Can you tell us a little about your background? How did you get involved in this line of work?
I’ve been disabled/chronically ill since I was five years old. Throughout high school, I was that friend who would go with friends to Planned Parenthood and talk to them about their sex lives or being risk-aware.
How did Chronic Sex come about?
In college, I studied world religions, history, and politics while writing a blog about what it was like to be invisibly disabled. After a few years of writing, organizations and companies got interested in what I was saying. I would occasionally write about how my health was affecting my sex life – those posts continue to get a good amount of traffic. In 2015, I went to a conference where Lucky Tomazeck of Tool Shed Toys talked about sex education. At this conference, I was really surprised to learn how much people didn’t know about chronic illness and disability regarding sex. Because of the lack of information out there, I started Chronic Sex later that year.
What is Chronic Sex’s mission statement? How does Chronic Sex go about accomplishing this?
The Chronic Sex tagline is ‘because sexuality doesn’t depend on ability.’ I really want CS to be a resource for people to learn more about disability, sexuality, relationships, and more. I believe that sex (at least in part) is about how we treat ourselves and others. With this being said, a big part of what I talk about is self-love and self-care. While most of the work is on the site, I also host the Chronic Sex podcast and social media chats about these topics when I’m not traveling to host workshops or trying to learn how to rest.
How does your work relate to kink?
I’m a bit of a newbie with kink. That said, I think there’s something to be gained from learning with someone as they document their journey. By sharing how kink helps with my chronic pain, I’ve been able to inspire other people to try kink out to see if it’s something that might help them.
Is kink a part of your life? If so, has it helped you in any way?
It’s a big part of my life, but not in a conventional way. A conference I went to had a kink exhibition that I was really interested in attending. I wound up spending a lot of time at the impact play station. After being flogged, caned, and whipped, one of my chronic pain conditions – fibromyalgia – stopped being so painful. At this time, I was in the middle of a flare-up (or a period of exacerbated/worsened symptoms) and was in so much pain that it hurt to wear clothing. After the impact play at the conference, I had complete relief for about six weeks and have had lesser symptoms since getting a flogger myself.
What are your goals going forward with combining your personal life and/or Chronic Sex with kink/kink education?
The biggest thing I want to do is show just how helpful kink can be. For me, it can be super sexy and fun or something I schedule into my week as a part of my pain management plan. I’ve met so many other people who use kink as a form pain management or even like therapy as well. In short, I want to help the lift the stigma surrounding kink.
How has being queer affected your worldview?
It’s helped me to become much more of an activist. I understand things like privilege and marginalization so much better because of the interactions of my identities such as queer and disabled. Most of all, it’s helped me find my people. There is nowhere else I’d rather be than with my queer and disabled pals. We get each other in ways no one else can, and also can help others understand us better when we work together.
To you, what does being queer mean? How does it differ from other identifiers in the LGBTQ Community?
Being queer isn’t just a sexual orientation. If I were to specifically name my sexuality, I would say that I am pansexual (or that gender doesn’t factor into who I’m attracted to). I’m genderfluid. That means that I’m non-binary and don’t really have a specific gender expression (or dress masculine versus feminine). To me, being queer encompasses not only both of those identities, but also my disabilities and politics. As someone who isn’t happy to hide my identities for the comfort of others, I tend to be happy subverting the system and making people question their assumptions.
Do you believe that there is a known overlap between the LGBTQ Community and Kink Community? If so, what is the overlap? What about for the Disabilities Community?
Absolutely! I think there are a lot of people who don’t necessarily think about these overlaps or realize they exist – but they do. If someone has a chronic illness, that can be considered a disability depending on how they identify. That means someone with asthma, autoimmune illnesses, or cancer might call themselves disabled. I would say that it’s relatively impossible that someone doesn’t know a kinkster who could be disabled. The same definitely goes for the LGBTQ+ community.
Do you find that a decent amount of individuals with disabilities are also interested in kink and BDSM? If so, how can the Kink Community make kink and BDSM more accessible to them?
There are definitely a lot of us who are disabled and into kink. A few things to keep in mind:
– Not all disabilities are visible.
– Accessibility needs can include wheelchair access, low/no-scent policy, and being mindful of allergies among many other things.
– Don’t make assumptions about a person’s ability to consent to something without having a conversation with them. Many disabled people wind up being infantilized or made to feel like a child. Part of this is due to the assumption that we don’t engage in kink or that we’re automatically asexual. Many of us are, but many of us are proud and queer and kinky sluts too.
What is your personal motto? How does your work in sex education and writing reflect this?
My motto is ‘Do no harm but take no shit.’ It plays into how I interact with everything in the world. Is X company promoting ableism (discrimination against disabled peeps), other bigotry, or harmful misinformation? If so, I’m going to call it out and point out the issues with it.
What would you say is your greatest goal at large? How do you want to go about accomplishing this?
I want people to know that they’re worthy of having amazing relationships and mind-blowing sex no matter what disabilities they have and/or challenges they face! So often many of us forget this due to self-esteem or other issues. Once we realize we deserve more, we can work towards getting that.
What new projects/endeavors are you currently working on? How will these benefit the communities at large?
One thing I’m working on at the end of this summer is a literature review of research around kink and chronic pain. There is some out there, but it’s not easily accessible. I’m hoping that pulling information together will help more people gain access and start thinking of kink outside of the box. I’m also hoping it leads to lessening the stigma around kink as well as giving other disabled pals an idea of something that might help them.
Why do you feel that sex education is so imperative? What do you feel needs to be talked about more?
I feel like a big part of it is that we need to normalize sex – and not just sex, but good sex. Despite all that I know about sex, I still find myself falling into ideas like it’s normal to have painful sex – and it isn’t. The more we talk about sex and dispel the misinformation around it, the more we can take steps to have better sex – and take care of ourselves.
In your opinion, what is the biggest stereotype concerning sex, kink, LGBTQ, disabilities, etc. that needs to be dispelled?
The biggest thing that goes across all of these categories is that it’s never okay to assume things about others. Someone who is queer may not love to wear rainbow gear. A disabled person may not ‘look’ like they’re disabled. Kinksters might be goths or soccer moms. The only way we can learn about other people is through communication- not judgment based on appearances.
Any closing thoughts?
I’m so grateful to be able to share these ideas and what I’m working on. Hopefully, people find something helpful within it!