Some Preliminary and Sometimes Perverse Thoughts about Crip Sex and Crip Power

By Julio Moreno

The older one grows, the more one likes indecency.
-Virginia Woolf


A non-crip who is attracted to crips once told me that writing about crip sex is hurtful to other disabled men, since some of us cannot have sex, or can't get it if we want it, or cannot derive much satisfaction from it when we do get it—blah, blah, blah. Am I being recklessly dismissive when I reject his argument? Is our sexuality so pathetic that we need to bury it under loads of denial so we don't feel the pain of being horny? Is our sexuality an open sore that will never heal, never become healthy flesh?

I want to talk about every aspect of being a horny crip, explore every horny detail. I want to demolish the belief system that insists crips are sexless, that our differently-shaped or oddly functioning bodies are repulsive. I reject the notion that we are powerless, ugly, needy, dependent. I reject it and I want all of you to reject it, too.

Yes, I do have moments when I feel ugly, moments when the mirror becomes an enemy, an accuser, reminding me that I am different, but it doesn't pay to dwell in that place for long, unless self-pity is a major turn-on for you. Instead, I choose to make room for more compassionate perceptions of myself, perceptions that endow my difference with its own unique beauty, with the power to expand rigid social norms and challenge assembly-line clonism. That's why our bodies and our appreciation of them are such crucial factors in fostering personal growth—both for us and those who come in contact with us.

I also want to talk about how our bodies can become vehicles for sexual satisfaction. I want to talk about how my stump, or your spinal injury, or someone else's muscle spasms can become tools for pleasure, loci of intense delight. I want to explore how the very texture of difference can be exciting. Visualize your hand or your tongue exploring a crip body, its unexpected curves, unusual shapes, the absence of an arm or a leg offering intensities a conventional body cannot provide, the lack of sight or hearing transforming the remaining senses.

I write because I'm curious—about you, my crip brothers, and about myself. Since the self is such a convenient ground for exploration, let me start right here, with me. I have a cauterized nerve in my stump (it feels like a little finger or a small bone) that gives me a great deal of pleasurable sensation when I touch or stroke it. When someone else does it, when a lover or sex buddy plays with it, it drives me wild.

For a long time I was poisonously ashamed of my damaged leg. To be sure, my stump is still an intimate area—I might argue that it is even more intimate than my cock or my ass. In fact, the sensations I feel in my stump are oddly equivalent to what I feel in my ass, most likely because of the nerve endings. So there you go, I lost a leg and I got an unexpected erogenous zone. And I like that. The extra erogenous zone, I mean, not the loss of my leg.

We queer crips must have an enormous range of body-image and body-sensation issues (unless we're going through some kind of mass denial, right?), so I wonder how other guys relate to their non-standard bodies. How about it? Do some of you have extra or alternative erogenous zones?

In corresponding with a few guys with spinal cord injuries I've learned that some of you have discovered (depending on the location of the damage) that your upper bodies are exquisitely sensitive to caresses; that your ears, your necks, your nipples, can deliver sensations you would not have dreamed of before your injury; that you've discovered how the exchange of pleasure can be a new source of satisfaction.

All this was new information for me. Thank you for allowing me to see you as sexual men, crips who sometimes fuck and sometimes suck and sometimes have orgasms in their ears. If we fail to recognize these realities, our discovery of ourselves as sexual creatures will remain an abstraction.

I would like to find out about these things first-hand. I haven't fucked a man in a chair yet, but I'm interested. I did get a nice blowjob from a guy in a chair once; he was in a chair because of polio, though, so he had sensations all over his body. But I wonder about paras...

So you see, I've got all these questions. They're practical questions, not theoretical. They're about you and me, about all of us together, whether we are giving pleasure to one another or to ourselves: Do paras sometimes get hard-ons? Can men with spastic limbs integrate their spasms into their sex play? Do amputees ever find stump-fucking bottoms among their devotees? Can you devotees and wannabes surrender to my unspeakable desires and let me give you what you don't even know you want? I'd really like to know.

Speaking of devotees, I have to admit they freak me out. That doesn't mean that I won't allow my sex-buddies to play with my stump. On the contrary: if I trust and care about them, I will ask them to. Not everyone is comfortable with the idea though, so I've learned to negotiate pleasure.

But that's not what I'm talking about when I refer to devotees. A few days ago I saw a devotee Web site, kinky even by San Francisco standards, and was overcome by weird feelings. Why? I guess I was repulsed by the thought that your trauma, my trauma, can be reduced to someone else's fetish. Many of us carry strong memories from our injuries or surgeries, the reactions of our families, the consequent emotional turmoil, our loss of self-esteem, our loss of certain abilities. Most of us adapt well and move on with our lives. We go to school, get jobs, find friends and lovers. We learn how to deal with rejection; we accept and honor our new selves. We take our pain and learn to grow with it, and by recognizing the power of our losses we discover that the soul is vast.

I know my own pain, both physical and emotional, and I know what it means. To have someone eroticize my pain makes it banal. To have someone fetishize it cheapens a splendorously kaleidoscopic and ever-changing experience. What I want to say to the devotee, the man who eroticizes my pain, is this: I am in control. My stump is a god, like my cock. The only devotee worthy of worshipping it is he who is willing to be bound and stump-fucked to my divine, sadistic amusement.

Being in control during sex is important for me, especially if I'm playing as a bottom. Contradictory? In the words of the great Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa, "only the superficial never contradict themselves." Being in control of our bodies is crucial. It teaches us that we do have options, that we do have a say about how we are treated. Only by assuming some degree of control can we make our boundaries respected and impress upon others that we deserve to be treated well, sexually and in the world at large. This dynamic gives us a sense of dignity in exactly the place we most often feel undignified: our bodies.

Only if I assert myself, make myself the subject instead of the object, can I go on to the next step of self-acceptance, which is activism. To be a queer crip activist I must seize power in situations where the "other" holds sway. As I see it, my presence is so powerful, my "damaged" body is so intense that people fear me, in the same way that "average-looking" guys might fear "clones" in bars. As a disabled man, I believe that what other men fear in confronting me is the intensity of our potential connection. They fear visiting places in themselves that have been supressed, places that could open doors to an adventure of self-discovery that few can provide.

For me, being an activist may entail nothing more than making myself visible and visibly happy. Sometimes simply displaying my leg in public, in queer spaces, is activism because it forces others to acknowledge my crip existence.

A friend of mine, a guy who had a stroke and now uses leg braces, refuses to go to swimming pools or saunas, activities he enjoyed before he became a crip. His self-imposed imprisonment, his self-imposed invisibility, feeds the power of the oppressing other. I refuse to make others comfortable by hiding myself. I will insist on guiding their political and spiritual growth by sharing the gift of my difference.

Yes, people feel uncomfortable with cripples. Some feel responsible, some feel ashamed, some feel angry. Some feel they lack the skills to cope, some feel they need to fix us. What we fail to realize is how these attitudes grant us power, give us the ability to manipulate situations that are peculiar to us as cripples. But that power exists only if we thrust ourselves into the world as participants, queer crips or crip queers for all to see.

When we make the effort to assert our power, we know that politicians must deal with us. How many of you remember San Francisco in the 70's, when crips took over the United Nations Plaza to demand independent-living rights? It is our job to make politicians squirm. Recognize that fact and you will see how many ways you can use your queer crip identity: you can become a politician yourself; you can become a sex worker (or "sex healer," the term I prefer); you can tell your stories forthrightly in places like BENT.

Become an activist by exposing the sheer power of your presence; make yourself a crip queer who can manipulate people's fear of you to achieve the higher good. I want to see queer crips in queer bars, at my neighborhood coffee house, at the gym, at street fairs, in mainstream magazines and in 'zines and porno flicks. I want to see us in churches, at protests, at drag shows, and at board of supervisors meetings. How about queer crips in adult movie theaters—as both consumers and models! I want to see us as active members of our community, building it, restructuring it, marketing ourselves as a force that cannot be ignored.

We have power over our bodies. Let us choose to multiply beauty by making ourselves visible. Our different selves, our different bodies, our different beauty must be seen at any cost!

©2002 Julio Moreno
Illustration: Statue of Antinous, Museum of Delphi

Don't wait.
Let us know what you think of this BENT feature.

Julio Moreno lost a leg almost two decades ago in a motorcycle accident. For the past ten years he has been HIV+. His visible and invisible disabilities have prompted him to be active as a crip and a queer. He currently serves on the Board of San Francisco's Aurora-Dawn Foundation, a provider of housing and other services for low-income/no-income people with HIV, AIDS and a wide variety of needs.

He is working towards his B.A. in Hispanic Literature and plans to pursue a PhD by looking at that literary tradition from a Queer Crip perspective. Although he knows that language is not reality, he also knows it is a tool that can be used to oppress or liberate. Maybe that is why you will find his ideas awkward at times, insulting at times, otherworldly at times. Julio has recently begun to explore how SM practices can enlarge our spiritual potential by including and celebrating differently-shaped bodies and minds. Welcome to the Kinkdom of Heaven within!


BENT: A Journal of CripGay Voices/November 2002