Disability

The man taught to have sex by lesbians

Cartoon image of Mik and a friend

Sex and relationships for disabled people can give rise to unspoken questions and sensitivities - often among the able bodied. But amid the awkwardness there is humour. The following is an edited version of a monologue by Mik Scarlet, who broke his back when he was a teenager.

I'm going to talk about sex, because that's edgy isn't it.

Like most people who were born disabled, as I was, you grow up and you're kind of cool with it. I was born with a bit of a useless leg, so I wore what was then called a caliper but is now called a leg brace, which meant that I was really rubbish at PE, awful at football, and really good at kicking bullies.

Then I hit puberty and puberty is a bit of a pig because we all live in a society where disability and sexy just don't go together. And remember this is the 70s, so they really didn't go together. I thought, what am I going to do? No-one's going to want to go out with me. No-one's going to want a disabled boyfriend. I worried a bit but I'd been brought up to believe that the best thing to do was try and fail. Because it's always better to fail than to not try. So I tried, and failed.

Most girls said no. But eventually, because I kept trying, someone said yes and I was over the moon and she was really cool.

So I'd got a girlfriend and it was all fantastic. Then one morning I woke up and found that my legs hurt and my back really hurt and every time I tried to stand up I fell over. So an ambulance was called, I was rushed to hospital and it transpired that my spine had collapsed. Yes, it is true folks, you can break your back in your sleep.

So there I was in hospital, needing lots of surgery. One of the operations I had was where I was slashed from my belly button all the way round to my back. Shortly afterwards, my then-girlfriend came to visit me and I rolled over in bed to say hello and the wound split wide open. So as I said hello my intestines rolled out. She went "Aargh" and ran out trying not to throw up on her shoes. I never saw her again.

Image caption Mik told his story to a live BBC audience

Watch all the stories from the Ouch Storytelling event

Eventually, I left hospital and I had lost the ability to walk. There was no more standing for me. And there was also no more standing to attention down there. I had lost what the doctors call erectile function. I thought, that's it, game over man. I got really depressed but later I thought: I want a relationship, I want to be with someone.

This was the 80s, we were all gender-benders back then, we all tried anything, we didn't care. All my mates were coming out as gay, so I thought, hey I'll try that.

Unfortunately, it transpired that I am very, very heterosexual. So what was I going to do?

I thought I'd become the world's best male friend and all my girlfriends would come round and I'd do their hair and make-up and send them out on dates. And then she'd come back and cry on my shoulder saying, "Mik, he had sex with me and then he dumped me, why can't boys be like you?" I, of course, didn't see what I would now recognise as a come-on - I thought they're never going to want to be with me because I can't "do it''. So I'd be like, "Oh yeah, don't worry, next time you'll be fine."

Then, one of my best female friends came to me and said, "Look Mik, I've met this girl and I'm in love. Will you come to a party and meet her friends?"

So I arrived, and I was the one wearing the most make-up. They all had suits on and flat-tops and I looked like Boy George. We were all getting on famously and then, as was the fashion back then, it was time for a game of Truth or Dare.

I thought this could be it, this could be my chance, I can tell my secret. Up until then I'd kept it quiet - my brother didn't know, my mum and dad didn't know, even my doctors didn't know. But yes, I was going to admit to being Mr Floppy, and it was going to be great!

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Media captionMik Scarlet at the Ouch storytelling event

Were they sympathetic? Were they caring? At first, they collapsed in a heap of laughter, tears flowing, gasping for air. You know when someone laughs just beyond that point when it's not funny any more - it was that. Then eventually my friend wiped away the tears, got her breath back, and said, "Mik you idiot, we're girls and we make love to girls and we do it very well."

And I thought, duh. I honestly hadn't worked that out which shows how innocent I was as a teenager.

At the time, lesbianism and feminism were very closely associated and they were very radical these girls. And they truly believed that what was wrong with the planet was men and their erectile function. All penetration was bad. So suddenly I was this new type of man, an evolutionary leap for man according to these girls, and they thought it was great.

I really liked these girls and they took me under their wing and even made me an honorary lesbian. I used to go on lesbian marches, wearing make-up and looking like Boy George on wheels, going, "Down with men, men are bad!"

And they also taught me how to make love to a woman, like a woman. I wonder how many people are imagining some kind of weird pornographic thing - no, I'm still a guy, they still wouldn't have gone near me. They just told me with words, not actions.

I'm afraid I'm not letting you know what they said because that would be betraying the sisterhood.

Illustration by Nick Willis

You can watch the performers tell their stories on a special programme on the BBC News Channel at 21:30 BST on Sunday. It will also be available on BBC iPlayer for 30 days afterwards.

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