N is for NSFW – #EndtheAwkward

Erotic fiction is definitely NSFW but it’s perfect reading material to get you going. And why wouldn’t the ‘Lusty Lady’ use a wheelchair or the ‘Horny Hunk’ be deaf?

N is for NSFW is part of Scope’s A to Z of sex and disability

Writer Penelope Friday talks to us about mixing sex and disability in the pages of her erotic fiction.

I came into writing erotica through fan fiction. Fan fiction (often called ‘fanfic’) is a class of writing in which you take other people’s characters and give them adventures of their own. A large proportion of this is dedicated to writing ‘adult’ fiction – no matter whether the original characters were engaged in sexual activity or not!

I always feel as if I should apologise for coming to the genre through fanfic, as it’s seen as a ‘lesser’ form of writing, but actually the amount of fun I’ve had – and the amount of friends I’ve made – through writing it means that I decided that I didn’t want to suggest that I regret my beginnings!

When I first started having erotic fiction published, I didn’t originally intend to write so much on disability and sexuality issues.

To be honest, it didn’t occur to me that it was needed until I wrote an article for Disability Now and acknowledged the lack of disabled characters in my fiction.

After that, the more I thought about it, the more it bothered me. It wasn’t just that I hadn’t written erotica with protagonists with disabilities; I hadn’t found disabled characters in anyone else’s work.

It was as if disabled people never had sex: we didn’t seem to exist in mainstream erotica.

Sadly, this “disabled people don’t have sex” attitude is one I’ve experienced in real life: I have an invisible disability (ME) and am treated like two different people, depending on whether I’m in my wheelchair or not.

In the former case, people never catch my eye, let alone show any interest in me. While I can’t say that everyone falls over themselves to flirt with me when I’m without the wheelchair, certainly I’ve had some attention!

With this in mind, I wrote my first story with a disabled narrator, Picking the Man. The story was written from the point of view of Ellie, a wheelchair-user who’s quite upfront about the fact that she’s sexually active.

The story involves her chatting up a non-disabled man with whom she’d like to have sex. Given my own experience, I wanted to face (and challenge) the attitude issue. Ellie describes the potential date as thinking: “It sounds like she’s flirting with me. But she can’t be – she’s in a wheelchair!”

Overall I’m interested in people. Everything I write – erotica or not – is based upon the people in the story. Yes, I quite often write about people having lots of sex, but I start with the characters, not the sex. I imagine a person, and it is their experiences that I write about.

As well as writing about characters who are disabled, I write across the sexuality spectrum: I’ve probably written more LGBT fiction than straight fiction. My protagonists may be male or female (or neither), straight or queer, disabled or not. It’s about the people, and who they are – not what they are.

It has become something of an obsession to write characters with disability into my erotic stories, many of which have been accepted by mainstream publishers. I think there’s a place for dedicated disability publishers, just as there is for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender publishers. It’s good to have places that we minority groups feel we can rely on to acknowledge our existence!

But it’s also important for mainstream publications to take erotica that features disabled people. Some of my erotica has been published in anthologies where my story will be the only one with a disabled protagonist and it reaches a different audience, mostly non-disabled.

I want to challenge these people’s assumptions about disability. I write from the viewpoint of the disabled protagonist, trying to give an insight into the character and demonstrate that people with disabilities don’t actually spend all our lives thinking about our disability any more than non-disabled people would consider the way their bodies work.

I occasionally get emails or letters from people who really appreciate the fact that I’m writing about disabled characters, and I treasure them immensely. I want to normalise disability because, after all, for disabled people, living with disability is normal. This is how our lives are.

And yes, we have sex!

Keep abreast (see what we did?!) of Penni’s writing on her website or you can also find her writing regularly on disablity issues for the Huffington Post.  

And if you fancy a raunchy read, here’s a list of erotic literature featuring disabled protagonists 

N is NSFW is part of Scope’s A to Z of sex and disability. Read the rest of the A to Z

I want to make young disabled people’s voices heard – Aaron’s story

Guest post from Aaron, 15, who has cerebral palsy and lives in Waltham Forest, London. Our stories team spoke to him and his mum Sonia, a befriender with our Face 2 Face service, over the summer, and we’ve worked together on this article.

My dream is to go into fitness. I’m dedicated to fitness; I want to get a ripped body! And I want to share my passion with other people so they can get fit themselves. I’d like to be a fitness instructor.

I go to a special school at the moment. I’m doing functional skills, but I would like to do English, maths, science until I get my GCSEs, so I’m thinking of staying until I’m 19 and then going to college.

Aaron in an outdoor yard space, smiling at camera


I work in a volunteer group called Bigga Fish, and we’re planning a big festival in the Olympic Park at the moment. I can’t really tell you a lot until we launch it.

I’m also on the Legacy Youth Panel, and what we do there is talk about what to do on the Olympic Park site.

They’re putting a slide on the Orbit sculpture at Olympic Park – that was to do with us.

We suggested it, because when we went up to the Orbit, there was nothing there. It was just boring, and it wouldn’t attract local people or tourists.

Getting young people’s voices heard

Close-up of three trophies presented to Aaron for community work
Some of Aaron’s awards 

I do community work because I’m interested in getting young people’s voices heard.

One thing I would like to do is meet with Stella Creasy, my local MP, and talk to her about services for disabled people in Waltham Forest.

Everywhere I turn, there are services closing because they don’t have enough funding from the council. I used to go to several of them after school and at the weekends, but now they have been closed down.

I think young people’s voices are not heard enough, because I think they would be asking why all these things are being closed.

What I’d say to my MP

I want to say to Stella: ‘Why are there no services? Why couldn’t you cut back on road surfacing or speed humps, or stuff we don’t need?’ I think the priorities are not right.

Aaron and his mum Sonia sitting at a table talking
Aaron and his mum Sonia, a Scope Face 2 Face befriender

If these services keep closing, there won’t be enough to go round. Even now people are having to go out of their local borough. Disabled people will just be isolated.

It’s the worst thing that could happen. Disabled families will now feel isolated; they’ll be thinking ‘Where do I go? I have no one to talk to.’ It is a sad thought.

A better future would be loads more services in Waltham Forest, so disabled children and families have somewhere to go for support.

In one way I want to be a politician, but at the moment I would rather be on the outside tackling the problems rather than be on the inside.

Do you have a story to share about disability? Email us at stories@scope.org.uk