Sex and Disability
Sexuality is one of the most complex aspects of life but, the sexual lives of people with disabilities have been disregarded and stigmatized. As a result, sexuality as a form of pleasure and an expression of love is not taken into account or even recognized for individuals with disabilities.
Sexual expression is influenced by cognitive and emotional processes and is dependent on functioning anatomical and physiological systems, in other words, our brains control our sexual organs and responses.
Before resuming sex with a partner, boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse, talk about it with your doctor or therapist and be guided by their advice. Make sure you are clear and talk with your mate about your expectations, fears and feelings, including consent. Communication is key! Remember to not put too much pressure on yourself, focus on pleasure and not technique. You may need to change your same old lovemaking style and experiment with other sexual activities which can include
- oral sex and mutual masturbation
- utilization of sexual aids/toys/furniture
- to increase intimacy, concentrate on boosting the romance in your relationship by offering lots of affection, complementing and saying nice things to each other and celebrating big and small occasions.
Importance of safe sex
After a TBI, it is just as important for you to protect yourself from unplanned pregnancy and from sexually transmitted disease as it was before your injury. Even if a woman’s period has not returned, she can still get pregnant. Here are some tips to help with birth control and protection from sexually transmitted disease.
- Do research to help figure out what method of birth control and protection from sexually transmitted disease are best for you.
- Because of changes in thinking abilities, it may be harder for you to remember to use protection or to remember to take it with you.
- You can plan ahead by always carrying a condom or other method of protecting yourself and your partner.
- For women who use birth control pills, or a device that must be replaced, using a calendar or alarm on a smart phone can help you remember to take the pills or change the device.
- If you are unsure whether your partner has a sexually transmitted disease or has been intimate with others who have such disease, it is safest to use a condom.
- If you have engaged in any risky sexual behavior, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases and get treated if you test positive.
Consent should not be assumed
Each of us is responsible for making sure we have consent in every sexual situation. If you are unsure, it is important to clarify what your partner feels about the sexual situation before initiating or continuing the sexual activity. Consent should not simply be assumed by:
- Body language, Appearance, or Non-Verbal Communication: One should never assume by the way a person dresses, smiles, looks or acts, that they to have sex with you.
- Dating relationships or previous sexual activity: Simply because two or more people are dating or have had sex in the past does not mean that they are consenting to have sex with you.
- Marriage: Even in marriage, a person should not assume they have consent for sexual activity. Marital rape is as serious as any other sexual assault.
- Previous Activity: Consent to engage in one sexual activity at one time is not consent to engage in a different sexual activity or to engage in the same sexual activity on a later occasion.
- Silence, Passivity, Lack of Resistance, or immobility: A person’s silence should not be considered consent. A person who does not respond to attempts to engage in sexual activity, even if they do not verbally say no or resist physically, is not clearly agreeing to sexual activity.
- Incapacitation: Alcohol consumption or use of other drugs can render a person incapable of giving consent. Alcohol is often used as a weapon to target individuals and is used by perpetrators to excuse their own actions. Additionally, Michigan Criminal Sexual Conduct laws apply to a perpetrator regardless of whether or not they were drinking. It is important to remember that sexual assault is never the survivor’s fault, regardless of whether they may have been intoxicated.
The term “sexual assault” means any unwanted, nonconsensual sexual contact of any kind (including kissing) obtained through the use of force, threat of
force, intimidation, or coercion.
Rape is unwanted, non-consensual sexual contact that includes penetration (i.e. vaginal or anal penetration, oral sex, and genital touching) obtained through the use of force, threat of force, intimidation, or coercion. 18% of all rapes and sexual assaults are reported to be committed by strangers, which means that most of these crimes are committed by someone the victim knows, is close with or related to (according to the 2017 Bureau of Justice’s).
Myths About Disability and Sex
- Disabled people can’t have sex.
- Disabled people have to pay for sex.
- Disabled people aren’t sexy.
- Disabled people don’t want or need sex
- Disabled people only have kinky sex
- Disabled people can’t have sex
- Disabled people only have sex with other disabled people
- Disabled people can’t have kids
- Disabled people shouldn’t have kids because they can pass on their disability
- If you have sex with a disabled person you will catch what they’ve got
- Disabled people are a burden on their partners
- People living with a disability can’t have “real” sex
- Disabled people need protection, like kids
- Disabled people have more important things than sex to worry about
- Disabled people are brave and courageous to try sex (no, it’s just adapting to a lifestyle)
- All persons in wheelchairs are chronically ill, frail, or sickly
Facts About Disability and Sex
- People with disabilities can be sexual and enjoy sex
- Some people who use a wheelchair can still feel “down there”
- Sex is not just all about each others “privates”, it’s about intimacy as well
- Mobility aids can be a fun addition
- People with a physical disability don’t just “lie there”
- Disabled people can have sex and enjoy it
- Disabled people sometimes choose to pay for sex like people who aren’t disabled
- Disabled people are sexy
- Disabled people can have sexual desires/needs
- Disabled people can have kids and build families of their own
- People with disabilities can identify as LGBTQ too
- All people need to learn about and understand sex
Also check out our web page called Sex After Brain Injury and Trauma