How to initiate sex when you are disabled

Initiating sex can be extremely difficult when you have a disability. However knowledgeable, confident and sexy you are, the fear that someone you fancy might be put off by your naked body can be overwhelming. This fear can make you feel vulnerable and defeatist, which should not and need not be the case.

Image by David Steinberg, 

If what you read here seems unrealistic, perhaps you are in a pessimistic, negative frame of mind, perhaps you were recently rejected or feeling depressed. Come back to this later, so see if it makes sense.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Aways do what you are afraid to do”. Don’t let fear spoil everything. If you feel yourself shaking, best talk about how nervous you are feeling. Remember, the best way to deal with fear of rejection is just go for it. As the old saying goes, ‘I got laid because I tried 100 times and only got rejected 99 times.’

Many disabled people feel nervous about inviting someone they fancy back to their bed when the person would have to undress them, hoist them into bed, remove their clothing, etc. If you think this might frighten them off, get your PA to do it.

However frightened you are and nervous about your physical restrictions, try to keep a straight head and spend serious time preparing yourself and everything else, to increase your chances of success.

You may be held back by fear of their discovering some little secret that you haven’t let on, such as you have a catheter, an ostomy, what you imagine to be unusual genitals, no feelings in your genitalia, or many of the other variations that disability can bring to us.

Discussing your disabilities can be difficult, however curious the other person is. They are probably worrying how to ask you questions without offending you, so it’s much better to initiate the conversation, honestly and openly, in as relaxed fashion as possible.

There is no best time to disclose this information, and everybody finds it very scary. Find a time when you are both relaxed, for example after a nice meal. Remember, you must speak – it’s not fair (and a killjoy) to surprise a partner with something unusual when in the throws of passion. There are ways to make it easier:

1) Have a conversation with your urologist, GP, or health nurse about your body, your doubts and worries, and how best to have sex.

2) Work up some affection for your equipment, impairment or embarrassment; after all they are ingredients of your intimate functions. Just as children give things they don’t like nicknames, anything you can do to help them become an acceptable part of you is good.

3) Practise telling people about your disability and how it affects your genitals, sexual function and continence, stressing the positive and using sweet words about the “problem” areas.

4) Say to your potential new lover, “I don’t expect you to accept this, but I have…..” Faced with a challenge, most people wish to prove they are made of sturdier stuff.

5) If you really can’t face telling them, ask a friend to do it – or me. I have never known anybody ditch a potential lover because of any of these things (except the greedy women who only like big cocks).

You may be held back because you are afraid of disclosing other intimate information. Perhaps you have a fetish, enjoy bondage or S/M. Perhaps you have been sexual abused and fear sex. You may have epilepsy. Most disabled people (in fact most people) are quite complicated sexually, and this is part of what makes sex endlessly interesting. Explaining things nicely helps potential lovers accept you the way you are.

As you know, it doesn’t always have to be the man who initiates sex. In fact, the man who is skilled at seduction will be able to sit back and wait. It’s much easier for women to succeed with a man. But it’s certainly better for all disabled people to feel capable of initiating sex, so that they can fast track through any dithering and embarrassment and avoid the situation where nothing happens because both parties are too scared to act.

The standard three step method of getting someone new to have sex with you is, put simply:

1) Appear to be a “catch”, even out of reach, an amazing person. Confidence is not the same as arrogance. A catch doesn’t mean good-looking, but desirable.

2) Make the person you want to have sex with feel totally confident they can trust you sexually. Don’t be so trustworthy that you become close friends – you don’t want another friend, you want a lover. Flirt supportively.

3) Move together to a place where you can relax and enjoy being sexy, and it will happen.

Appearing to be a catch Many people might think it’s impossible to look like a “catch” if you are a wheelchair user, blind, disfigured, have short arms, or whatever your disability. But this is untrue – and Stephen Hawking, Mat Fraser, Lara Masters prove otherwise. And whatever your impairments and appearance, voice and confidence, you do excel at something. What you need to do is to excel even more, so that you stand out as exceptional. A catch.

Being sexually trustworthy. Make them feel really comfortable. Listen and respond to what they say. Respectfully ask if it’s OK before asking or requesting anything. Look into their eyes caringly (not adoringly) with a sparkle of humour. If they look bored, walk away. Learn the important difference between being desperate and being sexually generous, between groping, fondling, touching someone up, and being reassuring by holding their hands and gripping their thigh reassuringly. Make efforts to find out what makes them nervous, and calm them. Ask them about really beautiful things that happened to them when they were younger and they will come to associate these happy feelings with you.

There are things about being disabled that may make this difficult. Blind people do have a problem with eye contact and reading messages that come from facial expressions. But so long as you ensure you sit facing the person, and learn to read the feelings of the person from the tone of their voice, you can succeed.

People with no arms, weak arms, or arms that don’t reach up, do have a problem holding another person. What you can’t do with your arms, you need to be able to do with your voice, what you say, and how you say it.

Not being able to speak is probably one of the biggest obstacles. Many disabled people in this situation don’t get much practice, and feel too nervous to try to communicate using the best method for them. Practice and confidence building will help – so try to get such help from local classes and support groups.

You may seem untrustworthy because you have never held any responsibility for yourself or anybody else, because you have always had everything done for you. It’s important to understand that if you want a sexual relationship, you need to start living an independent life, making your own decisions and taking responsibilities for yourself and behaving responsibly towards the people you meet.

If you are socially incompetent, you will improve with practice. So long as you do practise.

If you already know this person as a friend, then it can be a long slow journey to switch the relationship into a sexual one, unless you both fancy the pants off each other.

Move to a sexy place Women can be especially responsive to seductive environments: beautiful surroundings, candles, lovely smells, the right music. Men are often more practical, private and vulnerable (they are more scared, feeling more pressure to perform) and just want a room with a lock on the door and no worries about getting sand under the foreskin.

The thing to remember is to become sexy with the person but take it easy. There is no need to rush. Feeling happy being close to someone, cuddling and kissing is a good start. Communicating about what you like can be part of this.

Be absolutely certain to make it clear that you have a clean bill of sexual health and you only use safer sex. That means no bodily fluids inside the other person, and no genital contact without protection. If you are worried that putting a condom on might make you limp, ask the other person if they might use a female condom inside them, or just forget about attempting genital sex.

If you live with your parents, in a residential home or somewhere other than your own house or flat, you may think the best venue to initiate sex is a nice hotel room. Be warned, sometimes this environment is too formal, and the expense of the room puts pressure on you to perform, which is courting disaster. There is really nothing like home, and make sure it’s seductive, clean, tidy and peaceful (with no phone calls, visitors, or excitable terriers).

The old -fashioned division between foreplay and sex is most unhelpful. Sex can be enjoyed in many forms – from looking at each other’s bodies, to pleasing each other with your fingers, mouth or toes, to spanking, vaginal and anal penetration with a variety of objects, some human, to fun like tickling, massaging, whipping, bondage, fantasy play, talking sexy using your phone, texting, and emails. These can be done in any order. So many people worry about “doing it right” and using the best sex positions when they should relax and be adventurous enough to move around until they are comfortable, and laugh at things that don’t work out. Does it matter that you end up with your face next to their feet – toe sucking can be sexy! The important thing is to discuss, ask and be respectful. Never make assumptions or push your desires on someone else.

Instead of trying to do what you “should do”, enjoy a dance of discovery between yourself and the other person, giving each other and experiencing physical and mental pleasure.

Many disabled people have to plan their sexual pleasure with a partner in advance, which can take away the spontaneity. This means that potential lovers have to make the decision to want to have sex together, agree verbally and make the plan.

However intrepid you feel, this can be far more exciting that just arriving back home drunk after a party and leaping into bed with someone you fancy. It means the whole experience becomes much more ritualised, meaningful and beautiful.

Dr Tuppy Owens

Outsiders and Sex and the Disability Helpline

Outsiders the website features leaflets, our book Practical Suggestions, copies of our magazine INSIDE which updates Practical Suggestions and resources. Our club is a self help group for physically and socially disabled people to find partners. Our group the Sexual Health and Disability Alliance campaigns for the sexual rights of disabled people, formulates policies and runs a conference.

Sex and Disability Helpline 0707 499 3527 11am – 7pm weekdays.  website with a host of good tips and information on sex and disability which are most easily found through the sitemap.

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