delve a little deeper....
Some of you may have seen the Channel 4 documentary (Sex on Wheels- link to 4oD here) last night which followed four disabled people and their quest for sex. It's always fascinating for me to watch things about sex and sexuality and even more so when escorts are part of the mix.
I don't think many people really understand prostitution to be about something more than trashy looking, down on their luck types desperate to make money or the beautiful, glamorous 'high call' call girl types who get jetted round the world, so anything that changes those perceptions is a good thing. Rarely are escorts viewed as girl next door types, motherly, intelligent thoughtful or kind. We tend to be slotted into desperate crack whore or beautiful but manipulative pigeon holes. But this documentary wasn't really about us hos, it was about people who aren't able to have a conventional sex life for various reasons.
John is 26 and has learning difficulties, his mother booked him an escort to enable him to spend some time with a woman and lose his virginity. I can understand how having your mother book you an escort can be considered weird and creepy, but in John's case his mother has had to guide him through life a little more carefully than those with less vulnerable children. As much as she wants John to have a 'normal' life she will be aware that his vulnerability could lead to him being taken advantage. The fact she can bring herself to consider his sexual needs too, something most parent's don't really want or need to think about makes her pretty remarkable.
Carl was a self confessed stud in his time. He talked candidly about the kind of sex he used to get up to (lot's of and in as many places as possible!). He was then rendered paralysed from the waist down in an accident and all that changed. He is now in a wheelchair and can not get an erection or ejaculate. However, the feelings and urges a man (or woman) gets do not necessarily change due to disability. Carl is still the same person and it appeared that losing his sex life was something he coped with less well than he ability to walk.
I once did a survey (not a very scientific one) and asked lots of men if they had to lose either a leg or their penis which would they choose. The result was overwhelmingly high on the losing the leg side! Most men didn't have to think for a second to answer that losing their cock would be much worse than losing a leg!
The documentary showed Carl undertaking various forms of drugs and therapy to try and stir his penis back to life. He had a session with a psychosexual therapist (they used another title for her, but I can't remember what it was) who was attempting to find new ways of arousing him. From what they showed it was very much about sensual body to body contact and not focusing on the penis. Whilst she did not have full sex with him and it was billed as therapy I don't think what she did was very different to how a good escort would deal with the same situation. Pete said at the end that it was the first time he had had a proper hug his since his accident. That I think is probably as much what he missed as full sex, but hadn't realised it.
Anyone who has been in this game will know that whilst caressing and sucking the penis is what most men ultimately want body contact and a more sensual approach is often what is required and what many men miss when they pay for sex. It's not all about the assumed 'fucking a hole' thing many assume sex work is about.
The third person who appeared on a documentary was a young man called Pete with cerebral palsy who dreamed of becoming a porn star. He obviously had the usual urges a man of his age has despite being physically very limited. He was shown going through escort websites and discussing the kind of woman he liked- no different from the process many men go through- is it less palatable because Pete was operating his computer mouse with a stick in his mouth?
Finally Leah was a young woman with brittle bone disease and wheelchair bound. She said she was looking for a husband. Whilst she had had lots of sex she was aware that many men choose to sleep with her because it was something different for them to do, ticking a disabled woman off their tick list. She really wanted to change and meet a nice man rather than a one night stand. All her good intentions went to pot as they showed her on a night out, pissed up and going home with another man whose attitude reeked of using her as a novelty shag. I'm sure some will critisise her of being a bit of a slut, but actually she does no different to many young women and if showing that disabled people are actually the same as the rest of us in many ways was an aim of this programme then that was achieved.
I think the documentary gave a great balance between showing the difficulties disabled people face as well as showing they also have some of the same issues, concerns and needs in life as non disabled people.
The worst thing last night was reading the twitter feed connected to the programme. The #sexonwheels hashtag really brought out the nasty, rude and heartless scum that the internet seems to breed. Of course there were some very supportive tweets about the individuals shown on the documentary but also many horrid ones. I was actually shocked at the language used (cripple, mong, spastic to name a few) and the disgust over John's mother assisting him booking Laura Lee (the escort featured in the programme).
I can not see how anyone could fail to see why John's mother chose to do what she did or that she did it with love and compassion for her son. It didn't come across as weird of creepy in any way. The grief Laura also got was pretty hideous and she is obviously much tougher than me, I could never 'go public' and face the kind of abuse she has. She was sneered at for only doing it for the money and not really caring. Really? Do you think nurses, paramedics, rape counsellors, physiotherapists and others who use their skills and compassion in their job do it for free? The notion that us escorts are 'only in it for the money' was well and truly alive. Jesus, how do you think we should pay our bills, with rainbow dust and fluffy clouds?!
The fact that many people 'hate' sex workers is one I still have a bit of a problem with. I know mostly these people are keyboard warriors and say such things online because it makes them feel big and tough and cool but it does hurt a bit. I don't like being a whole sum based on my profession.
I am no more a typical sex worker than a school teacher is typical. There are good and bad in all professions, everyone has different work styles, ethics, enthusiasm, commitment and integrity. I suppose it's no different from being considered a sleazy estate agent or a ruthless banker or a bastard tax inspector. I think it's because I have never been in a job before that incites any sort of negativity!
And, in the same way that someone with a disability isn't 'typical' it can't be assumed because they are physically or mentally impaired they have no sexual urges or a need to be hugged.
On the plus side, I was pleased that the documentary showed that escorts do offer a wide range of services and are capable of dealing with all types of clients in a caring professional manner. It reminded me why I enjoy meeting virgins and those who don't fit into the typical client category (whatever that is!) and why much of this job is about making other people feel good and not just about hot sex and a pile of used notes.
If you or someone you know has a disability and would like to read more about sex and the disabled or find an appropriate sex worker do visit the TLC trust site