In the busy year and a half that I’ve been working as a dominatrix, I’ve had the pleasure of sessioning with a score of clients with disabilities. My experience of BDSM + PWD (people with disabilities) goes back much further than this, though, to the beginning of my own exploration with kink. Yes, I’m disabled myself (although most clients, colleagues, and civilians would never know.) This personal experience has given me a deeper and somewhat unique perspective on how best to address the needs of disabled subs, and I thought it would be to their benefit and yours to share the knowledge. I’ve condensed my insights into five simple points that all pro Dommes should keep in mind when dealing with disabled subs.
1. Be aware that not all disabilities are visible and not all visible disabilities are relevant. Like me, plenty of people are invisibly disabled. We don’t ‘look’ or ‘act’ disabled (whatever that might mean), but we still have conditions that affect our functioning and may require accommodations. Diabetes, colitis, epilepsy, and PTSD are examples of some common invisible disabilities that you may need to take into consideration when playing with a submissive, which is why it’s important to ask every single client whether he has any disabilities or health issues. Alternately, keep in mind that not every visible disability will have an impact on your scene. For example, it’s unlikely you’ll need to accommodate a spanking sub who’s had digits amputated, because dextral ability isn’t a component of most physical discipline scenes.
2. Know the proper terminology. Many PWD (especially those of older generations) won’t be horribly offended if you use the impolite or incorrect term to refer to them or their condition. However, knowing the proper terminology will likely give you an in with PWD and make those clients more likely to stick around. I’ve included a few examples of outdated and offensive terms and their more current and appropriate counterparts, but doing some reading on your own can’t hurt! *Mentally retarded → Intellectually disabled *Mentally disturbed → Mentally ill/ Psychologically disabled *Crippled → Mobility-impaired *Blind/deaf → Visually-impaired/ hard-of-hearing (unless they’re fully without sight or hearing, in which case ‘blind’ and ‘deaf’ are accurate and acceptable) *Wheelchair-bound → Wheelchair user (I mean, unless they’ve actually been bound to their chair during session!)
3. Ask questions-- but not too many. You don’t need to be an expert on every kind of disability there is, and no client would expect you to be. If you haven’t heard of a particular condition or you’re unsure how it will impact your scene, don’t be afraid to ask. It’s also a good idea to inquire about any accommodations the client has found useful in the past and whether or not he might require extra aftercare. However, it’s important not to ask invasive, irrelevant questions, or you’ll come across as rude and ignorant. “How did you get like that?” and “Can you still have sex?” are two examples of inappropriate questions.
4. Get creative with accommodations. Often, figuring out how to accommodate a PWD in session is simply a matter of being imaginative. If your sub has circulatory issues,(such as those that are common with diabetes), it’s a great occasion to skip the rope and break out the stocks. If your sub has knee problems and can’t kneel to worship your feet, make him lie down while you shove your toes in his mouth! Exercise your descriptive verbal skills with clients who are visually impaired or come up with a silly safe action for clients with speech impediments. Have fun with it!
5. Above all, understand that people with disabilities are more similar to you than different. Often without even realizing it, people without disabilities treat PWD in ways that make them feel less-than, bizarre, or infantilized. If you find yourself treating a PWD as if they’re worth less, strange, or childlike, it helps to remember that they’re like you in more ways than not. Having to sit instead of kneel doesn’t make someone less submissive, talking differently doesn’t change the essence of what they’re saying, and having difficulty processing information doesn’t mean someone is stupid or doesn’t have adult sexual desires. A sub with disabilities doesn’t necessarily have to be hit lighter or treated more delicately. Communicate openly about their needs, then relax and enjoy yourselves!