pic of the back of a couple, one person resting their head on the other's shoulder. presumably two men

Just the Tip offers smart and compassionate sex and relationship advice from queer non-monogamous kinkster Jera Brown. Send questions to jera@jerabrown.com or DM Jera on Twitter @thejerabrown.

I’m single and 36 years old. I live with a disability called Cerebral palsy – I use a fabulous pink cane for balance in public spaces. I still have a great deal I want to learn about sexual expression and connection, I want to strengthen my sexual confidence, and I think I’m a very playful and curious person. How do I gain this sort of experience without resorting to hookup culture? (It doesn’t seem to work well for me, because sex does a lot of emotional/connection/anti-deprivation work.)

I reached out to queer disability sex educator Andrew Gurza, who has this to say:

“I understand your desire to have something more than hookup culture to contend with as a queer man with disabilities. As a queer man with Cerebral palsy, and a wheelchair user myself, I relate to this feeling of wanting more – something permanent – something real, very often.

What I have come to realize, though, is that as a queer disabled man, hookup culture, while sometimes annoying, vapid and really, REALLY ableist, is an important stepping stone for Queers with Disabilities. You mentioned that you feel as though you have a lot to learn about connection and intimacy. I believe that you can use the “hookup” or one-night-stand culture as a canvas to explore this for yourself. I’ll be honest, when I hook up with someone, I am emotionally invested in the experience from the start. I often feel as though I wish I could turn off these emotions and just “fuck,” but what I have learned through Queer male hookup culture is that I am able to sexualize my body and my disability for myself in those moments. I have learned what my disabled body likes, and I have learned what I don’t like – all from those brief moments where I hooked up with someone.

I will admit that there are moments where, as a Queer disabled man, hookup culture hurts a lot; when you lay yourself and your disability out for someone to see – really see – you open yourself up to pain…You will get hurt. There’s no way around that at all, but in the process of hooking up (if you do it for you, NOT FOR THEM), you will discover just how important, vital and amazing the intersection of queerness and disability is.”

Follow this Andrew on Twitter @andrewgurza.

I’d add to Andrew’s response that I’ve had great friends-with-benefits situations before: playful and loving time with people I care about but aren’t necessarily interested in seriously dating. They worked best when we weren’t exclusively focused on each other’s genitalia. I gravitated toward those who had the same traits you mentioned: They were playful and curious. I think those are great traits to start with! Trust your gut. Do you have people in your life you find attractive who treat you and your body how you want to be treated?

I would also see if there’s an active BDSM community in your area. Even if you’re not interested in bondage or sadomasochism, you might consider getting involved. I’ve found many interested in BDSM are also interested in other kinds of sensual exploration, and it doesn’t have to center around sex. I’ve learned a lot about my body, my limits, and how to communicate with others from people in this scene. They value communication, consent, and inclusivity (they aren’t perfect, and they will fail, but they do try).

Andrew reminded me of another downside of BDSM communities: They don’t always do a good job of being accessible. Thinking about the dungeon I frequent, which is up a narrow flight of stairs with no elevator available, I have to agree with him.

My boyfriend and I are sexually non-monogamous but emotionally committed to one another. But I think I might have accidentally fallen for one of my other sexual partners. I love my boyfriend and don’t want to break up with him. What should I do?

The first thing to do is to tell your boyfriend how you’re feeling and commit to navigating this through with him. I assume you made the choice to open up together, now you need to deal with the consequences together.

It’s common for people who are sexually but not emotionally open to have a don’t ask/don’t tell mentality. But when something like this happens and you don’t talk about it, it allows for more distance between you and your partner. This distance can kill a relationship.

Having feelings for someone else does not inherently mean your boyfriend is lacking. Monogamous-leaning people often feel like they’re not enough when their partners are attracted to others. Nope. This is just how human beings work. Our ability to desire and care for others doesn’t get turned off when we are in love. But having feelings for two people does set up a comparison between them, and this comparison can be helpful but also dangerous.

When you’ve been with someone for a while, you become intimate with all their flaws, and the ways you don’t quite work together. A new person, in addition to the benefit of all those initial lust chemicals, hasn’t been properly scrutinized. Their flaws aren’t showing yet.

If you’re serious about wanting to stay with your boyfriend, commit to spending quality time with him to remember all the shiny attractive qualities that drew you to him. Fall in love again.

Also, can we just talk about what it means to be physically open, but not emotionally? I think this works best if you have a bunch of one-offs. (And to do this ethically, you need to be completely upfront with everyone that that’s all you’re looking for … before getting to the bedroom). But when you see the same person more than once, you allow for an emotional connection. Then, you have another person’s heart to deal with. So be responsible for it. Don’t ghost. Apologize if you have to end things.

Jera writes about sexuality, spirituality, and social justice. They are the author of Just the Tip, a queer-friendly, sex-positive, relationship advice column and the editor of Sacred and Subversive,...