10 Myths About Sex & Disability

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woman in a wheelchair outside

There’s a common myth that people with disabilities don’t want, need, or are incapable of having sex, but nothing could be further from the truth.

According to the CDC, one in four Americans have some sort of disability, making it the largest minority group in the country.

Disabled World, an independent news resource on health and disabilities goes so far as to estimate that “10 percent of people in the U.S. have a medical condition considered to be a type of invisible disability.”

An invisible disability may mean someone dealing with a chronic health issue that you can’t immediately identify as you would with say, a wheelchair, or a cane.

This means that there is quite a lot about disability and sexuality that people are simply not aware of.

RELATED: Dating Is Even Harder When You Have A Chronic Disability— Here's How To Help Someone You Love Find Love

It may seem daunting to have to maneuver, adjust, and find comfortable positions to compensate for a physical disability, but it can actually be a blessing that leads to deeper intimacy and better sex.

Whether it’s spinal injuries, arthritis, anxiety, or depression, fibromyalgia, Trigeminal Neuralgia, cancer, heart disease, migraine headaches, shingles, psoriasis, erectile dysfunction, or anorgasmia, at one time or another, we're all going to experience some kind of disability in the bedroom.

This will affect your ability to have fulfilling sex — but you can't let it stop you from pursuing sexual pleasure.

Here are 10 common myths about disability and sexuality you may not realize keep people from having fulfilling intimate experiences.

1. We are asexual.

This simply isn't true! People with disabilities have all the same drives and urges as anyone.

It's a natural occurrence, and being born with or developing a disability doesn't preclude you from the natural hormones at work in everyone's bodies.

2. Our genitals don’t work.

In some cases, yes, people have disabilities that affect their genitals. But this doesn't mean that a person disabled in this way doesn't require intimacy.

There are other ways to be intimate and passionate, and it's up to you and your partner to explore these routes and find out what works best for you.

3. Only certain kinds of people hook up with us.

A common belief, but it's very wrong. Many people believe that there are those who only have sex with disabled people because of sympathy, a fetish, or other sordid reasons.

And although some people do fetishize disabilities, the larger portion of the disabled population is looking for love and romance like anyone else.

Disabled people do not need sympathy or some other "agenda" from an able-bodied person in order to experience intimacy.

4. The disability is more important than sexuality.

Sexuality in general is a huge part of everyone's life. It's an important part of your human nature.

People with disabilities may have to work around their disability in order to get to a point of being sexually active, but it is by no means more important than the intimacy itself.

5. Sex with disabilities is “a hassle” or “not worth it.”

While it might take a little longer, or require more tools or ways to incorporate the disability into your sexual life, that by no means suggests it's not worth it!

In fact, you might find other interesting and fun ways to have sex or be intimate while you're learning what works best.

RELATED: 8 Ways My Disability Will Be Amazing For My Love Life

6. People naturally know how to have sex, and if we can't or don’t, we shouldn’t be having it.

This is just candidly untrue. No one is born knowing how to gratify their sexual partner.

All sexuality is learned through experience and practice. It's no different for someone with a disability than it is for anyone else.

7. It is better not to risk reproduction.

This belief stems from the idea that disabilities may be passed to children and shouldn't be.

But someone with disabilities has as much right as anyone to decide for themselves if they want to reproduce, and this concept is incredibly demeaning and cruel.

No one has the right to tell you that your life is worth less than others because you have a disability.

8. Sexuality is not part of healthcare for disabled people.

People with disabilities should still have the right to whatever sex life they feel is comfortable for them. Sex is a part of your healthy self, and not having that intimacy can actually damage people mentally, emotionally, and physically.

While many people with disabilities may have long-term partners, some, specifically those with injuries or disabilities that affect their genitals, may need more help.

In situations like these, there are some advocates for people with disabilities who help them attain this. They are frequently referred to as "sex surrogates," and often work with disabled people in an educational and medical sense.

9. We are helpless victims, unable to have good sex.

This is just not true!

Good sex is something you achieve while working with your partner to learn what turns you both on. It's something everyone, regardless of ability, must learn for themselves.

10. People with disabilities aren’t at risk for sexual abuse.

Unfortunately, this isn't the case.

According to RAINN, sexual abuse and assault against people with disabilities is often underreported, and are often victimized at higher rates than the rest of the population.

It's an alarming statistic and one that everyone needs to be aware of when considering what roles sexuality and disability really mean to each individual.

Sex is our second basic instinct after survival, and it can improve the quality of your life, so everyone should arm themselves with accurate knowledge in order to create sexual skill-building and differently-abled erotic, intimate experiences.

Some disabilities affect mobility, others are physiological, and some are emotional, mental, or developmental.

But by navigating these challenges, you can often untether yourself from repetition and boredom in the bedroom. The disability supplies the opportunity to expand the meaning and experience of sex.

Even if you have one of these debilitating experiences, you can always create intimacy through hugging, kissing, eye contact, and open, honest communication, which are all preludes to sex — or can be fulfilling as the main event on their own.

The myth that sex with disabilities is “not worth it” affects everyone — not just those with disabilities.

This is because it also assumes that since you're an able-bodied human being, you intrinsically know how to perform sexual acts and therefore don’t require any education or guidance on the subject.

It assumes that if you can’t figure it out, you should be left to do without it. So, even though everyone knows the mechanics of sex, not everyone knows how to give and receive sexual pleasure.

No one “naturally” knows it all. We do not come organically equipped with knowledge of condoms, nor are we “naturally” skilled to give erotic pleasure.

People learn sexual negotiating skills, consent, techniques and boundaries. They learn what sex is and how to make passionate love.

All people have the right to opportunities for sexual expression, sexuality education, contraception, and sexual abuse prevention and treatment.

These rights are often challenged or ignored because of myths, which is why it's time to learn how disability and sexuality are really intertwined, instead of just assuming that it automatically suggests the inability to perform or a lack of desire.

RELATED: How To Talk About Your Chronic Pain Or Disability Before Having Sex With Someone New

Dr. Ava Cadell is an author, clinical sexologist, sex counselor, founder of Loveology University, and president of the American College of Sexologists International. Her mission is to empower people to overcome sexual guilt and shame so they can enjoy the benefits of healthy, sexual relationships.

This article was originally published at Reprinted with permission from the author.