I am not a cripple stud. I know a lot about being crippled but no one has ever mistaken me for a crippled stud. Cripple studs do exist however. We all know what a cripple is. A cripple is a lame or partly disabled animal. A cripple has experienced or was born with a damaged or defective body part. A cripple's body is physically impaired. We know what a stud is. A stud often refers to a male animal kept primarily for breeding. In the human realm a stud is a young man who is good looking, virile and has sex with multiple women. Studs, human and otherwise, are impressive. Cripples on the other hand are not impressive. In short, few would ever put the words cripple and stud together. I know one group of people who are the exception: carpenters. A few summers ago my son and I were helping good friends replace a window and I learned that crippled studs abound. In virtually every home in America a cripple stud lurks behind the dry wall. I find this wildly amusing. In carpentry, the word cripple, refers to a special purpose wall stud or roof rafter. A cripple stud is located above a door or window. Cripple studs are like any other studs--they are simply cut shorter to allow a window or door to be installed and provide a nail base.
I did a google image search for cripple stud. I found a lot of images of complex wall designs. I did the same image search for the word cripple. I was not impressed with what popped up on my computer screen. I found the archetype wheelchair logo. I saw pictures of many amputees. I saw lots of images of antiquated wheelchairs. I saw images of people begging on what appeared to be Victorian era streets. I did not see one powerful or what could be deemed a positive image. I did not see a single crippled stud. Other google searches were suggested: cripple stud walls, building cripple stud, do it yourself cripple stud, jack studs, framing a wall with a window and other carpentry specific suggestions.
I object. The good folks of google think crippled studs do not exist. Crippled walls are firmly limited to wall supports for a door or window. I have news for google. We crippled men and women like sex. Surely somewhere in America a crippled stud exists. Perhaps the young men depicted in the film Murderball are studs. Surely, there must be some crippled young man out there that is young, virile and good looking having sex with multiple female partners. So in my search for a cripple stud I did another google search: cripple stud sex. This was a big mistake. I saw lots of images I did not want to see that fit squarely into the strange world of sexual fetish. And this is a problem. On the rare instance one puts the words sex and disability together the first thing that pops up is strange or freakish. The point I am trying to get at is that cripple and stud are incongruous. Stud and cripple do not go together and I cannot help but wonder if some drunk Middle English carpenters of yore came up with idea of linking cripple and stud as some sort of joke. Sex and disability are are also thought to be incongruous. I object. This in turn led me to wonder if disability can be sexy. I abandoned the internet and went to my book case filled with memoirs written by people with a disability. It did not take me long to realize we cripples write about sex. And yes we cripples like sex.
The most diverse book I have read on sex and disability is titled Sex and Disability edited by Zobert McRuer and Anna Mollow. Published in 2012 the books origins date back to the 2004 MLA (Modern Language Association) meetings. For those non academics reading this post, yes it can take that long to produce a book whose origins can be traced back to a particular session at an academic conference. What I like the most about Sex and Disability is its particular focus. Major studies in sexuality, think foundational texts, ignore whether crippled men and women have sex or are interested in sex. Even queer theorists often blatantly ignore sex and disability--a remarkable oversight for an otherwise socially aware disenfranchised group. I think there is much we can learn from discussing sex and disability. The topic opens up a sea of possible erotic connections that might otherwise be ignored and as Anna Mollow noted in the Introduction crippled people have a "libidinal investment in all this". Multiple authors in the volume make the point that neither sex or disability is static. When I was a young man I was often asked "can you do it?" This question made me angry and sad at the same time. If I were your archetypical bipedal man would a woman ask such a question? Not a chance. Fast forward 35 years and I am not asked this question enough. This change makes me wonder: have we as a society advanced so far women assume we paralyzed men are sexual studs? Another darker thought comes to mind: Am I so old it is assumed my sex life is the past? Perish the thought. But then again one of my students last semester referred to me as being "an elderly man".
I had sex before and after I was paralyzed. But the fact remains I have spent virtually my entire adult life paralyzed. In fact I have lived with paralysis far more than I lived without it. And I think being paralyzed makes me a better man and lover. In having my sexuality routinely called into question as a young man I was forced to think about the way men and women approached the body. I knew I could never measure up to social ideals. I was and would always be crippled. Women faced a comparable conundrum. Only a tiny proportion, if any, women can measure up to social ideals associated with beauty. A crippled man, and for the women I have been intimate with, sexuality involves much more than a physical act. Sex is about the entire body and mind. And let me tell you we humans are wildly creative and adaptable when it comes to sex. Men and women approach the body in radically different ways. This has led to much frustration on the part of men and women. It also led to Feud's famous line: "What is it that women want?" I am not sure I have much to offer in terms of an answer as there have been times in my life when women have absolutely baffled me (and I have no doubt I have bewildered many a woman). I think what I am trying to get at is that we crippled men have been forced to think out of the box about every aspect of our life. We cripples have no choice but to master the fine art of human adaptation. Our ability to adapt is an integral part of our lives, sex included. Disability, sex, and bodily pleasure and difference are all intertwined for me. Herein lies a secret for the female readership of this blog. Paralyzed men make the best lovers. Forget about all those bipedal men. Afterall, we paralyzed guys are crippled studs.
Paralyzed since I was 18 years old, I have spent much of the last 30 years thinking about the reasons why the social life of crippled people is so different from those who ambulate on two feet. After reading about the so called Ashley Treatment I decided it was time to write a book about my life as a crippled man. My book, Bad Cripple: A Protest from an Invisible Man, will be published by Counter Punch. I hope my book will completed soon.
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Saturday, June 8, 2013
Posted by william Peace at 12:28 PM
PhD 1992 in anthropology Columbia University, I am interested in disability rights and bioethics.
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The films Coming Home and Rust and Bones have some beautifully acted scenes.
I already know that secret :)
A. Coming Home when it was released improved my dating life for a short period of time.
Spikeabell, Happy for you.
A few weeks without a real computer and I've missed some excellent posts--I'll comment on a few of them as I can.
The upcoming series Ironside (based on the old series) features Blair Underwood as a cop who's paraplegic. He's strong, creative, clever, and yes, the previews suggest he has sex. While a disabled actor hasn't been cast, Underwood's mom uses a wheelchair and hopefully a lot of stereotypes are undercut, as has happened with Push Girls. The preview on Youtube looks impressive. OF course, not everyone watches these shows.
From what I can tell the kink community seems a lot more open to and accepting of the sexuality of people with disabilities than society at large. Fortunately, the kink community seems to be becoming more mainstream. Though there are some problems within it, safety issues to be concerned about, etc.
Frida, I am unimpressed with the clips I have seen from the remake of Ironside. I wonder if the main character will have a sex life pre and post injury. I am not a fan of Push Girls. I agree the kink community is more accepting of sexuality and disability. The tattoo community is also very inclusive.
What you write is so true. My husband don was always a passionate man. This didn't change after he became paralysed. Actually I think our lives improved in that direction after we got the social workers and idiot doctors out of our lives. I know of the queries you speak about because as his wife people would suggest to me that I might "need" something. I would always tell him who said this to me so he knew who his friends weren't. I was more loved and happy than most couples I know who bicker and get lazy about their love. Don was always considerate, patient, inventive and very funny. We humans are nothing if not adaptable... thanks for raising this.
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