Creating intimacy for people with a disability: Why it’s important and how to break taboos

Sexologist and author Chantelle Otten takes an intimate look at taboos surrounding people with disabilities and sexual pleasure. 

 Pleasure is a right of all people, whether disabled or able-bodied, pleasure including sex! Sex and intimacy are important aspects of wellbeing, yet in our society there tends to be a silence around sexuality, leaving a lack of information, media and sex scenes lacking variation and not including people with a disability in portrayal of eroticism.  

 People with a disability can be viewed as asexual people, people who have no interest in sex, and this is so far from the truth! People with disabilities can have just as much sexual drive, desire and want/need for sexual intimacy as anyone else. Society needs to change its perception, to stop viewing disabled people as ‘other’, and realize all people are people, and all people can be erotic people.   

 I have often seen people questioning ‘can they even have sex?’, which feels like the central point for a lot of taboo ideas around disability. Firstly, if you’re asking this question maybe have a hard think about why you’ve thought it. Some people might feel if they are able-bodied then they won’t ‘fit’ with someone with a disability (not true). Or that disabled people should only date other disabled people (also wrong). Or maybe they view people with disabilities as childlike or needing care, and therefore feel shameful viewing them in a sexual way (another big NO). People with disabilities can have sex. They can have sex with other people with disabilities. They can have sex with able-bodied people. They can masturbate. They can fantasize. They CAN. However, it might not look like the sex you are thinking of. We need to move away from the idea that there is one ‘right’ way to have sex, that it has to involve penetration or orgasm or genitals at all. If we can allow ourselves to be creative and imaginative there can be a never ending supply of ideas and ways to be sexual and intimate with someone. We just need to communicate with our partner, try things and see what works for their body and ours.  

 Remember that everyone can have sex in their own individual way. 

 Now let’s get communicating! If we have a partner that is disabled we should work out how they like to be touched, in what way, and where, something that I would do with any new partner. The better I know their body, the better I can enhance their pleasure as well as my own. They may have parts of their body that are unable to feel sensation, so it may be better to focus our touch on other areas.  

 Many people who have lost feeling in their lower half have reported being able to have sexual pleasure when touched on the chest, arms, neck, ears and hands, so get creative with your intimacy. However, going back to the importance of communication, we can never assume another person’s situation. Some people who have lost a lot of sensation in their lower half can still experience genital pleasure, the sensation may be different but it can still lead to orgasms, if orgasms are something we are aiming for. I have said so many times, in many different places, that intimacy and sex doesn’t always have to have the end goal of an orgasm. We can still feel pleasure, connection and intimacy with another person without experiencing an orgasm. And sometimes removing orgasm from the menu, and thus removing the stress and anxiety many face in having to reach orgasm, can actually enhance and heighten our pleasure! Being so in tune with another’s body can also increase our own physical awareness, we may find new places on our own body to experience pleasure.  

Taking the journey of intimacy with a person who has a disability may seem like something that would close doors, however it actually creates new opportunities we could never have imagined.

Speaker Laura Gehlhaar on her sexuality

Laura Gehlhaar has been using a wheelchair for years, but her disability doesn’t mean that she denies her sexuality.

“People with disabilities often don’t get to experience a sexual education or sexual self-determination. They’re simply stamped off as “disabled”, carrying a brand mark on their forehead for the rest of their lives. Sexual self-determination and many other types of self-determination often fall by the wayside,“ Laura explains.

In her interview with O Talk, Berlin-based author reveals that sex for the disabled is either treated as a fetish or a taboo. There are 7.8 million people with disabilities in Germany – their lives and sexual desires deserve to be taken seriously.

Explore We-Vibe’s smart toys with intuitive app control

We-Vibe toys are perfect for couples to explore their sexuality together. One great feature is that they can be controlled by the We-Connect app.  This free app allows users to control either their own or even their partner’s toys remotely, using intuitive on-screen swipes to change stimulation patterns and intensity.

We-Vibe Chorus

Chorus by We-Vibe

Discover Chorus by We-Vibe – the couples vibrator that takes your intimacy to another level. Worn during sex, Chorus stimulates the G-spot and clitoris at the same time to heighten sensation. Best of all the toy can be intuitively controlled through the We-Connect app or via the remote.

sex toy that every woman should have

Wand by We-Vibe

Sex doesn’t always have to be about penetration. Explore all your erogenous zones with the Wand massager from We-Vibe. And if the mood does take you, Wand is perfectly designed to stimulate your G-spot as well. Feel the magic of the wand and let your partner control via the intuitive We-Connect app.

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Author

Chantelle Otten is the Director of the Australian Institute of Sexology and Sexual Medicine, the largest private psycho-sexology practice in Australia. She consults from Collingwood and Cabrini Hospital, Malvern. A Melbourne local, Chantelle comes from a Dutch background. Having spent time living, studying, working and conducting scientific research in Holland, Chantelle has grown up with the European mindset that talking about sex, pleasure and relationships does not have to be shameful or taboo. She is currently a consultant for Bumble Australia, Lovehoney the Sexual Happiness People and Womanizer, and is currently writing a sex education book for adults.