Nov 302015

Sex, Sexuality, and Disability

New study investigating how to support people with disability to have sex

Facilitated sex has been a hot button issue for a long time, with concerns ranging from ensuring disabled people’s privacy to supporting a safe (including sexually safe) workplace for attendants and assistants.

Lead researcher, Dr Russell Shuttleworth, says the need for facilitated sex support is often ignored by disability services and policy makers.

“Some people with disability may need assistance from their paid carers or support workers in order to express themselves sexually or participate in sexual activities (this is called facilitated sex),” Dr Shuttleworth explained.

Read more about this research project.

Undressing Disability: Speaking up for sexual needs

A short profile of Enhance The UK’s advocacy around sexuality support services for disabled folks. Answers some of the questions about workplace safety for support workers and personal care attendants. Thought-provoking introduction, too.

Much of the social discourse about advertising involves the inappropriate sexualization of people in ads, especially women. But what if a group of people actually asks you to sexualize them?

Read the whole article here.

CR [Czech Republic] Has First Five Sexual Assistants For Disabled People

More support for sex and sexuality assistance for people with disabilities needing physical help to meet their needs and desires; this time it’s about getting support services from people who don’t also provide daily care or assistance. The article makes a distinction between the services these assistants provide, and sex work services. Sex work isn’t illegal in the Czech Republic – people can legally offer sexual services for hire, but it’s illegal to pay for those services. Yes, sex work laws in most countries are that confusing.

The first five female sexual assistants, specially trained to provide paid services to disabled people, have started to work in the Czech Republic, Lucie Šídová, director of the Rozkoš bez Rizika organization (Bliss Without Risk, R+R), which has trained the assistants, said today.

“The sexual assistants have been chosen carefully. They decided to do the work themselves. They have long-lasting experience with men and with the work with human body,” Šídová said at an international conference on sexual assistance in Prague.

Read the whole article here.

3 Ways You Might Be Marginalizing Disabled Asexual People (And What to Do About It)

Terrificly informative article by Cara Liebowitz. I met Cara, and heard her speak on this topic, earlier this month. Glad to see her message reaching more people.

I’d never questioned my sexuality before – I’d dated guys on and off and I always felt romantic attraction to them – but being in the sex-filled culture of college simply confused me.

Read the whole article here.

Margaret Campbell Using PhD Study to Erase Stereotypes Regarding Disabled People and Sexuality

More sexuality and disability research -out of Canada this time – exploring gender identity and expression as well as sex and sexuality. The researcher hopes to include recommendations for policy changes that will improve disabled people’s lives in relation to their genders and sexualities. I’m impressed that this article, in a mainstream community newspaper, didn’t try to sensationalize this story, but instead gave a straightforward report on the researcher and her work.

“What I’m looking at in my PhD research is the various ways people with disabilities experience and explore both their gender and sexuality in the midst of sociocultural assumptions and stereotypes that have traditionally worked to desexualize individuals with disabilities,” she explained.

A large portion of her research has gone into identifying physical or attitudinal barriers people with disabilities experience in an attempt to reach a fulfilling and actualized gender or sex life, she said.

“What has been excellent is listening to my participants share their experiences and the creative ways they dealt with the issues they face.

Read the whole article here.

Sex Ed

What does kinky mean and should I try it?

Love this deeply supportive, respectful post exploring definitions of kinky sex, but most importantly affirming that we’re all okay, no matter how adventurous (or not) our sexual choices are.

…and the beauty of sexual expression is your sexual journey doesn’t have to look anything like mine and it can still be deliciously, beautifully pleasurable and valid. There is no one way of doing sex, of living out fantasies, of keeping things fresh and new.

If that’s true…if there is no one way of doing sex, then what does it mean to be kinky?

Google defines kinky as “involving or given to unusual sexual behavior.”

But what is unusual to me and what is unusual to you are probably different.

Read the whole article here.

Toy Queries

It’s refreshing to see some sex toy advice that isn’t a sales pitch. With their trademark humour and kindness, Scarleteen answers questions about whether vibrators interfere with an IUD (hint: They don’t), and about how to make sure any toy is giving pleasure, not pain. Particularly love the last line: ”
Go forth with your new found knowledge and masturbate without fear

Read the whole advice column here.

Sexual Abuse and Domestic Violence

This is one of the saddest, most infuriating, incidents of child sexual abuse I’ve heard about in a while. Deaf children were sent to a special school, isolated from their families for months at a time, not permitted to use or learn sign language (they were expected to learn to speech-read (read lips) and speak English only), and their trust and bodies were violated. Ultimately, these children were also betrayed by the legal system.

These stories are hard to read – important, but hard.

These Haunting Posters Break the Silence on Disabled Women with Abusive Partners

We know that intimate partner violence can affect people of all races, genders, sexual orientations, and physical abilities. But many people’s voices get left out of our conversations on IPV – including disabled women’s.

See the posters (or read the transcripts if you can’t see them) here.

Sex and Disability Books

QDA: A Queer Disability Anthology

Trophy Wife: Sexuality. Disability. Femininity.

Nov 092015

Thoughts and observations from day one of Breaking Silences, Wright State University’s first sex and disability conference.

I opted for participating in discussions over taking notes, so these session summaries are just that, summaries of the content and my reactions to it.

Bringing (A)Sexy Back: Exploring Disability and Asexuality

Cara Liebowitz of That Crazy Crippled Chick wants to make sure we’re not leaving asexual disabled people out of conversations around sex and disability.

People with disabilities have been treated as nonsexual beings for such a long time. The efforts to correct that narrative have resulted in focussing on disabled people’s sexiness and sex lives, not on sexualities as a whole. IN general, for people who are disabled or nondisabled, we have a narrative that tells us that sex is all about looks, and about bodies, and about having sex with partners, and there’s practically no room for the words of people who have looked at and thought about their sexualities, and realized that they don’t experience sexual attraction or desire the same ways, if at all.

I’ve understood asexuality theoretically for a while now, but Cara gave some examples that helped me understand the experience better.

IN college, Cara’s friends would say they were “horny” all the time. Cara asks: What does horny feel like?

Asexuality isn’t necessarily the absence of sexual thoughts or feelings. Many asexual people desire and enjoy romantic relationships. Many have “passionate friendships” – Cara described these as close friendships with lots of physical (not sexual) intimacy like hand-holding, snuggling, etc. this makes a lot of sense to me since most people thrive on touch.

Some people on the asexuality spectrum do have some kinds of sex, with themselves, partners, or both.

Cara gave the example of an asexual person exploring sexual activity with a romantic partner. finding that they Enjoy learning about their body and they enjoy closeness and connection with their partner, but that they’d be just as happy having a pizza and movie date.

What does all this have to do with disability?

Some disabled people are asexual.

When sex and disability researchers and activists criticize the way disabled people are wrongly seen as asexual, we can be implying that asexuality is bad.

Cara suggests we use the terms nonsexual and desexualized to talk about the erasure of disabled people’s sexualities.

People also tend to use a lot of ableist language when talking about asexuality – assuming something must be medically wrong with an asexual person, that people are broken for not wanting sex.

Lack of sex drive. Disintrest in being sexual with a partner. Those are only problems if the person experiencing them says they’re problems.

Cara reminds us not to use all-or-nothing language in our quest to prove the sexiness of disabled people. Many disabled people want their sexual desires to be recognized and celebrated for what they are, but not all.

Two informative pieces Cara referenced in her presentation:
If You Can See The Invisible Elephant, Please Describe It

Asexuality and Disability

Sins Invalid

I think the announcement that Sins Invalid would be one of the Keynote presentations sold me on going to this conference.

It was worth the trip for that alone, though I was disappointed the whole Sins Invalid cast wasn’t there to give us the energy and passion of a live performance.

But, we did get to see a live performance by Maria Palacios the “Goddess On Wheels”, a showing of the Sins Invalid documentary, and a question-and-answer session with Maria Palacios and Sins Invalid Founder Patty Berne.

The documentary is touching, powerful, creative, unabashedly sexual, edge-pushing, and thought-provoking. I especially appreciated that the performance includes hard-hitting and painful details of disability history, including the forced sterilization of disabled people and medical experimentation on people of colour. That history is important, and not really well-known, and adds complexity to the sexier elements of the film. The beautiful is so much more beautiful when set against the ugly.

Maria palacios’ performance was sensual, her poetry both lyrical and firmly planted in her lived experiences of disability.

This line has stuck with me:

Flirting is the projection
Of what the soul wants to say
What the heart wants to speak.

You can read some of Maria’s poetry here

Exposing Undergraduates in Human Sexuality Courses to Sexual Health Among People with Disability

Frederick Peterson Psy.D. and Colleagues

This was an overview of some preliminary research by professors who teach undergraduate human sexuality courses.

They wanted to know what kinds of material on sexualities and disabled people they should include in these courses, so they asked their students to anonymously submit any questions they had on the topic.
The most common questions asked, in different ways, how disabled people have sex, or if disabled people even want sex and feel sexual desire

I’ll admit I was surprised by this. I suppose I thought that even if people couldn’t figure out how physically disabled people would go about engaging in the acts around sexual pleasure, that they’d at least not have questions about whether disabled folks even desire that pleasure.

Reasons suggested for these responses: Students’ lack of knowledge about sex in general. Lack of exposure to concepts that disabled people date, have intimate relationships, have sex. Lack of exposure to disabled people in general.
The researchers also suspect that lack of sexual diversity and accurate information in education systems such as Abstenince Only Until Marriage programs (which often teaches incorrect facts about sex, sexuality, safer sex and birth control) also might colour students’ idea of what is possible.

This research is fascinating, and I’m eager to see what the next stages will be, including what conclusions the researchers will draw about how to teach undergraduate students about sexuality for all people, including folks with disabilities. Pete (as he likes to be called) pointed out: The research can only tell educators so much, since students only know to ask about what they don’t know. there could be and is plenty that people don’t know they don’t know.

Reclaiming Maternal Identity: The Impact of Forced Sterilization of Women with Disabilities

Alette Coble-Temple , Psy.D.
John F. Kennedy University
Kayoko Yokoyama, Ph.D.
John F. Kennedy University
Megan Carlos, Ph.D.
American School of Professional Psychology Argosy University, San Francisco Bay Area

Loved this presentation! There’s a lot to say about and in response to this topic, so I’ll just give a short overview of the presentation here.

Experiencing microaggressions day after day can negatively impact a person’s mental health. (or example: “No, but where are you REALLY from?”-Racial Microaggressions and their effect on Mental Health.

With this in mind, the presenters started with the idea that the history of forced sterilization and other reproductive violences against people with disabilities has left its mark on the identities of girls and women with disabilities, especially around reproduction and parenting.

Some examples of microaggressions against disabled girls and women around reproduction:

  • Doubt that a visibly disabled woman’s baby is hers.
  • a visibly disabled parent being asked who takes care of their baby?
  • Healthcare providers showing surprise when a disabled patient becomes pregnant
  • Healthcare providers (and others) assuming that a disabled pregnant person will want or need to terminate the pregnancy.

It’s not just reproductive injustices of the past that stand in the way of disabled people becoming parents.

Many states have laws preventing disabled people from becoming parents.

Some people hold a deep (and well-founded) fear that their baby or child will be taken away from them by social services. This has happened many times, for no other reason than that one or both parents had a disability. Removing a child from its family when it is happy and safe in that family is an unnecessary trauma for the child, parents, and other family members.

Disability is still used in divorce proceedings as a reason to award full custody of children to a nondisabled parents, whether that’s the best choice for the child or not.

The statistics and stories in this presentation were grim, but the overall feeling was one of mutual support.

The presenters were open to questions, and invited audience members to talk about their own experiences and feelings about having children (or not having children). Two of us shared that we had chosen not to have children for reasons related to our disabilities, and our stories were welcomed as part of the overall narrative around disabled people, choice, and parenting.

Next up: Day two of Breaking Silences: “Don’t Call Me Inspirational, and, Research Into Deaf People’s Experiences of Interpersonal Violence.

Sep 302015

September brought us news and views on the state of sex ed in the United states (not good), disabled women’s access to sexual health care (also not great), the complex mathematical calculations that go into whether and how to reveal a disability in an online dating profile, and more.

Here on Ready Sexy, Able, we unpacked just how ableist nine words tweeted by a celebrity can be, and how a support worker gave all the excuses in the book for why he sexually abused his clients for more than a decade.

More of what this month had to offer:

Relationships and Disability

The ‘About Me’ As a Blind Gay Man

I’m Queer and Disabled and Getting Legally Married to my Spouse Has Made My Life Harder, Not Easier

3 Common Dating Fears at the Intersection of Sexuality and Disability

sexuality and Sexual Health

‘Wheelchair Barbie’ Goes to the Gynecologist

Sexual Health Videos from WomanCare Global

The Dirty Little Secret of Therapy (hint: most therapists don’t know nearly as much about sexuality as we think they do.)

Attitudes outweigh hormones in preserving sexual desire

Sexual aBuse and Disability

Disability and rape on the hospital ward

Disability Rights

Explaining Inspiration Porn to Non-Disabled People

What Was the Telethon?

microaggressions, macroaggressions and disability

I Am What I Am But He Isn’t

Why I Want You to Stare at Me as a Man With Disabilities

Sex Education

If we teach that sex is shameful without teaching consent – how will sexually abused children ever come forward?

What schools are teaching teens about sex will horrify you

5 Terms Every Parent Should Add to Their Sex-Ed Vocabulary. (Language that is useful for all adults, especially points three and four.)

Jun 252015

Cara Liebowitz of That Crazy Crippled Chick has some powerful things to say about beauty standards, expectations, and what many disabled bodies really looke like.

IN her latest blog post, On Being “Ugly Disabled”, Cara tackles the idea that some disabled bodies are seen as acceptable, even beautiful (physical disability as a fetish is a whole other discussion point), while others are seen as ugly.

She starts out with her trademark honesty:

“I am not one of the “pretty disabled”. I may have been close to it, once, but as I’ve gotten older and my disabilities have changed and multiplied, I have quickly moved away from any hope of “passing” as either non disabled or “prettily”, “acceptably” disabled.”

Cara challenges everything we think we know about what it means to look professional, to look like a woman, to look like other people’s ideas of what disability should look like. She challenges the idea that disabled women are only beautiful if we’re delicate, elegant in the way we move, pretty, and quiet.

She also challenges the idea that disabled people need to spend valuable energy looking “normal”: “I do not sit up straight and my posture becomes worse when I am tired or excited, which can lead to me sliding out of my seat or propping myself up with my arm to keep from falling completely over to the left (my weaker side).” (I’d hope no one should suggest that Cara should always keep from getting excited so that she can sit up “properly”.)

You can read the rest of Cara’s excellent post here.

For more of Cara’s bold, direct thoughts on disabilities and beauty standards, check out her essay Palsy Skinny: A Mixed-Up, Muddled Journey into
Size and Disability
in Criptiques.