The Sexual Spectrum: A Brief Look at Desire and Disability
While it’s often used as a buzzword, diversity is an incredibly complex and important discussion topic these days. Conversations around diversity as it applies to race, gender, sexuality, socio-economic status, and body type are currently getting lots of our time and attention (and deservedly so, as many of these issues have spent the last several decades shoved under their respective rugs). We talk a lot about inclusivity, wanting to create spaces and experiences where people of all kinds feel safe, welcome, and heard.
When it comes to sexuality, there’s a population whose desires and experiences are often discounted, misunderstood, or downright ignored. The 56 million Americans living with a disability want to remind you that able-bodied people aren’t the only ones having sex. While every person and every disability is different, there are a number of common misconceptions we’d like to get squared away, and while we’re at it, we’d also like to introduce you to some ingenious products that assist people with disabilities in enjoying a more fulfilling sex life.
Part of Being Human
A few myths pertaining to people with disabilities and sex include; they’re not interested in sex, they’re not able to have “real” sex (whatever that is), other issues take priority over sex, they don’t need sex education, and that they’re not sexually attractive. In addition to dealing with an able-bodied majority who often see them as uninterested in or incapable of sex, people with disabilities may also encounter individuals who fetishize their disability, assume they’ll be grateful for any sexual attention or outlet, or take advantage of them (this is especially true for the intellectually disabled). In truth, people with disabilities have the same spectrum of drives and desires as anyone else. They may be limited in what they can experience (for example, a paraplegic might only be able to have sex in certain positions, or a person with a spinal cord injury might have a different range of sensations), but they are fully realized, capable sexual beings.
Technology is evolving in all areas, so it should come as no surprise that some of that technology is devoted to helping people with disabilities have better sex. A few standouts we’d like to highlight are the IntimateRider and the It Collection. The IntimateRider, designed by a person who is quadriplegic, is basically a low-slung, short-seated chair that, combined with a partner’s stabilizing weight, removes much of the effort from pelvic thrusting. Originally intended for those with spinal cord injuries, it can also be used by people with autoimmune disorders like multiple sclerosis, people who are recovering from amputations, or those with other conditions that limit mobility.
The It Collection offers the Perfect Pleasure cushion, a fancy, hands-free mount for your favorite sex toy. It folds into a variety of different shapes and can accommodate a wide range of toys, including the Rabbit, the Magic Wand, and even the Fleshlight. The Perfect Pleasure cushion is great for playing solo or with a partner and can be used by people with a wide range of abilities.
If the innovations above intrigue you, we’re certain there will be even more advancements in the coming years that will continue to improve sexual expression and enjoyment for people of any level of ability. In the meantime, if you yourself are able-bodied, we hope you’ll keep in mind that sex is likely just as integral a part of the lives of those with disabilities as it is part of your own.
Charlotte Sometimes is a writer, teacher, performer, and prominent member of the local sex positive community. She has been a fierce advocate for accurate and comprehensive sex education since her Catholic high school days and is excited to share her research and experience with you. Her favorite things include straight whiskey, spin the bottle, good books, feminist porn, and snuggling. Charlotte lives in Austin, TX with her partner and her partner’s partner, which is way less scandalous than it sounds.