Why I Organized a Sex Party for People with Disabilities
After dark on Friday, August 14, the city of Toronto will play host to its first ever sex party for people with disabilities. Oasis Aqualounge Reveals #DeliciouslyDisabled is being held at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre because of its wheelchair accessibility, and the event's three organizers—Stella Palikarova, Fatima Mechtab, and Andrew Morrison Gurza—have a major goal: to raise awareness of the fact that people with disabilities are normal human beings with normal human urges.
With that said, don't call it an orgy—there's so much more going on than just sex. Here, 35-year-old Palikarova explains the party's mission and what compelled her to put it together.
I have spinal muscular atrophy, which is a neuromuscular disorder. It has a genetic marker but was triggered by the DTP vaccine when I was an infant. Spinal muscular atrophy affects my muscle strength, so I use an electric wheelchair, but I have normal sensation and normal bowel and bladder control.
Last summer, I had the opportunity to become involved with The Rose Center for Love, Sex, and Disability, which is a charity organization in Toronto. Being a registered charity, we're pretty limited in the scope of events we're able to promote or sponsor. It felt so important to be able to have an event where people with and without disabilities can come together to have a great time and express themselves sexually if they wish to.
People with disabilities face a great number of challenges related to various health conditions; even daily activities such as eating and using the washroom can be difficult. But I think sexuality should be thought of as a necessity and not something expendable. This party is a way for me to make a statement about access to sexuality as a human right for everybody. It's not just to give people with disabilities the opportunity to be in a sex-positive space—it's not an orgy! It's a sex-positive play party where we'll have live entertainment, burlesque performers, a flirtation workshop, a DJ, and there's even going to be a famous artist, Brent Ray Fraser, who paints very intricate art with his penis. It's going to be an opportunity for people to mingle and have a great time. If they want to take off their clothes and do something else, there will be sectioned-off areas within the space itself where people can have some privacy. We'll have volunteer personal support workers and American Sign Language workers. We want to make it very sex-positive and body-positive for all people who would enjoy this type of event.
Having sex with someone else is not the focus; it's an option. This party is giving a voice to people with disabilities who have been denied access to social and sexual spaces. It's giving a means for people with disabilities to come together with able-bodied people and say, "I'm here, I'm fabulous, and I'm sexy, goddammit! I don't want to be denied my basic human right to express myself sexually, just like anyone else." It's a celebration of that kind of attitude.
In Ontario, we still have such limited access to social spaces for people with disabilities. We don't have the Americans With Disabilities Act, but there's the Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act (AODA), which focuses on things like dismantling discriminatory practices against people with disabilities and removing physical barriers. That's a big part of it. We still have a lot of old buildings in Toronto that are completely inaccessible, whether it's because of stairs, narrow entryways, or not having elevators. Even our subway system is still sorely lacking in accessibility. A number of politicians here have already said this is great legislation and they support it, but the financing isn't there to enforce some parts of the legislation, like making spaces physically accessible. That part of the legislation isn't going to come into effect in 2025.
That makes it really difficult for anyone living here to be able to go out and socialize. It's not just a problem for people with disabilities, but also people who are able-bodied but don't have the opportunity to interact with us. That lack of visibility is a big issue. It just breeds a lot of ignorance and fear. Guys will often assume I must be paralyzed from the waist down or I don't enjoy sex.
So far, a lot of people have said, "Good for you—it sounds like lots of fun, and it's getting the conversation about sex and disability started." But the reason this party has been getting so much attention is not because it's a sex party. It's because we're literally putting sex and disability in bed with each other (excuse the pun). That concept is so uncomfortable for people because for whatever reasons, they still cant wrap their heads around people with disability being desirable or sexual.
So of course, there have been naysayers who want to impose their morality on us and say things like, "This is really sick; why would you do that?" Then there are some people with disabilities who think we're making us all look sex-crazed and other people who think those with disabilities are being taken advantage of. There's this concept that people with disabilities aren't able to give consent when it comes to their own sexuality or that if something sexual is going on, someone must be taking advantage. Those are the ignorant attitudes we're trying to dismantle.
Growing up, I had to navigate this stuff on my own. I didn't have any role models in the media or people locally who I could talk to about this stuff. I was quite a late bloomer sexually, I didn't really date too much throughout high school; the guys my age weren't so interested in becoming romantic or sexual with a girl with a disability. There's this thing called "courtesy stigma," where the partner of a person with a disability can become stigmatized. People think there must be something wrong with them; otherwise, why not be with someone with able-bodied? It's especially stigmatic for men, so it can be that much more difficult for women with disabilities to find a male partner.
Some guys act like they're doing me a favor. I also encounter a lot of curiosity, with men wanting to know if I can have sex, how I can have sex, and wanting to have that experience. It was never really difficult for me to find men that were willing to sleep with me, but it was—and continues to be—more difficult for me to find someone to have a romantic relationship with. There are stereotypes that they'll have to physically take care of me when they don't want to be in a caregiver position. But I live on my own, and I'm a very independent woman.
I developed a great interest in makeup and fashion. It helps me boost my confidence in terms of being able to put myself out there, not just as somebody who is sexual, but someone who's worth considering dating. I try to always present myself like I'm a catch so you're lucky if I choose to be with you—not the other way around. I notice that, sexually, some guys have this attitude like they don't even have to try—you should feel so lucky that they're sharing their bodies with you, like you're going to have an orgasm from just looking at their abs. I try to make it very clear to potential love interests that I'm very selective, and I know what I like. I'm not going to give you an easier time just because I happened to be in a wheelchair.
My partners have all been able-bodied men because they're able to lift me out of my wheelchair and put me into bed. I'm not going to lie: They end up doing a lot of the manual labor in the bedroom. But I think I have some skills and talents that make up for that. I'm a very responsive and communicative lover. People think when you're having sex with someone with a disability, it must be weird or boring—and that they're just going to lie there like a dead fish. What they don't realize is that living with a disability can make you extremely resourceful. You're only limited by your imagination. When you have a physical disability, you have to find ways to get creative, work around things, and get into different positions you might want to experience. It makes the sex a lot of fun if you have an open-minded partner who's willing to explore and have more of a light-hearted attitude of it being a fun adventure, not work. People shouldn't look at a disability as a restriction to sex. It's an opportunity to find new and exciting ways to experience each other.
Original Women's Health Article Here