Scarleteen has a fantastic collection of articles on sex and disability. While I typically only share resources about care work or directed to the person whose role is primarily as the caregiver, there are so few quality resources discussing this topic that it feels important to share them. Click the headlines to read the full article on Scarleteen.
Relationships and sex are topics that many parents and their children disagree on, but when you’re a child with a disability, that conflict can be far more challenging.
Depending on your disability, everything involving sex may require help – and if your parent is your primary caregiver, bringing up these topics (let alone asking for assistance with them) is not an easy task. For example, asking for help with something like masturbation can invoke a range of emotions. Your caretaker might be uncomfortable even hearing the word masturbation, and if so, they’ll likely refuse to help you. They may even ask you not to bring the topic up again or become upset or angry that you brought it up in the first place.
Some may find that working around caregivers when it comes to issues of sexuality is their better option. Like any solution, it has its pros and cons. For example, it can mean more time and space to be sexual with your partner(s) when your caregiver isn’t around, but can also create safety issues if you need more nuanced care, or care your partner doesn’t have the ability to provide.
Abstaining from sex is another solution, but if you don’t actually want to be celibate, that choice may make you pretty miserable.
It is possible to have a healthy and fulfilling relationship and sex life as a disabled person with a parent caregiver (or any other kind of caregiver), whichever of these routes you decide to pursue.
Disabled people are often nervous when they set out into the world of partnered sex. Because it’s such a taboo subject, they may not know where to start, since they’ve rarely heard people affirming the right to sexual autonomy for disabled people, or providing information about how to have safe, fun, loving, saucy, steamy, great sex while disabled.
This can be especially true for people with acquired disabilities who haven’t spent a lifetime working with their impairments, and may feel like they’ve just been launched into an alien world. Sexual education in school or presentations of sex in media often provide vague information about being sexual, at best, and often leave disability out altogether — so answering questions for yourself like how you have a certain kind of sex can involve more trial and error. It shouldn’t have to be this way, because, surprise, disabled people have sex on the regular and they’ve figured out what works for them. So, my friends, can you!
We all know that consent can be sexy — and also that navigating sexual consent can be tricky. Sometimes, disability makes it more complicated, so it’s important to take some time out to talk about that as you explore the world of dating and sexuality through the disability lens.
Because so many nondisabled people think disabled people aren’t sexual, conversations about sexual consent and autonomy often don’t include disability, or if they do, it’s only in a negative way, like suggesting that people with certain kinds of impairments aren’t capable of consenting at all. That makes it challenging to learn about this stuff in settings like health and sexual education classes, so if you feel a little at sea, know you’re not alone.
Disabled people get a lot of practice telling people about our bodies: we tell doctors, therapists, care workers, and people in our support networks like family and friends. Sometimes this is a choice, and sharing builds understanding and intimacy. Sometimes it is out of need, like if we’re explaining our care or asking for help.
Sometimes we don’t choose it, but are expected to talk about our bodies, like when random non-disabled people ask inappropriate or invasive questions about our bodies and abilities. Situations like that can include extremely personal questions about our sex lives and sexuality, even though that’s often not wanted or okay. We should always feel comfortable to refuse to answer or address those kinds of questions.
Unless you only provide sex education to lesbians, have only slept with people with a vulva or your sexual experience or exposure has been very limited, chances are you have addressed or seen a guy upset about not being able to get or sustain an erection at some point when he wanted to have one. If you’re a full-time sex educator, you may deal with this as often as several times a day. Even if you have just turned on a television, you’ve seen it. I deal with it as a sex educator a lot. And it drives me pretty batty, especially because there’s a central part of that wiggins that I just do not get.