Sex and Communication With a Disability
About the Author: Norah is a Pilates teacher with cerebral palsy. She has dedicated her work to helping others manage their disability and chronic pain. Not only does she help others with disabilities through her Pilates instruction, but she also shares incredible disability-related content on her platform. If you're interested in seeing amazing pictures of Norah and educational infographics on disability, check out Norah's Instagram here, and you can even book a private class with Norah here!
A boyfriend once remarked that sex with me was better than he’d had with non-disabled women.
That surprised me, and I asked him why.
He said, ‘[We have] way more open communication [and] way more fun.’
Having a disability required me, from very early on, to speak up about my limitations, boundaries, wants, and needs.
The same applies to sex. I’m able to communicate what I want and need, and to ask for what I’d like.
I’m not afraid to show a partner what I enjoy, or to state when I don’t want or like something.
Those boundaries and wishes have not always been respected, and there have been times when I’ve been hurt and ignored, but I’ve always believed that sex was meant to be something communicative, something shared, an experience between people, not something you do to someone, but with them.
This quashes the notion that sex with a person who is perceived to be limited or somehow ‘less than’ is, by default, not going to be as good as it would be with a non-disabled person.
People with disabilities often navigate a world that is not designed for their needs, so they think creatively, pay attention to the details, and strategize in everyday life.
‘How will I deal with the toilets that are downstairs in this café?’
‘How do I get the help I need on these stairs?’
‘There’s an escalator there. Is there an elevator somewhere else?’
‘Would you mind helping me, please?’
‘I need a hand opening this jar.’
These are the daily negotiations we make, and openly communicating with partners about sex requires the same willingness to deal with discomfort, listen to another person’s needs, be honest, and to continually talk.
One of the biggest issues around sex is that we have an inability to have an open, healthy, honest, continuous conversation about it. Couples who have been married for years don’t ever speak about sex. Parents have one conversation about sex with their children and then pretend it never happened. Schools only talk about sex in terms of risk and danger, birth control, and the possibility of sexually transmitted infections.
No doctor, teacher, or parent ever spoke to me about sex other than for the purpose of having a child, and every other conversation was only about the possible negative consequences of irresponsible behavior.
We need to start having a more open and healthy conversation about sex, and we have to revisit it often. We have to deal with the feelings of embarrassment or discomfort, because they’ll only be worse if we choose not to talk about them.
What made sex better for the person that I was with was our open communication, and our willingness to talk about what we needed and wanted. Sex isn’t something you do just to get off. If that’s what you wanted, you could just buy yourself a sex toy and do that on your own.
You have sex with others for the experience, and shouldn’t you be able to communicate about it?
If you don’t like a gift someone gives you, you exchange it.
If you’re unhappy with a meal, you send it back.
If you don’t like your haircut, you speak up or you see a different stylist.
Sex should be met with the same kind of problem-solving and willingness to work through things. Any partner who is worth it will stick around and you’ll work together to make things easier and more enjoyable for both of you.
Sex should be fun, pleasurable, and enjoyable, and it won’t be if you suffer in silence or try to make the best of it.
You deserve to have a happy and healthy experience.