Just like my joints, this coochie pops (Picture: Teona Studemire)
As I was scrolling through Twitter one morning, one of the first tweets I saw on my newsfeed tried to desexualise disabled people by saying that we didn’t have the capability to have sex.
I felt exhausted and frustrated because it was something I’d grown used to seeing.
So in reaction, I wrote my own tweet: ‘People genuinely think disabled people don’t have sex. Just like my joints, this coochie pops, thanks.’
Within days, it went viral on Twitter and has since had hundreds of thousands of likes. I was truly overwhelmed by it all.
I was diagnosed with Myalgic Encephamalitis – also known as chronic fatigue – early last year after suffering through more than 10 years of pain. In September this year, I was also diagnosed with Hypermobile-Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which is a connective tissue disorder.
Having both of these conditions means I often use a combination of wheelchairs, crutches, and body braces to get around. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a sex life.
As disabled people, we’re often told that we aren’t desirable and that the idea of us having sex with anyone is disgusting, weird or uncomfortable.
In fact, shortly after my diagnosis, I was told by a random internet troll that all disabled people are ugly and that my partner was only staying with me out of pity until he found someone who wasn’t ‘crippled’.
It’s exhausting constantly having to be reduced from a human being with needs, desires and wants to a sexless being with no capability to voice their own opinion.
I’ve been in a long-term relationship for several years with someone who saw me before I started using mobility aids. The new life I have as a disabled woman was something that we both had to adjust to, but he doesn’t view me as lesser just because I’m disabled.
We all need accommodations in the bedroom sometimes (Picture: Teona Studemire)
I didn’t lose my ability to feel and think and I definitely didn’t lose the allure I’ve had over him for almost five years now.
For me, sex changed with me being disabled but it wasn’t for the worst. I can’t do certain positions or angles at all or for very long but neither myself or my partner are hung up on it.
We simply stick to what works and change things up as needed to make sure we’re both comfortable and enjoying things. That’s no different than sex between two non-disabled people.
There are of course struggles just like there are in any relationship and mostly, the struggle has nothing to do with being disabled.
We all need accommodations in the bedroom sometimes – whether it be extra lubricant, sex toys or devices. These things are normal for non-disabled people to use but for some reason, that’s forgotten when disabled people are getting tonnes of invasive questions about how our bodies and genitals work during sex.
Thankfully, I rarely have these invasive questions thrown my way directly. When it does happen though, I typically choose not to respond.
When I tweeted what I did, at first I just felt silly and a little embarrassed to be talking crassly about my sex life.
But seeing so many disabled people chiming in with their own stories and thanking me for giving a voice to their experiences overwhelmed me with happiness. I felt so seen and comforted.
I naturally received a lot of negative responses too. Many people were disgusted with the idea of disabled people having sex – some compared us to grandparents having sex and one person even said having sex with me would be like ‘f**king a sex doll who just made sounds and didn’t move’.
I felt disgusted and dehumanised. Someone who knew nothing about my sex life reduced me to an object. An object of someone else’s pleasure instead of an active participant.
My being disabled isn’t something that I dread or hate (Picture: Teona Studemire)
I chose not to interact with the negative comments on an individual level because there was no point. Just because someone asks an invasive question doesn’t mean they deserve a response.
People have preconceived ideas of what it means to be disabled and what our experiences are like, so exerting the energy to correct a few people (or attempt to do so rather) didn’t seem like the best idea.
So I tweeted again, and again.
I wanted to push my point further that just because you – as a nondisabled person – want to believe that we don’t have sex because it makes you uncomfortable, it doesn’t change the fact that we have sex.
It’s so important to continue being vocal about this in order to change things. We need to get rid of this stigma that disabled people as a whole can’t lead fulfilling, healthy, happy lives (that include sex) just because we’re disabled.
My being disabled isn’t something that I dread or hate, where I spend my days yearning for it to be gone. I spend my days working, managing symptoms and entertaining hobbies.
We need to open the doors of sexual education up so that it can extend past the typical view of slim, cisgender, heterosexual people.
Of course, asexual disabled people exist too, but they aren’t the default for disability and we do them a disservice by constantly pushing this idea that every disabled person is asexual.
Sex in general is something that we all need more education on because it’s not simply about penetration.
It’s OK to talk about disabled people having sex, old people having sex, fat people having sex and sex that isn’t centered around penetration.
Sex looks different for each of us and there’s room at the table to discuss it all. We can’t do that unless more disabled people are allowed the space and the comfort to talk about our own experiences.
Sex can be painful and uncomfortable for a myriad of reasons but until disabled people are given the agency to discuss these issues openly without fear of judgment, we still have a long way to go.