Working to Change Perceptions of Disability and Sex

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Like so many young people growing up, Emily remembers becoming aware of and learning about what it means to be sexual. However, there was something missing for her when it came to the education part of sex that most young people encounter in school. 

“Inclusive and accessible sex education certainly did not exist when I was at school."

Emily was born with cerebral palsy and became a wheelchair user at age 9 after surgery on her legs. While growing up, Emily considered herself as sexual as any other young woman her age, but the topics of sex and disability just didn’t jive together.

“If you are disabled, it's likely that many of the adults in your life might never consider you as a sexual being, meaning that the usual safety advice and strategies are rarely discussed.”


a woman in a wheelchair smiling

Emily shares that she lost her virginity at age 19, but preparing for her first sexual encounter was anything but easy. She was able to find some information on the Internet about sexual positions for people with disabilities, but a session of laughing and crying with her aunt and sister proved the most helpful for her in that arena.

Today, Emily shares that she’s been “fortunate enough to have great sex and talk about it,” but she wants to be part of a change in how sex and disability are perceived.

“Some people still think that disability isn’t sexy or, worse, having sex with someone who has a disability is seen as wrong."

Emily pushes for having inclusive sex education courses taught in school. She also says that parents and other family members can take a part in this education by simply acknowledging that people with disabilities are sexual beings and incorporating that point into discussions about sex.

“There is also still a sense that if you have a disability, you are ill or frail, neither of which fit into the traditional idea of what we consider sexually attractive in our society,” shares Emily. She is currently working with organizations that provide “the sort of information I would have loved as a teenager. Change is slow,” she says, “but it is happening, and we are able to help others to discuss important issues, such as the positions and pain worry I had years ago, through to whether disclosing a disability on an online dating site is a good idea.”

Share this post with others to highlight the fact that disability and sex are not mutually exclusive.

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