Health knowledge made personal
Join this community!
› Share page:
Go
Search posts:

Journalism, real life – and the gulf between…

Posted Sep 14 2009 8:17pm

Two articles in the Guardian’s Weekend magazine rather got up my nose yesterday, striking me as self-indulgent in the extreme – or just plain odd.

One was an apparently normal, attractive, woman, Hephzibah Anderson, who, after a relationship fizzled (ah, diddums; you’re not alone, babe, it happens to us all), had decided to give up sex, but not dating, for a year. That’s just perverse, and must have pissed off a whole bunch of guys who must have thought they’d been unwittingly swept back to the fifties; I wouldn’t be too quick to call them when you do fancy a shag, kiddo – you might just find it’s payback time.

And, naturally, she’s written a book about it. The cynical among us might think that, as she is a writer, that was the main reason.

The other was an ultra-religious woman, Rachel Denton, who had chosen an hermitic lifestyle though, admittedly, her end-terrace house is  a world away from life in an anchorite’s cell. Ms. Denton, at least, has had the decency not to foist a book upon us. Despite her claim, though, Ms. Denton has a modest social life, albeit with a religious focus, so she isn’t really a hermit.

Both, to my mind are being excessively self-indulgent, possibly to an almost pathological degree. For the former I have no sympathy; she seemed to want her cake but not eat it, which is frankly, so very last century. The latter, given my antipathy towards all things religious, makes me very uneasy on several levels. But at least she genuinely has the courage of her convictions.

Do either, though, warrant space in a newspaper supplement?

The thing is, for a great many disabled people, this is normal life – a situation forced upon us totally unwanted. We didn’t make any twee decisions not to get laid, or decide god wanted us to live alone. We had no say in the matter – life just dumped it in our laps.

We, the disabled, though, are not newsworthy – not unless the Telegraph and the Mail are cynically publishing lies about us for no better reason than it sells papers to brain-dead proles and, no matter how shit our lives are, guess what, we don’t get columns in glossy supplements.

But why not? Ms. Denton’s voluntarily circumscribed life is actually more eventful than, say, mine, and she does have the advantage of preferring to be alone. I get the feeling that Ms. Anderson is taking the piss just a tad – I’m unable to shake the suspicion that a year’s celibacy was simply a wheeze, to get a book out of it; and she probably had her buzzy friend, or several, to keep herself, erm, entertained the while.

They both seem, to me, to be just playing at being celibate and isolated, while I, on the other hand – and I’m by no means unique – am the real thing.

There are very many of us in the disabled community who are pretty much forced to live alone, and only rarely get laid – the two are not entirely unrelated. This is, to a large extent, because society as a whole doesn’t see disabled people as sexual beings, and you couldn’t be more wrong.

For example, I know one guy who is exceptionally skilled at generating multiple orgasms for his all-too-rare sexual partners, more or less on demand, yet to look at him you’d never suspect such a hidden talent, and he too rarely gets a chance to shine because most women don’t look beyond the crutches or the wheelchair**. He is, unsurprisingly, deeply unimpressed by this. This, though, is a skill gained and honed during the time he was a “real” person, not a disabled “unperson” and yet, beyond the façade of disability he is, like many thousands of others who have had disability thrust upon them, still the same person, with the same needs – and the same benefits for anyone who takes the plunge!

What cosmic law says that just because someone is barely able to walk, they can’t excel in bed (where that’s not a hindrance), or in any other area of expertise? There are disabled people, one or two I know personally, living in involuntary isolation, who are excellent artists, whose work no-one sees except those very few who make an effort to look beyond the disability and actually talk to them, and others who are superb gardeners and who, gardening from a wheelchair, get patronised for their pains, if they get noticed at all.

So, Mr. Newspaper Editor, next time you get the urge to publish something about people living alone, or without sex – or both – just consider that there are many for whom that’s compulsory, unwanted, and not a life-style choice, and, just maybe, you might get a better story. Or, at least, a more worthwhile one…

**Bitter, moi? ‘kin right! It annoyed me so much that I was moved to write this on the subject of disability and isolation.

Two articles in the Guardian’s Weekend magazine rather got up my nose yesterday, striking me as self-indulgent in the extreme – or just plain odd.

One was an apparently normal, attractive, woman, Hephzibah Anderson, who, after a relationship fizzled (ah, diddums; you’re not alone, babe, it happens to us all), had decided to give up sex, but not dating, for a year. That’s just perverse, and must have pissed off a whole bunch of guys who must have thought they’d been unwittingly swept back to the fifties; I wouldn’t be too quick to call them when you do fancy a shag, kiddo – you might just find it’s payback time.

And, naturally, she’s written a book about it. The cynical among us might think that, as she is a writer, that was the main reason.

The other was an ultra-religious woman, Rachel Denton, who had chosen an hermitic lifestyle though, admittedly, her end-terrace house is  a world away from life in an anchorite’s cell. Ms. Denton, at least, has had the decency not to foist a book upon us. Despite her claim, though, Ms. Denton has a modest social life, albeit with a religious focus, so she isn’t really a hermit.

Both, to my mind are being excessively self-indulgent, possibly to an almost pathological degree. For the former I have no sympathy; she seemed to want her cake but not eat it, which is frankly, so very last century. The latter, given my antipathy towards all things religious, makes me very uneasy on several levels. But at least she genuinely has the courage of her convictions.

Do either, though, warrant space in a newspaper supplement?

The thing is, for a great many disabled people, this is normal life – a situation forced upon us totally unwanted. We didn’t make any twee decisions not to get laid, or decide god wanted us to live alone. We had no say in the matter – life just dumped it in our laps.

We, the disabled, though, are not newsworthy – not unless the Telegraph and the Mail are cynically publishing lies about us for no better reason than it sells papers to brain-dead proles and, no matter how shit our lives are, guess what, we don’t get columns in glossy supplements.

But why not? Ms. Denton’s voluntarily circumscribed life is actually more eventful than, say, mine, and she does have the advantage of preferring to be alone. I get the feeling that Ms. Anderson is taking the piss just a tad – I’m unable to shake the suspicion that a year’s celibacy was simply a wheeze, to get a book out of it; and she probably had her buzzy friend, or several, to keep herself, erm, entertained the while.

They both seem, to me, to be just playing at being celibate and isolated, while I, on the other hand – and I’m by no means unique – am the real thing.

There are very many of us in the disabled community who are pretty much forced to live alone, and only rarely get laid – the two are not entirely unrelated. This is, to a large extent, because society as a whole doesn’t see disabled people as sexual beings, and you couldn’t be more wrong.

For example, I know one guy who is exceptionally skilled at generating multiple orgasms for his all-too-rare sexual partners, more or less on demand, yet to look at him you’d never suspect such a hidden talent, and he too rarely gets a chance to shine because most women don’t look beyond the crutches or the wheelchair**. He is, unsurprisingly, deeply unimpressed by this. This, though, is a skill gained and honed during the time he was a “real” person, not a disabled “unperson” and yet, beyond the façade of disability he is, like many thousands of others who have had disability thrust upon them, still the same person, with the same needs – and the same benefits for anyone who takes the plunge!

What cosmic law says that just because someone is barely able to walk, they can’t excel in bed (where that’s not a hindrance), or in any other area of expertise? There are disabled people, one or two I know personally, living in involuntary isolation, who are excellent artists, whose work no-one sees except those very few who make an effort to look beyond the disability and actually talk to them, and others who are superb gardeners and who, gardening from a wheelchair, get patronised for their pains, if they get noticed at all.

So, Mr. Newspaper Editor, next time you get the urge to publish something about people living alone, or without sex – or both – just consider that there are many for whom that’s compulsory, unwanted, and not a life-style choice, and, just maybe, you might get a better story. Or, at least, a more worthwhile one…

**Bitter, moi? ‘kin right! It annoyed me so much that I was moved to write this on the subject of disability and isolation.

Post a comment
Write a comment: