In our series on disability, sex and relationships, expert and resident agony aunt Tuppy (who runs Outsiders – a private club for disabled people looking for a relationship) answers your questions. This week, sex education and how we want change.
Dear Aunty Tuppy
I have just come out of college, am still a virgin and very frustrated. Neither school nor college provided us blind students any sex education at all, and both forbade us from being sexy together. The lucky ones enjoyed each other but it’s difficult to sneak around when you cannot see.
I am now really angry and want to change things around for future students. I have no job, so might as well spend my time doing something worthwhile as a volunteer. Can you suggest how I might accomplish this task?
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I know exactly what you mean. People with all kinds of disabilities have complained to me about their sex education being worse than useless. Blind people in particular, alongside those with ME, autism and incontinence, often get left out of sex education for disabled people, something I have written about in my book, Supporting Disabled People With Their Sexual Lives.
I believe that the best people to be teaching sex education to disabled people are the sex workers who see them all the time. But they would never be allowed to teach in schools or colleges, sadly. So something needs to change. This has prompted me to come up with an idea: why don’t sex workers and sexually experienced disabled people write a book together about the education of disabled people.
I have been putting my feelers out and am keen to have input from Cheryl Cowen, the sexual surrogate on whom the film The Sessions was based, and Romina Puma the disabled comedienne. I have appointed a co-editor, Sheila Warembourg, who runs a sexual assistance organisation in French-speaking Europe and teaches the assistants and disabled people about sex.
I was very optimistic but have now had the book turned down by both my publishers and agent. However, I plan to make it more mainstream and fun, so that someone picks it up as a potential best seller!
Julia, if you want to help me in this project, I would welcome you.
You can also start a campaign – being a visually impaired woman who has experienced what she is talking about, you would have a lot of clout. I could ask the chair of the Outsiders Trust, Mikey Argy, to advise you on how to get support – she spends much of her time campaigning to find financial support for people impaired by Thalidomide.
It’s worth contacting Scope, Brook, RNIB and Sense, who might be interested in using you as a campaigner. Sense in particular has a real struggle supporting their deafblind clients when it comes to learning about sex, as the law does not allow them to be taught using touch – but how else can they be taught?! Our lawyer, Claire de Than, hopes to turn this law around, but the government have said that there aren’t enough people in need to necessitate the changing of the law, so the more voices calling for change, the better.
The other thing I would like to say is, to gain a good sex education for yourself, why don’t you join Outsiders – a club for disabled people to date as well as enjoying peer support. We talk about sex a lot and I answer the Sex and Disability Helpline so can always answer your questions.
There are also several books I can recommend, although I don’t know how many you can read using voice recognition or braille. I think you can ask for books to be read out as a talking book. Here is my list:
A Guide to Getting it On – aimed at young people and much of it written by them, including disabled people.
The New Joy of Sex – written by a friend and colleague of mine, Susan Quilliam, who does not leave disabled people out.
Sex with the Lights On – by Ducky DooLittle, who talks about all the nitty gritty details that other writers leave out.
Do get in touch to let me know what you decide: AuntyTuppy@Outsiders.org.uk
By Tuppy Owens