bastards who fetish over “disabilities” and disorders. I know, it’s sickening.

Living in NYC has me more aware of this phenomenon, and especially in this era of Tinder and other “hookup” apps. In pictures, it’s hard to tell that I have a disability, so I could have a perfectly normal Tinder conversation with a guy, but as soon as I bring up the D-word, they either shut down or bombard me with questions like, “can you still fuck?” and even ask me about the nitty gritty details. And there are also those jerks who notice that my smile is a little “off” in my pictures and straight up say “why are you smiling like that?” While others have no problem still treating me like a condom… use it, toss it.

However, on the streets, it goes beyond the usual catcalls. Granted, I might dress a little provocatively (but there’s also the notion that women with disabilities aren’t “supposed” to dress fashionably/attractively… but fuck that shit), but that does not give you the right to follow me, chase me (and pretend it’s a little “game”), or straight up jerk off in front of me. You also see happening to women of color. Do they see us as easy targets?

So, in a nutshell… sex and disability, a very complicated concept. But women with disabilities are sexual and are sexy human beings, and we, along with every other woman, deserve to be respected.

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