I pull up a headless mirror pic of my body dotted in perfect circular bruises from my thighs to my neck. “But look at how purple this bruise is,” I type and hit SEND.

Taking care of my disabled body doesn’t always spark joy. It involves juggling the exhausting tasks of physical strengthening, care coordination, and medication scheduling. But snapping a pic to show off any progress, like surviving an intense cupping session, for an impact play–obsessed hook-up across the country is one way that kink keeps me connected to my desires.

Kink and BDSM existed on the fringes of my life before 2019, when I developed chronic pain as a symptom of my disabilities. I’ve been a switch and a sub near and far. Being publicly flogged at your local Eagle is part of my vacation to-do list. And admittedly I’ve always been the kind of bratty exhibitionist to send a salacious pic or two. Thanks to an enthusiastic physical therapist and the support of other kinky, disabled loved ones, I have found that these and many other aspects of my kink practice are critical parts of my pain management and mental wellness as I’ve transitioned into disability.

After interviewing a handful of disabled people who practice kink this past week, I found myself in good company.

As daily chronic pain took over my life for the last year, my typically ferocious sex drive tanked. It felt like living with chronic pain meant making a choice between using my scarce energy to manage that pain through medical interventions or not manage it at all but have potentially unenjoyable sex instead.

However, an overwhelming consensus among the people I interviewed destroyed my binary thinking by affirming that kink allows disabled people to control pain and feel good in our bodies, something that might not typically happen in our daily lives. Intense pain, unpredictable symptoms, and confronting constant ableism may dominate a disabled person’s life. But kink spaces and practices can serve as a container with accessibility and adaptation in mind.

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How Practicing Kink Helps Keep People with Disabilities Connected to Their Desires by Emmett Patterson

Nov 23, 2020