Travis Laurence Naught

A TED-dy Talk: What Is Sex to You?

(Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash)

Travis Laurence Naught, a quadriplegic wheelchair user and 38-year-old virgin, was recently asked by a friend, “What is sex to you?” He decided to write about it.


What is sex to me? There is so much to that question.

I will start with “sexual”: physical or mental stimulation from one person intended to excite another. The trick here is interpretation. One person might perceive sexual intent while the other individual was acting “innocently.” That is when communication becomes key. In my life, this is where I frequently have the first roadblock. I generally assume sex is not what others desire from me based on the limited number of people I have ever broached the subject with and been rejected by. I’ve only ever made it the next step once. So, once it is decided that both parties might be interested, there is plenty of physical contact before actual sex.


One time in my life did I ever actually make out with someone. Two people, actually. At the bar the night before one of my television appearances. I think I was 25. My first kiss, actually. So, of course, the woman on the other side of me decided I had to have some sort of comparison. Those things were consensual, wildly lightly sexual. And only because the goal in that moment was fun and excitement. Nothing further intended. Nothing further gained. Thirteen years ago, and still the only time I’ve ever done that.


Generally, not sexual. I’ve got skin. Everybody’s got skin. Showing it does not invite or suggest sexual intent. But the societal conditioning means that this showing of one’s body frequently is one of the first indicators of interest, especially when directed. Like strip clubs. Talk about a one-sided affair! Clientele (of which I have been, as young as 18 but not for the last three years) are performed for by service providers, if you will allow that statement, who may very well enjoy their job but are not inviting return favors. A reality that definitely confuses a number of individuals: being excited is not a green light to act on that feeling!


Combined with the previous topic, folks would be getting awfully close to “the fun part,” but I can imagine a nude couple, even sensually, rhythmically moving around to music without the intent of penetration. Feels good to interact with another person, having contact, body chemistry releasing endorphins and other hormones of positivity … and still not be sex. These are the things I don’t get to do. They are the things that drive me the most toward depression. Especially when I know that they are so key toward ultimately finding a partner to fuck. (That dirty, dirty word.)


Oh, the many orifices of a person’s body that can be explored by finger, tongue, or penis. Theoretically, of course. And at some point, it changes from mutual or aided masturbation into actual sex. And there is oral sex, anal sex, traditional vaginal intercourse … all of the mysterious ways of claiming to have, and actually doing it. This boring scientific breakdown of something so spiritually connected, or at least as its basic level, physically enjoyable (hopefully that is the intent, because I understand there are several other terrifying approaches to these functions as well and they disgust me) feels bland, but when it comes down to it, traditional intercourse and, I suppose, anal, though that is not my preferred fantasy/directive or what it comes down to, summarizes “What is sex?” for me.


Here is the furthest I have ever achieved. And completed. The person understood my desires and was willing to lend a hand, as it were. I’ve only seen her once since, about 18 months ago, while the moment we shared happened five years ago. It was wildly meaningless, and that sucks. Two people ought to be able to stimulate one another without any sort of penetration just for fun. Touching, exploring, exciting the different parts of one another leading up to the actual event are what make, or at least add to, good sex. From my understanding, at least. For whatever it’s worth from a 38-year-old virgin’s understanding.


Mental Stimulation!
I’ve written porn. Published it under my own name online because I don’t really care to be anonymous. People have told me it worked for them. What a disgusting thing I am adding to in this world (teasing) while receiving so little in return. But that, in itself, is sort of cool. To know that I can fantasize the machinations of two bodies working together toward climax and describe them well enough to help someone become stimulated. That’s worth something, I suppose. And it is the most fulfilling give-and-take I have ever had with other individuals. Because other than published work, I know a couple of people in real life who prefer to just have those explicit conversations rather than perform physically with me. Which also adds to my depression a bit, but furthering those conversations with them fights the depression. It’s a weird cycle.


And finally, Masturbation!
Knowing that I cannot touch even myself (I have to talk to type, even, forsaking the keyboard from my crippled fingers), it is an incredible thing that individuals are able to bring themselves to climax. In this world that we all have to navigate and function in without an other to aid us during all of our urges, even perfectly happy couples spend some time with themselves, as per my understanding, there is the old faithful (if you’ll pardon fountainhead expressiveness) self-service. Everybody’s got their own rhythms and they are allowed to help themselves out as necessary. Sexual, private, not sex.

Thanks for coming to my TED Talk. Please remember that this is only one part of my humanity. A small part, to add to the reality and humor of the situation. Metaphorically and physically.


Also on The Big Smoke


Travis Laurence Naught

Travis Laurence Naught is an author who happens to be a quadriplegic wheelchair user. Individual poems, stories, and various other material by Travis have been published online (Section 8 Magazine, Empty Sink Publishing, Damfino Press, and others) and in print (Gold Man Review, Lost Coast Review, Empirical Magazine, and more). His first book of poetry, The Virgin Journals (ASD Publishing, 2012), is currently out of print, but copies can still be found. Check out for more information and original writing by Travis.

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