Saturday, May 13, 2006

A conversation with Nori

“It’s sad. Many people die without ever knowing what it's like to have sex.”
My friend Nori, who I met in Tokyo, is reading a book about disabled people and sex-volunteers in Japan. He plans on making a documentary about this with one of his friends. I asked him to explain some of it to me and I typed as he spoke.

““This is still a taboo in Japan that is just beginning to be uncovered. (And in the states, I hadn’t heard anything about it outside my Sexuality Class in collage.) If someone is disabled it is unlikely they can ever a husband or wife, let alone have a boyfriend or girlfriend, SO, there are volunteer organizations that provide sex for them.

“There are many organizations for challenged people in Japan. Not all of them think sex volunteers are a good thing for them. Some are supportive, and some think it’s degrading to the disabled person. Some people think that prostitution is better because the disabled person feels more normal.”

"That club called “Ladies Market” by your apartment is actually a whorehouse. But the prostitutes at places like that will not treat handicapped people because it is too dangerous. I mean, many handicapped people have tubes and oxygen tanks and things.

“But, it’s controversial because the idea of a “sex volunteer” can really hurt people. And when I think about it, just the word “volunteer” can hurt people. At the same time, I think they need to accept the problems they have, but I can easily say that because I am not one of them, and to the person who is actually disabled, for them, it is probably really difficult to do that and to have a “volunteer.”

“So, it gives me a paradox. Is it really a good thing to volunteer for them? Maybe the concept of volunteering is wrong from the beginning. Maybe we should just help each other. If that is the normal thing to do we wont need the word “Volunteering.”

“Its like the “Priority seats” on the bus and the train. Every time I see them it makes me sad. Does that mean that we wont give seats to elderly people if we didn't have that seat?”

Nori, as you can tell, is totally fluent in English, and totally thoughtful. “Thank you for saying that.” He says with a smile. He visited me this week from Tokyo and taught me how to cook Japanese food. Now my kitchen is full of dried seaweed, soybeans, miso paste, sesame paste that is used just like peanut butter and seeds and spices (like sanshou) and oils (like mirin) and cooking sake.

“Don't worry, none of this stuff will go bad. You can use it all slowly. He has been making me incredible dishes. The one wih the avocadoes I had for breakfast the other day. He continues…

“NPOs have a workshop for handicapped people with problems with their brains, not only physical things, and sometimes they have little shows to tell them how to hold hands, how to kiss, how to have sex safely. Even, how to speak to people they like if they see someone on the street. Do you know the word nanpa? When you see somebody and you think that person is really pretty and you want to talk to them, that's nanpa. SO, they teach how to do that. Like “hey, would you like to have lunch with me” that kind of thing. They also teach how they should treat the other person after meetinng them. Because, often, those people with brain problems, what do you call them, mentally disabled, well, those types of handicapped people, it is still a big taboo to talk about their sex, and some people say “don't wake up the children if they are asleep.”

Do you agree with that? I asked.

“I don't know if I have the right to have an opinion.”

But what is your opinion?

“My opinion is I disagree. I think everyone has the right to know about sex. Yeah, I understand it is difficult for them to raise kids. But I think this society should be more supportive and help them have the opportunity to have sex and maybe even have kids. Their parents often tell them not to have kids, but that is only because they know that they will end up raising the kids. SO, know it is probably difficult, but I disagree with that saying. They have a right to wake up and know what the life is about. This is one place that society needs to be changed.”

“They don’t know anything about sex, about the diseases, or even how to treat other people right, because they are never taught. But, they grow up and become adults, and they have communities where they can meet other people like them, and they want to have sex, but they don't know how, and sometimes they rape. I mean, they are not trying to be bad, but they feel like doing it so they do it and they don't know what is right. But the one who is raped gets hurt and trauma. They have enough problems. Keeping them asleep to the truths about sex only creates more problems. The reality is that you cannot just have them not wake up. They do wake up. Their bodies wake up. So, still, you need to teach them about sex and how to treat people, just like how you teach to other kids. That's what I think.”

“I’ve been reading books like these and they are making me sensitive when I talk about it. DO I have a right to talk about it, to have an opinion? I have an emotion. I have a feeling. But my opinion is judgmental. But like, I don't have any handicapped person in my family, and I am not either, so I can only imagine their lives. But I don't really understand how hard life is for them. So, these books are making me think maybe I am being…my opinions are very shallow. That is one reason why it is important to meet them and talk to them, not just read about them. And after we talk to them, ask them if they want a movie about them.

“And, I am actually a selfish person I think. I think about my benefit. I’m thinking that maybe this will give my own life some like, wider vision. More experience. Talking to those people. Making friends with them. Getting to know them. That would give something good to my life, to my self.”

It’s interesting. None of these books have information about gay people, or information about the life of disabled gay people. It’s like a double minority. A minority of a minority. Who knows if they will ever be included. But, as you know, words have power.”


Anonymous said...

If you want videos about disabled gay people go to Berkley, you will find them there. And I think that it is better to speak and risk being politically incorrect, or insensitive, that to be silent. -M

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