No. The short answer is no, no I shouldn’t be embarrassed that I wet the bed last night. That didn’t stop the horrified shame that spread though me when I woke up to find that while I’d peed in my dream I’d pissed in real life as well. For the first time in almost two decades I’d wet myself.
Content note for suicide, mental illness, and internalised ableism.
I woke up a few minutes after midnight. Through a haze of exhausted confusion, I felt out the damp patch underneath me. Still half-asleep, I stripped off my sheets and pyjamas. I fell asleep on my bare mattress under a blanket, tired enough to ignore the pinpricks of shame and the pathetic bundle of damp sheets.
Maybe the fact I wet the bed shouldn’t be entirely unexpected: it’s easy enough for me to list a handful of reasons why I might have lost control of my bladder. Recently I’ve been struggling to make it to the toilet before starting to pee, the minutes between closing the bathroom door and tugging down my jeans and boxers a tense race of self-control. I’m still researching this, but it could be connected to my extremely strong pelvic floor.
My initial guess was that it was linked to the changes in my medication. I’ve been taking venlafaxine for ten days, and one of its side effects is “increased urination” as well as drowsiness. Maybe I’d just been too deeply asleep for my body to wake me up when I needed to pee? It could also be a UTI, of course – though I didn’t know that UTIs can make you wet the bed until I spoke to my doctor about my first week on the new antidepressants.
These rational thoughts made me less ashamed, though I wish I hadn’t needed them. I was still embarrassed when I all but whispered the words into my phone, wondering if there was a better way to tell my GP that I’d wet the bed. I know how to talk in clinical, detached terms about my vagina and menstrual cycle so I can bring them up with a doctor without blushing, but how do you talk about pissing yourself in a GP-appropriate way?
Maybe it was harder because pee play is one of my kinks. I definitely enjoy an edge of humiliation when playing with it, but this was very different. There was nothing sexy about this shame: I wasn’t being made to open my mouth so my partner could use me or exercise self-control so they could enjoy my squirms. This was the shame of my body betraying me… layered with the uncomfortable knowledge that I know that wetting the bed shouldn’t be embarrassing.
There’s nothing shameful about not being in control of your body. Or rather, even though there shouldn’t be, there is shame around these things in our society. But I’m happy enough to talk about why I poop more when I’m on my period, so why did I hesitate before telling my partner that I’d wet the bed? I think the answer, if I am honest with myself, is internalised ableism.
I might have recently started describing myself as disabled, but I am able-bodied. I have the privilege of being able to go to the bathroom whenever I need to: without assistance, without worrying that the bathroom will not be accessible. When I woke up to find myself peeing, I was able to get up and find clean bedding so I could fall back asleep; I wasn’t forced to lie on the wet sheets waiting for help. I’d
The embarrassment I felt around peeing myself came from the idea that it is shameful to not be in control of your body. It’s not. Disability awareness consultant and sex educator Andrew Gurza (he/they) wrote about how to help your disabled lover pee for SheVibe earlier this year. Would you feel awkward if, mid-fuck, your partner needed to pause so they could go pee, but you had to help them? I’m ashamed to admit that I think I would, and I don’t want to be. I want to challenge my internalised ableism… and today that starts with not being embarrassed that I wet the bed.
Or at leasts it starts by talking about it. I’m a sex writer who blogs about how much I love the smell of my two-day-old junk and tweets about the satisfaction of chunks of blood slipping out of my vagina when I’m on my period. I don’t have a problem with talking about those things. Why are we encouraged to talk about some taboo topics under the guise of sex-positive empowerment, while others aren’t touched on? Why is it ok for a slut to admit that they had a one night stand, but considerably less acceptable for them to talk about how they didn’t clean their teeth for a week because of depression?
Capitalism is good at selling us back concepts that start as revolutions. Body positivity rather than fat activism, family-friendly pride, and t-shirts that say ‘hashtag feminist’ sold by companies who don’t pay their workers fairly. I worry that it’s currently trying to do the same thing around sex education. Companies are now seen as edgy for creating products or marketing campaigns that centre consent or bodily autonomy – but even this is usually with the face of white, cis, straight-sized influences.
It’s important for us to talk about sex and lack of arousal and vaginal discharge – and we’re finally starting to have those conversations. It’s just as important for a fat, Black, disabled trans woman to be able to talk about how she needs help to pee. Some of these body-based taboos are far more Instagram-able than the others, but we need to acknowledge that it’s all part of the same conversation. We can’t achieve sexual liberation until we acknowledge that we often leave out disability.
And until we can admit that we’ve wet the bed without being embarrassed.