The Answers to Your Most Awkward Questions About Disability and Sex
The U.K charity Scope reports that only 5 percent of people without disabilities have been on a date with a person with a disability. So Scope decided to launch a new addition to its #EndTheAwkward campaign to raise awareness about disability and intimacy.
The organization teamed up with London-based artist Pâté, aka Paul Pateman, to produce an A-to-Z list of blogs, short films and photos to educate the world and “help people feel comfortable when talking to – or dating – a person with a disability.”
Scope has already posted topics for the first eight letters of the alphabet, and each day during the month of October, a new letter will be released.
Scope ambassador and U.K. TV personality Alex Brooker kicked off the list by sharing his story about trying to escape after a one-night stand. “I cannot tell you the panic that goes through a person’s body when you cannot locate all of your limbs,” he said in the video below.
Amelia Cavallo is an American burlesque dancer who got involved with Extant, the U.K.’s only theater group for blind and visually impaired individuals. Extant put together a show with Cavallo and a number of other blind women called “Showgirlies,” and Cavallo told Scope, “It was a wonderful exploration of sexuality as a visibly impaired woman and it really allowed us to develop a sense of community.”
“So often you find that the stronger you are or the prettier you are then the less that people see you as blind,” she added. “So many people tell me that I don’t look disabled because I’m up on stage doing the performance. People can be really shocked that you’re sexy because you’re disabled!
English actor Mat Fraser talked about some of his dating experiences in the video below.
Fraser says that after asking someone if they wanted to have coffee at his place after a dinner date, they’d politely say yes, but when he asked if they really understood his intentions, they would frequently change their mind. He doesn’t seem bothered by it, noting that he’d rather be direct than waste his time.
“We’re hot, we’re raunchy, we’re good at it — it’s a no brainer,” he says. “At the very least it will make you feel better about yourself.”
Scope produced a short video about a woman and a blind man at a restaurant, showing how not to act when on a date. They note a number of things the woman could have done differently:
1. See the person, not just their impairment.
2. Try not to make assumptions about what someone can do, how they live or how being disabled affects them.
3. Questions, questions, questions. It’s usually OK to ask someone if they might need help (crossing the road for example). But just because someone is disabled doesn’t mean you should ask them intrusive or personal questions.
4. Accept what the person with a disability says about themselves and their impairment. Remember they know themselves better than you do.
5. Not all conditions are visible.
Emily Swiatek, who has non-epileptic seizures, finds creative ways to work around her limitations.
She recalled the time she started having a seizure in the middle of sex, and her partner mistakenly thought she was having an orgasm. She’s able to laugh off the incident now, but she also noted that due to medications, the ability to have an orgasm can be a challenge.
“Being disabled encourages you to explore sex in a much more radical way,” she told Scope. “[If] you’re with a partner where you can communicate, you can still have really fun sex without an orgasm. It doesn’t have to feel that something is lacking.”
Scope teamed up with Enhance the U.K. to showcase the charity’s Undressing Disability project, a collection of intimate photographs of people with disabilities.
Undressing Disability is “about challenging the misconceptions that create this unbalance and ensuring that better access to sexual health, sexual awareness and sex education is granted to disabled people,” according to its website.
Charlie Willis is bisexual and has cerebral palsy who says being forthcoming about these two major parts of his identity gives him a sense of power. Still, he gets frustrated when strangers ask him personal questions about his sex life.
“On a number of occasions I have been asked if I can get erections because people realize that my disability affects my legs,” he told Scope. “Sometimes people who have no interest in me sexually will ask me the same question. Apparently, a disabled person wanting sex, or being able to have sex, is a novelty, a rarity.”
Spouses Kelly and Jaz discussed how Kelly’s disability has shaped their relationship — and how they respond to people who ask about it.
“I was so nervous about our first dance [at our wedding] to the point I actually considered canceling it because my legs often give way under pressure,” Kelly said. “Can you imagine a more high pressure situation than everyone watching you? … But Jaz convinced me. We danced to our song and Jaz made sure I was comfortable. I can honestly say it was the best feeling in my life.”