The following story is edited from a beautifully written letter sent to the Touching Base Committee. Clifford generously shares with us some background and memorable moments with sex workers since losing his virginity in Kings Cross nearly 40 years ago.
NB: All names have been changed for privacy.
Please Note that some sections of this letter are sexually explicit.
With regard to my disability, I am approaching 60 and born with spina bifida. This has left me with a severe curvature of the spine and partial paralysis in both legs. I use a wheelchair for long distances and two walking sticks around the unit and for walking short distances. I don’t have much sensation in the genital area. The only part of the penis that is sensitive is the tip while the shaft has hardly any feeling at all.
I can get an erection but can’t sustain it. If I did penetrate (with a lot of help), I have no feeling of being inside and the erection drops. The only way I have been able to come is with a very vigorous rubbing of the tip of the penis with a well-oiled hand and even then the sensation hardly registers on the Richter Scale. Masturbating gives me no satisfaction at all. Not withstanding I still have a strong sexual need but the satisfaction is mental rather than physical. It does give me a great deal of satisfaction if I can make a woman come. I enjoy seeing a naked woman and being able to touch her.
I had no sexual experience while growing up and first sought a sex worker when I was 18. I went to Kings Cross and walked down one of the lanes I had read about where the girls stood at the doors. When I started to walk down most of them disappeared inside. This was an enlightening experience. One didn’t and I went in. It was naturally a complete disaster as I really didn’t know what to do and she didn’t want to show me. It was however my first experience of touching a naked woman and that I did enjoy…
I decided that I wouldn’t try Kings Cross again and did not have any physical sexual experience till I was 27 and started a relationship with a girl from work. She was responsive to my touches and I soon found the right spot to touch and she would come 5-6 times in an evening. This went on for about 18 months but for the whole of this time I never had a full erection. I never was able to penetrate or come. It also wasn’t a really satisfactory experience with her as it was always in the dark, under the bed clothes and she always insisted on keeping some clothing on. It broke up very traumatically when her mother phoned up one Saturday morning to say her daughter was pregnant and I had been nominated as the one who did it. Needless to say, I said not guilty.
There were no further relationships or any sexual contacts until I was about 40. I had to stop working and go on a disability pension. The need for sexual contact was strong and I tried a couple of parlours and private places but they were not a satisfactory experience. For some reason I decided to try a B&D place at Erskineville. I don’t know why I went there but having explained my situation to the owner and she seem to understand my situation.
Over a 12 month period I went to see her about five or six times and on occasions I was able to make her come which surprised her and gave me quite a lot of satisfaction. But the local council stepped in and ordered the place to be closed and I lost contact with this lady. This was about 1986.
After this I tried some other places but they were not a satisfying experience. I gave up going to parlours or private situations until last year when I heard about a parlour that supposedly catered for disabled clients.
I phoned up and they said all their staff were trained to work with disabled clients but when I went there I found this was not the case. The only available lady had never had a disabled client before. I finished up giving her a short course on the effect of spinal cord injury on sexuality. Hopefully I achieved something there but for me it was not a great experience.
At that point I thought I would never have another sexual experience. When I saw the article about Touching Base I couldn’t believe it. I thought that this may be the way I could get in contact with a worker who was experienced with disabled clients and I wouldn’t have to go through the worry of explaining my disability.
Through Touching Base I was able to contact a lady who came to my home. This was the best sexual experience I have ever had but not only was it satisfying physically but also psychologically and intellectually. Without Touching Base this would not have happened and I am very grateful for its existence.
If I was asked what would the first thing I would say to sex workers interested with working with disabled men, I would say that the sexual experiences that they have are not going to be like the sex they have with non-disabled men. In some cases this may be the first sexual experience the disabled man has had. It may also be a long time since they have had sex and as they are probably on a pension, it may also be some time before they can afford to see someone again. It is likely to be a special occasion.
I know there are dangers in working with disabled men in that the arrangement may be seen by some as a sort of relationship rather than as a business arrangement. But if steps are taken to prevent this happening then there should not be a problem. Touching Base is a most important thing for the disabled to enjoy a part of life that has not been available to many. I do hope it is a huge success.