Let's Talk About Sex and Disability

This will certainly be a topic that will make some folks a tad embarrassed (though they shouldn’t be). That’s right, I’m about to talk about sex, particularly with regard to the disabled. So if you’re a little shy or think that intercourse between two consenting adults should only be done to make babies, then you might want to pass on this one.

Humans need sex and intimacy

To keep it simple, for the purposes of this article, let’s consider “sex” to be not only intercourse (vaginal, anal, whatever), but oral, and even manual stimulation either by yourself or someone else. If I still haven’t offended your sensibilities, let’s carry on. Sex, along with intimacy, is something humans need, whether they are disabled or not. If you are disabled, let’s say, from an illness like multiple sclerosis (but really, from any potential mishap), partaking in the benefits of sex can be incredibly difficult.

Sexual contact is extremely important

I started thinking about this when I recently read about a woman, with multiple sclerosis, in Australia that won a decision for their form of public disability insurance to pay for sexual services.1 I then learned that other countries, like Denmark and The Netherlands, also have some form of provisions for the disabled to find sexual help as part of their disability compensation.2,3 In some cases, even funding the disabled to visit a sex worker up to once a month. As you can imagine, these types of public welfare have not gone without controversy. As of this writing, the case in Australia is being appealed; however, in other places, these programs have weathered their detractors and have been well established for years. The reason? Because more and more, it’s being understood that sexual contact is extremely important to human beings, disabled or otherwise.

Physical, mental, and emotional benefits

Positive sexual experiences are now widely recognized as being helpful physically, mentally, and emotionally.4 Regular positive sexual activity has also proven to be beneficial when fighting stress and even pain.5,6 The more you learn about sex and the human body, you realize it’s not just about making babies or even getting pleasure, there are many reasons that make it a basic human need.7 Even my own doctor has broached the topic with me, asking me when the last time I was “touched”, noting that it could be beneficial for me, particularly with depression.

The understanding that people need some sort of sexual gratification is why some countries are now covering the cost of sexual therapy, just as they would physical therapy or an MRI (and yes, in many countries that are not America, citizens have access to all sorts of basic medical care covered by their taxes, what a crazy idea, right?).

The unique problems of the disabled

If you are reading this, you probably have some idea of the additional issues that come with trying to have regular sexual activity while disabled or even just have a chronic illness. With MS alone, these are some of the pretty common issues that one must deal with: erectile dysfunction, vaginal dryness, spasticity, low libido, difficulty achieving orgasm, fatigue, pain, numbness, and many more.

Problems go beyond the physical

Not only are there physical problems that occur, but as I’ve touched on before, there are logistical issues that abound as well. Simple things, like not being able to drive, can significantly affect your sex life. It should be noted, that many of these issues don’t only affect your sexual abilities with another human being, but can also impact your ability to self-gratify too. That’s a pretty important thing to remember when considering that public welfare is covering help in some countries, most able-bodied folks can at least masturbate. While this act doesn’t help with all of the needs that sex fulfills, it is certainly a nice stop-gap measure.

End the taboo

So, people need sex and looking at the benefits of it, you could argue that those that are disabled could actually use it more than most. Yet, the cards seemed stacked against us when trying to get the sexual gratification we require. There are options out there (though, clearly, not as many as are in Denmark), but in order to get past this problem, we have to become better at talking about it.

Talking about our sexual needs

The topic of sex is not nearly as taboo in some countries, which has paved the way for the kind of welfare benefits I mentioned earlier. Still, most good doctors are aware of our sexual needs, and you can talk to them about it. Even in the US, there are therapists you can discuss your issues with, but you have to talk about it and become more comfortable with the topic. The best way to become more comfortable talking about your sexual needs is to start realizing that they really are needs, and everyone has them.

Thanks so much for reading and always feel free to share!

Devin

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