Disability and Sexual Activity: The Mechanics of it All

by Dr. Linda R. Mona


Finding sexual partners can be uniquely problematic for people with disabilities; numerous barriers prevent them from accessing the outside world and meeting people. Transportation, financial and communication obstacles can make "hooking up" difficult, but not impossible.

When opportunities arise to engage in sexual interactions, it is important for people with disabilities to know not only how to communicate about their disability, but also how their bodies work. Given that it is hard to gather this kind of information, people with disabilities typically learn about "workable" sexual positions from personal experience. However, you can do a few things to get the ball rolling.

Do Your Homework
Read books and articles about sexuality, looking for hints about different sexual positions that may work for you. Keep in mind that you will probably not read about disability in all of these resources, but you can easily adapt valuable knowledge to meet your specific needs.

Know Your Body
Pay attention to how your body moves during your daily activities, making a note of any discomfort or pain. You can apply these experiences to sexual situations, planning ahead to comply with your needs. For example, if you find it difficult to extend your arms for long periods of time, you might consider a vibrator with a long handle for easier extended reach.

Talk to Your Disabled Friends
Spend some time talking with your friends with disabilities. Ask them how they have been able to find pleasurable sexual positions. Getting this kind of "inside" information can help you develop your own wish list of sexual activities or positions. If you don't have friends with disabilities, scan online disabled sex chat rooms or forums for discussions of interest.

The Mechanics of Sex
A few specific sexual positions have proven useful for some people with physical disabilities. Keep in mind that your individual preferences really depend upon the nature of your specific disability and comfort level. Your partner's disability, or lack thereof, also factors into the equation.

Masturbation Techniques
Masturbation, defined for our purposes as any act of physical self-stimulation, can be focused on your vagina or penis, or include all parts of your body. Many people who cannot engage in partner sex can manage some form of masturbation; however, when you have a hand impairment, masturbating can be difficult, if not impossible.

If you want to masturbate, but fear that you do not have the dexterity, strength or ability to accomplish it with your hands, try rubbing your body up against a pillow, a couch arm or a portion of your wheelchair, if you have one. You perform this type of stimulation on all parts of your body, including your penis or vagina.

When individuals have limited hand strength, smaller-sized vibrators seem easier to hold, as compared to larger styles. Vibrators can be modified for people so that they can use them independently. Attaching a Velcro strap may help a person to hold onto the device and keep it in place.

Get creative: some women have found it easy to manipulate a hand-held shower-massager showerhead on their clitoris. Keep in mind that the pulsating water may feel good, but be careful not to burn your vulva with warm water. In addition, direct stimulation on the clitoris may cause a numbing sensation.

Another option is a hand-held or wireless remote-controlled toy, which can be placed against the clitoris, anus or other erogenous zone, and then controlled by remote, either by you or another person.

Some men with limited hand functions have experienced success with self-stimulation using a penis sleeve. Initial positioning of the sleeve may be difficult and may require getting assistance from another person; however, once the sleeve is in place, many men can manipulate themselves to great satisfaction.

For those with decreased sensation in their bodies, especially genital regions, masturbation is typically less focused on the penis or vagina and aimed more at more sensitive areas. Try using nipple toys or an all-over massager.

Spending time both alone and with your partner, investigating what feels good on your body, is crucial to discovering your way to sexual pleasure. Even if you lack bodily sensation, you may enjoy watching erotic movies, looking at erotic pictures or reading erotic literature to with arousal during masturbation.

Intercourse Techniques
Using pillows can vastly assist with comfort and enjoyment during either vaginal or anal intercourse. Placing a pillow under a woman's buttocks while she is lying on her back can help raise her hips for more direct vaginal or anal stimulation, while simultaneously providing support for her back. You can also use pillows to help prop up your body or your partner's body for more comfort during anal intercourse.

Oral Sex Techniques
Whether giving or receiving oral sex, think about how your body feels comfortable. If you are planning to perform oral sex on your partner, think about the flexibility of your head, mouth and neck and thing of the best way to engage in this activity without experiencing discomfort.

Find a way to support your head and neck. Try laying your head flat on a bed or couch with your partner sitting over your face. You also may want to lay your head sideways while your partner moves his or her body to accommodate you. You can also have your partner remain in a sitting position off the end of a chair while you sit or kneel on the floor, stimulating them.

If you have limitations with your mouth, don't worry about opening it wide or stretching it into a million positions. Use a combination of licking and sucking to stimulate your partner, keeping your mouth open as is most comfortable for you.

When receiving oral sex, think about how your body feels most comfortable. Oral sex can be received lying down, standing up or sitting. Think about your body and go for it!

Remember, most people -- with and without disabilities -- do get tired when performing oral sex. Take breaks!

Practice Really Does Make Perfect
Think about how your body typically feels most comfortable. Whether it is sitting, standing, lying down on your back, or lying down on your side, you can find a position that works for you. Then, practice, practice, practice!

There is no "right" or "wrong" way to have sex. Your pleasure depends upon your own preferences and those of your partner. Try different things until you find something you love -- and then try a few more new things!

Dr. Linda R. Mona is a nationally recognized expert, and well-known advocate, for disability rights. She has authored numerous presentations and papers on the topic of sexuality and disability, in particular, and often runs workshops on this very important topic.