Barbara Garlaschelli: “Sensuality arises from our mind”

Barbara Garlaschelli

Picture by ©Giampaolo Poli

A few days ago, I talked to you about “Non volevo morire vergine“, the latest book by the Milanese writer Barbara Garlaschelli. In the surge of emotions raised by the book, I got in touch with her and she was immediately available to have a remote conversation with me for Move@bility. Here you have it!

  • First of all, I’d like to thank you for writing “Non volevo morire vergine”: a book that really tugs your heartstrings, and more. Why did you decide to put on paper in a book such an intimate part of your life?  Because I wanted to talk about the sex/disability taboo and, to do it, I chose autobiography to avoid stereotypes and to be able to personally account for what I wrote. Writing is also a matter of accountability and, when you deal with such a delicate subject, you can’t generalize: disabled people aren’t a “category”, but individuals, each one with his own story.  
  • Which part was the hardest to talk about? My father’s death, for sure.

"Non volevo morire vergine"

  • Reading your books, listening to your interviews and readings, an enormous energy and positivity emerge: where can we buy them? I’ve been a lucky woman: I’ve had two great parents, who taught me to live, struggling for my happiness, never backing down. Moreover, my attitude helped me: I’m determined and stubborn. I’m a curious woman and curiosity is a motivation which pushes you to see what’s going on tomorrow…
  • Let’s get into the subject of your book. Even reading some comments to your interviews in these days on social media, it’s clear that there’s an enduring “resistance” to seeing us, disabled people, also as subjects (and objects) of sexual pleasure. Why, based on your own experience, is it so hard to eradicate the taboo around sexuality (and affectivity) of disabled people and, particularly, of disabled women?  First of all, because we live in a Catholic country where sex is, tout court, still seen as a “sin”, something not to mention, if not in a low voice. We’re culturally underdeveloped, scared straight. Being a woman is the logical consequence of what I’ve said: women have to work twice as hard to show their value. Not just in Italy, unfortunately.
  • In your book, you also talk about some men’s embarrassment while confronting with you “from that point of view”: their absurd questions (“But you… there…?”), their awkwardness in the “physical” management of the situation, etc. Such experiences often end up discouraging from trying new approaches: how did you pass that block?  Joining the fray! Fighting against my fear of being rejected. Risking, that’s the only way to live: fear is the worst enemy, I was my worst enemy.
  • Some time ago, I read, on the Internet, the comment by a (theoretically, “able-bodied”) man who stated that “having sex with a disabled woman is always a crime, because there can’t be any consent”. Apart from the nonsense (except for people who are unfit to plead, of course), I had the opportunity to experience personally that some people, even without saying it, agree with it: how can we help them understand that it isn’t so (without bringing up a lawyer, maybe)? I wouldn’t go out of my own way to make such people understand anything. I’d prefer not to spend time with them, and I actually don’t.
  • What would you suggest to a disabled woman without any “willing” friend at her disposal to test her femininity or overtake a “block”?  No, I can’t give advices: everyone has her own road. If I really have to give an advice, it’s to take the risk and walk that road, which, for sure, is in front of every one of us. A “no” won’t kill you. If you give yourself a chance, “yes” will come as well.
  • You tell you’ve also used the online chats, to meet men. Nowadays, there are dating apps “for disabled people” and dating sites addressed to disabled people (and who “loves” them). To me, I have to admit it, they seem to be a little bit sad “ghettos” (even though I love the web, for “that” purpose I still prefer the good old, face to face approach, maybe arisen by chance). What’s your opinion? I think that they’re just another way to meet people. Clearly, there should be (if you want it, but it isn’t a “must”) a “live” meet and there you’ll understand whether you’re really interested in that person or not. But I’m not closed to virtual approaches: it’s just another way to meet, I repeat. It can be funny and even a good way to talk about yourself. You know, idiot people are everywhere, inside and outside the Internet.
  • In your opinion, does a woman who gets disabled during her life (for instance, during her adolescence, as it happened to you, or after) have more chances to keep the perception of her femininity (and the ability to show it to others), compared with another woman who was born disabled (or got it in her earlier years)? I don’t know, I can’t answer this question, since I can only answer based on my personal experience. I, without being aware of it, have always kept it.
  • The main “Move@bility” topic is accessibility, particularly with a physical meaning. How much do architectonical barriers weigh on the possibility to live and express your own sexuality and affectivity? A lot: the ability to move without issues is one of the fundamental things to fight for.  Italy is a total barrier. For who has movement issues, it’s like hell. And that forces a lot of people to stay close at home: it’s like living under house arrest despite being innocent.
  • Let’s end our chat with something more “frivolous”: how can you remain sexy even using a wheelchair or a walking stick, when high heels aren’t even an option, I mean? Personally, I learned to show what I think is beautiful, in my body. Then, you know, sensuality arises from your mind: you must feel sexy there.

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