Angela Rockwood, a quadriplegic, is one of the subjects in Ben Duffy’s documentary Take A Look At This Heart. The documentary delves into the often taboo topic of sex and disability. Angela was interviewed by Refinery about the upcoming documentary.
"Being a quadriplegic doesn't stop me. Being paralyzed doesn't stop me from being in a relationship or being physical, or making love if I'm with the right person. Because if I'm with the right person, I don't even feel like I'm paralyzed."
Angela became involved with the documentary after having a discussion with Ben about how sex and disability are often not talked about. She encouraged him to create a film surrounding the topic to educate others and bring awareness.
Angela states, "(Ben) was hesitant at first, but every time I saw him I said, 'You need to do this. We need to get it out there to educate and bring life to this.' It’s been an amazing journey for him. I've seen a transformation — as an abled-bodied man he had his perspective of sexuality and love in the disabled community. Then he saw all types of people in a new light. A mind stretched by new ideas can never return to its original dimensions, you know? He came to my house a month ago and he showed me the film and it was beautiful. Very touching and beautiful. There are no words."
In rehab, Angela says that she had no real resources to educate her on what her sex life could be like post injury. She hopes this film can be a resource for others. “In rehab they show you a sex video that's very outdated. It has this Richard Simmons-esque, '80s quality to it and shows positions for an able-bodied man with a quadriplegic woman, or a quadriplegic man with an able-bodied woman. There are no same-sex couples or information for couples where both partners are in a chair.”
“Sexual intimacy is something that's extremely important to me. I don't see sex as just physical, but also spiritual and emotional.”
Angela says she has found different ways to be intimate with her partner. She states, "But then you find other ways. I’m paralyzed from the neck down, so I don’t have dexterity in my hands. If I can't open my hands up to caress my boyfriend's face, then I’m going to grab his head and caress it with my cheek or forehead or lips. You learn to adapt. And that goes with love making, too. I couldn't do what I did before, but with the help of my partner I’m able to enjoy sex."
Angela proclaims that communication is key in any relationship, whether you have a disability or not. Do not be afraid to tell your partner what you like/don’t like and express your needs.
“I don’t have a problem exploring or telling my partners what works or doesn't.”
"I don’t look at my disability as a problem or an issue when I'm dating. I just date and tell the men I meet what’s up. It’s not easy and I do have to do things differently, but I break it down for them and let them know that what you see is what you get. And then in the bedroom, it’s the same thing. I tell them what I need and what I like,” says Angela.
Angela’s advice for other women with disabilities is to learn to love yourself first before starting your dating journey.
“Some individuals forget who they are, but some people embrace who they are from within and accept themselves — that’s when your world will transform. The taboos that people feel, the hang-ups they have with their bodies, it all starts with loving themselves. It's about seeing a person as who they are from within — their heart.”
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