Written by Melanie Hawkes – PDA WA Associate Director
As a woman with a physical disability since the age of two, I never thought I was worthy of a man’s desires, or capable of fun times in the bedroom. With high needs in daily personal care tasks like toileting, dressing and showering, sexual matters never crossed my mind. What kind of man would choose me over an able-bodied person? They would be crazy to take on someone with additional needs.
Then in December I got Covid-19. I actually thought it would kill me, as I only have about 20% lung capacity. This is because I have a severe scoliosis and reduced muscle strength to cough. A simple chest infection can mean a hospital stay.
Two days before testing positive, I found out I was eligible for antiviral medication. So I was able to get them which meant that my symptoms were mild and only lasted three days. But it was during my isolation that I had a surprising conversation with one my support workers that changed my life. She told me about disability sex workers. I’d never heard of them, and didn’t even know it was legal here in WA.
In January 2023, at the age of 43, I had my first session with a male escort called Chayse. It was the first time I had been naked in front of a man, outside a hospital. A nerve-wracking experience, but Chayse made me feel comfortable and relaxed as he gave me an erotic massage at his place.
I felt out of my depths in terms of sexual knowledge, and didn’t even know that women masturbate (I thought it was something only men did). But what I didn’t know about sex, Chayse didn’t know about disability. We had a lot we could teach each other.
Unfortunately I didn’t get a ‘happy ending’ during the massage, but it wasn’t through lack of effort by Chayse. I booked him again for a second session, two weeks after the first. This time he came to my house.
I was more relaxed than the first session and I had paid for a mix of massage and escort. I had emailed him my list of fantasies: things I wanted to experience with a man. Top of my list was kissing, as I had never been kissed before and had no idea how to. Chayse was a good teacher and he didn’t disappoint. The three hours together flew by. I’ve seen him five more times since.
What I love most about Chayse is the way he makes me feel. He sees me as a woman first, with the same wants, needs and desires as any other woman. My disability becomes irrelevant. Sure we need to do some things differently, but it isn’t a barrier to accessing physical touch or intimacy or pleasure.
It is also a very safe way to explore sexual matters. By paying for the service, I have felt in control. If Chayse did something I didn’t like or made me feel uncomfortable, I trusted him to stop. I am immobile when in bed. It’s not like I can get up and walk away; a vulnerable situation to get myself into. But by paying a professional (a ‘sexpert’ as he calls himself), I maintain control. It is in Chayse’s best interest to do the right thing and satisfy his customers, or I won’t book him again. It’s no different to seeing an OT for equipment advice or a physio for aches and pains.
Chayse is very body positive and I have learnt from him that every body is beautiful, even mine. It was just after our second session that I got more comfortable telling people about him. I actually wanted to tell the whole world what an amazing service it is, how it has given me a new sense of worth, increased my confidence and made me feel amazing. But I was scared of people’s reactions.
The more people I told, the more positive reactions I received. They were really happy for me, and could see it made me happy. So I emailed the Deputy Editor at Take 5 magazine with my story idea about using escorts.
She loved the idea straight away. But I had to decide whether I wanted to reveal my identity, change my name or show my face in photos.
It wasn’t an easy decision, but again I had the support of family, friends, and of course Chayse. The key message I wanted to convey through the story is sexual health is a basic human right, according to the World Health Organisation. Just because I have a physical disability doesn’t mean I don’t deserve intimacy and pleasure. I’m not ashamed of wanting it for myself, only that I didn’t start many years ago.
I’m speaking out and sharing my story now in the hope that others with disabilities realise they too can have it. The hours I’ve spent with Chayse have been some of my happiest. We’ve slow danced, had baths together, slept together, been swinging, I even rode in his V8 ute! I’ve bought lingerie and toys for the first time in my life. It has opened up a whole new world for me that I never thought I belonged to. These are opportunities I’d never thought possible, and I want other people to have their own fantasies realised.
I self-funded the first four sessions, and claimed the last three on NDIS. Check with your LAC to see if you can too. I self manage my funds, but believe the NDIS should see escorts as an essential service and fund it adequately. Relationships are tricky enough for able-bodied people. For some people with disabilities, escorts are the only way we can have a safe, positive sexual experience. Why deny someone that because of cost? It’s an activity those without disabilities take for granted.
I must thank those who have spoken out before me, who gave me the confidence to do the same. Amy Calladine wrote about her experience on MamaMia, Hannah Diviney spoke about acting on The Latecomers on the ListenAble podcast, and TV shows like The Swiping Game and Better Date Than Never have made talking about sex more mainstream and acceptable.
So what’s in store for me in the future? I have been blown away by the response of my Take 5 story since it was shared on news.com.au. I’ve had messages from journalists from as far away as Norway and the UK asking to interview me. And I’ve loved all the comments on Facebook and messages from strangers thanking me for my story. It’s obviously an important topic that not many are happy to discuss. I wasn’t prepared for my personal story to be popular worldwide, and I haven’t decided if I want it to be world news!
For now, Chayse has given me the skills, knowledge and confidence to put myself out there. He is helping me to navigate the field of online dating as a pathway to meeting a potential partner.
But if I have no luck, I’ll be asking the NDIS for a bigger budget next year.