14 February 2009

Redefining Sex.

This is my -- slightly late! -- contribution to a Valentine's Day collection of blog posts about sex/sensuality and disability; links to all of the posts here, at Chewing the Fat.

The S.O. and I have always had a slightly atypical sex life, as one would expect of a relationship between two eating-disordered trans boys, one of whom is an incest survivor. We go through phases, really. Sometimes we fuck like bunny rabbits and sometimes we aren't comfortable with anything more than cuddling and kissing. Up until my rheumatoid arthritis got more intrusive, though, it was a matter of willingness, not ability. We still go through the same mostly congruent phases of desire, but it's harder during the phases when we both want sex, and as much as we can get. I can't have it any time I want just because I want it.

We've found [EXPLICIT] ways to get around it, to a degree. Sex toys for days when I can't use my fingers for any fine-motor-skill sort of task, kissing him while he gets off for days when I don't have the grip to use sex toys, and dirty talk when even molding myself against him enough to get at his lips with mine is next to impossible [much less explicit hereafter].

All of that helps, but it doesn't fix the problem: I can't have sex when I want it just because I want it. I'm in my early twenties, in a relationship with someone to whom I desire very much. If I weren't disabled, if I didn't have chronic pain, we could just carry on as our friends do in their relationships. That we can't is frustrating as hell. It seems to me that it would help if both of us could alter our already-atypical idea of what sex is, if we could make it something, sometimes, that doesn't necessarily involve vibrators, or penetration, or orgasm. Try as I might, I can't twist my mind around that just now, and until I'm comfortable with another definition I'm not going to ask my boyfriend to adopt it.

That's where I am right now with all of this -- it doesn't come up as often as it might, because the times when we're both willing are more rare than those when one or both of us isn't. When I'm willing but unable, it bothers me for days. I'm not sure whether it bothers him as much. I'm not sure whether I shouldn't just come to terms with the fact that there will be times when I want to fuck but can't. I'm not sure whether this is a problem to be solved by redefinition. I'll keep pushing and pulling at it, and if I ever magically reach some point of acceptance -- if I am ever okay with knowing my disability alters my sex life irrevocably -- well, I'll be surprised.

07 February 2009

On the Field Museum, Aztec Religion, and Using a Wheelchair.

I went to the Field Museum with the significant other today, fully confident that seeing the Aztec World exhibit would solve all of our problems and also cure depression. While it didn't quite do all of that, it was amazing, italics necessary. A decent portrayal of a non-Christian religion by the Field Museum was enough to put me over the moon (if you've ever been to their exhibit on ancient Egypt and read what one curator or another thought of their gods, you'll know what I mean; it's not actually like the Trinity at all, guys), but more than that there were artifacts upon artifacts that had never been displayed, had never left Mexico, were on loan from private collectors -- rooms on rooms of things I will never be able to see again. I am incredibly glad I did see them.

Parts of certain exhibits at the Field feel sacred: the Tibetan temple reconstruction and nearly all of their ancient Egyptian collection, the Ancient America exhibit's ritual items and deity representations, and even, incongruously, the dinosaurs. The Aztec ritual items, which included bloodletting spikes for willing blood sacrifice, knives for involuntary sacrifice of the lives of enemies, boxes that held human hearts and were buried to feed the gods, and items common householders used in their home-based religious practices from tobacco pipes to ceremonial drums, didn't feel quite so intense to me. This is very possibly because many Aztec gods scare the pee out of me, some in a way that inspires awe -- Mictecacihuatl, for one -- and some in a way that makes me want to hide behind my significant other and close my eyes -- Xipe Totec, or Our Flayed Lord, comes to mind. It could also simply have been that there were a lot of people around, and I try to visit my favorite exhibits at off times. At any rate, the buzz I tend to get from items with a long ritual history just wasn't there. I did end up with a little porcelain skull bead as a scrounged-change present from the S.O., though, and it's on my altar. Issues of appropriation will I am sure rear their valid heads sooner rather than later.

On quite another note, I use a wheelchair when I'm at the Field -- the thing's nine acres, which is not a distance I like to walk if I can avoid it, and they lend out wheelchairs for free and will kindly check my cane with my coat. Using a cane has gotten me some looks and comments, but absolutely none of it stacks up to what I get in a wheelchair. I like to wheel myself around, but that's not always feasible; my shoulders, after all, are almost as inflamed and painful as my knees during a flare. Therefore, the S.O. ends up pushing me much of the time, provided I can swallow my misplaced pride.

Today I learned first-hand that sitting in a wheelchair makes me an object. A fellow museum patron who crashed into me out of inattention apologized profusely -- to my partner. My sentience was apparently in question. People would move only begrudgingly to let me see the (varyingly visible to a person sitting in a wheelchair) display cases in the Aztec exhibit, and usually only when my partner asked to get through, not me. I already know that most people consider it a huge bother to have to move their asses two inches to let me get by (or two seats down the train or bus to let me have a priority spot) when I use a cane, but this was almost comically pronounced.

I'm not exempt from being an ableist dick, as I was forcibly reminded today. There was a man in the gift shop who was using a wheelchair; I was wheeling around aimlessly without the S.O. and we nearly bumped into one another. He said hello, and I quickly wheeled away. What the fuck is that about? I'm already a shy person, which is part of it, I guess, but my reaction was totally unwarranted. This bears further examination, but what I'm guessing is that I'm afraid to be in the same category as people I consider more disabled -- after all, I don't use a wheelchair normally. That's pretty exceptionally disordered thinking, and I definitely need to learn to check my able-bodied privilege, which still exists even though I'm no longer able-bodied, at the door.

And then I went home and had a nap, which is how many of my exploits end.

02 February 2009

Fourth Annual Brigid in the Blogosphere Poetry Slam

Today is Brigid's day, and in terms of virtual observances, I can't think of anything better than an online poetry reading. It's also the perfect post to inaugurate this particular blog. My contribution follows.

In a Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

-Ezra Pound

Tea with Honey

He rolled over sonnombulant,
a private action that hadn't
a meaning. I was only
the book he fell asleep
reading the night before.
Something soporific between
the covers. I was boring him
again. A too-heavy tome,
it was my pleasure to put him
to sleep.

-Simon Creek

Warming Her Pearls

Next to my own skin, her pearls. My mistress
bids me wear them, warm them, until evening
when I´ll brush her hair. At six, I place them
round her cool, white throat. All day I think of her,

resting in the Yellow Room, contemplating silk
or taffeta, which gown tonight? She fans herself
whilst I work willingly, my slow heat entering
each pearl. Slack on my neck, her rope.

She´s beautiful. I dream about her
in my attic bed; picture her dancing
with tall men, puzzled by my faint, persistent scent
beneath her French perfume, her milky stones.

I dust her shoulders with a rabbit´s foot,
watch the soft blush seep through her skin
like an indolent sigh. In her looking-glass
my red lips part as though I want to speak.

Full moon. Her carriage brings her home. I see
her every movement in my head.... Undressing,
taking off her jewels, her slim hand reaching
for the case, slipping naked into bed, the way

she always does.... And I lie here awake,
knowing the pearls are cooling even now
in the room where my mistress sleeps. All night
I feel their absence and I burn.

-Carol Ann Duffy

A Poem

Tell me, if I caught you one day
and kissed the sole of your foot,
wouldn't you limp a little then,
afraid to crush my kiss?...

-Nichita Stãnescu