We love disability campaigner Andrew Gurza. He writes breathtakingly honest and insightful pieces for Huffington Post and other platforms about his experience of being a queer disabled man trying to navigate sex and relationships. He is an important member of the sex positive blogging community that helped inspire our #SexNotStigma campaign, which aims to start conversations about sexuality that are accessible to everybody, not just people with ‘media-ideal’ bodies and lifestyles. When we became aware of his work we immediately wanted to send him PULSE II SOLO, which was designed to be useful for some people with mobility issues. He said he’d love to try it. Excited, we got a toy sent out in the post to him straight away, and then sat back and waited to find out if it worked for him.
Unfortunately, it didn’t.
This wasn’t a surprise to us, as the range of mobility issues people with disabilities experience is so wide that we could never hope to create one toy to serve them all. Many people with disabilities who’ve used PULSE II have found it helps them, so we know it *can* be useful for some disabled customers. But we’re not going to lie – it was a big disappointment, and obviously not just for us!
We got in touch with Andrew in Canada via Skype and had a long chat about what he thought he would need in order to be able to experience the PULSE ‘orgasm that seems to last ’til next Tuesday’ for himself. It turned into a conversation about sex and disability and the sex toy industry, that we thought was worth looking at in more depth. So we commissioned him to write a series of blogs about his experiences trying to get the PULSEgasm he so richly deserves. Here in part one of the series he describes his initial PULSE testing experience…
‘These moments were perfect because they were mine’
“I think we all remember that first moment in our youths when we discover the sexual potential of our bodies. Like most young adults, I learned about mine under the cover of night. I can remember being completely excited by this new trick I had learned. If you haven’t yet guessed, I am definitely talking about masturbation – but I’d like to consider it from a lens that we very rarely peer through: disability.
When I learned to get myself off, I was so excited because in that moment I was able to touch my own body. I was out of my wheelchair, undressed and alone. I didn’t have to direct an attendant through my movements, hoping they might understand what I needed. I could simply enjoy what was happening. These moments were perfect because they were mine. In my fantasies I could be wherever and with whomever I wanted, and in each instance my disability was never a deterrent. It was through these solo sessions with spastic hands that I learned to appreciate my disabled body, and all that I might be able to offer. I was free in that moment to learn how my disabled body was connected, to learn what I enjoyed out of self-pleasure, and to consider how being crippled played into all that. As a young disabled man, I learned that getting off in the unique way that I did was pretty hot, and for a long while I relished in that reality.
As I got older, and my care needs changed, so did the ways in which I was able to access my body as a man with disabilities. I began to need a higher level of care, and the spasticity from my Cerebral Palsy increased. I also needed to wear a special device that denied me ready access to my dick when I wanted. Because of all these changes in what I required in my care, I began to feel extremely emasculated – the whole idea of self-pleasure was no longer freeing and self-affirming for me as it once had been, but rather it felt tedious, chore-like, something to be negotiated and squeezed in among a bevy of more important things related to my care. So, I simply stopped masturbating. It was just too hard (or, it wasn’t, if we’re being technical).
These feelings of frustration lingered for quite a while for me, and I didn’t do anything about them – even though I desperately wanted to: I needed that rush, that connection, back again. I was hopeful that I would find it when I was given the chance to test out Hot Octopuss’s ‘guybrator’, PULSE II SOLO.
‘I couldn’t bring myself to ask for help’
“As a disabled man who needs help with pretty much every activity in my day, I have become readily accustomed to asking for help from others, and my attendant care staff are typically ready to oblige. On the day that I picked up my very first sex toy, though, I required an entirely different kind of help. I couldn’t bring myself to ask, and stared at the box it came in, unsure of where to turn next. There was an overwhelming sense of shame in the idea that I actually needed help with this, and even more so in the fact that my care staff, who I worked hard to keep out of my sex life – the one place I valued as mine – would have to be involved. There were many moments where I stumbled on the ask; stuttering and sputtering around something that so many people take for granted.
One day, one of my attendants came in, noticing the toy, and said, “Oh, did you want my help with that?”. In this moment, I must admit that I was both thankful and terrified – thankful for her help, and unsettled by the thought that if I declined, I might not get the offer again.
So, I went into my room to set up. This was a very weird experience for me; having my attendant standing over me with gloves on, trying to put this toy on my dick. I took her help as she attached it, leaving me to do what I needed. I discovered very quickly that the oscillations of the guybrator at the setting they were on were much too fast for me, but my spastic hands couldn’t reach the buttons themselves. So, picture a man flat on his back with a vibrator whirring away, unable to turn it off – it’s a pretty funny image if you stop and think about it. I laid there awhile, trying to get myself into the zone and remember the rush I wanted ever so badly, but being unable to physically access the toy to change positions or settings was far too much a distraction for me – not to mention the fact that my attendant was waiting for me to finish so she could assist in the clean-up. Super sexy, right? LOL. So I let the toy wear itself out (at least something should be spent) and called my caregiver up to help me turn it off.
‘I was determined to get off on my own terms’
“I remember feeling annoyed that the guybrator hadn’t worked for me, not because the toy itself was inaccessible, but because of all the extra requirements I had to be able to even use it. That said, I wasn’t discouraged by this experience, but rather determined to get off on my own terms using the guybrator at some point… the rush and exhilaration of self-pleasure would again be mine.
I came up with a plan, and these were the main factors:
1. Having a female attendant, as a gay man, would always be unsexy for me. So could I find a member of care staff who was male who could help? Would that make it a bit less uncomfortable? Do I even want my attendant to be part of this at all?
2. What about finding a partner who’d be willing to play with PULSE as part of our date? Could it even be an added sexy element? How would I go about finding such a partner? I wondered, is there a sexy way to ask for this kind of help?
3. Were there ways that Hot Octopuss could modify the toy for me so I could use it?
Armed with all these considerations, I started my quest for a PULSEgasm.
Next time: Why it’s hard to find a ‘helping hand’ as a disabled person when it comes to sex.