BENT's own Bear

Everybody knows what bears do in the woods—they sit around telling each other their life's stories and giving one another advice. What else would those big, hairy beasts do when they get together for their Teddy Bear Picnics?

Inspired by the wisdom of my fellow growlers, I'm here to give advice, when asked. So, if any of you have questions you'd like answered by someone who's been around the block a couple of times, please send them to

And in case you're worried that you might have to censor your thoughts, please remember that my walks around the block were often done while dressed in kinkwear and with a thought or two about who I might encounter along the way.

So let me know what's on your mind. If it's a Big Unanswered Question (or even a little one), let me have a crack at it. It is, after all, what bears do best.


"Is There Sex After SCI?"

Dear Max,

Four years ago I had surgery for a spinal cord tumor at C7. My doctor told me it was no big deal and I'd be back to work in four to six weeks. To make a long story short, four years later I find myself an incomplete quad living in a nursing home with people old enough to be my grandparents. But that's another story.

I've dealt with, and have learned to tolerate (though never accept), my disability. I am just now realizing that I can still have a sex life. I have full sensation and all parts are in working order. I just didn't think I'd ever find anyone interested in a man in a wheelchair. It just does not fit the typical gay stereotype. Well, I met an able bodied man on-line who I am very interested in. He is talking about meeting in person someday and the thought of this terrifies me. I have been as truthful as possible with this man about my disability so there won't be any surprises for him. I am also concerned about my safety.

Four years ago I would not have given this a second thought and probably would have met the guy already. I thought of bringing someone along, but that's not possible. Any advice?

New Jersey

Pete, you are absolutely right to be concerned about safety. There would be something wrong with you if you weren't. Let me read between the lines and assume that if the man has been in touch with you for any period of time, is fully aware of your physical limitations, and still wants to meet up with you someday, then he may very well know more about your disability in some ways than even you do. I don't know any subtle way to say this, Pete, but at some point you might want to ask him if the idea of your disability is itself a sexual turn-on. If the answer is anything resembling a "yes," I hope that you will grin from ear to ear and think about how wonderful that knowledge could be for you, not how weird. If he answers that your disability is not a turn-on, but something he can get past, you should still be grinning.

While I've got my finger pointed in your face, let me ask why it should come as such a surprise that a nondisabled man might want to hook up with a man in a wheelchair? And furthermore, if he can accept the fact that you use a chair, I don't want to hear another word about you only tolerating and never accepting it yourself. We bears hate compromise, so please, never say never—and a thousand other words to tell you that you won't earn that happy-ever-after house with the picket fence and a stud-muffin in your bed until you accept Pete, wheels and all.

I will read further between the lines and presume that some of your terror comes from wondering why the man would want to hook up with a disabled guy. I might have answered that question already, but some of your uneasiness might also come from wondering whether or not you can please him. Only you can answer that one and I sincerely hope it's with a resounding "yes." I have a feeling that you're wondering if all this is too good to be true and if the man might turn into a hatchet-wielding psycho once you're alone with him. Can we ever know? But yes, you are more vulnerable than some, so your fears are logical. Can you invite someone along to your first meeting? Not not one of the residents of the nursing home—but maybe a hunky orderly. Seriously, Pete, there's nothing wrong with arranging a first meeting for dinner only, with plenty of time to talk afterwards. Oh, my God! Did I just suggest a . . . date? Well, uh, yes.

You have lived through a lot and I am sure that it has afforded you plenty of wisdom. Certainly, it has given you caution. No doubt you will be able to tell pretty quickly if the man is a serial killer or just a regular guy who has no problem sharing his mattress with a disabled partner. But please, do meet the man. Tell him about your fears and concerns. Don't apologize for having to meet him seated instead of standing. And if you do get beyond that first non-sexual meeting, make sure others know where you are. Carry a cell-phone. Carry mace. Carry condoms. But don't carry around fears that will make the distance from your wheelchair to his face a chasm. If he's a decent man he should be able to understand your concerns. If he can deal with some physical baggage then he can deal with some emotional baggage as well. Let him earn your trust. Let him wait for that first sexual encounter until you are comfortable enough to spend the night thinking about your pleasure and not your safety. Then name the first child after me.

Dear Max,

Hi there! I'm a T8 para. I've been in a chair for twelve years now due to an accident. I think of sex in a different light now because of my injury and have only had a few sexual xperiences, all with with women. Over the years I have been interested in having some bi-oral fun with a man but never knew how I should go about it. How can I start out in my sexual adventure in finding someone who might be interested in teaching me about oral pleasure? Which first step would be good for a para like myself?

On the Internet

Well, Jim, much as I would love to volunteer my services as instructor, I would never be so blunt or crude or downright forward. I think that if you've had any oral experience with women, transferring your technique might not be the leap you think. After all, a tongue is a tongue is a tongue. But the key here is wanting to offer pleasure, loving what you're doing, and merging the two to provide an incredible experience for your partner. I'll give BENT a plug and say that there might be some very willing readers out there (besides me) who would be more than happy to help you out.

Finding the right man to begin with is the most important first step. You might also think of trying to find a bisexual couple willing to experiment with you. There are a number of free Internet listings where you could place an ad, including BENT's own Direct Discourse. I don't know where you live, so I can't say whether or not haunting any local clubs would be productive. No doubt, all of the usual problems associated with a disabled person seeking out sex partners would come into play.

And please, don't close yourself to the option of finding someone who is attracted to disabled men. I hope that your first encounter will be with someone sensitive enough to understand that it is your first, someone able to make you comfortable enough to take that first step. But it should be with someone able to guide you, as well. Nobody comes into the world with an expert technique. Developing it is half the fun. But doing it with someone who pulls his zipper down, lets you work your magic, then zips back up without as much as a thank-you is not the person you want to begin experimenting with. So, don't rush into this with just anyone. There are safety concerns as well. But more important, there are emotional concerns.

And while I'm on the subject, I hope that you also consider the fact that oral sex can and probably should be a two- way street. Don't presume that your disability will automatically make you the giver and not the receiver. I'm aware that all this places one hell of a burden on whomever that first man is. Remember, whether or not you have a second encounter might depend on the success of the first. Even if the man proves to be only a one-nighter, be realistic and remember that you fall in love with the person, not just his organ. But you can fall in love with giving pleasure. And getting it. Consider whether or not you would feel more comfortable having that first encounter with another disabled man. But no matter who it is, you should let him know specifically how your body works, then let him use his own imagination to make the encounter a success.

You know, Jim, you've taken the fist step already by contacting BENT. Your next step might be as close as a few key strokes away. Let the world know what you want, that you expect someone with sensitivity and ability to guide you. Buy or rent one or two gay videos to get an idea of how it's done. There are some that feature mostly oral action. Consider the fact that there is an entire body to be oral with, not just the one set of organs. But remember, no video is going to give you a glimpse into the intimacy that you can experience. And I certainly hope there will be plenty of intimacy. Only you and your first male partner can create that scenario. I hope you experience the same kind of pleasure I've enjoyed for so many wonderful years with so many wonderful men. And all that, my eager novice, is truly a mouthful.

© 2001 Max Verga


MAX VERGA has been an activist ever since getting a call from a friend reporting that he'd been in a riot at the Stonewall Bar only hours before. He began his activism with the West Side Discussion Group, later became involved with its offshoot theater group, and was one of the founders of Mainstream, a gay-disabled group. For more about Max, see his longer biography.


BENT: A Journal of CripGay Voices/September 2001