We talk about sex a lot as a society. But we don’t talk about a lot of types of sex. The vast majority of the discussions follow a pretty predictable formula – take a young-ish, attractive guy and a young-ish, attractive girl, add chemistry, flirting and some amount of time, then you get to sex. There are lots of variations (as Netflix’s seemingly infinite number of Romantic Comedy subgenres will show), but the broad strokes don’t tend to vary all that much.
Now, obviously, a lot of us who don’t fit that mold are still having sex – norms aren’t rules, after all. But one area that doesn’t get talked about often at all is sex with disabilities. Part of this is because you’re not just changing the casting of the expected narrative – substituting in two queer women, someone older, someone heavier, etc. You often have to change up the story entirely.
When you’re in a wheelchair, the idea of just letting things progress from making out to making love can’t be done without some kind of discussion. Getting undressed and moving to the bed can be sexy and part of foreplay, but it’s not going to be something that can happen without talking about it. And for someone with a condition like Fibromyalgia, spontaneous sex at the end of the day can be amazing and fun, or something that’s physically off the table because of pain.
And this is all once you’re at the point of having sex – our society can resurrect its Puritannical roots with a vengeance when it comes to thinking about people with disabilities as sexual beings. Dating is hard enough – doing it when a lot of the dating pool thinks that you’re non-sexual is far trickier. (It’s particularly ironic since most of us will, at some point in our lives, experience disability in some capacity.)
Thankfully, there are some good discussions going on, even if they’re not yet part of the mainstream approach to sexuality. This piece from a couple of months ago has some great points about how sex with a disability (and sex with people with disabilities) can be way more amazing than “standard” sex. In a nutshell, communication and being in touch with your body are both things that make sex better, and they’re both elements that are a lot more present when one (or more) people who are having sex also have a disability.
And as complicated as all of this can be, there are still a ton of other areas that will come up depending on your situation. This is a great first-person account from Autostraddle about exploring kink with Cerebral Palsy, and this piece talks about a lot of the intersections between s/m and disability.
Here’s to more, better sex for all of us, and to making our stories about sex as diverse as we all are.