Lifestyle

I Am Not Sexless – a Guide to Sex and Disability

Now, it is a shame to say, but sex and sexuality has been treated as a taboo when able bodied individuals think about people with disabilities.  They are discriminated against by being viewed as sexless, and forcefully placed into the category of a-sexual.  Now there are fetish hunters, chair-chasers as they are called who are sexually charged by people with disabilities, but that cannot nearly be thought of as a healthy sexual relationship either, as removing the individual from the disability marks the end of the relationship.  People with physical and to a lesser extent cognitive disabilities are entitled to have fulfilling sexual lives.

The first issue is how able bodied people view people with disabilities.  It is important to note here, the term people with disabilities, rather than the disabled, or handicapped people; where the latter placed the disability first, the phrase people with disabilities placed the directs the first attention to the person.  So why do certain individuals not associate people with disabilities with sex and sexuality?  People with non-able bodied condescendingly receive predigests, as people without physical impairments feel compelled to aide them.  Too often are these individuals looked down on as lesser, by being babied.   Viewed like a child, as dependent, they are patronizingly made saint-like. This comparison almost forcefully places them into the category of a-sexual.

The second issue is not knowing how or if a person with handicaps are capable of having sex.  This is a hard topic to bring into conversation in general for many people, and when the term disabilities come into the discussion it gets even trickier.

Of course there is also the problem of people with cognitive disabilities.  A big issue lately is whether or not people with mental disabilities are entitled to a sex life.  The best answer here is, it’s complicated.  When it comes to mental health problems sex education and sexual awareness must be stressed.  Generally speaking, if an individual is able to maintain a job, and largely manage themselves, it is most likely okay, or even recommended for them to experience an active and healthy sex life if they receive the proper guidance.  For those with more severe mental health issues, a sex therapist may be needed.  When dealing with people with cognitive deficiencies, comprehension and consent are the two main issues which arise on the topic.

If they come to the conclusion that the person with the disability is unable to comprehend sex, and the dangers, and precautions that come with it may be  of the persons best interest to find ways for them to express themselves sexually through use of toys, or masturbation.  This can be extremely difficult and confusing for parents who have children with disabilities going through puberty, but it’s important to keep in mind that there are people out there who can help find the best solution to this problem.

As for the physically disabled, there are plenty of tools available which can aide in physical relationships.  This ranges from medication to harnesses and toys, and many are specific to people with disabilities.  In fact in Spain The National Association of Sexual Health and Disability partnered with Sex Asistent to help people with disabilities live a healthy sex life, through workshops and aides.

But is it pleasurable?  Research shows that over half of men and woman with spinal cord injuries are able to experience orgasms.  More specifically, a study talk about on the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation website shows that ejaculation can occur in up to 70 percent of men with partial spinal cord injuries, and in 17 percent of men with complete lower level injuries.

Everyone is entitled to an attempt at a full life, and this includes at least addressing the idea of sex and sexuality.  Physical and cognitive impairments are not the end-all.  We are sexual beings, whether we are paraplegic, autistic, or falling somewhere in the realm of people of having abled body and mind.  A person with disabilities does not mean a sexless person.

There is so much more to be said on the topic of disability and sexuality. Be sure to check out these websites to get a fuller understanding on the issue:

http://www.dhrn.ca/files/sexualhealthmanual_lowres_2010_0208.pdf
http://www.sexualityandu.ca/teachers/teaching-sex-ed-for-youth-with-intellectual-disabilities
http://www.christopherreeve.org/site/c.mtKZKgMWKwG/b.4453431/k.552C/Sexual_Health_for_Men.htm
http://elpais.com/m/elpais/2014/03/25/inenglish/1395769535_084801.html?rel=rosEP
http://www.disabled-world.com/disability/sexuality/
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2412543

 

 

Photo Source: Disabilitynow.org


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