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Disability = Shagability!

by Emma Bowler

Sex and disability. Never the twain shall meet? They say it's the last taboo. Pah! Disabled people are out there enjoying a slice of the action.

Ouch gets under the covers with disabled people who are 'getting some' to ask what the secret is to their success.
Interlinked male and female symbols

Attitude is everything

You only have to look at some of the most beautiful people on the planet - Brad Pitt, Jude Law, Jennifer Aniston, Kate Winslet - to realise that even with stunning looks, the path to love rarely runs smoothly.

Of course they can help, but the one thing that comes up again and again when you ask disabled people how they hit upon success in the dating game is attitude - you need to ooze positive, sexy, fun-loving, 'up for it' ATTITUDE.
Pamela Walker
Getting the balance right is important though, as wheelchair user Pamela Walker explains:

"When I go to a party, I'm going there to have a good time. I approach sex as if there is always going to be enough, not from a place of starvation. This makes a huge difference in how approachable I come across to others."

Cathy Wheatley sustained severe injuries to her face, including losing an eye, when she was involved in a car accident nearly 20 years ago. She found that adopting the right attitude turned her life around:

"When I saw myself after my accident I thought: that's it, no man will find me desirable now. This turned out to be the most liberating experience of my life. With the all-time low starting point of 'no one is ever going to fancy me', I wasn't going to go out to impress - I was just being me. Within three months of being out of hospital, I started dating someone!"
Felice Vaiana, AKA Mistress Maihem
Felice Vaiani, AKA Mistress Maihem, who has cerebral palsy, learned assertiveness to turn stereotypes people might have of her on their head:

"I always despised being seen as weak and fragile, so I slowly learned assertiveness. When I was of legal age, I sexed myself up, got a good wardrobe and good friends. I am now both a professional and lifestyle Mistress - or as the straight community call me, a dominatrix. The physical and emotional fulfilment I get from being in control has a great domino effect."

Obviously you don't have to turn yourself into a dominatrix! But the one thing all these people have in common is that they have confidence in themselves.

Bernadette Castle, a counselling psychologist who runs intimacy workshops for Changing Faces, the charity that supports people with disfigurement of the face or body from any cause, talks about maximising your success on the relationship front:

"You need to believe in yourself. If you don't feel attractive or worthy of a relationship it will be very difficult to convince someone else that you are."

Bernadette emphasises that the language we use is important too:

"Use descriptive language, rather than emotive language that is weighted to the negative. For example, if someone has a scar: "my scar is about 5 inches long, it's a bit red ..." rather than words like ugly, sore or horrible. It's about normalising the disability. This can work for all disabilities, not just disfigurement."

If you've got it, flaunt it!

Dave Kent
So, armed with your positive attitude, what else can you do to bolster your sex appeal?

Make the most of and draw attention to your best features - be they kissable lips, sexy legs or sparkling eyes. However, Dave Kent, who is blind, reminds us that there's more to dating than just looking the part - smelling the part is also vital.

"People expect disabled people to smell, so if you have an 'eau de toilet' rather than an 'eau de toilette' about you that's not going to help. I can smell when someone is a minger!"

Get out there

Now. There's no point being doled up to the nines and sitting at home. The next step is that you've got to get out there and meet the masses. As Cathy points out, there's no harm in a bit of practice:
Close-up of a man and woman kissing
"You are going to have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find the right one. Enjoy kissing the frogs in the meanwhile!"

Go where you will meet like-minded people. Think about joining an evening class, health club or course related to your interests.

Develop your own techniques. Simon Snowdon, a blind dater, came up with his own technique for checking out the totty:

"I'm always getting women coming up to pat the guide dog, but I never had a clue what they were like. So we came up with the 'Snooker Ball Grading System', where a sighted friend who knows me well would rate the woman for me by cleverly working a colour into the chat. A red wouldn't be worth bothering with, pink was pretty hot, but Black was obviously a top scorer."

Sex is fun

Two interlinked female symbols
So you've been out there, you've scored, and now you are back at home, or in the car, or in a field somewhere.

The thing about sex with disabled people is that often it has to be different. But as Pamela found, our differences and 'inabilities' can be turned around to make sex fun and memorable:

"Room-mates teased one guy I dated a lot. They asked him if he ever got his pubic hairs caught in my callipers. Today I use a powerchair and I make jokes about the great positions one can get into using a wheelchair. I also like pointing out to people that the only time I am 'bound' to my chair is with my consent and a couple of straps of leather."

As disabled people, it's in our nature to do things imaginatively with interesting solutions, so when it comes to sex the same rules apply. Don't give up because you can't do things the 'normal' way - be creative, and read some books if you need inspiration.

When things go flop in the night, part 1: the teenage years

A common thread seems to be that if the teenage years are hard for non-disabled people, they can be even harder for disabled teens. Pamela remembers it well:
Two interlinked male symbols
"Since I was a teenager, I've known there's no Prince Charming fighting his way through thorns to get to me. I knew that boys my age were competing for the best 'catch' around, and that a short girl on crutches was not going to be considered a good catch. So I bided my time, knowing that someday I'd be old enough for guys my age to consider more than appearances. And sure enough, I was right. By the time I was 20, I was getting plenty of invites!"

When things go flop in the night, part 2: after the teenage years

Even when you are through the years of adolescent angst, things still might not always go quite to plan when you are out on the pull. Dave remembers one such scenario:

"I was dancing with a girl I really fancied. I was getting right down to it, dancing away, grooving. I felt a tap on my shoulder. She said, 'What are you doing?' and I replied, 'Dancing with you'. 'No you're not,' she said. 'You're dancing with a pillar.' Somehow in my boogie blunderland I had spun myself round and was dancing with my back to her. Needless to say, we didn't end up going out."

Dave's top blindie tip here is to "surgically graft yourself to the person you are with to avoid confusion".
Cathy Wheatley
Indeed, a sense of humour can be the best thing to see you through such sticky patches, as Cathy recalls:

"I don't have an eyelid and I have a false eye. I remember one occasion when I was making love to this guy, and all of a sudden my false eye fell right out onto his chest. We giggled like drains about that one! I thought: this is a brave man worth hanging onto!"

At the end of the day, not all sexual liaisons are earth-movers. Sometimes it just doesn't work out, the phone never rings and you just feel lousy. The important thing here is not to automatically blame these experiences on disability - remember that they happen to everyone, even Brad.

Of course, if all this good advice still means that the only thing you ever end up in bed with is a Barbara Cartland novel, then just take comfort in the fact that biochemically sex is said to be no different from eating large quantities of chocolate. Anyone fancy sharing a Mars bar?

Note: Some names have been changed to shield parents from the reality that their disabled offspring don't just use the bedroom for getting a nice bit of rest.
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