Some barriers mean that disabled people have to get creative. Emily Swiatek, who has non-epileptic seizures, tells us how she, like many disabled people, gets experimental in the bedroom.
E is for Experimenting is part of Scope’s A to Z of sex and disability
This blog contains frank information about sex. It’s meant for people over the age of 16, please only continue if you are 16 or older.
Being disabled encourages you to explore sex in a much more radical way. When we think about sex, the thing that comes into most people’s minds is penetrative sex.
But actually, a lot of sex – especially disabled sex – pushes the boundaries of that.
If I’ve had loads of seizures or if I’m just getting quite tired, it’s painful. And no one wants to have painful sex, so you have to explore new ways of having sex that are still fulfilling for both of us.
Sleeping with my carer
My partner is also my carer, and our sex life fluctuates – there have been times where I haven’t had sex with my partner for months and months.
It can be quite tough when there’s a care element with your partner. You wonder: are they your lover or are they your parent? But I think it’s okay to sometimes be like, ‘You know what? Sex isn’t a part of my relationship right now but it can still be fun. It can still be fulfilling.’ You just have to play and explore.
My partner and I actually have an open relationship. Part of the reason I like that is that I know that not everything has to come from me – and equally, my partner doesn’t have to be all things to me.
I value my partner’s sexuality really highly, and our open relationship means they aren’t stuck in this constant care role. So our relationship gets the space and the freedom to be a relationship.
Sex can be weird
Having sex with a disabled person can be really weird. One time I was having sex with someone, and it was really great, but then my brain flipped into seizure mode and I began to have a seizure.
We’d had a couple of drinks and the other person was really into it, so they kept going! I was shaking and they were like, ‘Brilliant!’
Eventually I managed to tap them on the shoulder and they realised I was having a seizure and were like, “Oh my god, I’m really, really sorry.”
I’m not unbangable!
When I think about sex and relationships and disability, the thing that springs to mind is Channel 4 programme The Undatables. Just look at the name – The Undatables? That’s not who we are.
I am in a long term relationship and have recently dated other people for fun on the side with full consent in an ethical way. I’m not undatable. I’m not unbangable.
Communication is key
Sometimes you’ll be in these places where you’re like, okay sex, I don’t want you. I don’t feel like you’re accessible to me.
Loads of disabled people take medications that mean we can’t have orgasms. Or our orgasms are these dull, weird versions of what they were. It’s really annoying.
But also it’s okay and if you’re with a partner where you can communicate you can still have really fun sex without an orgasm. It doesn’t have to feel that something is lacking.
What non-disabled people can learn
Non-disabled people have loads to learn from disabled people about how sex and relationships can be fulfilling in lots of different ways. It isn’t just a linear path towards sex nirvana.
I would love some non-disabled people to have a better sex life because of things they’d learnt from disabled people. That’d be amazing!
If you like Emily’s story, help us #EndtheAwkward by sharing it on your Facebook, Twitter, anywhere you like!
E is for Experimenting is part of Scope’s A to Z of sex and disability. Read the rest of the A to Z
Find out more about Emily on her blog.