Sex & Disability: Thriving Sexually as a Disabled Person
Despite what mainstream media may want us to believe, people with disabilities can (and do!) have healthy, fulfilling sex lives. I should know… I’m one of them.
Dating and having sex as a person with a disability can pose unique challenges. Whether you’re dating someone with a disability or living with one yourself, this guide to sex with a disability will help you feel confident and prepared.
For starters: What defines sex, anyways?
If your sex education was anything like mine, it was focused on reproduction with very little information about consent or pleasure. Societal norms will have you believe that women’s pleasure is ‘foreplay’, and penetration (specifically penis-in-vagina) is ‘the main act’. Aside from being homophobic and ableist, the assumption that sex is defined by a penis going into a vagina also denies the existence of many trans, intersex, and gender diverse people.
I don’t know about you, but as a queer person with a disability, I resent being told that my sex isn’t ‘real sex’ because it doesn’t meet someone else’s standards.
We’ve been taught that oral sex (specifically oral sex on someone with a vulva) is more of an ‘appetizer’ than a ‘main course’. I challenge you to flip that narrative – what if cunnilingus is the main course, and anything after that is dessert?
There are many ways to define sex including but not limited to: oral sex, anal play, vaginal penetration, digital sex (think fingers or toes), and mutual masturbation.
By limiting our definition of sex, we limit ourselves – and our pleasure.
Fact: Some people will never have penetrative sex – whether that is because of their personal preferences, sexuality, or physical ability, it doesn’t detract from the validity of their sexual experience.
Modifying positions for sex with a disability
Just like no two snowflakes are the same, no two bodies are the same (I know it’s an overused analogy, but stick with me). The positions you’ve seen in mainstream pornography look unattainable because… well… they are. The people you see in porn are acting, and it’s their job to make it look as though they are having a great time all the time.
Porn performers take lots of breaks that we don’t see, and directors use clever angles/editing to tell a story. Holding yourself to this standard creates unrealistic expectations.
Some sex positions are inaccessible to a lot of people – yes, even pornstars! I’ve been making porn for many years now, but because of fibromyalgia and facet disease I am no longer able to arch my back without experiencing pain. There are a lot of positions that I can’t maintain for extended periods of time, but that doesn’t mean I can’t participate in sex (or make a career out of it!)
Watch GoAskAlex’s afterglow eduporn
Simple modifications to commonly known sex positions can make them accessible to a more diverse range of bodies.
If you’re on a budget, utilising pillows or a chair can make many positions more accessible, but there are also companies making sex furniture (yeah, you read that right). Sex furniture will help with positioning and endurance, therefore making sexy times more attainable. ‘Liberator’ makes sex blankets, wedges, and even toy-mounts (to learn more about this and to see it in action check out our EduPorn on Sex with Disabilities).
The ‘Intimate Rider Chair’ was designed by a man living with a C6-C7 spinal cord injury. This revolutionary piece of equipment assists people living with paraplegia in enjoying a happy, healthy, and satisfying sex-life.
There are many other accessories that can be used to accommodate a person’s physical limitations. The crudely but aptly named ‘fuck machine’ will do all of the thrusting for you. The sybian provides a vibrating seat with multiple attachments for you to enjoy. Sex swings and waterproof blankets are just a couple of the many other products designed to make sex and masturbation less strenuous, but just as fun.
Let’s talk sex toys
Whether for solo or partnered play time, including toys in your sex sessions can make pleasure more readily available. Believe it or not, there are many sex toy companies that make their products specifically with accessibility in mind.
One of my personal favorites is the NJOY pure wand, which can be used vaginally or anally to stimulate your chosen erogenous zone without exhausting your wrist. The unique curvature of this toy has been described as ‘ergonomic’ because it allows for longer usage without arm or wrist pain.
When working with mobility limitations, a thigh strap is a great alternative to a conventional strap on harness. Despite the name, thighs aren’t the only things that you can use them on – a thigh strap (or any traditional strap-on harness) can be used on pillows or furniture to modify penetration.
The Ohnut is among my favourite inventions for penetrative sex. For many years I struggled with pain during penetration (raise your hand if you also have a short and sensitive vagina), especially with new sex partners who weren’t familiar with my anatomy. The Ohnut is a wearable product that sits on the base of a penis to prevent pain by maintaining a comfortable depth for the receiver. It is stackable so you can adjust it to your preferred size. Just like cock rings, the Ohnut can easily be used on a dildo meaning that it’s available for strap-on play as well.
The GetBumpn Joystick is another fabulous creation working to erase the pleasure-gap for people with disabilities. The Bumpn Joystick is a ‘flexible bed buddy’ designed to hold sex toys without relying on fine motor skills and hands.
These are just a few of the many incredible products out there waiting for YOU to find them.
When sex with a disability is a sensory overload
For some people, having sex while living with a disability or neurodivergence can mean managing sensory processing and overstimulation. While this might look different for everyone, it’s important to have a conversation about your or your partner’s needs in order to thrive.
When you’re feeling too mentally activated, having less stimuli can help. Turning the lights down low, using a blindfold, or even earplugs can do the trick. Alternatively, having something specific to focus on can help keep you in the moment and intercept intrusive thoughts when your mind starts wandering.
Let’s talk about ableism
Whether you’re living with a disability, dating someone with a disability, or simply want to be prepared, here are a few do’s and don’ts :
A lot of times when people say or do something offensive, they aren’t intending to cause harm. Unfortunately even the best intentions can have a negative impact. As a person with a disability, here are a few of my personal recommendations. You can use them as a guide for your sexual and romantic life, or share them with a friend or partner.
Don’t tell your partner “I don’t even notice your disability”
When people say this to me, I feel that my experience as a disabled person with chronic pain is invalidated.
Don’t say “I find you sexy despite your disability”
This statement implies that a disability is inherently un-sexy, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
Don’t make assumptions about what someone can and can’t do – let them say for themselves.
Don’t bite your tongue when you want to communicate your needs. You deserve to be heard!
Do speak up to ask for what you need
Do make space for your partner to ask for what they need
Not sure how to talk about your disability? Here are a couple examples of how to open a dialogue
“I really enjoy having sex with you, and I think I would enjoy it even more if we could incorporate a sex toy – that way I can have sex with you for as long as I want without worrying about my wrist getting sore”
“I am really excited to be intimate with you. Would it be OK if we went over a few of my needs now so that I don’t have to explain them later?”
Communication and emphasis on consent
Because of the need for clear communication ahead of time and during sex, the sex that disabled people are having is not only ‘just as good’ as able-bodied sex but in some cases even BETTER. That extra level of communication and openness ensures that everyone is having the best time possible.
That curiosity and compassion is the missing ingredient for a lot of people when it comes to their sex lives (after all, it feels pretty good to ask for – and get – what you want, doesn’t it?)
Unfortunately, the average sex education still doesn’t address pleasure accessibility. Fortunately for us we are at the centre of a sexual revolution. Living your best sexually empowered life is the first step in unlearning any of the harmful assumptions we are taught about our bodies as young people.
The most important thing to remember is that disabled bodies are just as worthy of pleasure as any other bodies. Most of the time, the biggest barrier in our pleasure is in our own mind.
You deserve a pleasure-filled life – now go out there and get it!
Ready to learn from the pro?
Sign up for afterglow to watch GoAskAlex take all of this advice and put it into action in her eduporn ‘How to Have Sex with a Disability’.
GoAskAlex is a disabled indigenous 18+ performer, feminist, and advocate for underrepresented bodies in pornography. After becoming an ostomate in 2019 she pivoted her career to campaign foe meaningful change in the adult entertainment industry. She has since been featured in VICE, Hustler, and various other international news outlets, swell as being named winner during the 2020 and 2021 XBIZ Awards.