Hope for Mary and Matthew? A Brief History of Paraplegic Sex on Film

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02/06/2012 3:12 PM |

Downton Abbey,” as I wrote last year, shortly after its first season had concluded its run on PBS, “is a perfect mechanism of tension and release.” The promise of consummation, emotional and otherwise, gives weight to the show’s many ongoing deferred-gratification subplots; in the second season, now running on PBS, this is especially true of the romance between Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) and Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery).

But the show’s writer Julian Fellowes has confounded expectations, and deferred consummation even further, not just by betrothing M&M to new supporting characters but by bringing Matthew home from the Great War paralyzed from the waist down. (Temporarily? Quite possibly, the whole show being such a tease, but let’s skip that for now.)

So, by what mechanism might this star-crossed pair finally achieve their longed-for bliss? A number of films have taken on paraplegia as a subject matter, with varying degrees of sensitivity and credibility; this survey will restrict itself to those which have looked, however seriously, at the prospect of a sex life after lower spinal cord trauma. (If you’ve stumbled upon this page in search of actual helpful information about sex and paraplegia, you’ll have better luck here.)