Buying love is an important multi-facetted topic for people with disabilities, but it is not a taboo. A look into the world of disabled punters, as well as prostitutes, escorts and erotic masseuses.

“Heidi’s Kushelecke” (Heidi’s snuggling corner) lies in one of the less well known areas of Berlins’ Charlottenburg. Surrounded by car workshops and garages the obscure flat-roofed building is time and again the destination of buses, which bring e-Wheelchair users like Martin* here to relieve their desires.

The Cinema-bar in the Quedlinburger Street, which is one of the few wheelchair accessible establishments in the capital city and is therefore also advertised with a wheelchair symbol on the wall of the building. With the aid of a joystick on his electrically powered wheelchair, Martin (spastic) steers determinedly to the entrance.  Inside a sparsely furnished porno-cinema awaits him. In the pale light of the flickering screen, one can initially only make out the cleanly draped rolls of kitchen towels on the rows of seats. After a while once the eyes have become used to the darkness, the sexily clad dummy in the corner becomes visible.

Cuddling in a private room

One can also retreat to a more comfortable room, ushered by one of the five or six people who work here. “When I took over the place, the entrance, toilets and interior were already wheelchair accessible” noted Heidi Suhrbier, owner of the “Snuggling Corner”. After all, she estimates that around ten per cent of the punters have some kind of disability, mostly its wheelchair users and amputees. There are no lifts of hand-holds, but Heidi, whose son-in-law died of amyotrophia (muscular atrophy) more than 20 years ago, clarifies the needs of disabled people to women who are new beginners at the establishment. “I leave it up to the girls whether they want to become intimate with a disabled client or not, because some of them do not cope with the situation too well.” For most women, however, the sexual contact as well as assistance in transferring from the wheelchair and undressing, causes no problem whatsoever. However as everything takes much longer we sometimes turn a blind eye for regular customers like Martin, if agreed, and paid for time is exceeded. We are not however "nurses or good Samaritans," stresses Heidi Suhrbier.

Discover your Sexybilities

Martin is severely limited in his ability to articulate himself. That’s why Matthias Vernaldi made the telephone reservation for his first visit. Three years ago in Berlin, the 44-year-old founded the initiative "Sexybilities". Matthias advises people with disabilities in sexual matters and arranges contacts with prostitutes from his shop apartment in Neukoelln. Matthias suffers himself from muscular atrophy. He can not move below the head, nothing except for his penis, this is because the penis consists of well circulated spongy tissue which can be brought into action by mere "Cyprian fantasies" or manual stimulation. Self gratification is however for Matthias already for some time no longer technically possible. “I had moral qualms to accept sexual services in return for payment and I am also a shy person”, says the theologian from Thueringen, who was not allowed to become a priest in the GDR (former East Germany) because of his disability. But that is another story. “I had also become certain that as a cripple you won’t be a big success in the market for sex.” The first encounter with a prostitute went accordingly disappointing. But then he met Julie* provider of a “hand-job” for 15 Euro, who regularly visits him at home ever since.

Sex from the social welfare office

The new prostitution law and the abolition of the immorality issue, brings another possibility into view, like that which already exists in neighbouring countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands: Sex on health certificate.

The responsibility should be rather in the hands of the social welfare offices here in Germany, because the remedies directives declares that "measures used should serve exclusively for the stimulation, gain and gratification of sex drive" and not explicitly as a cash performance. Because sexuality is recognized as a basic human need, some social workers have already approved acquisitions of sexual services, but only where applicants could demonstrate that they are alone and are not able to obtain sexual satisfaction in other ways. For Matthias Vernaldi, this approach is a mistake and a setback at the same time: "Sex from the social welfare would strengthen the public perception of disabled people being some type of imperfect creatures and just expand again the once believed, conquered therapisation of the intimate spheres of disabled people."

*Names has been changed

Source: Gunther Belitz, HANDICAP, Edition 2/2003
Translation: PmcC, MyH, 06/2008