After MANY long term relationships, a marriage, and an open relationship, going back into the dating world seemed daunting, but at the same time I was pretty excited. I’ve always been super-flirty and outgoing, and I always want to talk to ANYONE in a club, so the prospect of being ‘allowed’ to do this suddenly was something that really, really interested me.
However! In the modern age of internet dating, my stranger-in-a-bar fantasy seems a long way off. These days, you literally browse online for a sexual partner the same way you’d browse through a clothing retailer site, hoping for the PERFECT, gorgeous, versatile jumpsuit (but often in reality getting something super ill-fitting that’s just annoying when you need to pee). I really didn’t want my experiences on Tinder to turn out to be equally uncomfortable and disappointing.
But plot twist! My experience with online dating as a disabled woman so far has actually been AMAZING! I’ve met and chatted to so many cool people and it’s really been super-therapeutic. So here are some of my thoughts after a few months back on the dating scene:
1) Should you disclose your disability on your dating profile?
This is an ongoing debate between my disabled peers. Should you hold back all mention of disability until after you’ve got chatting with someone, to give them a chance to get to know the person without prejudice? It’s very much down to personal preference, but I ALWAYS disclose on my profile, and my profile pictures include me in my chair. Just simply because the awkward ‘so, before we meet, I’ve got something to tell you…’ conversation is something that I really don’t enjoy.
Further down the line I always do a little check-in, especially if someone hasn’t mentioned my chair at all, just to ensure that they have noticed it, and they have thought about it, but so far those have gone really well.
This new experience has kind of reinforced for me that personality, drive and obviously appearance are often more important than whether the person has functioning legs, which is SO REFRESHING! It’s nice to be seen as ME rather than the girl in the wheelchair, which is also a part of me, but not the most vital part.
2) I don’t feel the need to prove anything sexually any more
It is a huge battle to feel sexual, especially when you have a disability, and it’s something that I’ve definitely fought with for a long time, and thankfully overcome. The need to prove myself as a sexual being when I was young was so prominent (you can read more about it in my last guest blog post for Hot Octopuss) and I am so grateful that I no longer feel the need to do that.
When I meet anyone now I am completely myself and will talk openly about my needs, sexual and otherwise. If they’re happy to help me stand and move me around and I feel safe then this is usually a good sign that we are going to have chemistry.
3) Tinder isn’t just full of creeps!
As a disabled girl on Tinder, I honestly expected to just be bombarded with creeps, but actually I’ve met some really attractive, and surprisingly normal people! Some ask about my chair, some don’t, both are fine. I love to talk about my chair and I love to educate people around my disability. I also found for the first time that someone incorporated my chair into sexting, which at first caught me massively off guard, but to be honest I appreciated the effort… and it was HOT.
It seems that since I started my dating life things have become a little more progressive. Obviously I still get ignorant questions and pity sometimes, but for me, that’s about a need for education. I’m happy to send paragraph after paragraph to someone explaining why they are misinformed about my life and why they need to broaden their horizons.
I literally had someone on Tinder who MATCHED me say, ‘I would hate to be in your situation, I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t walk’! At this point I told him, ‘don’t feel sorry for me, my life is amazing…’ and a lot more. It didn’t alter his perspective much, but I would find it impossible to not respond to a statement like that.
4) Some guys are eager to learn
I’ve been lucky to meet some awesome guys, one in particular that on the chair discussion was absolutely amazing, and on meeting wasn’t fazed when I asked for help with my chair. In fact, he was keen to learn, and maybe that willingness translated to the bedroom, because it was some of the best sex that I’ve ever had.
Being open and communicating is such an important part of any relationship, especially a sexual one, and I always find that when you have those ‘awkward’ discussions at the start it allows more headspace to actually enjoy each other later, and that’s something that’s absolutely necessary for me.
So, to summarise, so far I am enjoying single life! I am enjoying my time with myself (and my Hot Octopuss products including the brand new DiGiT – more on that soon) and other people. And I hope to be able to update you soon around the next stage of this amazing, exciting journey.
Kelly Perks-Bevington is a 30-year-old business owner and writer from the West Midlands. She runs numerous businesses as well as providing disabled individuals with advice around care needs. Kelly is a passionate entrepreneur and mother to a 21-month-old. She is also an advocate for disability rights! You can hear more about her on her website and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.