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Paris Lees: What do blind people do for porn?

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What do blind and visually impaired people do for pornography?

That was one of many questions I set out to answer as part of my BBC Three series the Paris Lees Sex Show.

Sex is everywhere nowadays, and it can increasingly feel like we’ve ‘seen it all’. I certainly thought I had.

The more I looked into modern sexuality, though, the less I realised I knew. Like it or not – and statistics reveal that many people like it very much – porn is a part of many people’s lives now.

A recent survey revealed that 86% of British men have viewed pornography. Another survey, commissioned by Marie Claire, revealed that a third of British women watch porn every week.

So, porn is popular – tell me something I don’t know.

But just what do blind and visually impaired people do if they want to use porn?

Paris LeesBBC

I searched online for ‘blind porn’, but it mainly turned up films that objectify blind or visually impaired people, like ‘blind girl porn’ and ‘f*****g a blind girl’.

I was disappointed to see blind and visually impaired people treated as little more than a fetish – and, as a transgender woman, I know how that feels. What about their pleasure?

Putting 'porn for blind people' into my search engine came up with some more promising results. One popular free porn site has started offering audio descriptions of films.

I was also particularly intrigued to discover someone has invented braille porn. Swedish artist Nina Linde created the world’s first braille porn book, with images and words depicting a variety of sex acts.

Swedish artist Nina LindeBBC

This seemed like a great idea to me, but I wanted to know what blind and visually impaired people thought about it. So I decided to host the world’s first braille porn book club.

Braille porn bookBBC

We invited a group of blind and visually impaired men and women from various walks of life to give us their verdict on braille porn. To help me set up the group, I met up with actor and aerialist Amelia Cavallo.

Aerialist Amelia CavalloBBC

She told me: “There’s an overarching assumption with disability that disabled people don’t, can’t or shouldn’t have sex. So porn isn’t really geared towards disabled people.”

I also met a young blind man from Wales called Rob. He says he’s got a “sexy voice,” and I quite agree, but he’s not always that keen on hearing other people’s.

A blind man called RobBBC

Some pornographic films come with audio descriptions, but Rob says that the voiceover - usually delivered in a serious tone - can often ruin the moment.

Rob also had reservations about braille porn because, in his own words and not to put too fine a point on it, “I read with two hands.”

While some of my guests found braille porn sexy, the general consensus seemed to be that it wouldn’t quite do it for them; it was “a novelty”.

Amelia laughs at braille pornBBC

As a transgender campaigner, I’m used to educating other people. At our book club, though, it was me who had to acknowledge my ignorance. Halfway into our discussion, I realised I had never, knowingly, spoken to a blind person before. It was a truly humbling, informative and valuable experience. I was reminded that, sometimes, you’re not even aware that you’re not aware about something.

Braille porn is a great start, and may work for some people, but my experience has taught me that blind and visually impaired people deserve better erotica. There are others senses to titillate besides vision, so pornographers are going to have to be more creative if they wish to delight every member of society…

Originally published 20 July 2016.