Sexual health issues for people with disabilities reach far beyond safer sex, sexually transmitted infections and getting pregnant. Here are just a few examples of why:-
Sexual health is also about feeling safe around sex. Many disabled people have been raped or abused when young, and need psychological help to overcome the anxieties and low self esteem which abuse brings with it.
Predators and abusers go for vulnerable people, so you must build up your confidence so that you no longer feel or look vulnerable. Until that happens, don’t go out alone, and don’t use disabled dating sites unless you are extremely careful. Surround yourself with supportive friends and neighbours.
Sexual health is about other kinds of safety. Two people with mobility impairment having sex together can sometimes be putting themselves in danger because they can fall off the bed and not be able to get up. They may, in their enthusiasm pull catheters or other support mechanisms out. A man engaged in Cunnilingus (pussy sucking) with a woman who experiences spasms, could suffocate. Quadriplegics might experience Autonomic Dysreflexia , which is life-threatening unless activities halt. Awareness, taking precautions, and emergency plans are essential if the couple are alone. If in a residential home or college, staff need to be trained. For some couples with severe mobility impairments, having a friend who will act as a “bedroom companion” or hiring a professional sex worker to assist, is advisable and also opens new opportunities.
Having said all this, there is much good news. There are loads of ways to enjoy sex whatever our past experiences and impairments.
“The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability” is a testament to that, a great book.
The Sex and Disability Helpline is free to callers and open 11am to 7pm weekdays, run by Outsiders.
British Sexual Health clinics are free, wonderfully supportive, confidential (your GP is not informed). The staff have “seen it all”, and listen respectfully. Disabled visitors are welcomed and you can discuss any problem you want. They operate on a “just turn up” basis or need you to book an appointment. Check first. Most are wheelchair accessible. What they sometimes lack is a hoist to help the disabled person onto the examination table, but suitable arrangements can usually be made. Tests are quick and painless. If you are found to have an infection, you’ll be encouraged to tell your partner/s but, if you cannot face it, they will do so anonymously on your behalf to persuade them to come in for treatment. To find your local clinic, see http://www.bashh.org/ or www.fpa.org.uk/findaclinic