Cybernetics – I explore the Could, Should and Would of the World of Tech

Photo of the 70's toy Six Million Dollar Man

After a while waiting for this series of stories to go live, I am proud to announce that Disability Now has published a special series on the subject of Cybernetics what I have wrote. I spent a long while rushing around the country meeting experts, builder and users of the most up to date bionics and found out what tomorrow might bring. As I did this I wanted to look deeper at what the advancements in this technology might mean for disabled and non-disabled people in the future. It’s an entirely new way of looking at the subject and I am really happy with the finished product.

Bionics: “We have the technology” – In this part I find out what cybernetic technology can currently offer and what may be around the corner.

Bionics: Who’s Disabled Now? – So if technology might be able to rebuild or repair disabled people, I explore whether we should go down that road. What would it’s use say for the wider society and disabled people’s identity?

Bionics: The Right To Choose – I finish the series by asking disabled people who use current bionic tech what they think about the wider implications of augmenting their bodies in this way.

Disability Now Podcast: Bionics Special – To round up the up the series I took part in the monthly DN podcast to discuss the issue. It’s a great listen.

I hope after you’ve read the articles and listened the to podcast you have had to examine the subject a little differently. Far too often society sees any advancement of technology as a good thing but as this field of science reaches a point where more and more is possible I wanted to just ask “before we do run towards a future when technology can fix impairments, have we stopped to ask what it might lead to?” I’m not against this kind of tech, in fact working on the series has made me much more open to it that I was before, but all scientific advancements must be explored to ensure we see what might be coming. That way we can all be ready.

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Busy little Beaver!

Been rushed off my wheels recently. Been writing and appearing at events all over the country. Here’s a round up of events so far!

Proof we can still cut it and look cool!

Proof we can still cut it and look cool!

Things started off rather glamorously as Diane and me were invited to the launch of Firetrap’s Deadly Denim ad campaign in East London. It was a great night, and we even danced.

Sea Changers 02

The Sea Changers panel.

Next I was asked to appear at a literary event in Brighton, called Sea Changers. It was an amazing night, and a real honour to be involved with such talented writers, all of whom campaign to make the world a better place. However, it was a little marred by how inaccessible Brighton is as a town. I wrote an article for the Huffington Post exploring how inaccessibility leads to disabled people being seen as a problem and now part of the community which was then taken up by the local Brighton and Hove Independent.

A stormy faced Mik in keeping with the sky!

A stormy faced Mik in keeping with the sky!

Then I went to an event at Channel 4, which I covered for Disability Now. They announced the launch of the channel’s commitment to ensure inclusive casting of disabled actors in their future dramatic output. However, I won’t deny I have been to a few of these things, so I will believe it when I see it. I also met some talented actors, and smoozed as usual.

Posing with New Tricks Actor Storme Toolis

Posing with New Tricks Actor Storme Toolis

I also began running Disability Equality Training for Leonard Cheshire Disability in November. The plan is to roll it out next year, and if a business wants to hire us they will get a bespoke training course created for their business and sector. It means I have to dress rather smartly too.

Suited and Booted!

Suited and Booted!

Lastly it was off to the BBC, for the Xmas edition of the BBC Ouch podcast. It was a great show and as soon as it goes live I will post the link. I do like getting paid to have a laugh and eat mince pies. I just pity Damon Rose, BBC Ouch’s editor, as it will be a nightmare to cut.

Xmas Ouch fun

Xmas Ouch fun

This weekend I am off for a break in Cardiff. Two days of respite, with nothing to do but shop, rest and eat. Then it’s off to Roma Sports to collect my new Vida wheelchair. Can’t say too much until I collect it, but it is a totally bespoke wheelchair at the cost of the standard wheelchair. And it looks amazing too. I will be reviewing the chair for Disability Now very soon.

This is all you can see until next week!

This is all you can see until next week!

So that’s it for now. There was more but I have forgotten it right now. Well, it is nearly Christmas! Can’t wait!

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Huffington Frenzy and other stories.

 

Mik Scarlet sitting at his desk

Chained to my desk

I have been a busy boy recently.

As August drew to a close, I found myself reflecting on what it means to be getting old. I had just celebrated my 49th birthday, and as my parents were told I wouldn’t make it past the age of 5 the fact that I am nearly 50 really hit home. So I wrote it all down in a piece called Aren’t You Lucky? or Another Birthday, Another Miracle.

Something that I really enjoyed was reviewing some of the shows put on as part of the Unlimited Festival at London’s Southbank at the start of September. In case you missed them here they are;

The Dinner Party Revisited – Katherine Araniello’s fun filled anarchic video performance show.

Guide Gods – Claire Cunningham’s exploration of religion and disability using dance, music and spoken word.

Let Me Stay – Julie McNamara’s one woman show about her Mother and the impact that Dementia has had on her the wider family.

I’ve also written a round up review for PosAbility magazine, that will be in the next issue.

My monthly column in Disability Now covered a recent trip to sunny Margate, and I had another arts review published on the Huffington about the wonderful Penny Pepper’s show Lost In Spaces.

Just as I thought it was time to focus on a series I am currently writing on the topic of bionics (perfect for someone who dreamed of being the Six Million Dollar Man as a child) I found that I had to put finger to key board in reply to an article in The Guardian called “Don’ts aren’t working: Here’s five things you can say to someone with a disability” as I so disagreed with it. As I run training sessions which revolve around techniques for both discussing disability and how to talk to disabled people I thought the piece was troublesome to say the least and so I gave my views on the issue in Cute… But Wrong!

On top of that I carried out some training for Network Rail up in York, and shall be back in October.

Phew, it’s been a busy few weeks. But there can be no rest for the freelancer, and so I shall leave you and get back to work!

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News Round Up March 2014

Well it’s been a strange month. After starting off crazily busy, both with work and finally grabbing a social life I am now unwell. Boo! I have had to retire from the outside world while I recover from a flare up of an injury I gained while rehearsing for the Paralympic Opening Ceremonies. It was actually caused by the appalling access at the rehearsal spaces, and has been my Paralympic legacy ever since.

arch-angel

However enough moaning. Even though I have been stuck in bed I have still been working (no rest for the wicked), and have had a few articles published. The first came out of of taking part in the Disability Now Download podcast. We recorded it just before I crapped out, and it was great fun. It really comes accross too. You can listen to it here. As part of the discussion we explored the concept of disabled heroes, especially as a recent poll voted the UK’s top three national heroes as disabled people. Which set me thinking, what about those of us who don’t like the idea of being all goody goody. So I asked myself, where have all the bad roles models gone in “Rebel Rebel – Wanted, heroes with Badass Style“. I didn’t write the title, but the piece has caused a real discussion in the disabled community about what heroes and role models actually mean to us.

On top of talking about heroes, I have had the second part in my series for Miss Alice Gray’s website on sex and disability. The first one “Sex & Disability – The Question That Never Stops Being Asked” was well recieved, but that explored attitudes towards disability and sex. In the second part “Sex & Disability – The Ins and Outs of the Old In and Out” I give a few ideas on actually doing the deed. Oh yes, Mik get’s smutty again. Sex, sex, sex it’s all he ever thinks about….

Anyway, there are a few more that will be coming out soon, this watch this space.

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Huffington Frenzy

Recently I’ve had a few comment pieces published on the Huffington Post website.

Most recent is one about an experience going for an MRI scan at a private health clinic through my GP. Called “Is The A Taste Of Tomorrow’s NHS? it describes my nightmarish trip to be scanned in all it’s glory.

Before that I wrote about some people’s obsession with the idea that faith can cure disabled and sick people in “Faith? Please Cure Us Of This Myth“. It might seem that there is truth in the idea but I ask is that right or even helpful?

To start the whole frenzy off I had my ode to love, luck and my wonderful wife Diane “Oh, Lucky Man” published. So glad they accepted it as it was our 8th wedding anniversary that week. Di loved it, I hope you do too.

On top of that I had my travel article on our recent trip to Barcelona published on Disability Now Online, “La Merce: a weekend in Barcelona” and if you want to read back issues of PosAbility magazine with my column in you can do it online now.

All this of this writing was drafted using a pen and paper. Old fashioned I know but I am currently studying a Creative Writing course at the OU and they advise students to do it this way. It really helps too. You can get those ideas out without fighting with a keyboard or other bits of tech. I really am a Luddite Mik eh?

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Disability and Sex…. it’s not just possible, it can be amazingly amazing!!!!

Anyone who has been reading my blogs recently, as well as watching This Morning, listening to the radio or reading various newspapers who have interviewed me will know that I have strong feelings about the subject of disability and sex. But this isn’t a new thing, I began my media career working as a sex-pert on two Channel 4 Yoof shows, and have been working to champion the right for disabled people to have a sex life ever since. However, I want disabled people to treated just like the rest of society so I am dead against this current push to create special crip friendly brothels and for disabled people to get free visits to sex workers on the state. But I don’t want to only be negative on this subject and so I have written a column in this issue of Disability Now giving my tips on chatting people up, under the title of “Mik’s Rough Guide To Pulling”. It’s a humorous piece, written with my tongue firmly stuck in my check, but all the tips have worked for me. In fact I would go so far as to say that these tips have allowed me to be the sexually confident person I am today.

On top of these tips, I feel this is the time to put online an article I had published in a woman’s magazine called Scarlet (yes I got the job by ringing them up and saying “I must write for you… Scarlet in Scarlet” and they went for it). The piece outlines some of the techniques that I have used during sexual confidence workshops with people with spinal injury, but in the article I have applied the tips to the wider community. Yes I am so arrogant that I decided to give sex advice to everyone, disabled or not. But shock horror, it was really well received and was syndicated worldwide. You see I have always believed that the wider society could learn a thing or two about improving their sex life from disabled people like me, and the reaction to this article proved me right. But more importantly, it is essential for disabled people to know that not only is sex possible for them, no matter what their impairment, but it can be so good that it is better than the sex that the majority of non-disabled people have.

So whoever you are, and whether you are disabled or not take a look and see what you think. It’s very honest and open, but I have always felt that this is a topic that is so important that if I want to ensure a change in the way the world thinks about sexuality and sex and disability then I can’t only tell half the truth.

Right here goes….

WHEELIE SEXY

SEXY TIPS… FROM A SEXY CRIP!?! by Mik Scarlet

Let’s face it we don’t live in a society that thinks of disability as “sexy”. Most able-bodied people think that coming to a disability as an end to sexiness, and in a way it is. When I found myself facing a life in a wheelchair after my spine collapsed when I was 16, I could not see how I was going to form sexual relationships. Due to nerve damage I was not only left with legs that didn’t work any more, but I also had to face my future with sexy bits that while they still had full feeling (which was lucky I admit) had no motor function. Put simply I was left looking forward to a future where Mr. Wobbly stayed wobbly all the time.

I considered trying to forge relationships with men, but found being very heterosexual got in the way of that. (I still have no idea how you girls put up with stubble on a bloke’s face, and I won’t even mention the taste of a cock….urk!) So with a heavy heart I got used to the idea that I was to face a future alone.

You see I had brought into the myth that sex is all about erections and penetration. Luckily for me, this was back in the early 80’s. Thanks to the whole New Romantic fashion (of which I was a HUGE fan) it was a time when young people questioned all of the sexual stereotypes. Most of my friends turned out to be Gay or Lesbian and through their friendships I learned the truth about sex.

The main reason for sex now we have evolved beyond shagging to reproduce is pleasure. Whether it’s in a loving relationship or between ships that pass in the night, great sex should leave you sweaty, knackered, fulfilled and very happy. All of my Lesbian friends made me an Honorary Lesbian once they learned I could have no part in the penetrative act (it was a different time folks – Lesbianism was very political life choice, and all penetration was considered rape). With their help I began to see myself as a sexual being, and even ended going out with one of them for two years.

I also read every sex manual I could lay my hands on. In fact I read all manner of books that I thought might be useful if I was going to be able to please any future partners. I even went as far as to read a S.S. torture manual for the WW2 just in case I ever ended up naked with a masochist. (On retrospect it hasn’t ever helped my sex life but it did completely freak me out at the time).

Well now you know why I think I am in a position to give you, lovely reader advice on sex. I promise you if you try out some of these tips, you will end up having a great time…

*Tip 1 – Open you mind (part1)

The major sex organ that we posses is our minds. Fantasy and imagination can make sex so much more rewarding. So forget any hang-ups you might have, ignore any baggage you might have from up bringing (either from religion, parents or bad experience) and most off all never feel guilty.

*Tip 2 – You’re only making it harder on yourself!

Penetration can be a prison for sexuality. Yes it can be fantastic, but getting too hung up on the “old in-out” can lead to a very unfulfilling sex life. While some women can only reach orgasm through being filled up, most find themselves getting there thanks to the most perfect organ, the Clitoris. But every girl’s “Love Button” is different. Some like gentle stimulation, some enjoy a more aggressive direct approach and others change their tastes like the wind changes direction. There is no right way to give the Clit the attention it needs and deserves, so experimentation is the only way forward.

When “giving” to your partner use your imagination and try everything. Watch the response. If it seems favourable, change what you are doing slightly and see how the response changes. More favourable – carry on, less favourable – try some thing else or go back to what you were doing before.

When “receiving” please, please, please talk to your partner. Tell them what you like, and if you don’t know let them experiment and say “Oh Yes!” when they are getting it right and “Oh No!” when they aren’t (but be gentle with them – nothing ruins your confidence like a partner knocking your technique – you always get more bees with honey than with vinegar). Try making it part of your role playing – being “The Boss” or playing “The Virgin”. If it works don’t knock it!

*Tip 3 – Open your mind (part2)

Role-playing and fantasy brings me to my best tip. I call it “Hands Free Masturbation”. In short this is a tip that once you’ve worked out how to do it will make sex a whole new ball game (if you’ll excuse the pun).

To learn H.F.M. you need to make yourself a gap in your day, preferably just before going to sleep. Lay yourself down, and basically think the sexiest, dirtiest thoughts you can imagine. It doesn’t matter what you think of, as long as it hits your spot. Remember to forget guilt, and just go wild. Now hopefully this will get you turned on nicely. When you feel your body starting to respond to what’s happening in your head,

DON’T TOUCH YOURSELF!

Instead make your fantasies go even wilder. Really let yourself go. At the same time start focusing on the “nice” feelings that will hopefully be getting more and more intense as you fantasise. For the first few times you might need to touch yourself, but only give in if you really have to. If you keep resisting the urge, you will find yourself orgasming just through the power of your imagination.

This fantastic skill can help in many ways. It can be used to ensure you cum together, to make any sex that extra bit special and lets you wank any time, anywhere.

*Tip 4 – The Real Head Fuck

The best part of learning H.F.M. is that you can then use the technique to make other parts of your body as responsive as your genitals. It is something I teach to disabled people who have lost sensation in their sexy bits. It means they can start to really enjoy sex on an equal footing with their partners. What it means to you able-bodied shaggers is the ability to make any part of your body a “Love Button”.

All you have to do is when you are trying a bit of H.F.M. move your focus from your groin (where the “nice” feelings tend to start) to another part of your body. I would advise you to start with your nipples. They are already an erogenous zone, and so it easier to focus the sexy feeling to them. But any part of your body that you enjoy having touched will do. Try to push yourself over the edge without focusing on your groin. If you need to touch the part of your body you are focusing on, just to make the sensation more intense.

Now you can go wild and cover your body in “Love Buttons”. I even know of a guy who was a tetraplegic (broke his neck – think of Christopher Reeve) who turned the end of his nose into his sex organs. Just imagine how much it made having a cold.

*Tip 5 – Never say Never

All of my other tips involve some effort on your part. I have used them all to great effect, and I have taught them to others to equal effect. However the best thing that I have learned on my way to becoming the sexually confident Crip I am today is “Never be afraid to try something”. In fact it’s more than that. In the words of Diane, my fiancé and the love of my life, “If you try something and you don’t like it, try it again just to make sure!”

So, there you go kind reader. Give my tips a go, and see what happens. I mean what’s the worst thing that can happen?

Oh and one more thing before I go. If you ever want to try a bit of bondage, try using a wheelchair. They are covered in fixing points, and it means you can wheel your “captive” all over the house. Not that I’d know of course… Tee hee!!!!!

©Mik Scarlet 2005

Well I think that is enough on sex for now. I hope that my arguments around this attitude that disabled people can only experience sex if they pay for it, and my advice, both in my DN article and the tips above, go some way to changingthe way you, dear reader, think about sex. If nothing else, I hope you give some of my tips a try. Might make for a fun night.

If any groups or disabled people’s organisations reading this would like to me to run a workshop around sexual confidence and disability, please contact me using the e-mail address on my website – www.mikscarlet.co.uk

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Too busy to blog!!!! or why I hate Children In Need so much I found time to blog!

It seems that at the minute I am too busy to blog. In fact I’m too busy to think some days. It’s one of the joys of being a freelancer, that when a work offer comes in you have to say Yes. With no way of knowing when the next job might appear, you have this terror that this offer might be the last for a while. Even if the work is rolling in, you can’t be sure that it will stay that way. So that’s why my blog has been sitting dormant recently.

Annoyingly there have been a load of things I wanted to blog about. Almost every day something came up that got the blood boiling and the fingers hovering over the keyboard. But work got in the way, so the time past. The thing that I really wanted to blog about this week was Children in Need. As someone who appeared on something very similar at the start of my career, with a two day non-stop live appearance as presenter on the Thames Telethon back in 1992, and who had that career severely damaged by the bad reaction of people who felt that charity was wrong, you would have thought I would be in favour of this yearly charity fest. But you would be wrong. You see, on many levels the whole thing is equally wrong.

Let’s think about the portrayal of disability first. Anyone who reads my blogs and articles will know that portrayal is very important to me. I feel that the media should try so much harder to ensure that it changes the way it covers disability, yet with this kind of charity event negative portrayal is essential to keep the money coming in.

Poor little crippled kids… they need your help. Their lives are so awful that without your money they will only be sad and their future is bleak. Give generously. Your money will make their tragic lives a little better. Poor little things, it so sad that they are the way they are. Aren’t you lucky?

Of course charity always has to pull on your heart strings, but the reason why I did the Telethon way back when is that I thought it would subconsciously say that disabled people can give charity as well as receive it. But after I did it, I was accosted in a lft by the wonderful Vicky Waddington who explained why the charity model of disability – which paints us as victims in need of help – has no positive effects for us disabled types. After talking to her I understood that charity is just plain wrong, especially this kind of jumbo media event. Sure it could be vehicle for real change, with money being raised to pay for the changes we really need in society. Better access, better understanding and more equality. But those are not the kind of things that pull of those heart strings and purse strings. The point of a telethon event is raising money, so that is the sole point of the program. The aim is to raise more money than the last event. That’s how you measure the success of it.

Now I could write on this subject for pages, but as I said I’m too damn busy. So I hope that all of you that did watch Children in Need/Stand Up To Cancer/Red Nose Day felt a little uncomfortable during the hours of “fun”. Just imagine if it was people like you who were targeted as being deserving of charity and pity. Not a great feeling.

Let’s take the item on the One Show that Ade Adepitan presented on dancing for disabled kids. It claimed that giving money to a special dance class for disabled children is a good thing. But if you think about it, wouldn’t it be better if the kids that went to this special class could just go to a mainstream dance class with other non-disabled kids and learn to dance? A totally mixed class where everyone was equal. I have just interviewed the fantastic disabled dancer Laura Jones for a Disability Now article, who was the first disabled person to study dance at college. She helped choreograph the Paralympic Opening and Closing Ceremonies, and is a superb dancer. Surely that is the way to go? Not only is it inclusive but it will mean that more disabled people will become professional dancers. But even if they don’t, and they just do dance for the love of dance, they will have an experience of being equal to the other members of the class. Not special, different… and in some way less.

To me it’s the same for all of the various good causes. To raise money they need to focus on the difference, yet the only way to make the world better is to make everyone see that we are all the same. Whether we’re disabled, poor, old, young, or whatever, we are all human. So we all deserve the same chances and until charity aims to do that, it will divide us all. I mean even the title of Children In Need spells out difference.

Anyway, that’s enough for now. All I ask is that you think about it.

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Busy, Busy, Busy!!!!

Hi Everyone.

Sorry for going quiet recently. I’m crazy busy at the minute, getting ready for the Paralympic Opening Ceremonies. I can’t say any more, as we all want to keep the secret, but it’s going to be huge. I’m also writing a series of pieces for Time Out about the games, so watch out for those.

On top of that I have an article on the rehearsals in the next issue of Disability Now.

Anyway, the picture above is some of the great people I have met and am working with. So make sure you are glued to Channel 4 on August 29th.

I’m swatting up on Wheelchair Rugby, as I will be presenting the in-game coverage at the arena. So if you’ve got tickets to see this high octane sport, see you there. Can’t wait.

Normal service will be resumed once the games end.

Mik

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Sex: Are We Really So Different?

I read the article “Sex: some facts of life” by Kirsty Liddiard in the April issue of Disability Now with great interest. I once trained to go into social work, with the aim of working with newly disabled people. I also recently decided to change my studies from a Psychology degree (to one in English and Creative Writing) after finding that the medical model is still being taught as the only way of describing disabled people’s identity. It was really encouraging to see someone examining the issue of disability and sexuality from an academic approach. With Kirsty being a trained sociologist and disabled herself, I hoped that the article would finally confront the issues disabled people face around sexuality and relationships in a rounded manner. However the piece actually seemed to blame any problems disabled people might have on disability itself and how society sees the disabled, without any broader conversation.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have an experience all of the issues covered in the article, from abusive relationships through poor body image to a lack of confidence over a change in the way my body functions sexually, and fully appreciate how each one can deeply effect someone’s identity and ability to form successful relationships. My own journey to the place I am at now, in a very successful and happy relationship with someone who loves me the way I love them, was a long and painful one. I also appreciate that the way I feel about my disability has had a serious impact on that journey, and is still key to my psyche and effects how I really feel about my own attractiveness. But I do not agree that these issues are something that disabled people face alone.
 
A key factor to being able to begin the task of looking for love is self confidence, and this is an area that effects everyone in our society. We only need to consider the huge growth in the number of people undergoing cosmetic surgery to understand that issues of confidence have an impact on members of society that we disabled people might see as examples of “physical perfection”, and that this is not what they see when they look in the mirror. Most sociologists and psychologists agree that low confidence around body image is a growing problem throughout our society, effecting both sexes. However much we might see our issues with body image as being more valid or obvious, the truth is the emotional and psychological impact of low self confidence is the same for anyone who suffers from it.
This lack of confidence can lead on to forming unhealthy relationships, which the article also covered. But yet again the stories of every one of the people interviewed could just as easily be those of non disabled people. I spent many years of my 20’s in a relationship with someone who abused me, both verbally and physically, and they went on to repeat this behaviour with their next partner, who has not disabled. I used to feel that it was my disability that caused this person to act the way they did, and this led me to stay in an unhappy relationship so long, but I now understand that is incorrect. While my lack of confidence was tied to my disability, it was the confidence issue itself that made me stay. The same goes for anyone stuck in an abusive relationship.
A deeper factor in disabled people’s lack of confidence can be due to a difference in the way our sexuality functions or our inability to have sex in a “normal” manner. While I was disabled from birth, my sexual function changed when my spine collapsed at the age of 15. This led me to spend most of my adult life wrecked with self doubt about my ability to satisfy my partners sexually and to what would happen if anyone found out about what did and didn’t work in the trouser department. So I spent years lying to everyone I knew and praying any ex’s would keep my secret. When I met my wife, being with her gave me the confidence to “come out” about the way my body worked. When I did so in the most public manner possible (i.e. on TV) I found that nearly everyone of my male friends sidled up to me at some point and admitted that they to suffered from serious sexual dysfunction issues. The fact that Viagra is now taken as a recreational drug demonstrates how big this problem is for all of male society. I do not feel informed enough to discuss the issues faced by those people who might need assistance when having sex, but can see how that might effect not only how you feel about yourself but how you approach sex entirely. I do know that it is normally these people who are expected to use prostitutes if they ever want to have sex.
Thankfully the article did finally dispel the idea that sex with a prostitute is a solution for disabled people, especially men, who are seeking sexual experience. There are many people who campaign for legalising prostitution who use disabled people as an excuse for their argument, yet it should be obvious that it will be an empty experience whether you are disabled or not. For anyone lacking self confidence, visiting a prostitute can only reinforce these issues. No one will feel better about themselves if they feel the only way they can experience love or sex is to pay for it. But there is more than one way of paying for it. I once was in a relationship with someone who expected me to pay their rent, buy their clothes and cover all costs when we went out and seemed to think that was fine as they gave me sex. It made me feel cheap and made me mistrust prospective partners too. If I hadn’t met my wife I don’t know what kind of barsteward I might have become. I also know from those non disabled friends who have visited a lady of the night that they have exactly the same experience of emptiness afterwards.
We now come to the issue of fetishism. I spent most of the 90’s partying on the fetish scene and will admit I found the acceptance and tolerance I was met with really liberating. I even spent a short time going out with someone who admitted they “dug the wheelchair”, if you get what I mean. I left the whole world because as it became more accepted by the wider society, the ignorance of the wider society bled into the attitude this underground scene. Once people understood that a disabled person wouldn’t be in a fetish club if they couldn’t have sex, what ever type of sex that might be, but I eventually found myself explaining on a nightly basis that my wife and I could have sexual relationship (on a nightly basis if we wanted).
Just because I spent time in the world of fetishists, that doesn’t mean I have no understanding of why so many disabled people find the whole thing offensive. No one likes the stereotype that the only people who might want to have sex with them could be called perverts. Back when I was part of the London fetish scene I filmed an item for Channel 4’s “Freak Show” series that I hoped would explore the subject of disability and fetishism in a serious yet light hearted way. Instead it was edited to imply that my wife was only with me because I was disabled, so I know how hurtful this idea can be. It especially upset my wife, as she had actually said that she loved all of me and my disability was part of what made me, me. Never trust a TV producer and their editor. The crazy thing is I admit that I chatted up my now wife partly as I saw she had a scar all down her right arm. I think scars are really beautiful and the way she paraded it so openly said something great about what kind of person she was. But does that make me a devotee of her and her scar, or is it just another facet of how perfect she really is?
All of this is OK and it is only my own opinion, but does it help us find a solution to love, sex and relationships? Well I hope it does. If we as disabled people realise that all of the issues we face around the subject are the same as those faced by everyone, whatever the cause, then we should hopefully feel able to enter the world of love on a more level playing field. Yes we do have our own issues to face, but the way they effect us emotionally is not so different to the way the rest of society’s issues effect them. All I know for sure is many of my non disabled friends are desperately looking for the same thing we are all chasing, a happy and loving relationship and they wouldn’t care if that was with someone who disabled or not. At the root of this whole subject is the fact that self doubt is part of the human condition and how we cope with it makes us who we are. So let’s stop seeing disability as a barrier to love, and instead embrace it as part of what will make us a real catch.
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Thank Heavens for Hair Dye!

This weekend I finally cracked and reached for the hair dye. Late last year I had a meeting with a BBC exec who advised me that I should update my look, and cut out the peroxide hair. The bleached Billy Idol thing dated me and might put producers off asking me to work on their show. I took the advice and have spent the last 6 months au natural in the barnet department.

At first it was a relief to no longer have to battle to home dye, which can a real pain when you’re a wheelchair user with a metal rod supporting your back. Rinsing the dye off can make you swear never again every time you d it, only to be forgotten when your roots get too much to bare. (I stopped getting my hair dyed at a salon after a disaster so terrible I shall not scar you by recounting it) I must admit I found the colour of my natural hair a bit of a shock. Instead of the colour I remember from when I was a teenager, which was the last age I had natural hair, it transpired I had a much lighter shade of sandy brown. There was a little grey, but not much. In fact I was let down by the amount of grey, as I had always wanted to go white grey like my Granddad. Imagine how much effort I would have saved if under the bleached blonde was a shock of pure white hair! But alas no. My head was topped off with a light brown mop with a smattering of ginger. Where that had come from I had no idea.

I gave the natural thing a go, and hoped that this new look might lead to some work on TV. As I waited by the phone and scanned my Inbox, I found that who I was started to change. I felt my confidence draining away, and the very thing that made me so good as a TV and radio presenter drained away with it. Slowly the desire to get dyeing grew inside me. I began looking at the hair dye section when visiting Superdrug or Boots, and gazed enviously at my wife’s dark purple razor cut. After six months I had heard nothing from the wonderful world of the media, and no longer felt like I was still Mik Scarlet either. Then while my wife was getting some photos ready for my next article in Disability Now, she altered my hair colour using Photoshop. She showed me what I might look like with a selection of different colours and the red won out. The very next day I purchased a box of Live Colour XXL Red Passion.

After some hilarious activity washing the colour off, which did end up with me having an accidental shower over the kitchen sink, I found myself feeling like myself again. Sure I no longer have the peroxide do that I sported through out my earlier career, but having tried the natural experiment coming back to unnatural hair is just so great. So my advice to any of you out there is sod conforming. Be yourself. I know now I have a huge selection of vibrant colours to try out, this period of being boring is over for good.

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