Chapter 4 — Alan
One of my major influences was a member called Alan Barnes, a very severely impaired young undergraduate, who wrote me pages and pages of wisdom. Everything I learnt from him, and other members, was written down and made into a booklet called Practical Suggestions, which was sent to new members as they joined.
To begin with, we were quite shocking to most people. Up until that time, very little had been spoken or written about the sexuality of disabled men and women. Our willingness to address the topic and actually deal with it in an open, practical way, brought sensationalist press, which made us cower, and wonder if perhaps we should pretend we don’t cater to member’s sexual desires at all. Alan died long ago, but his words keep me determined not to change course one bit:
‘The club’s value lies, for me anyway, in providing an environment where I might resolve some of my doubts over my sexuality and its implications. Where there are people I can trust sufficiently and with whom, since they acknowledge my sexuality as a matter of course, I can speak frankly and expect from them a response which will be of use, help. Moreover, it provides an environment that does not humiliate and de-humanise, by flinging around in County Halls and social workers’ files (at least, as far as I know!) my personal problems. Other organisations dealing with the problems of the disabled, and books which serve to highlight the sexual problems, may bring the concerns to light and raise awareness, but they often shy away from doing more than raising expectations in what is little more than a clinical vacuum. Thus, the club serves an over-all enhancement. It is concerned with sex in its significant place beside emotions and sociability—the important thing is it knows it can’t, shouldn’t discourage, diminish or try to leave sex out altogether.’
I’m sure Alan would not mind me sharing this with you now. He told me the only places on his body (which had very limited mobility) which could feel sexy feelings were his testicles. I found a testicular vibrator and sent it to him. He asked his father to put it by the bed. Quite a while later, he found a way to pick up the vibrator from where it had been sitting on his bedside table, but it was gone. “I think my father must have borrowed it.” Alan wrote to me, in almost his last letter before he died.
Chapter 4 — Alan