July is Disability Pride Month, and what better way is there to celebrate than by exploring the intersection of disability and sexuality? Sex positivity is all about comprehensive inclusivity, yet folks with disabilities are so often excluded from conversations about sexuality. Folks of all different ranges of physical and mental abilities are united in humanity, and sexuality is a part of that humanity for every body.
One of the most common assumptions about our disabled peers is that difficulty engaging in sex equates to giving up sex completely. What this notion fails to consider is that sexuality is not a luxury that can be abandoned when it becomes less accessible. The idea that someone can forgo sex indefinitely is one that we see frequently in our puritanism-informed society, such as when anti-choicers invoke a rebuttal along the lines of “then you shouldn’t be having sex” when having to confront a person’s disinterest in giving birth.
For the disabled community, sexuality is as much a part of their lives as it is for their non-disabled counterparts. Sexuality is a non-negotiable aspect of identity (that is to say, it is ever-present, although sexualities can and often are fluid and ever-changing) – so why do we assume that anyone – but especially the disabled community – could simply delete it when faced with greater barriers to sexual activity?
Because of assumptions like these, educators and caretakers are less likely to be equipped to assist those with disabilities with sexual activity, such as positioning them for masturbation, or teaching consent in a way that still emphasizes self-efficacy for those with intellectual disabilities. Inadequate sex education threatens sexual safety; those left out of the conversation are more vulnerable sexual health issues or exploitative sexual relationships.
Another barrier derived from our lack of consideration for disabled folks is exclusion from LGBTQ+ pride. Accommodations and inclusivity for disabled folks are still so often taken as after-thoughts, rather than being a central part of pride. Pride parades, for example, are often not accessible to those with disabilities. Education on sexual practices, like BDSM, also tends to assume a non-disabled audience.
Luckily, there are several resources and organizations which work to create space for disabled voices in conversations on sex and sexuality. One such resource is the Disability and Sexuality Access Network. Majority-led by disabled persons, they believe that “access to sexuality, pleasure, and intimacy is a fundamental human right.” Another resource, Deliciously Disabled’s latest project focuses on sex toys for those with disabilities. Naked Brain Ink is a blog which focuses on sex, love, and relationships from an autism perspective. These are just a few of many resources for creating a more comprehensive understanding of how sexuality and disability intersect. We all have a right to pleasure, however we achieve it!
Written by our intern Olivia Poulin.