May 16, 2020
On Tuesday, a woman won her four year battle against the NDIS in the federal court, allowing her to use her funding for access to sexual services and equipment. This has set a precedence going forward that people who can’t self-stimulate due to profound disability can access NDIS funds for these forms of sexual activities. A lot of people have strong opinions, both for and against NDIS paying for sexual assistance. I wanted to share my opinion as I should have the right to qualify for this funding.
Click here to read about the federal court decision.
I’m a 30-year-old man with complex needs. I require the use of a wheelchair and communication tablet due to my disability. I’ve been involved in intimate relationships in the past but am currently enjoying the bachelor lifestyle. As a young adult, like many others, I was very curious to understand what sex was like. However, I was unable to find any willing participants (unpaid) to help me discover the joys of sexual intimacy. I just wanted to know what all the fuss was about.
A few years ago, I happened to be in Sydney (the sex worker capital of Australia), when I took the leap and went to find out what it was really like. And I sure did! I was able to enjoy an experience that most able-bodied folks partake in frequently. I felt like a real adult that day. In the eight years since then, I’ve been funding sex workers myself regularly.
Occasionally I use online dating services but have had very little success so far, as dating can be somewhat complicated for a person with disability. For example, when most women see that I’m in a wheelchair and use a tablet for communication, they don’t respond. I’m not upset about this. The reality is, that people with disability are rejected more often than non-disabled people. I’ve heard of people having more luck if they hide their disability, but I use photos that clearly show I’m in a wheelchair because it is hard to hide my disability. More importantly, though, I’m proud of who I am, disability and all.
Further, stranger danger couldn’t be more applicable for certain folks with disability. While non-disabled people have the option to seek out companionship through online hook-ups or public encounters in bars or clubs, these places can pose additional risks to people with disability. 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 more significant risk for me. As I don’t have the ability to defend myself like others can, inviting random people into my home takes serious consideration. I risk exposing myself to theft, abuse, or far worse.
Accessing services through a registered sex worker is safer on so many levels. I’ve seen the difference between unregulated and regulated brothels and sex workers. I’m aware of the horrible stories of human trafficking and abuse, and I’m as much opposed to abuse as any other sane person. Unfortunately, many spaces within the industry are susceptible to horrendous abuse and deplorable conditions. It should also be recognised that the sex worker industry is stigmatised by society in general. In light of this, I’m incredibly meticulous about using regulated services, as much for my own safety and the safety of those within the sex work industry.
I’ve met many people in the industry who enjoy their job, and they’re great people. I know that they are regularly tested for STD’s, they won’t steal from me or abuse me, and they’ll leave and not come back unless invited. Accessing these services has allowed to me feel included in pleasurable experiences that other adults enjoy, and it plays a fundamental role in the everyday independent life I’m living.
In the beginning, I just wanted the experience, but now as a mature working adult, I find that stimulation has become a need. These days I can’t go for more than a week without relief. In stressful times, that can increase to two or three times a week. Sexual stimulation, whether through physical contact with a sex worker or through the aid of a device, really helps to reduce tension for me.
I’m unable to manually stimulate myself due to my disability and require assistive technology to achieve this. Three years ago, I discovered 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 accessing sex workers. However, 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 and then leave the room whilst it is being used. Once finished, I call the support worker back in to help clean the device and myself. Some support workers disapprove and won’t even have a conversation about it. I’ve had support workers go as far as trying to stop me from getting other support in to assist.
I genuinely understand why some people might be uncomfortable with assisting me and would never pressure a support worker if they were uncomfortable. But, sadly, I know many people who miss out on this fundamental 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 from engaging. This is because most service providers have policies against supporting people with sexual technology or accessing sex workers via registered brothels. I have addressed several senior managers from different service providers regarding this topic, and they refuse to change their policies or even acknowledge the issue.
When discussing essential services and wants, needs, and desires, NDIS is more than happy to come to the table. An NDIS plan covers the basic needs and how a person can achieve “desired” or “wanted” goals. These are the values NDIS claim to hold. 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, but being active in the community improves the quality of life.
So, it begs the question, why is it so different when it comes to sexual health? The same consensus should apply to sexuality and having those “goals” met. Like community participation, a person isn’t 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 is that it’s not only a fundamental human right, but it is also part of living an ordinary life.
Laws and legislation uphold a person’s human rights. Still, the whole purpose of the NDIS is to ensure that people can improve their quality of life through everyday life experiences and live an ordinary life. Isn’t it?