Why Aren’t We Talking About Disability and Sex?

Most young people spend a lot of time talking about sex with their mates. All sorts of sex in fact – the other sex, our sex, how much sex, good sex and bad sex. We’re quite prepared to be upfront about the fact we think talking about sex (and thinking about it too) is totally normal and completely healthy.

Then something came along which made me realise that there was one aspect of sex we didn’t ever talk about. That something was an Oscar nominated film performance from an actress called Helen Hunt. The film is called ‘The Sessions’ and it’s all about disability and sex. I realised that we haven’t been talking about disability and sex. The issue is being brushed under the carpet and that’s not healthy. I reckon it’s time to get talking.


Sex education at most schools school is usually only really focused on relationships between people who don’t have a disability. This can mean young people with a disability are not informed about sex and relationships. Think it through and you start to realise this can add up to the idea that sex isn’t for disabled people. Reflected in the views of wider society it becomes a taboo subject.

You’ve probably seen or at least heard of the Channel 4 programme ‘The Undateables’. It’s basically a dating show for people with disabilities. The show challenges the view that having a disability somehow makes you asexual or non-sexual. It shows that disabled people, as much as anyone, want to find a partner for sex, love and all the other stuff boys and girls (or boys and boys, and girls and girls) do together.

Some people are concerned that the programme exploits people in the show. Actually, the name of the show give’s the wrong impression and is rather exploitative. ‘Undateable’ in who’s views – who is to judge. Jumping to conclusions about exploitation can result in sexual rights being compromised, leaving people feeling as if they can’t, or have no right, to sexually express themselves.


As mentioned above sex and disability is topical with the release of ‘The Sessions’. It tells the true story of a man with a man paralysed from the neck down who uses a sex surrogate to lose his virginity. The film challenges the view that people with disabilities do not want to have physical relationships. The idea that people with disabilities don’t possess sexual desires means that these desires are overlooked.

The film shows a man overcoming his own insecurities and fighting for a right that he feels he deserves. The film has done a great job at getting people talking and bringing issues into the spotlight.

Sex and disability aren’t addressed together much in films and TV. But remember when Artie from Glee lost his virginity to the hot cheerleader? One of the things that he said was that he wasn’t even sure he could have sex after his accident. This is a common worry and one that may make people cautious of entering into a relationship in the first place.


A sex surrogate is not the same as a prostitute. Sexual surrogacy is based around therapy and involves attending a number of sessions over some months. A surrogate addresses psychological as well as physical issues.

People with physical disabilities who rely on a carer find it particularly hard to have sexual relationships. Often people’s carers are their parents, who may be overprotective making it even more difficult to express sexual desires.

On one hand this can result in feelings of isolation and even shame. However some parents who are carers pay for sexual surrogates for their children when they are old enough. It isn’t part of life that a parent expects to be involved in so it can be difficult. But being open about desires can avoid resentment as it acknowledges the validity of sexual feelings.

There are some agencies that are especially for this who find sex workers for disabled people. They work within the law, have been vetted and are used to working with people with disabilities.


Back in March sex and disability were in the news when it was revealed that sex workers were being used in care homes in Sussex. The revelations had a mixed response. Some people are concerned that this opens the door to the possibility of exploitation. Others defend it, saying that the sexual surrogates are doing something that care workers are unable to, both morally and by law.

For some, using a sex worker and knowing that they can be intimate, can give the confidence that they need to be in a relationship with a more long-term partner. Learning that they have some physical sexual capability to back up their sexual desires raises their self-esteem.

Others may not want to use a sex worker and would prefer to wait until they are in a relationship. Going back to Glee, Artie was upset that he lost his virginity through ‘meaningless’ sex – albeit as an expression by a caring friend. He was excited to lose his virginity as he wasn’t sure he could have sex. After the encounter he was left wishing he had waited.

You can make your own mind up about whether first sexual encounters are always meaningful. However this reaction in itself is a reflection that people with disabilities experience the same worries about sex and love as anyone else.


There’s a lot to consider. Some have concerns that the use of sex workers could lead to abuse of vulnerable people. While sexual desires are important, exploitation is a concern. Although if you follow the thought that sex workers are themselves being exploited the question becomes who is exploiting whom.

For this reason it is important for there to be open and honest conversations about the issues. By doing this, disabled people can feel that any sexual desires they have are normal.

Half of the battle is making society more aware of the issues; this is first step to combating stigma on the subject.

Why Pornography Should Be Introduced and Critiqued In Sex Education Programming At All School Levels

The phrase love that dare not speak it’s name was coined by Lord Alfred Douglas. It first appeared in his poem, “Two Loves,” printed (in the Chameleon) in 1896. It’s a reference to homosexual love, in Lord Alfred’s case, of Oscar Wilde, who was subsequently charged with gross indecency. Homosexuality was a criminal offense in England and just about everywhere else in the 19th century. Today, there is another sexual outlet not so much forbidden as not addressed in polite or other society – a new form of love the name of which sex educators dare not speak: pornography.

This is most unfortunate: a new study suggests that while parents may not be aware of the fact, pornography is the leading sex educator of the young. Alas, the porn industry has no interest in serving a sex education function and certainly does not do so, at least not in a positive, constructive or healthy fashion.

Porn is pervasive, particularly where it is most highly censored. China, for example, is the world’s leading consumer of porn. Jerry Ropelato, author of “Internet Pornography Statistics” at the research website Top Ten Reviews, notes that $3,075.64 is spent on pornography every second of every day. In this one-second period, 28,258 internet users are viewing pornography and 372 internet users are typing adult search terms into search engines. Two of the top twenty search terms are teen sex and teen porn. The pornography industry has larger revenues than Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, Apple and Netflix combined. Data from 2006 reported worldwide pornography revenues at $97.06 billion.

Australian researchers David Corlett and Maree Crabbe filmed 140 interviews with young people in what was called “The Reality and Risk Research Project.” They discovered that teens are increasingly turning to the net for sex education. (Source: Denise Ryan, “Teachers urged to address porn factor,” The Australian Age, February 13, 2012.) Porn sex education exerts a destructive influence in the lives of the young. One of the investigators said, “Every young person we interviewed told us that pornography is a significant part of youth culture and particularly of young men’s lives.” She added, “Pornography has become harder, rougher, more hardcore.”

Porn, as you might expect, does not commonly offer instruction in matters relevant to conventional sex education (e.g., the nature of contraception, the prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, the value of intimacy, principles of effective relationships). On the contrary, what it inadvertently communicates to young men, according to “The Project” research group, is reckless, coercive and abusive treatment of women. There is an absence of realistic perspectives and a dearth of respectful treatment of sexual partners. In addition, sexual practices of an unsafe nature are commonplace. While informed adults may have the maturity to manage such depictions, teens with little or, more often, no sexual experience clearly do not.

Since parents usually cannot keep porn from being accessed one way or another or one time or other by their children, the more likely best strategy is to include porn awareness in sex ed instruction. This is the focus of efforts by “The Project” team. Several grants have provided the resources to prepare and test programs for use in training sex education teachers for varied school grade levels. While teachers need skills to address this issue, teens need exposure to effective critiques of pornography’s representations of gender and sex. Among the objectives of the Project team is to develop teaching materials that present diverse scenarios for classroom discussions that will enable young adults to distinguish between what they see depicted in porn and reality.

The overwhelming majority of parents believe their child has never seen pornography. However, a 2003 Australia Institute investigation citied in the Australian Age article cited above reported that 84 per cent of boys and 60 per cent of girls had access to sex sites on the internet. A 2006 Australian study of youths aged 13 to 16 found that 92 per cent of boys and 61 per cent of girls had been exposed to pornography online.

Of course, Republicans in this country might favor a simpler solution: Pass new laws banning pornography or otherwise make it nearly impossible for young people to gain access to it. Given the widespread availability of social media of all kinds in the wired culture of our age, a reliance on censorship does not seem promising (not to dwell on the consistency of such a Draconian tactic with that troublesome First Amendment in America). Good luck cutting off porn – shy of creating a police state. Better sex education is cheaper and quicker, more likely and better suited to personal liberties and sound education.

Everyone, including the young, needs a broad set of knowledge and critical thinking skills to reject a sexuality that eroticises degradation and violence, glorifies unrealistic body types (particularly large breasts and out-sized penises) and undermines relationship elements founded on respect, courtesy and the common decencies.

It is hard enough in the current climate of Right Wing evangelical Republican culture war wedge politics to gain acceptance for sex ed of any kind, let alone adding porn assessment to the mix. If a school board or individual educator in this country tried to address pornography, he or she would be cited by Santorum, Romney or Gingrich as an example of what’s wrong with Obamacare. Try dealing with this crisis only if willing to deal with a firestorm of controversy from the Right.

Yet, all evidence and the lessons from Prohibition and the Comstock era suggest that ignoring or trying to repress the pervasiveness of pornography as it affects youthful sexual expectations and behavior is pernicious and irresponsible.

In my view, we need to make clear as part of sex ed that porn has nothing to do with love. We dare not NOT speak its name – and dare NOT ignore the reality of pornography’s dreadful influence on the sexual miseducation of the young. If this upsets Republicans, well, that’s just too bad. If they had enjoyed better sex education, they might be more sensible about such things – and probably less interested in porn, as well.

Be weller than well, give ’em hell and try always to look on the bright side of life.

Sex During Pregnancy – The Facts On Enjoying Sex

Now that you’re pregnant, the biggest question for many women is whether to continue having sex during pregnancy.

Most expectant parents worry whether sex during pregnancy will harm the baby or cause discomfort, pain or even miscarriage.

These worries are completely normal and while you continue to have a normal pregnancy, are usually unfounded.

If you’re pregnant or planning a pregnancy, here a few hints to ensure you can continue to enjoy a happy, healthy sex life during pregnancy.

Sex During Pregnancy – is it safe?

If you are having a normal pregnancy, then sex during pregnancy is considered safe.

If you are considered high risk for complications such as pre-term labor or miscarriage, then you should discuss your concerns about sex during pregnancy with your health care provider.

Having gentle, loving sex will not harm your baby in any way.

Sex During Pregnancy – Satisfying the need for intimacy

Honest and open communication between you and your partner will be the key to a satisfying and safe sexual relationship during pregnancy.

Many pregnant women experience fluctuations in their desire for sex during pregnancy. Some will have no desire at all, while others will feel an increase in sexual desire.

For some, symptoms of nausea, fatigue, breast tenderness, and the increased need to urinate, make sex too much of a ‘chore’ particularly during the first trimester.

During the second trimester, when most of these symptoms subside, some women find their desire for sex increases.

During the third trimester the desire for sex can subside as the uterus grows larger and the reality of what’s about to happen sets in.

Your partner may also experience fluctuations in sexual desire. Some men feel closer to their pregnant partner enjoying the changes in her body.

While others find it difficult reconciling the identity of sexual partner with expectant mother.

Just as you do, your partner may also have anxiety about the burdens of parenthood, or concerns about the health of both the mother and their unborn child.

Sex During Pregnancy – When It’s Not Safe?

If engaging in oral sex, your partner should never blow air into your vagina. Blowing air can cause an air embolism – a blockage of a blood vessel by an air bubble.

This could be potentially fatal for mother and child.

If you are having sex with a new partner, ensure you know their sexual history. If you become infected by a sexually transmitted disease this could be transmitted to your baby.

Sex During Pregnancy – Making the most of it!

As long as the desire is there, there are many ways to satisfy both your needs for intimacy.

Learning how to please each other with or without penetration can actually improve a couple’s sex life.

Oral sex, kissing, caressing, and experimenting with other positions can keep sex comfortable and exciting.

As your pregnancy progresses, experiment with these positions to find the most comfortable.

o Lie partly sideways – this allows your partner to keep most of his weight off your uterus

o Lie on your back at the side of the bed with your knees bent, and your bottom and feet perched at the edge of the mattress. Your partner can either kneel or stand in front of you.

o Lie side by side in the spoon position – this allows for shallow penetration

o You go on top – this puts no weight on your abdomen and allows you to control the depth of penetration
o Sit on your partner’s lap as he sits on a sturdy chair

As you come closer to birth – precuations to take

Avoid lying flat on your back during sex, particularly after the fourth month. If your uterus compresses the veins in the back of your abdomen, you may feel lightheaded or nauseous.

Some doctors recommend you stop having sex during pregnancy in the final weeks as a safety precaution because semen contains a chemical that may actually stimulate contractions.

This need only be a concern if you are near or past your due date.

Sex during pregnancy should be enjoyed as once your baby is born, exhaustion, privacy issues and lack of time may well take the choice out of your hands.

Apart from the intimacy of sex during pregnancy, there are additional benefits as well. Sex releases endorphins, relaxes muscles and helps you sleep.