Disability and sexuality are not mutually exclusive, and the desire for sex is not limited to any one type of person or any specific disability.
“Disabilities is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO).1
According to the CDC, a disability is an impairment of the mind or body making it difficult for one to do certain activities and interact with others. Such disabilities cover, for example but not limited to, impairments in movement, learning , memory, sight, communication or hearing. Some restrictions in movement may be visible to the eye, like ones that require a walker or wheelchair, and some disabilities may not be so visible, like depression or chronic disease, which may also be accompanied by pain.
More than a billion people have some form of disability. WHO says this number will grow as populations age and chronic health conditions increase.2
About a quarter of the U.S. population, or 61 million people, say they have at least one disability.3.
Consent, respect and listening to a partner’s(s’) needs are necessary for all sexual activity and relationships, including for people with disabilities that may include mobility issues or tactile sensitivities. Also, what is included as a sexual activity is defined by the individual, solo sex is a sexual activity, according to some.
The sourced articles below include more information on enjoying consensual sex as or with those with a disability.
Footnote: 1.“Health topics: Disabilities,” who.int, accessed 7/22/2020; 2. “Disability and health,” who.int, 1/16/2018; 3. “CDC: 1 in 4 US adults live with a disability,” cdc.gov, 8/16/2018
- Disability Makes Us Good at Sex
“Sex is as diverse as the humans who engage with it. It’s not just about reproduction, and hasn’t been for a long time. It’s pleasure. Fun. Intimate. Spiritual. And disability, like any other human characteristic, can ENHANCE and EXPAND our sexual experience, as an ASSET…as long as we don’t allow stigma and limited thinking to get in the way.”
Regan Linton, MSW, MFA, 3/21/2020
- Sex And Disability
“What about people who have different types of disabilities? Not all disabilities are visible, and not all people have partner sex. Some people who have arthritis or other muscular-skeletal pain may have trouble using their hands to provide the stimulation and friction they want during masturbation. They may have similar difficulty holding traditional sex toys for masturbatory purposes. In fact, holding objects tightly can even harm affected joints. A few sex toy companies make products that take these needs into consideration and have created items with wider, easier to hold bases.”
Shanna Katz, edenfantasys.com, accessed 2/13/2020
- Products Specifically Designed For People With Disabilities
“… For people with disabilities, having sex can seem difficult, or even impossible, and the emotional and mental cost of that can be devastating. It’s an added and invisible weight to the struggles of disability. Adding to that, society often completely ignores the sexual needs of people with disabilities, preferring to assume that it is secondary and unimportant. We don’t take into account the vital importance of intimacy and human connection, of touch and taste, and of that shivering bond.
That’s unfair, and literally dehumanizes a huge group. … Some of our products are specifically
designed for people with disabilities or injuries, others are products you can still use to enhance your sexual connection. These can all be used for a large variety of people of different abilities and orientations, so do your research, and discover what is right for you and your partner.”
Sportsheets, sportsheets.com, accessed 2-12-2020
- Cripping Up Sex With Eva
“After calling many disability organizations and asking if they have any information about disability and sex and either being told no or being hung up on, I decided to write a handbook. It talks about how to find queer-friendly aides, how to talk to your partner about your disability, how to adapt sex toys, and how to masturbate if you need assistance.”
Eva Sweeney, crippingupsexwitheva.com, accessed 2/12/2020
- The Best Sex Positions For Seniors And People With Mobility Issues
“Your sex life doesn’t have to suffer due to painful joints or decreased flexibility! With a bit of extra care and know-how, there are ways to enjoy sex no matter what your level of ability may be. We hope you enjoy this guide to sex positions for seniors and anyone else who has limited mobility, and we hope you leave us comments with other coping strategies you’ve discovered!”
Katy Thorn, lelo.com, 2/7/2020
- Project Seeks Funding For Sex Toys That Put Disabled People’s Pleasure First
“But what if people with disabilities had products designed specifically for them? To gauge market interest, Gurza undertook a small survey of people with disabilities. Of 58 respondents, more than half had difficulty pleasuring themselves unaided, mostly due to issues involving range of movement or pain in their hands. Almost all expressed interest in purchasing sex toys created, designed, and marketed for and by the disabled community.”
Tom Woodley, futureofsex.net, 7/31/2018
- Deafening Silence On A Vital Issue
Abstract: “…Nevertheless, the ability of persons with disabilities to engage in sexual activity can to a great extent be altered by motor, sensory and autonomic dysfunction… Motor dysfunction may relate to the movement of arms and legs, sensory dysfunction to temperature and touch sensations, and autonomic dysfunction to the regulation of blood pressure. However, persons with disabilities have commonly reported that gaining or regaining sexual functioning is one of their priorities”
Christine Peta, African Journal of Disability, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, 7/16/2018
- Sexuality In The Lives Of People With Intellectual Disabilities
Abstract: “The normalisation movement calls for more recognition of the sexual rights of people with intellectual disabilities to challenge classically paradoxical cultural beliefs: ‘hypersexual’ versus ‘asexual’. … Application of the hierarchical Coordinated Management of Meaning model suggested caregivers contextual beliefs about people with intellectual disabilities’ sexuality inhibited or facilitated positive expressions of sexuality over and above individual needs and desires. Rights-based cultural messages provided the only context that led to positive sexuality outcomes and research that explores sexuality within this context is much needed. The Coordinated Management of Meaning model identified by this research may act as a framework to support the reflective-practice of caregivers.
Charlotte Whittle and Catherine Butler, Research in Developmental Disabilities Journal, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, 4/2018
- Quirky Quad Diaries: Sex & Meditation
“The second most effective technique for reducing my pain, if you can believe it, is SEX. Sex is a natural pain reliever — Sex causes increased production of oxytocin, which is often referred to as the ‘love hormone.’ Before orgasm, oxytocin, released from the brain, surges and is accompanied by the release of endorphins, our natural pain-killing hormones.”
Ali Ingersoll, Quirky Quad Diaries, quirkyquad.com, 1/20/2018
- Disability Sexuality: Sex And The Disabled Information
“Sexuality and disability refers to the sexual behavior and practices of people with a disability (PWD). Physical disabilities such as a spinal cord injury may change the sexual functioning of a person. However, the disabled person may enjoy sex with the help of sex toys and physical aids (such as bed modifications), by finding suitable sex positions, or through the services provided by a qualified sex worker.”
Disabled World, disabledworld.com, 7/4/2017
- Sexual Positions For Women With Paralysis: Creativity, Adaptability And Sense Of Humor
“In this video, I talk about strategies for sexual positions that work, despite paralysis or muscle weakness. Also, Anne who has a T-9 complete spinal cord injury (SCI) with paraplegia and her partner demonstrate a few positions they find comfortable. Finding the right position for you and your partner is a matter of open-mindedness, creativity, experimentation, adventure, adaptation, and maintaining a sense of humor.”
Dr. Mitchell Tepper, drmitchelltepper.com, 7/8/2015
- Disability Makes Us Good at Sex