SEX WITH A DISABILITY: CAN WE TALK?    

By Robert Mauro

So what about having sex when you have a disability. Why should it be any different from having sex without a disability?  I guess that depends on whom you're having the sex with.  And who is or isn't disabled.

Do you think some non-disabled or even disabled persons might be fearful of getting sexually involved with someone who is disabled?  Some non-disabled women have told me they were afraid they would devastate the disabled person if after they had a passionate sexual relationship with him they decided to leave their disabled lover.  Others think they might hurt or "break" the disabled person with their passionate sexual activity.  And I've even heard this from disabled persons who are LESS disabled than their disabled friend, who might have been their lover.  What the heck is this all about?

Then there is our fear.  How fearful are we, as a lover with a disability, of getting involved with someone after we've been dumped or had a sexual relationship end badly?  And is that feeling of fear any different from the fear a non-disabled person feels after they've been dumped?  I think not.  What do you think?  Let me know at mauro@idt.net.

My feeling is people, disabled or not, have to get to know each other before they become lovers.  And, yet, I wonder if after they do become friends, one or both of them might become fearful of adding a sexual component to their presently platonic relationship.  In other words, will the sex screw everything up.  Forgive the pun.  But a little humor never hurts when it comes to love and sex.  Ah, so that's where that big smile comes from!

Then I see a report on NBC news about college students thinking dating on campus is like totally square.  Sex is in.  One night stands are now all the rage with both college men and women.  Some college women interviewed said they enjoy the no-strings-attached sex.  Men, of course, have no complaints.  Meanwhile, couples on campus who become friends and lovers and "date" or "go steady" are derogatorily referred to as "the Velcro twins."  I'M CONFUSED...although I use Velcro!

Okay, so what the heck is going on?  What do you think?  Is it fear of commitment?  Fear of rejection?  Or are people just testing the waters?  Or just diving in?  I'm barely floating here!

Anyhow, let's take a few steps back and begin at the beginning.  You're already a lover.  And you're not yet disabled. Before you become disabled, you may have developed a sexual routine with your lover.  You and your partner, over time, have found what each of you likes in bed, and those are the intimate things which have become the whole gamut, the full spectrum, of your love making.  Then one of you becomes disabled.  Because of that disability, the newly disabled partner might no longer be able to sexually perform the way he or she used to during sex.  And if the lover with the disability cannot do what the other person has grown to love done to him or her in bed -- be that person disabled or not -- some lovers may want out of the relationship.  Moreover, no matter what you want to try sexually to improve your partner's enjoyment of sex, he or she may simply not be willing to try something new in bed, whether that be oral sex, a vibrator, or a drug to help with erections.  Your sexual partner may still want what they used to enjoy, before you became disabled.

Another problem is your non-disabled mate might be afraid of hurting you by having sex with you.  That's something you have to intimacy.  You have to tell your lover that.  Of course, he or she may not want to listen.

When you are born with a disability, or find a new lover after you have already become disabled, that pre-established sexual routine I talked about above is not yet there.  It hasn't yet been established by you.  You, as a couple, have no past together.  So you simply make love with your new partner in ways you can with your disability.  Your lover either likes those sexual acts or doesn't.  If he or she does like them, the relationship will continue.  But there's no guarantee that any sexual relationship will endure.  It all depends on the lover you are with -- and what he or she likes about your sex play.  And you.  Your looks.  Your personality.

A few men and women may even be willing to adapt to your sexual abilities, especially if they love you for more than just your sexual abilities.  Can the person you are attracted to change the ways he or she may have enjoyed making love before meeting you?   Or does your new lover enjoy the sexual relationship he or she is having with you because you're making love the way he or she always liked it?  By chance you just happen to be on the same sexual wavelength.  Ah, that's the question!

No one wants to make love the same way every time.  And during a sexual relationship, you or your lover might read about a sex act or a sexual position you haven't yet tried and suddenly decide you now want to try it.  Books like ENABLING ROMANCE or my very sexually explicit booklet REAL CRIP SEX are especially geared to lovers with disabilities.  Moreover, people change.  What a lover likes can change overtime.  Few things stay the same forever.  But what if you can't change because of your disability?  What if you don't have the athletic ability to perform a new act?  What if you just don't like that particular sexual act or position?  What if your lover doesn't?  But you do?

I think the problem here is not so much the disability.  But the sexual likes and dislikes of the lover you are with. Everyone is different.  Lovers have their likes and dislikes.  And if you have not become disabled in the middle of a relationship, but have always been disabled (at least before the relationship commenced), there's still a chance you might not be able to do something sexual your lover suddenly decides he or she would like done to him or her.  At that point, the sexual relationship can fall apart.  But, as I've said, there's no guarantee any sexual relationship is going to last forever.

When you get right down to it, your disability should not be the only factor in any sexual relationship.  A good sexual relationship needs what I call the Four T's: Time, Trust, Trying, and Talk.  If one of you refuses to take the time to talk about what you love in bed or the time to try different ways of making love, and if you don't trust your ability to please a lover or your lover doesn't trust your ability to please him or her, it's time for the Fifth T: Termination.  End the relationship and look elsewhere for someone to love and love you.

Life is too short to rack your brains to stay in a frustrating, loveless relationship.  Sex certainly is part of love.  It bonds a couple together.  It is more than just a lot of heavy breathing.  And it is as natural as breathing.  Sadly, some people are just not willing to take a deep breath and explore the joys of sex with someone with a disability.  Those who do usually are surprised by the time a lover with a disability takes to please his or her partner.  We disabled folks have learned to take our time in all things.  We have learned the ABCs of SEX!  We also know how precious love and a sexual relationship can be.  And few of us who are disabled would just use someone in or out of bed.

Many of us -- with or without a disability -- need time to feel at ease with others, especially with a lover.  Whether we are disabled or not, few of us are ready to bare all, especially our bodies, to someone -- unless we trust the one we are with.

So what can we do as disabled men and women to find someone to love?  My feeling is we must be honest about our abilities.  We have to let others know we are just as sexual as anyone else and just as able and as eager to please a lover in bed.  And out of bed.  How do we do that?  It takes time, trust, trying, and talk.  So...can we talk?


Many thanks to The PeopleNetDisAbility DateNet for allowing us to use this article.

Here is a Web site dealing with sexuality and disability:

http://www.ed.gov/pubs/AmericanRehab/spring97/sp9707.html