Pleasure, Play and Parability: The Disabled Sex Roundup
on Mar 23, 2021
At Lovehoney, we are using our voice to challenge misinformation about sex and disability.
We believe Earth-shattering orgasms, intense solo play and blissful partnered sex should be accessible for everyone. Disabled sexuality is sexy.
There are so many health conditions that can impact mobility, sex and solo play. Chances are that you or someone you know may experience one of these conditions in their lives.
We chatted with Disability Consultant and Activist Andrew Gurza to learn more about how we can dismantle harmful myths, break down barriers and make fun and fulfilling sex available to all. Andrew is the Co-Founder and Chief Disability Officer (CDO) at Handi, an organisation on a mission to put pleasure within everyone’s reach by developing sexual health products and services designed for people with disabilities.
“Sex is a human right. Pleasure is a human right,” says Andrew.
“All of us at some point will encounter disability. When the majority of the population encounters disability, they still want to have great sex. So why aren’t we having these conversations now?”
Disabled Sex Myths and Misconceptions
Sexual happiness looks different for everyone. But the fact is we all want to enjoy our bodies and feel sexual pleasure. Whether that means buffing the banana, flicking the bean, being ravished by a partner or all of the above.
The myths that suggest people with disabilities feel any differently are just that; myths. These myths might not be true, but it doesn’t stop them from being very harmful. So let’s break them down.
Myth #1: People with Disabilities Can’t Have Sex
People with physical disabilities have sensual, exhilarating and satisfying sex lives. While people with limited mobility may need to adjust the way they have sex to suit their needs, they can definitely still have sex.
“It may not look like the sex we are used to, and it may not involve penetration, depending on what your ability levels are, but that doesn’t mean that disabled people can’t derive pleasure or that they don’t deserve pleasure,” said Andrew.
The myth that people with disabilities can’t have sex comes from ableism, which is the systematic exclusion and discrimination of people with a disability.
“I think the mythology that disabled people can’t have sex is rooted in ableist viewpoints and ableist ideas. We can have sex, but it is very clear that some people don’t want to engage with us in that way, so they say we just can’t have sex,” he said.
Myth #2: People with Disabilities Aren’t Sexual and Don’t Have Sexual Needs
Lust, desire, arousal, satisfaction — these are just some of the many feelings and urges we all experience as human beings. People with disabilities are horny too!
“There are people with disabilities who are asexual and that is part of their identity. But for the most part, many disabled people have different sexual needs and sexual desires,” says Andrew.
Sexuality is a part of human nature, so the myth that people with disabilities aren’t sexual is particularly damaging.
“I think the myth that disabled people don’t have sexual needs or sexual interests is based on the dehumanisation and desexualisation of disabled people.”
“When we suggest that people with disabilities don’t have needs, we dehumanize them,” he said.
Myth #3: People with Disabilities Don’t Have Varied Sexuality and Sexual Interests
People with disabilities also experience the diverse interests and identities that make human sexuality so unique and thrilling.
“I think what makes disability and sexuality so fascinating for me, as somebody who both lives it and studies it, is the way that it is varied. How nuanced it is and how outside-the-box it sometimes has to be to accommodate a disability,” says Andrew.
“For me, it makes it so much sexier. It doesn’t conform to a standard. It just is what it is,” he said.
The Handi Book of Love, Lust and Disability explores some of the varied sexualities and sexual interests that exist within the disabled community.
“As we were putting together Love, Lust and Disability, we heard people’s stories about the different kinds of sexual interests and sexualities. If you read the book, you will see how untrue this myth is,” says Andrew.
Myth #4: People with Disabilities Don’t Need Sexual Education
At Lovehoney, we believe that sexual knowledge is empowering and liberating. Holistic and inclusive sex education should be accessible for everyone. However, sex education often lacks disabled representation and, in many cases, people with disabilities are discouraged from participating at all.
“The trouble with not having sex education for disabled people is that you are telling them that their sexuality doesn’t matter. You are telling them that the needs and urges they have as human beings don’t matter,” says Andrew.
“We deserve to know how our disabled bodies work in relation to our sexuality. That is what sex education should be teaching people,” he said.
Excluding people with disabilities from sex education is dangerous, since this group may be more vulnerable to sexual assault and harassment. However, the focus for disabled sex education should be broader than this.
“Disabled people do have a higher propensity for being sexually abused or assaulted, but it shouldn’t be the only conversation we are having. By having this as the focus for disabled sex education, you are saying that the only way we can discuss sex and disability is through risk,” says Andrew.
Myth #5: Disabled Sex Is Difficult or a Hassle
When it comes to getting down, we all bonk to our own beat. There is a delicious assortment of sexual preferences and needs out there, and that is just the way we like it. Helping somebody with their needs in the bedroom shouldn’t be a nuisance. It’s all part of the experience.
“The idea of being a hassle, or too much, is triggering for a lot of disabled people. They are told that their whole lives. It’s not difficult or a hassle, but it can look and feel different from able-bodied sex and that is okay,” says Andrew.
The root cause of this myth is fear. Fear of the unknown and fear of making a mistake.
“I think that the reality is that when a non-disabled person wants to sleep with a disabled person, they are scared,” says Andrew.
“They are scared of putting them in a sling, or transferring them from their chair to the bed, or helping them with clean-up. People are afraid to confront the fact that disability scares them.
They are too scared to say “I’m nervous because I don’t want to hurt you,” or “I’m afraid I might do something wrong,” he said.
It’s time to confront this feeling head-on and clear the way for fabulous, fulfilling sexual experiences.
“I think when people feel this way they need to confront the fear and name it; what you are feeling is ableism, and that’s okay but you need to talk it out,” says Andrew.
Top Sex Tips for Disabled Sex
Sex Tip #1: Storyboarding for Sex
Accommodating for particular needs in the bedroom takes planning and a touch of imagination. There’s nothing sexier than imagination. Sit down with your partner before sex and talk it out. Tell your partner what gets you hot under the collar and explain how they can help you. Ask them about what they like.
Andrew says: The sexual script in our world says you get into a room with someone, you don’t say a word, and both of you just know what to do. Then you have this great, fantastical moment together. In my experience, having sex like that is not a great time.
Sex Tip #2: Communicate Without Shame
Communication is key to the electrifying, intense, body-trembling, heart-stopping sex life we all want. Honest communication without fear or shame will allow you to customise your mattress mambo so that it meets your needs and sends you straight to the gland finale.
Andrew says: A lot of disabled people are ashamed to bring up the level of their disability with a partner, especially if the partner is able-bodied. It’s going to sound cliché, but the best sex tip for disabled people is communication. Talk about how your disability might impact you, what you think will and won’t feel good.
Sex Tip #3: Find What Works for You
Once you have a plan, you’ll be ready to get down and dirty. Not every sex idea will be a home run in practice, but the pursuit of perfect sex is a damn good time. Don’t be afraid to experiment with playmates to figure out what works. At the very least, you'll be left with a funny story and some new ideas for the next time you fancy a horizontal refreshment.
Andrew says:I’ve had to be very direct about what I wanted, what I liked and what felt good. Then we would just try it and if it didn’t work we would stop.
Sex Tip #4: Ask for Advice on Toys
Spanking the monkey? When it comes to solo play, a sex toy can help you to enhance sensation and make masturbation more accessible. Disability isn’t the same for everybody, so there is no one-size-fits-all toy. It is worth asking the Lovehoney Customer Service team what kinds of toys they think would work best for you.
Andrew says: “It’s all about working out what kind of toy would work for you. I would advise disabled people to email the store and say “here is what my disability is, I want to know what toy you think would work.”
Sex Tip #5: Get Input from the Experts
When it comes to disabled sex and solo play, sometimes it can be worth getting some input from the experts. Disability is nuanced and different for everybody. Carers, occupational therapists and other healthcare practitioners who work with people with disabilities can help you to identify what is physically possible.
Top Sex Positions for Limited Mobility
Ideal for female partners with limited full-body mobility and male partners with limited leg mobility. Can be adapted for female-female couples through the use of a strap-on dildo. Can also be adapted for anal sex.
2. The Throne
Ideal for those with limited hand mobility, this male masturbator is controlled via smartphone, meaning you won’t have to manage small buttons to switch modes during use. The app can also be accessed remotely, so you can enjoy long-distance play with a partner.
We recommend using the toy lying down. Once your penis is inserted, the Max 2 will get you there without moving with automatic, 360-degree contractions.
The EDGE penis pump is great for use before partnered sex, where it could help to improve erections by increasing blood flow to the penis. The pump is completely automatic, so once you have inserted your penis it will function without any movement.
The pump is switched on and off using small buttons at the base, so for those with limited fine motor skills the assistance of a partner or carer may be required.
The We-Vibe Unite is another excellent couples’ toy made for hands-free clitoral, G-spot and penis stimulation. It has a one-button remote that can be handed over to a lover or helper to assist in switching modes.
The Unite fits perfectly between you and a partner, making it a fantastic addition to any romp. It can also be used for solo stimulation and — once inserted — it doesn’t need to be moved, meaning it works well for those with limited grasp function.
The Womanizer is consistently one of Lovehoney’s best selling toys. This clitoral stimulator has a cult following for a reason, and there are several models to choose from. The Pro40 model is a little larger, making it easier to grasp for those with limited hand mobility. Once you have it in the right position, the Womanizer doesn’t need to be moved so you only need to use your hands to keep it steady. Intensity levels are switched via small buttons, so assistance may be required for some people.
This vibrator is big, making it easier to grasp for those with limited fine motor ability. Modes are changed via a scroll wheel, which can be more accessible and less fiddly than changing with buttons.
This is ideal for those who need pressure. It is a super-strong vibrator that will deliver a galaxy of sexual pleasure.
This is ideal for able-bodied partners to ride for longer without aching thighs. It acts almost like a bungee, assisting top movement for the partner on top and helping them to go the distance.
Ideal for people with disabilities who have limited lower-body movement and want to achieve extended, penetrative sex with their partner.
Achieve 27 degrees of elevation to hit the perfect spot for her or for him. This is ideal for people with disabilities who have limited gross motor skills or paraplegia. Once in bed, the Liberator can prop them at the perfect angle for truly cosmic orgasms.
More About Andrew Gurza
Andrew Gurza has been working in the sex and disability space for over a decade. He is a Disability Awareness Consultant and Content Creator and the Co-Founder and Chief Disability Officer at Handi. Andrew launched the DisabilityAfterDark Podcast in 2016, which shines a light on sex and disability and explores the disabled experience.