James lives with cerebral palsy, but he doesn’t let that get in the way of him having a sex life. Sometimes it means asking for support around things lots of people get to keep private. Sometimes it means using resources and technology in creative ways. Sometimes it means risking rejection. James doesn’t have everything he wants, but he has high hopes for the future.
Many people we support are interested in meeting people for friendship and dating. They may have limited opportunities to socialize, and limited information about where & when people tend to meet and mingle. This sometimes leads to things like asking strangers on the bus out on a date. They may have little context for how relationships progress and change. This sometimes leads to things like planning a wedding right after getting someone’s phone number.
In our videos, people of all abilities discuss where they met their partners, and how their relationships progressed over time. This gives a bit more nuanced information about dating than we get to see in a typical TV sitcom or romantic comedy film.
We can get so focused on talking about the risks of sex (like pregnancy or assault or STIs) that we forget that many people like to have sex (alone in masturbation or with others) because it feels pleasurable. Talking about pleasure in sex acknowledges one of the main reasons why people choose to have it.
People with cognitive disabilities are often denied information about how sex can be pleasurable. This can leave them with the impression that it’s a dangerous thing best left alone – thus denying them the opportunity to make an informed decision about whether sex is something they want to pursue.
Many people who are having partnered sex are discouraged from valuing their own pleasure. They may be having sex in ways that are pleasurable for the other person, but not for them. Talking about pleasure makes it a valid thing to want to get out of sex, and to negotiate for in sexual relationships.
There are lots of products out there like toys, lubricant, and erotica that many people use to increase their sexual pleasure (alone in masturbation or with others). People with cognitive disabilities who are having solo or partnered sex are often denied access to information about these products. This reduces their potential for pleasure. It can also lead to injury. For example, people sometimes injure their genitals by using slippery but caustic products as lubricants. (shampoos, detergents, chemically perfumed lotions etc.) Safer products specifically designed for this purpose are available, and people deserve to know about them so they don’t hurt themselves.
Our videos embrace sexual pleasure as valid and positive, but they also acknowledge that people have varied experiences with sex, and that there are many nonsexual ways people can experience pleasure and intimacy with their partners.
Sex education happens to everybody every day, whether we like it or not. We are bombarded with images, messages, and ideas about sex from our televisions, billboards, iPods, computers, and magazines. This ‘education’ is factually unreliable, and it often reinforces a particular value set. Some people are objectified. Others are ridiculed or erased. This ‘education’ is also a one-way monologue. It’s not a dialogue. There isn’t room for questioning or reflection.
In the midst of all this, we could all use someone reliable and trustworthy to talk to about sexuality. For people with cognitive disabilities, picking the right person or resource is important. Our videos discuss what qualities to look for in a confidante. We also list services that provide accurate, agenda-free sexual health information. You can also find this information on our Resources page.
We also discuss who NOT to talk to about sex. (Strangers are usually a bad choice, for example.)