There are a lot of ways a disability might affect someone’s sex life. Not all disabilities are the same, and neither are the ways they impact people’s lives.
Many people with disabilities can and do have sex. Unfortunately, sex and disability is rarely talked about. This can make it hard for people with disabilities to raise questions about sex. Also, peoples’ ideas about sex and disability can come from negative stereotypes.
People with disabilities may have unique concerns about sex and sexuality. Talking openly about sex and disability can help address stereotypes and concerns.
Physical disabilities and accommodation during sex
Sex means something different for everyone. People with disabilities don’t all have sex the same way. And neither do people without disabilities! What kind of sex a person has is up to them and their sexual partners. That means there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to have sex, with or without a disability.
Some physical disabilities may have a big impact on someone’s sex life, while others may not. This can depend on the person and their disability. For example, loss of sensation or chronic pain can make some kinds of sex more complicated. But this doesn’t mean that people with physical disabilities can’t or don’t have sex!
Some people with disabilities use accommodations to make sex easier or more fun. There are many products designed for this purpose, including custom mobility aids and devices. Some people with disabilities also use non-sexual mobility aids (like wheelchairs) during sex.
Sex and developmental disabilities
Many people think that disabled people can’t be sexual. Some may even feel that they’re unable to consent to sex. As a result, people with developmental disabilities can have difficulty finding supportive information on sex and sexuality. This can be frustrating for developmentally disabled teenagers and adults.
A lot of people with developmental disabilities do want to have sex. Some people with these disabilities may have difficulty with talking to others and social cues. Some may have sensory issues or sensitivities, which can make some sex acts uncomfortable. Whether or not you have a disability, it’s a good idea to talk to a potential sexual partner before you have sex. That way, you can work out forms of communication, set ground rules, and get each other excited!
Disability and safer sex
Information about safer sex and STIs is important for everyone. It’s a good idea for people to talk about safer sex and boundaries with their sexual partners.
Some disabilities can impact the safety of some sex acts. For example, some people with disabilities may lose sensation in their vagina or anus. Therefore, it’s a good idea for them to be careful when having penetrative sex in those areas. Other disabilities, like epilepsy, can make sex harder. It helps to talk to your partner about how to react if problems happen during sex.
For example, spinal cord injuries can cause a condition called autonomic dysreflexia. This is a medical emergency, which is sometimes caused by sex. The warning signs include:
- A pounding headache
- Nasal congestion
- A flushed face
If you or your partner experiences this during sex, it’s best to stop immediately. Help the affected person into a sitting position and wait. If the symptoms don’t stop within 5 minutes, it’s important to call a doctor right away.
Situations like this can happen with other disabilities, as well. It’s important to learn about your and your partners’ needs.
Sex education, disability, and consent
Everyone deserves to learn about healthy relationships. According to Teaching Sexual Health, children with disabilities are at increased risk for sexual abuse. Developmentally disabled adults are also more likely to be sexually assaulted. Understanding consent can help people identify and even prevent sexual violence. This is why a clear, thorough approach to sex education is important!
People with disabilities deserve the chance to get as much education about sex as they want or need.
Sexual health and Disability — Heart your Parts
Heart your Parts outlines some of the experiences of sexuality with disabilities, and provides links to resources about having sex with disabilities.
Sexuality And Disability
A site for women with physical, developmental, and psychiatric disabilities. Contains frank and honest discussions of sex and sexuality from the perspectives of disabled women.