Navigating Kink Life as a Disabled Butch: Workshop Materials

I am teaching an interactive discussion-based workshop on Navigating Kink Life as a Disabled Butch at Butch Voices on Friday August 18 at 10:45am in Oakland. In this post, I’m going to share information and resources that I’m including in that workshop.

Here is the description:

If you are a kinky disabled butch, or you do kink with disabled butches, this interactive workshop is for you. We will discuss our kink lives with folks who get what it’s like to experience the changeable nature of chronic illness and disability, with its unpredictable energy/pain levels. We will share our tips & tricks for topics such as adjusting BDSM play around mobility disabilities, playing while in pain, disclosing disability to new play partners, developing access intimacy, adjusting D/s around things like mental health flares or brain fog, and getting the pain play we ache for.

For an interactive discussion-based workshop like this, I don’t generally have a set plan. It’s more loose and responsive to what folks bring into the room, what they are seeking. I start there, start by asking participants what they are looking for from the conversation. What I do prepare are offerings of material that I can use to guide discussion, and that participants can take home with them as resources. That’s what the handout is for, to be a jumping off point for conversation.

So, this post is me sharing those offerings with you, so you can use them in the workshop (to make it more accessible) and so folks who aren’t in the room have things they can chew on too.

I come to this conversation as a kinky person who has been doing kink for over 15 years, and teaching about it over a dozen. I come to this conversation as an autistic trans butch who has multiple chronic pain and autoimmune conditions and diseases, has PTSD, and a mobility disability, all of which have impacted and continue to impact my kink life. I come to this conversation with a wide definition of disability and a wide definition of kink.

I prepared three offerings for the workshop. One is a list of ten core concepts. Another is a quote about and set of links on access intimacy. The last is a set of self reflection questions about adjusting kink around changing disabilities/capacities. Depending on where folks in the room are, we will engage with these, and with the questions, thoughts, and experiences that emerge from them.

Core Concepts:

  1. BDSM can be wonderful, transformative, spiritual, glorious, positive and hot for everyone involved, whatever their ranges and combinations of bodies, limitations and abilities.
  2. However a disability exists (whether someone was born with it, or acquired it, whether it is temporary or permanent, changing or constant), it’s valuable to determine the current reality and figure out how to do the kink you want to do in that reality.
  3. It’s ok to go at your own pace and honor the capacity and limitations you have, whatever your kink role.
  4. Bodies and abilities may change throughout a person’s lifetime, relationships, and sometimes several times a day, or hour. Kink desires and limits may change just as much.
  5. Knowing, communicating about, and respecting the limits and desires of all parties involved enhances your kink life.
  6. You do not need to wait to “get better” to do kink (or do kink again). You can meet yourself and meet others where you’re at.
  7. Each person is responsible for their own decision-making about their own body, disability, health, and physical/emotional resources.
  8. Not all BDSM is sexual. It’s ok to do kink for disability related reasons, like meeting sensory needs, pain relief, or meeting emotional needs. It can be helpful if all involved know what participants are seeking from play.
  9. Adjusting BDSM play around changing disability and access needs often means taking risks, trying things out, and being vulnerable.
  10. Butches are often expected to already know how to be good in bed, to be experts at sex. Butches also are frequently expected to be in control and not show vulnerability. These expectations can make it difficult for disabled butches doing kink to take risks, try things out, and ask for their access needs to be met.

Access Intimacy:

“Access intimacy is that elusive, hard to describe feeling when someone else “gets” your access needs. The kind of eerie comfort that your disabled self feels with someone on a purely access level. Sometimes it can happen with complete strangers, disabled or not, or sometimes it can be built over years. It could also be the way your body relaxes and opens up with someone when all your access needs are being met… Sometimes access intimacy doesn’t even mean that everything is 100% accessible. Sometimes it looks like both of you trying to create access as hard as you can with no avail in an ableist world. Sometimes it is someone just sitting and holding your hand while you both stare back at an inaccessible world.” –Mia Mingus

Resources on Access Intimacy:

Adjusting Kink around Changing Disabilities/Capacities: Self reflection questions

  • Access to Space: Where is play possible? What will make it possible for me to get in the door? What furniture needs do I have? What environmental needs do I have (e.g. lighting, sound, fragrance-free)? What spaces are inaccessible? What spaces are accessible sometimes but not always? What spaces work for some kinds of play but not others?
  • Physical position: What positions work for me? How do positions need to be adjusted? What positions will not work? What equipment or furniture do I need to make a position work for me? How long can I be in the position?
  • Timing: How does the pace of a scene need to be adjusted? Do I need to take breaks to rest or stretch or attend to physical needs? How does the arc of the scene need to be adjusted to work for me? When are certain scenes possible? When are certain scenes desired?
  • Communication Needs: How can play be adjusted to meet my communication needs and capacities? What kinds of communication work best before a scene? During a scene? After play? What impacts my ability to communicate? What do I need if I go nonverbal? How can I communicate continued consent if I go nonverbal?
  • D/s structure: When does D/s feel like a structure I need/a structure that helps? When does D/s feel overwhelming or impossible? When do I need a break from D/s? How can structure be adjusted to make breaks possible? To make it possible to access power-neutral aspects of a relationship? Can structure or ritual make some things more possible? What disability-related things are off limits for control or D/s?
  • Service: What kinds of service are doable from where I am now? How does service need to be adjusted as my disabilities flare and change? What disability-related needs/tasks are off limits for receiving service?
  • Kink meeting disability needs: What sorts of play meet my sensory needs? What kinds of play work best when I’m in pain/for pain relief/for distraction from pain? What kinds of emotional or psychological needs do I want to try to meet with kink? What sorts of play meet those needs? How do these things change with disability flares?
  • Edgeplay: When do I want to push edges? When do I need play right in my comfort zones? What do I need to make edgeplay work for me?
  • Shifting roles: What roles work when? How do kink roles (top, bottom, Daddy, puppy, little, pony, etc.) need to shift around my disabled reality?
  • Disclosure: What adjustments in play/disability related needs feel private, where I’m not up for sharing with play partners? Can I adjust for them myself? What do my play partners need to know about my disabilities? When and how do I want to share information with my partners about my disabilities? What do my play partners need to know about my access needs?
  • Unknowns: What aspects of my capacity/limitations/disabilities are not known? What aspects are unpredictable? What will I need to experiment with, or work together with partners to figure out? What would make it more possible for me to do play that is exploratory/experimental?

Hope you found something useful in the materials, whether or not you were at the workshop. I am excited to have this conversation; I always learn so much from talking to other disabled folks. I would be glad if you shared any thoughts and questions you have in the comments; we can have a conversation here too!

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