Sex is one of those topics which people are usually quiet about, unless of course it is to talk about prowess. This silence and false bravado are damaging for all of us, including people with disabilities. By living within narrowly defined parameters about what is ‘normal’ and what is acceptable in terms of intimacy we limit ourselves.
We watch sex scenes on TV or in porn and see ‘ideal’ bodies engaging in ‘normal’ sex. If you don’t meet these standards of normalcy or if you engage in other forms of intimacy you are judged to be ‘abnormal’ at best and at worst non-sexual.
For people whose bodies are shaped differently or move in different ways or require support, not meeting these norms can have a negative impact on self-esteem. For a person who has a life time of experience with being disabled believing yourself to be non sexual can be a hard to overcome. Or for those with acquired disabilities realizing that you may not be able to experience intimacy in the same way as before can cause you to question your sexuality. We are taught that sex happens spontaneously, it is a private affair between two people and it begins with kissing and ends with intercouse. These myths are dangerous. So let’s dispel them.
Sex does not need to be spontaneous to be good. For people with chronic pain it can be best to schedule sex when they are experiencing less pain. Or for people who use attendant services, having a romantic setting may take some planning to be arranged. Sex does not need to be private. People who use attendant services might need their attendants support. Also, for people who live in group homes or institutions where there is little to no privacy, people find levels of privacy that work for them. This is more difficult then it sounds as it is a commonly held myth that people in institutions shouldn’t have sex. Sex does not always mean intercourse. Not everyone experiences pleasure from intercouse. There are many different ways to enjoy your own body or someone else’s. The idea we get from porn or TV is that foreplay is just a precursor to ‘real sex’; intercourse. And after a short period of time organisms are achieved by both partners. In reality, ‘real sex’ is whatever we want it to be; be it intercourse, masterbation, foreplay, oral sex or any other form of pleasure.
These myths are damaging to all of us. Think about yourself for a moment. How many of us really meet the standards these myths set? Let’s do everyone a favour, let’s move past myth into fact and recognize that everyone is a sexual being.