Stephen Hawking and Sex Clubs: why is this news?

Christina here.

A friend of mine handed me this link today, “Stephen Hawking Frequents Sex Club In California: Report

Stephen Hawking may be confined to a wheelchair, but that doesn’t seem keep him from making the rounds. The celebrated astrophysicist is a regular at a sex club in California, according to media reports.

The 70-year-old, almost completely paralyzed by a neurological disorder known as motor neurone disease, frequents a San Bernadino “swinger’s club” called Freedom Acres, a long-time member of the club told Radar Online.

“I have seen Stephen Hawking at the club more than a handful of times,” the member told the blog. “He arrives with an entourage of nurses and assistants. Last time I saw him, he was in the back ‘play area’ lying on a bed fully clothed with two naked women gyrating all over him.

Apparently, Cambridge issued a statement on the matter:

A spokesman for the university, where the 70-year-old is a world-renowned physicist, described the reports on an American website as “lurid” and added the cosmologist was not a “regular”.
Tim Holt, a press officer for the university, told the News that the celebrated author of A Brief History of Time did visit the Freedom Acres, as first reported on the website Radar, but it had been a one-off.

Here’s my question: why is this news at all?

Could it be because he’s famous? 70 years old? An astrophysicist? Someone who has been a controversial figure with regard to religion? Someone with a disability?

Could it be because the club is not just your run-of-the-mill strip club, but a swinger’s club?

I don’t know, but some of the language used in these reports have my ableist sense tingling.

“Stephen Hawking may be confined to a wheelchair, but that doesn’t seem keep him from making the rounds”

Stephen Hawking is not “confined” to a wheelchair. Without the wheelchair, he’d be stuck in bed, unable to move about on his own. Wheelchairs set people free, they do not confine people.

That someone with a disability engages in sex-related activities should not come as a surprise to anybody.  Yet part of the reason Hawking visiting sex clubs is news seems to be because society dos not see Hawking as a sexual being.

Society does not see people with disabilities (or people who are older, and other groups of people) as sexual beings. Case in point: people who have sexual attractions to people with disabilities often find themselves labeled deviant, sick, or fetishists.  I bet you can’t remember the last time the media portrayed a person with a disability as a sexual being without sensationalizing it, yet people with disabilities have the same needs for emotional and erotic closeness as anyone else.  Sex and disability shouldn’t be so taboo.


Learn more about Christina and follow her @ziztur.

UK bans certain sex acts in porn, many aimed at female pleasure
My sexuality and my journey to figure it out.
Greg Abbott Can't Overturn True Marriage
Darrel Ray enters the world of podcasting with Secular Sexuality!
About christinastephens
  • oldebabe

    It’s not a myth that even old people need hugs… or something… occasionally…

  • jamessweet

    I think it’s a combination between that, and being a famous scientist. If Attenborough were sighted at a swinger’s club, for example, that would probably be in the news. Minus the “that doesn’t stop him from making the rounds”-type language, of course.

  • suzysalaksartok

    He’s done so much for physics and our understanding of the universe, all while fighting an illness that probably should have killed him decades ago and with the knowledge that his main way of communicating with people and his disability are routinely mocked.

    The guys earned a few lap dances and not be hassled about it.

  • Desert Son, OM

    Here’s my question: why is this news at all?

    Several hypotheses, not necessarily mutually exclusive:

    1. Sex sells (in this case, subscriptions, or web page hits, or publication issues).

    2. Normative privilege encourages perception of sex story as “exotic” or “other” rather than normal human behavior regardless of musculo-skeletal and/or motor-neurological condition. I suspect high correlation between hypothesis 2 and possible financial results of hypothesis 1.

    3. Cult of celebrity elicits (and simultaneously reinforces) drive to constantly see what celebrities (also a kind of socio-culturally constructed “other”) are doing, especially with regard to products used, places visited, and sexual proclivities.

    3.1 Sub hypothesis related to cult of celebrity, in which those currently without celebrity (or with relatively “lower” amount of celebrity) seek to increase their own relative celebrity by being the source that reveals something related to the cult of celebrity.

    4. Controversy sells. It shouldn’t be controversial that someone with a motor-neuron condition related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis has sexuality and seeks ways to safely engage that sexuality. But now that the information is out, it can be used by others who seek to discredit Hawking simply by virtue of his humanity, and that can mean traffic for the agency that provided the information. This hypothesis may correlate highly with hypothesis 1.

    5. Genuine effort to increase awareness of an individual’s sexuality as aspect of their humanity in order to undermine long-term entrenched privilege and said privilege’s institutionalized efforts to disenfranchise outgroup members (I’m not exactly confident that’s what’s happening here, but it’s worth testing).

    6. Puritanism. The United States (I can only speak relative to the nation with which I am most familiar) may have a number of progressive attitudes about certain things, some areas saturated more than others, but there remains undercurrents (even if not necessarily pervasive, at least the undercurrents do occasionally have loud voices) of the grave fear that someone, somewhere, is having fun. This may also correlate strongly with hypotheses 1 and 4, since media may have a vested interest as voice for outrage and also supplier of explicitly sexualized content (also known as the “I’m-shocked – shocked! – to-find-gambling-going-on-in-this-establishment” or the “Louis-from-Casablanca” position).

    Still learning,


  • Hein

    The university’s response is almost more annoying than the fact that this is news. The correct response would have been: “So fucking what? Mind your own bloody business!”

    • JT Eberhard

      Yes. This. Well done.

    • Dogma is Awesome

      And FWIW I think it’s fantastic that he’s out there living life to the fullest. I suspect I’d be too much of a coward.

      If anyone cares to point out the victim in this story (aside from Dr. Hawking) then I’m paying attention…

  • Praedico

    “Last time I saw him, he was in the back ‘play area’ lying on a bed fully clothed with two naked women gyrating all over him.”

    My reaction to this sentence: *shrug* “Dude knows how to party…”

    I mean, who cares? If it’s true, I’m glad the guy gets his rocks off, he’s bloody earned it.
    I must admit, I’m kind of curious to what extent his illness affects his sex-life (I mean, is he still able to… well, you know) but even if it means he’s longer capable of actual sexual intercourse, he’s still a normal human being, with normal human sexual impulses; he has to satisfy them somehow.

    Another thing that really irks me about that article is the scare-quotes around “swinger’s club” and “play area”. Like these terms are incredibly rare and esoteric jargon that probably need explaining to the lay-people.

    • Chris Hallquist

      Well, they are and they do. At least to vanilla folks.

  • David Marjanović

    There is a charitable way of interpreting why it’s news: it’s great that someone who was expected to die decades ago from amyotrophic lateral everloving sclerosis is not only still alive, but even still… otherwise healthy.

    But I agree that’s clearly not how the *sigh* HuffPo meant it. Also, I’m with comment 5.

    I mean, is he still able to… well, you know

    As long as the muscles in his blood vessel walls still work, yes, he’s able to have an erection.

    Given the fact that he’s still alive, they probably still work… but IAADJNOM (I am a doctor, just not of medicine).

  • Sneffy

    I bet you can’t remember the last time the media portrayed a person with a disability as a sexual being without sensationalizing it

    Unfortunately for you, I have been watching “Outland”, the Australian show about gay sci-fi fans. Features the ex-girlfriend of a woman in a wheelchair rhapsodising over how good the orgasms were. You should check it out, if you can!

  • Rieux

    I confess to being surprised at the news because my image of Hawking is of a physically frail guy. If I met him, I think I’d be scared to clap him on the back or something lest I hurt him. In that context, the mental image of him “lying on a bed fully clothed with two naked women gyrating all over him” is a bit mindblowing.

    It seems very plausible that this misconception of mine is founded in ableism. Regardless, it obviously is connected to my ignorance regarding the condition that requires him to use a wheelchair and speech synthesizer. Mea culpa.

    As for the horniness angle, I didn’t find that surprising or disturbing at all. Didn’t Hawking make some kind of bet with another scientist several years ago that involved wagering a subscription to a porn magazine? I thought the guy was fragile, not frigid.

    • Rieux

      Found it: 1975, cosmologist Kip Thorne, something about Cygnus X-1 being found to be a black hole (or not), Penthouse. Hawking lost and bought Thorne the Penthouse subscription. Then he wrote about the bet in A Brief History of Time, which must be how I learned of it.

    • magistramarla

      I was privileged to meet Stephen Hawking at my daughter’s graduation from Cal Tech in 2000. He did not seem frail at all at that time. He was very gracious, and happily posed for a picture with our family.
      My daughter got to know him when he would guest-lecture at Cal Tech. She was the lifeguard on duty at the campus pool when his family went swimming there. She was also his family’s favorite server at The Atheneum, the wonderful restaurant on campus. Even though his lectures were not in her field of study, my daughter always made it a point to attend them.
      He therefore knew our daughter by name and was there the day that she graduated with both a BS and a Masters from Cal Tech.
      I am now disabled and often travel in a wheelchair. While it is nothing compared to what Professor Hawking deals with, spastic paraplegia is slowly making walking more and more difficult for me. I consider him a great role model.

    • Avicenna

      As far as I am aware the only rule pertaining to Stephen Hawking’s fragility is that one isn’t allowed to play the Cambridge drinking Game of “God Save the Queen” with him. (It’s a legend… he is totally fair game for it!)

      It consists of slipping a penny into someone’s drink and then stating that they “save the queen” by downing their drink.

      And he did have sex right? I assume he enjoys it. Seriously? Give the man some slack. He only went out and expanded our knowledge of physics as we know it. I figure he can relax in any way a consenting adult can.

      See in the USA this is a horrid thing. In the UK, there were serious thoughts on whether Stephen Hawkings would accept the honour of playing Davros in Dr. Who… (He was sick and said no).

      • Astrobot

        We just call that pennying, nowadays…

        There is a story, however, of some guys from Trinity attending a formal dinner at Caius and putting a 5p in Stephen Hawking dessert (which means you have to eat it without using your hands), resulting in Trinity being banned from Caius formals for 800 years.

  • Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    Ableism plays a huge role in this story. Period.

    Yes, other aspects of the people and story draw attention – there is no humiliating news story when Hawking spells a word correctly, so it is not only ableism causing this to make the rounds.

    However, disability and associated ableism is part and parcel of the story and the interest. And I’m with Hein @5: the university did slime Hawking rather than defend him. Deplorable.

  • Eric Sweeney

    It would be great to be a genius like Stephen Hawking.

    What could be better?

    Other than walking and being able to wipe your own ass, of course!


    • Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

      this constitutes comment?

      fuck off.

    • VikingWarriorPrincess

      go take a long walk on a short jetty

    • WMDKitty

      Eat shit.

      • 976Evil

        Eat Shit?

        That spells, Atheist!

        • WMDKitty

          Well fuck me — it DOES! Ha!

          That was totally unintentional!

  • David

    Feynman also frequented topless bars, in Pasadena (nearby to San Bernadino). Maybe there’s a pattern there….

    • Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

      There have even been dirty jokes that take the form of Feynmann diagrams. And yet, somehow, this didn’t make the papers…

      Seems there is a pattern after all!

      • Graham Shevlin

        Probably it never made the news because Feynman had a much lower profile with the general public than Hawking does, but also partly because I suspect that Feynman, if asked about it, would have not been in the slightest bit defensive about it, his response would have been some variant of “so what?”. This is all about the Shame Game. The right approach is to refuse to play it.

  • barbrykost

    Here is another reason why this may be considered newsworthy. I live in San Bernardino, and although I have never heard of Freedom Acres, I am glad to see my sad, depressed little town in the news for something positive. The last time we were in national news it was because we had the highest murder rate for a town our size in the country. I am going to send an email to my entire address book mentioning that we are Hawking’s favorite sex outlet.
    Be sure to eat at Rosa Maria’s after your visit to Freedom Acres. Best burritos in the Inland Empire.

  • Icaarus


    This is why it’s news. He does not have motor neurone disease, he has A disease from the motor neurone diseases class, specifically ALS. He should have been dead 20 years ago. It takes him hours to program minutes of speech for lectures or presentations. He has not been able to get in or out of his chair on his own for years, no make that decades. Yes he was a world class physicist and instructor, and considering his impediments he has managed to give 10 times more to physics since loosing the ability to move should have been possible. Hell he has given as much to physics in the last 20 years as most nobel laureates over their entire career.

    All that aside, would you feel comfortable going into a sex club if you needed 3 nurses and your wife just to move your arm? I wouldn’t. Read Tuesdays with Morray to understand just how crippled he was 3 decades ago, then realize how much worse it is now. It’s a `miracle’ he is not dead. It’s a miracle he can still put “pen to paper”. Just imagine being trapped in glue, carted around on a dolly with all mental faculties in tact, and not being able to do ANYTHING without help.

    Also it could be news because, and this is just a guess not knowing the date, he was probably enjoying some time with his WIFE at this club. Considering he isn’t able to really do anything other than play dead fish, maybe he was watching his wife get off.

    This is a positive, amazing accomplishment, kind of like a 5 year old running a marathon.

    • Icaarus

      ***Tuesdays with Morrie

      My bad

    • Gretchen

      All that aside, would you feel comfortable going into a sex club if you needed 3 nurses and your wife just to move your arm? I wouldn’t. . .
      Also it could be news because, and this is just a guess not knowing the date, he was probably enjoying some time with his WIFE at this club. Considering he isn’t able to really do anything other than play dead fish, maybe he was watching his wife get off.

      Where did you get “wife” in all of this? He’s been divorced from his second wife since 2006.

  • Happiestsadist

    HOLY SHIT! People who aren’t the conventional media-approved ideal of sexiness get their freak on now and then!? Stop the fucking presses! Next you’ll be telling me that fat people have active, happy sex lives.

    Seriously, how the fuck is this news? Or anyone’s business?

  • WMDKitty


    Why let disability get in the way of having a good time? I don’t…

  • ‘Tis Himself, OM

    An adult goes to a sex club. Meh.

  • The Nerd

    This gets me thinking…
    I don’t know much about Hawking’s range of mobility, but some people out there would definitely benefit from a masturbatory assistant. If I couldn’t manipulate my own bits anymore, you bet I’d find someone to do it for me!

  • Ashton

    I’d like to address you 2nd to last sentence. On Glee, Artie, who uses a wheelchair dated and had sex with a classmate for a while. He also dated another girl before that but did not have sex with her. I think I could probably come up with a couple of other examples if I thought hard. Oh wait, just thought of another one. On Friends (granted this would have been a number of years ago), Chandler dated a girl who had previously dated and had sex with Joey. She had a prosthetic leg and Chandler wasn’t how he felt about this and if it would bother him too much to become intimate with her. In the end he decides that it doesn’t bother him but she leaves him because she can’t get past him having a third nipple.