Melinah Viking is an award- winning adult film actress, webcam performer, escort, public speaker and activist. The 37-year-old who lives with cerebral palsy began her career in 2005 as a model and promoter before a close friend suggested she try webcam modelling.

“This industry is definitely not for everyone and was one of the most challenging, yet best, decisions I’ve ever made. It’s changed my life and made me a better, stronger person,” Melinah said.

Her 2016 film, produced by Bright Deaire, See Me has had numerous festival screenings around the world. It won the Flag Award for Best Political Film at the Brazil Pop Porn Festival and the Golden Raincoat Award for the most Sex-Positive Film at the Seattle Erotic Cinema Festival in 2017. She’s also the subject of a documentary by Permission4Pleasure All of Me which is to be released soon.

A strong advocate for sexual rights, Melinah also works alongside RhED, a Star Health organisation providing health and education for sex workers, a state-wide program funded by the Victorian Government. And last year, she spoke about sexuality at an National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) event in Victoria.

Melinah has embraced her sexuality and advocates for others with disability to feel comfortable and confident to do the same, despite the barriers.

“People see the wheelchair as a barrier, before they see the person,” she said.

“People with disabilities sadly aren’t seen as sexual beings.”

It’s widely known, some people with disabilities need access to sex workers for a number of reasons
– sexual positioning for couples, inability to masturbate, for human touch and to reduce isolation. Yet, finding a support worker to take Melinah to her escort work is difficult.

“It shouldn’t be an issue, but as we all know, there is an immense amount of bureaucratic tape surrounding disability and sexuality,” she said.

“It’s like people don’t want to be seen as doing something ‘dirty’ because stereotypically if you have a disability, you are meant to just stay home and be toileted and fed when you’re told to. “Watch a soap or the midday movie. Have your breakfast at 8am, and a cup of tea at 11am, dinner and bed at 7pm, that’s all you need to know.”

Murray Loudon, from Sydney, has cerebral palsy and thanks the organisation Touching Base for helping to connect him with sex workers.

“As a man with a disability it is important for me to have equal access to all the physical and emotional experiences that all humans deserve,” Murray said.

“The fact that I am unable to use my hands, makes this even more frustrating, as solo masturbation is not an option for me.

“Having access to sex workers gives me the opportunity to release some tension and explore those desires in an appropriate consensual way. It also allows me to share emotional intimacy which we all need as humans in order to live a happy, healthy life.”

Saul Isbister is the president of Touching Base – the advocacy organisation focusing on the rights of sex workers and people with disability, from all sexual backgrounds.

The organisation also provides training to disability service providers

and sex workers to further develop their skills in working with people with disability.

“We argue that every adult, with a disability or not, has a human right to seek consensual sexual expression. Non-disabled people can masturbate, or find sexual partners, but for some people with disability, they don’t
have the same opportunities and may choose to access sex work services,” Saul said.

“For too long the issue of disability and sexuality has been a taboo topic that was kept shrouded in a veil of secrecy or denial. During our work, over the last 19 years, Touching Base has seen a remarkable transformation in the willingness of governments
and the disability service sector to respond in ways that support people with disability to make their own choices.”

Saul is adamant that sex work should be included in people’s NDIS plans.

“Don’t let the b******s grind you down,” he said.

However, the Coalition against Trafficking in Women Australia (CATWA) is opposed to sexual services being funded through the NDIS.

“CATWA is committed to fighting the exploitation of women in the sex industry and we support the assertion that it is inappropriate to fund sexual services through the NDIS,” the organisation said in a statement to Link.

“Advocates in the sex industry maintain that they are providing a social service by allowing people with disabilities to express themselves sexually, but women in the sex industry are often marginalised and suffer high rates of abuse, as do many people with disabilities. To suggest that one marginalised group should be paid to service another is an affront to both.

“This is also an insult to many people with disabilities because it implies that they are incapable of forming intimate or loving relationships of a non-commercial kind.”

Kat Morrison is the general manager of SIN, a South Australian organisation providing health and safety information to sex workers.

“Most people do not consider the barriers and obstacles people with disabilities may face when attempting to engage in sexual/sensual practises,” Kat said.

Sin holds Disability Training workshops for sex workers who would like to work with clients who have a disability.

“As a man with a disability it is important for me to have equal access to all the physical and emotional experiences that all humans deserve.”

“Guidance is delivered around consent, informed consent, enthusiastic consent, information sharing, boundary setting, and safety – amongst other topics,” she said.

“After sex workers complete the training (which is run by SIN peer workers) they have the option of being added to our “disability referral list“.

“The list may be requested by the person with the disability, their support worker, their clinician, their friends, and their family; we have experienced requests from all of the aforementioned groups.”

For Melinah, sex work means freedom.

“That’s one of the reasons why I started in this industry. I could be who I truly feel inside. No boundaries. No bull,” she said.

“To be seen beyond the wheelchair… reclaiming the power.”

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