Oct 312015
 

Sexuality, Relationships, and Disability

A Love Letter to My Neurotypical Husband, From Your Autistic Wife

People often say marriage (or any long-term romantic relationship) is about compromise. I think it’s about understanding, showing that understanding, growing with a partner. This woman and her husband don’t – can’t – just go through the motions of a conventional romantic partnership.

Before you, I knew in my marrow that I would never be suited for a conventional love relationship. How could a woman who exists mostly in her own inner world, so tightly controlled, ever share a life with another person — until “death do us part,” no less? Every attempt I’d ever made at normal had failed miserably. I am too complicated, too particular, too cerebral.

I am much too much of everything. But you don’t seem to mind at all.

Read the whole article here.

Cocks & Bonds: That Time I Considered Hiring a Sex Worker

Deeply honest read from Andrew of Deliciously Disabled about struggling with his lack of choices for getting his sexual needs met.

If I am to look at the last several months with any sincerity, I am not okay with the way things have gone, by way of my sexual access. I have been really upset that the reality of my life as a man with disabilities; plagued by issues of location, attendant care needs and blissful ignorance or lack of awareness on the part of my community of fellow Queers, means that I have gone almost a year without an affectionately sensual touch from another man.

Within these long nine months, a time longer than many celebrity couples have lasted, I have started to consider the fact that I may have to hire a sex worker in order for my sexual needs (and at this point, it is a need much more than a want) to be met. I have been toying with this idea for some time now.

Read the whole article here.

Let’s Talk about Sex And Depression

JoEllen Notte, also known as the Redhead Bedhead wanted to know more about people’s experiences navigating their sexuality, depression diagnoses, and depression treatments. So, she ran an online survey and conducted interviews. here, she shares her findings, and shows us how sexuality can afect depression, how depression can affect sexuality, and what people can do about it.

Imagine for a moment that I took away your ability to enjoy sex. It’s just gone. Now in order to get it back, you would have to declare that you belong to two categories of people who are regularly stigmatized in pop culture. While you are dealing with this, you may also be experiencing feelings of worthlessness, guilt, hopelessness, lethargy, anxiety, and the inability to concentrate. If you can get past all that and reach out for help, there’s a big chance no one will do anything. They may not even believe you.

Welcome to the world of a woman dealing with the sexual side effects of depression and its treatment.

Read the whole article here.

Focus on autism must broaden to include non-binary genders

The gender binary, thinking of men and women as opposites, can be even more harmful when it comes to autistic people. I especially appreciate The point Emily Brooks makes here about how autistic people can be especially subject to gender role expectations; these expectations can be reinforced, sometimes literally over and over again through life skills (things you need to do to take care of yourself on a daily basis) and social skills training.

As a non-binary queer person, I’m sad that both the LGBTQ and the autism communities don’t offer more inclusive programming. … ’ The pointed focus on the differences between men and women with autism — most of which are socially created — leaves out people like me, who don’t adhere to a binary gender identity. … Queer environments don’t often account for our sensory processing issues or social differences, whereas autism services don’t often recognize that we may identify beyond the gender binary or have queer relationships. Shifting the focus from the tired narratives of delayed diagnosis and sex differences can help the autism community take responsibility for improving our day-to-day quality of life, whatever our age at diagnosis or gender identity.

Read the whole article here.

Disability, sex and relationships: the disabled lesbian scene

Advice and encouragement for a young woman with MS looking for disability-friendly places to meet and date other women in London England.

Read the whole article here.

Respect Sexual Rights of Women with Disabilities

calls for overhauling the nurse training system in Zimbabwe to better educate healthcare providers about the needs and experiences of their disabled patients. Lack of awareness, physically inaccessible clinics, and outright refusal to provide needed treatment all mean that disabled people often don’t get the healthcare, or treatment for illness or injuries from abuse, that they need.

In Zimbabwe, women and girls make the largest number of people who are marginalised and abused in society. The situation becomes a double tragedy when
that women or girl is living with disability, of which girls and women living with disabilities.

Persons living with disabilities – those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory impairments which, in interaction with various barriers,
may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others – have the same sexual and reproductive health needs as other
people. Yet, they are abused and often face barriers to information and services. Further, the ignorance and attitudes of society and individuals, including
health-care providers, raise most of these barriers – not the disabilities themselves, a fact supported by the National Survey on Disability: Key Findings
Report (2013).

Read the whole article here.

Experiences at Queer Continuum 2015

The questions and discussion with the audience went even better. There was a lot of participation, all of which was positive. A majority of the conversation
focused on the medical and health aspect of sex and disability. There were a lot of helpful questions and comments about how to talk to doctors about sex
related topics, and some of the advice came from medical professionals themselves. The audience was also very helpful in sharing their experiences and
opinions on dating a disabled person vs. just a sexual experience.

Read the whole article here.

Sex and sexuality advice

I’m a Gay Guy, but There’s This Girl….

The good folks at Scarleteen have hit the nail on the head again with some super on-target advice and reassurance about identity and sexual orientation. I love the message here that we’re all always okay, even if we don’t always know who we are or what we want. Scarleteen also doesn’t shy away from acknowledging that figuring out what we want, and negotiating relationships with other people, is hard stuff.

If you do decide that you’re bi or pan or something other than gay? That doesn’t invalidate the conclusion your eleven-year-old self came to. It’s a cliche in the sex ed world to say that sexuality is fluid, but we keep repeating it for the simple reason that, for so many people it is fluid. Eleven-year-old you chose an identity based on the information you had at the time. Your friend is providing the you of now with some new data to add to the equation. If you re-evaluate and decide “nope, still gay?” That’s as okay as deciding you’re something else. There is no right answer here.

Read the whole article here.

9 Sex-Life-Changing Tips From “Girl Sex 101”

Girl Sex 101 (available in paperback and Kindle) is full of sex, sexuality, and relationship info. Autostraddle has boiled it down to 9 key points.

My favourites:

  • “No one is going to read your mind.”
  • “Define your own boundaries.”
  • “You are allowed to want things.”

Read the whole article here.

Disability & Equality

#JustActNormally – A Response to Cerebral Palsy Foundation’s #JustSayHi Campaign

Emily Ladau explains, with simple words and lots of feeling, just exactly why The “Just Say Hi” campaign isn’t going to help disabled people.

“Just Say Hi” implies that if you see someone who appears to have a disability, you should go up to them and say hello. Although this is trying to convey that you should treat disabled people as you would non-disabled people, the opposite message comes through. No one’s ever created a “Just Say Hi to Every Single Person You See” campaign. So, isn’t the whole point of the campaign contradicted by the fact that it exists in the first place?
Also, consider this: if you swapped out disability for any other appearance-related identifier, how would this campaign go over? #JustSayHi to Asian people. #JustSayHi to people with red hair. #JustSayHi to people who look like they weigh more than you do.

Read the whole article here

“What’s wrong with you?” – a critique of the Medical Model of Disability

Here’s an approachable, conversational essay on different ways to look at the experience of being disabled. I particularly like how clearly the author reframes “What’s wrong with you?” (a judgment) into “Why are you in a wheelchair?” (something much more direct). People are afraid to use disability words like wheelchair, blind, etc. They tend more often to ask why someone is “like that,” or, yes, what’s “wrong” with them. The downside of being so easy to understand, is that this author skips over many of the problems with the social model, which doesn’t, at least the way it was originally developed, include everyone. This post icludes a few of the reasons why. https://enabledisability.wordpress.com/2007/02/27/beyond-the-social-model-of-disability/

The medical and social models are at opposite ends of the spectrum of models, ideas, and experiences researchers and activists have explored to try to understand the role of disability in people’s livs> Lern more about other disability models here.

“What’s wrong with you?”

I get asked this question most days, occasionally prefaced with a “if you don’t mind me asking…” or a “no offense, but…”

More often than not, the asker of this question truly means no harm, and would probably be horrified to know the damage caused by their words. People are naturally curious, and etiquette and rudeness aside (it’s not very polite to demand personal information from a stranger) I am always willing to enlighten those who ask. *

However, I do take issue with that question. Not in what it seeks to ask, but the specific choice of words. “What is wrong with you?” To my mind, I’m afraid there is absolutely nothing at all wrong with me. In fact, as you’re asking, I happen to have really quite a nice life. I have loving parents, wonderful friends; I am well educated and well fed. I am proud of what I have achieved so far in life and am very excited about the future. There’s nothing at all wrong with me.

I may direct you to ask another question. “Why do you use a wheelchair?” The answer to that would be because I was born with a disability called Central Core Myopathy, which means I have very weak skeletal muscles and therefore cannot walk. That was a very different question, and probably the one you were intending to ask.

Read the whole article here.

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.)

Jul 312015
 

Welcome to the Ready, Sexy, Able news round-up for July.

This month we have news and opinions from all over the world, about everything from sexual health rights for disabled people to the changes that can happen in a relationship after disability.

I have also included some sex education articles that aren’t disability-specific, as well as a section for general disability rights pieces.

Sexuality and Disability

Sex and disability: breaking the taboo

Asking questions about sex that disabled women are often afraid to pose

People with intellectual disabilities demand sexual rights

Address Sexual, Reproductive Health Needs of Young PWDs

My Husband Had to Learn Sex Again, and I Had to Become One Tenacious Bitch is an excerpt from Wondering Who You Are: A Memoir> published earlier this year and available in print, e-book, and audio.

New Sex Ed Program Created for “Special Education” Students

ACSEXE+: Talking disability and sexuality in Montreal (audio podcast, no transcript)

“A woman with a disability gets real about dating and sex. She’s funny and honest

I’m in a wheelchair, I’m queer and I’m still a real man.

Paralyzed Woman Poses In Lingerie To Prove Disabilities Don’t Limit Sexuality
The Public Reacts to the “Paralyzed Bride” taking off her clothes in the #Whatmakesmesexy shoot

This review of Loneliness and Its Opposite: Sex, Disability, and the Ethics of Engagement, available in both print and e-book, suggests that this research on the sexual lives of disabled people living in sweden and Denmark is valuable, but that at over 300 pages,and filled with theory and analysis, this book won’t be accessible to everyone who could benefit from reading it.

Sex Ed

From Scarleteen, a sex and relationships education site for young people, comes advice on sexual communication and how to deal with feelings of sexual shame.

From sex educator Cory Silverberg: An article asking Is There Such a Thing As Good Enough Sex?

and Sex Is a Funny Word, a sex ed book for 8 to 10 year olds available in print and e-book.

Disability Rights

We Need to Change the Game of How We Talk About Intellectual Disability

Why Person-First Language Doesn’t Always Put the Person First

Jul 232015
 

What do you do when your abuser is also your care provider, someone who bathes you, or dresses you, or whose assistance you need if you want to leave the house or communicate with other people? What do you do if people constantly tell you not only how good a person your abuser is, but how courageous and wonderful they are for helping you? What do you do when your abuser doesn’t treat you like a human being, but neither does much of the rest of the world?

Even though people with disabilities are statistically more likely to experience relationship violence than nondisabled people there’s virtually nothing about what disabled people experience included in anti-domestic violence education, fundraising and awareness campaigns, or other forms of activism. (And considering that what we know about the prevalence of relationship violence for people of all abilities is only the tip of the iceberg, that’s scary.)

It’s not so surprising though, that disabled people are mostly absent from awareness campaigns, when we consider that disabled people are often invisible in society, and that invisibility is often what makes intimate partner violence (or violence of any kind) possible.

When an abuser can physically control if their victim leaves the house, and whether they get to talk to anyone, or can contradict their partner’s words and be believed because their partner has trouble communicating or whose mental illness sometimes affects how they experience the world around them, the incidence of violence against people with disabilities becomes even more invisible.

I recently read a small, qualitative study that looked at the impacts of intimate partner violence on the lives of women with disabilities.

As with research of nondisabled people’s experiences, a lot of the material on relationship violence and disability centres on the experiences of women. Men, and people who don’t fall into the gender binary, also experience relationship violence. The lack of research and activism with these groups means services can be rare or unhelpful.
The women in this study identified abuse as the most significant health risk they faced.

We can’t ignore that!

Many policy changes in the United States are calling for healthcare providers to screen for abuse. The implications of this need to be considered carefully when it comes to disabled people.

Their abuser may be with them during an appointment to facilitate care or communication, and it may be assumed that the patient always needs their caregiver with them.

It’s impossible for any victim to truthfully answer the kinds of questions suggested here, if an abuser is in the room.

Most people can communicate in some way, and most people can find a way to respond to these questions, which just ask for a yes or no answer – response options could include head gestures, hand gestures, eye blinks, words on a communication board or an electronic communication application (such as on a smart phone or tablet), sign language, or talking.

It’s appropriate, and necessary, for a healthcare provider to conduct at least part of a patient’s appointment with no family members or other caregivers in the room, unless the adult patient makes it known that they want someone to stay. Healthcare providers need to take an active role in meeting patients’ communication needs themselves, such as by making sure whatever technology the patient uses is there with them, learning how to use that technology, or providing a sign language interpreter. (Tip:

If a romantic or intimate partner (or anyone, really, other than the patient) says it would just be simpler for them to speak for the patient than for the patient to communicate directly with the healthcare provider, red flags should pop up like they’re on helium. They may put it in terms of making things easier for the doctor. I’d hate to think any doctor (or other healthcare provider) would privilege their own ease over communicating with the patient, but I’ve heard of too many times when a medical office has refused to do the work of getting interpreters for patients who need them to believe that this couldn’t happen.)

Many of the health factors research has shown are prevalent in people who experience abuse may be chalked up to disability without a full evaluation being done, so healthcare providers need to check their biases and beliefs about disability and illness and give their patients comprehensive care. Sometimes, when healthcare providers are less familiar with a patient’s medical condition, they may mistakenly attribute small changes to that condition, or presume that these small changes will be less bothersome to someone with a disability, so be less likely to investigate their cause. There’s also the assumption a lot of people make about disabled people’s relationships not being romantic or sexual in nature, coupled with assumptions about what abuse looks like, that could colour healthcare providers’ evaluations of whether their disabled patients could be at risk of relationship abuse.

Being abused can both cause disabilities—physical as well as psychological—and exacerbate existing impairments. Experiencing abuse can impact how people manage their impairments or medical conditions—withholding access to healthcare is a form of abuse. The physical and emotional toll of abuse can lead to stress-related illnesses, compounding abuse victims’ disabilities with additional disabilities and illnesses. (as someone with multiple disabilities, I can personally vouch for the ways that multiple impairments make it harder to mitigate being disabled in this world.)

Another key factor that came up in the study I mentioned above was low sexual self-esteem. When we’re constantly bombarded with airbrushed photos of models, and magazine articles telling us the 101 best ways to please our guy in bed (not everyone has—or wants– a guy, and sexual pleasure can’t be broken down into surefire tips the way, say, scrambling an egg can be.) Meeting these cultural expectations is impossible. For people with disabilities, who often cannot do sexual things the ways other people can, and the ways our culture says “real” sex can and should be done—and who’ve gotten repeated messages that their sexualities either don’t matter or don’t exist—having any sort of sense of sexual self-worth can be a challenge. The women in this study talked about not being physically able to meet the sexual expectations of their partners, or the expectations society has of how women should be an act sexually.

The participants in this study whose sexual self-worth was lowest were those with disabilities acquired in adulthood, changing their sense of self (sexually and otherwise) and, because of these cultural messages, making it hard to build a new, just as strong, sense of self.

Several of these women expressed that they dated men they would not have considered prior to their injuries, dated men who had criminal histories, or with whom they didn’t click, or whom they didn’t find attractive. This does not mean that they dated men who were more likely to be abusive; it says, I think, that they had perhaps turned off, or at least dimmed, their own warning signals.

Some people with disabilities may tolerate abuse in relationships out of fear that no one else will want them. Sending this message is common among abusive partners regardless of anyone’s abilities, and this form of abuse is even more insidious for people with disabilities because many have also gotten that message from friends and family. As I mentioned above, many people think that folks who get romantically involved with disabled people are a step away from sainthood, and they sometimes will undervalue the sexual, intimate, or equal partnership parts of the relationship.

Part of the structure of society’s attitudes towards the sexuality of people with disabilities is that, even if we do have sexual thoughts, we don’t and shouldn’t have the time to act on them because we’re just so darn busy being disabled. If low sexual self-esteem is a risk factor for abuse, then someone had damn well better make time for recognizing disabled people’s sexualities.

Some of the risk factors correlated with experiencing relationship violence are especially common among people with disabilities. Unemployment rates are high among people with disabilities (the study linked at the top of this post also made this connection). And, while the specific statistics vary, it’s generally understood that people with disabilities are abused, in both childhood and adulthood, at higher rates than people without disabilities.

We have a culture that makes all sorts of excuses for abusers, and all sorts of excuses for why it’s not more inclusive of people with disabilities. If we had true community accountability we wouldn’t tolerate abusive behaviour. We wouldn’t have, when a parent attempts to murder a disabled child, an outpouring of sympathy for that parent, instead of the child she harmed.We would have a culture that says: “We know life was hard for that parent, but it’s never okay to try to kill your child.” That culture would also say: “We need to do better by disabled children and those who care for them.” (Yes, I’ve been talking here about intimate partner violence, specifically, but family violence is similar in that it happens in the home, and within the family unit—both of which are considered—like romantic relationships– beyond reproach and closed to outsiders.)

We’d also have a system in place for people of all abilities, because right now, people with disabilities don’t have equal access to the system we have for intimate partner violence victims/survivors.

Very few organizations work specifically with disabled people who have experienced abuse. These two are exceptions.

We need fewer exceptions. We need agencies to stop working on a scarcity model that makes being inclusive of and accessible to disabled people seem like too much work – like something they just can’t do with the limited financial and human resources they have. We need online and offline awareness campaigns to include the voices and experiences of people with disabilities, not as unique additions to the anti-abuse message, but as full and equal participants in sharing stories and support, and finding solutions.