Navigating Dating and Sex as a Disabled Black Woman

March 16, 2022

 “Online dating is just as murky and full of lemons as finding a used car in the classifieds. Once you learn the lingo, it’s easier to spot the models with high mileage and no warranty.” — Laurie Perry

Dating is a lot of things. Fun. Exciting. Sexy. Intimidating. Blah. The Ghetto. One thing is for damned sure, dating isn’t fair—especially if you’re a Black woman. As a member of the Black male delegation, I can, and must, admit we’re mostly to blame. Listening to close friends (my circle of sisters) divulge their tales of woe, dating in insert-big-city-here, I can’t help but shake my head at the fuckshit they’ve endured by fuckboys who were a fuck on their nerves. 

Yet, spring is in the air, and that means the hope and quest for true love start anew. And the odds of linking with someone organically at an open mic— à la Love Jones—are slim. That means the timeline of a possible fling will play itself out on your smartphone. Dating app. Swipe left…swipe left…swipe left. “Hmmm…” Swipe right. 

The vetting process, which includes a quick message exchange, a deep dive into one’s socials, and if pre-approved, the interview before the first date—the “coffee meetup.” After that, the actual first date, and yada, yada, yada. We all know the routine. It’s quite a process.

Now, imagine this process as a Black woman with a disability.

“People erroneously believe that disabled women are not interested in dating, will date ‘just anyone,’ or cannot be ‘picky’ because they should be ‘grateful’ to have someone being willing to date them in the first place,” wrote Vilissa Thompson on her 2016 blog, “That’s The Way Love Rolls: Online Dating Adventures of Single Black Disabled Woman.” 

Thompson is the founder and CEO of Ramp Your Voice, an organization where self-advocacy and empowerment for disabled people is the mission statement. 

Documenting her playing the online dating field, she details interactions with men who slide in her DMs while skillfully avoiding the same red flags able-bodied women have been bobbing and weaving since…well…forever!

“Living in a world where people cannot even see us as women, means that we are not recognized in our entirety,” expressed the twosome of Kym Oliver and Jumoke Abdullahi (“Jay,” for short), better known as The Triple Cripples, in a 2019 blog for gal-dem.com

“Disabled women often have to ‘reinvent the wheel’ when it comes to navigating sex, romance, and dating.” Not only does the duo bring their engaging, refreshing, and hilarious views on love and relationships to their YouTube subscribers, they most importantly provide “visual representations of these narratives,” which are rightfully being told from the women living their truths unapologetically.     

And the added message that these women, and more who share their stories like Imani Barbarin, Katouche Goll, Tobi Adenowo, and Fatima Timbo, are that they’re women who should be valued. Full stop. They’re no different than the millions out there looking for companionship in a world that views them differently. They get butterflies when they’re excited about a potential mate. They get heartbroken when love goes awry. And yes, they have sexual itches that need some scratching, too. They’re human. Just because their disadvantages appear odd to ignorant people, they shouldn’t be regarded any less than human.

Because it damned sure doesn’t define them.