Johnathan Bredin has provided a truly compelling personal story explaining why access to sex services should be fully funded under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
Sexual needs and sexual relief are an ordinary part of life
In light of recent events [when the Australian Federal Court approved the use of NDIS to fund sex services] there have been a lot of strong opinions, both for and against the NDIS paying for sexual expression / sex work services. I wanted to share my opinion as I feel I should qualify for this funding. I am a 30 year old man with complex needs and I require the use of a wheelchair due to my disability. I have been involved in intimate relationships before, however I am now enjoying the bachelor lifestyle.
I was very curious to find out what it was like to have sex, however I was not finding any willing participants (unpaid) to help me discover the joys of sexual intimacy. I really wanted to know what all the fuss was about. So, when I was in Sydney some years ago, I surely did. I felt like a real adult that day. In the 8 years since that day, I have been funding sex workers myself on a regular basis.
Occasionally, I use online dating services however I have had very little success so far, as dating can be somewhat complicated for a person with disability. There are many reasons for this however the two main reasons are that firstly, when women see that I am in a wheelchair and/or I am using a tablet for communication, most do not even respond.
I am not upset about this however it is a reality that people with disability are rejected more often than abled bodied people. I have heard people had more luck if they hide their disability. I use photos on the dating sites that clearly show I’m in a wheelchair, because it is hard to hide my disability. And more important, I am proud about who I am and that includes my disability.
Secondly, the old saying “don’t talk to strangers” can’t be more true for some people with disability. While single able-bodied people have the option to seek out companionship through online hook-ups or public encounters in licensed venues like night clubs, these places can expose people with disability to additional risks.
These environments are often fuelled with alcohol and other drugs, and encounters may be far from genuine. Taking an unknown person home poses an even bigger risk for me. I can’t defend myself like others can, and so inviting people into my home is a massive decision. I may well be exposing myself to theft, abuse, or far worse.
Accessing sex through a sex worker is safer on so many levels
– they won’t steal from me or abuse me, and they will leave and not come back unless invited.
In the beginning I wanted to know what it was all about, and now as a mature working adult, I find it has become a need. These days I can’t go for more than a week without relief. When I’m stressed, that can increase to two or three times a week. Sexual stimulation, whether through physical contact with a sex worker or through self-stimulation with the aid of a device, really helps to reduce tension for me.
I can’t manually stimulate myself because of my disability and require assistive technology to achieve this. Three years ago, I discovered there were powered self-stimulation devices for men. So, I got one. Using this assistive technology has saved me a lot of money as it is much cheaper than using sex work services however, the problem is that it’s not suitable for all people with disability as the device is often hand-held.
I require a support worker to set up the assistive technology for me, then leave the room whilst it is being used. When I have finished, I ask the support worker to come back in and clean the device and myself afterwards. Some support workers disapprove and won’t even have a conversation about it. I have even had support workers try to stop me from getting other support in to assist.
I truly do understand why some people might be uncomfortable with assisting me in this basic human right and would never pressure a support worker if they had a problem with it. Sadly, I know of many people who miss out on this basic human right, simply because they can’t get the support they need.
Even if the support worker is comfortable with the request, they are often prohibited because a lot of service providers have policies against supporting people with sexual technology devices or accessing private sex workers or brothels. I have addressed several senior managers from different service providers regarding this topic, and they refuse to change their policies or even properly address the issue.
When talking about essential services, and meeting a person’s needs versus wants or desires, the NDIS is more than happy to come to the party. When you look at a person’s NDIS plan, it not only consists of how they can have their basic needs met, it also discusses how a person can achieve “desired” or “wanted” goals. Again, this is a priority for the NDIS. Participating in the community is one of the foremost stated goals in an NDIS plan. Does a person “need” to be in the community? Is it a matter of life and death if they don’t participate in the community? Certainly not.
The same should be applied to sexuality and having those “needs” met. So, it begs the question, why is it so different when it comes to sexual expression? Similar to participating in the community, of course a person is not going to die simply because they don’t have access to sexual support services. However, whether you personally view it as a need or a want, the fact of the matter is that it’s not only a basic human right, but it is also part of living a normal and ordinary life.
Laws and legislation uphold a person’s human rights, but the whole purpose of the NDIS is to ensure people have access to quality of life through normal life experiences and living an ordinary and fulfilling life. Isn’t it??