Relationships & Sex

How do you do it? A frank talk about sex and disability

With Valentine’s Day just round the corner, it’s guaranteed that many folk will be worrying about sex and relationships. The pressure to both please and be pleased might sound like it is even more complicated if you also have a disability, and, annoyingly, it’s often something that us disabled folk are asked.

The good news is that with a bit of practicality and a frank attitude, handling sex and relationships when you have a disability is not as complicated as it sounds. Indeed, most of the complications seem to come from a lack of understanding.

I have Ehlers Danlos syndrome, which causes my joints to spontaneously dislocate. This sometimes involves pain, and sometimes doesn’t, so selecting what sexual activities to do may differ on a daily basis.

First, let’s get the elephant out of the room. Yes, on bad pain days, sometimes it is not possible to have full penetrative sex. This can be frustrating, but there are so many adult toys on offer these days that it’s perfectly reasonable to find workarounds if, say, a hip isn’t behaving properly. Even if that is too much, then a nice tantric massage can do wonders, and bring you closer to your partner.

Then there are days when there is little pain, but there are still mobility issues. These days are a lot nicer to handle as you have the opportunity to come up with some creative ways of having sex. The important thing to remember is, don’t feel bad if you can’t do a particular thing.

Sex is so much more than penetration; you can do oral, use your hands, or use toys and it doesn’t make it ‘count’ any less. There’s often so much pressure put on a ‘performance’, but the most important thing is that you and your partner are satisfied.

This brings me on to the next topic, which is incredibly important, particularly on first dates: communication. If your partner isn’t disabled, they need to be made aware of any adjustments that might need to be made, or anything to watch out for before you get jiggy with it.

If your partner is also disabled, then you’ll need to be aware of their needs. Don’t be afraid to speak up and be frank about it – if they are not understanding, or if they try and pressure you, it’s better to find out sooner in the relationship than later.

Communication lets us get past cultural baggage and expectations. When it came to my own wedding day, I had a very conventional Catholic ceremony, and I felt very compelled to do everything ‘right’, including consummating the marriage.

As it turns out, I experienced hip issues so was only just about able to manage a wedding dance at the reception afterwards. Later in the evening I had to accept that my consummation would not take place that night in the way ‘decreed’ by the church.

But that’s okay, and doing things a little differently doesn’t invalidate your marriage. So, similarly, being disabled doesn’t make you incapable of having sexual satisfaction. We’re just a little more creative, that’s all. So go forth, and experiment!

By Holly Ferrie

We want to break any taboos around sex and disability, so if you have a story or advice to share, we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch by messaging us on Facebook, tweeting us @DHorizons, emailing us at or leaving your comments below.

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