• Check you're happy with the email notifications you're receiving.
• Have a look at how the community will be changing its appearance.
• Get the latest information on issues relating to coronavirus.
We’re forgetting disabled people when discussing sex
I’m Holly Greader, I’m 22 years old and I write a blog called The World in My Words. I wanted to share some of my thoughts and experiences as a young disabled woman who had limited resources to answer the questions I had about sex and relationships.
We are well aware that sex education in schools is extremely poor. The information provided is outdated and the real questions are not being addressed.
Sex Education forgets disabled people
One thing I notice is that there is zero representation for disabled people in sex education. There’s this idea that disabled people can’t or couldn’t care less about sex and relationships. Boy, are they wrong! Everyone deserves love, intimacy and sex if they choose. Relationships and sex should be fun, and we all have the right to enjoy them.
There are things that my body does ‘differently’ which could change my experiences, yet this does not mean I’m not entitled to that experience. As a disabled person and a young woman, I had questions that no one else asked. Therefore, I kept quiet.
I missed out on the sex education lesson at school, yes there was only one! I attended part-time due to my disability and happened to not be there and no one deemed it necessary or seemed to care. However, what I can tell you from friends is that the discussions were brief, very basic and only included an abled man and an abled woman.
My initial interactions about relationships
I had my first boyfriend at 15-years-old and I had a lot of questions about being disabled in a relationship. When speaking to friends I didn’t always have the same curiosities or fears they did. Surprisingly I didn’t have many questions surrounding sex, other than the usual ones every other girl my age was having, until others began placing fears and doubts inside my mind.
From the age of 16 I began to receive a lot of questions from the guys in my class. It started with, can you have sex? I answered yes to this because I wanted to seem cool and not come across as a prude, which is how I was often referred to as a disabled person. Then the questions became more intrusive. They would ask about the splints I wore and if would they get in the way. They would ask questions surrounding my abilities to make it interesting, they didn’t want to have sex with me if I was going to be a bore. My joints frequently dislocated so they began asking questions like:
If you dislocated can I continue, or would you make me stop?
Do you have to avoid certain things because of dislocations?
Then came the pity response, I feel so sorry for you, that you will never be able to have really good sex. Although they had made it pretty clear that I was not worth their time, they continued to ask.
The impact of lacking knowledge
I began to believe that no guy would ever want an intimate relationship with me. Anyone that showed any interest was pushed away because I didn’t feel deserving enough. I began covering up my splints more and wishing away my need for mobility aids more than ever because I’d been told that it was weird and disgusting to use mobility aids during sex. It was at this point that I finally realised that these guys had no idea what they were talking about. The last time I checked my walking stick was not surgically attached to my hand or my wheelchair to my backside. If it wasn’t clear enough already, consent and courteous interactions were not covered well enough.
I found the lack of resources and conversations really damaging and I am so grateful that it didn’t take me too long to gain perspective. Sex works differently for everyone, disabled or not. Everyone has their own preferences and I believe it’s important that everyone has discussions about sex with anyone they are being sexually active with. I believe that my disability created a situation in which I needed to have these discussions and in doing so has enhanced my sexual experiences.
I made the decision to not hide the fact that my experiences were slightly different when discussing the topic with friends. In doing so I quickly became the go-to for my friends who had a disability. They never had anyone to talk to and always felt they had to keep these questions to themselves. In this day and age we are more open to taboo discussions, but sex shouldn’t be a taboo topic. In every discussion we have, everyone should be involved, including minority groups.
What questions do you wish you had asked? How have you found relationships? Is there a lack of disability representation? Let us know in the comments below!