Y is for Yes! (Oh yes!) – #EndtheAwkward

Yes, (Oh yes!) to seeing more on screen loving with disabled actors and actresses playing the romantic lead. It’s the most entertaining and exciting way to break down the attitude that disabled people aren’t interested in sex.

As disabled actors recreate the famous ‘faking it’ scene from the classic rom-com When Harry Met Sally, Storme writes about the lack of romantic lead roles for disabled actors.

Y is for Yes (oh!) yes! is part of Scope’s A to Z of sex and disability

(Sorry – this video is only available to watch in the UK)

Actor Storme Toolis caused quite a stir when she appeared in what was thought to be the only sex scene on UK TV involving a disabled character. At the time, Storme was starring as Holly Griffin in the long-running BBC1 drama New Tricks.

I’d love to play Shakespeare’s Juliet or Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennett. But because disabled people are not conventionally seen as sexual beings there is a huge lack of disabled people in romantic roles.

The majority of society remains uncomfortable with disability and sexuality, and that is reflected in the very few roles disabled people do get to play.

I think things are changing slowly, but I would not say dramatically. It is going to take a while. It’s so important to see disabled people in the theatre, on TV, everywhere. It was the same with race 30 or 40 years ago, disability is a fact of life – if you don’t see life on screen or in theatre it’s not a true reflection of society. We need to do a lot of work before disabled people are seen in desirable and romantic roles.

I’m doing my best to change things. Recently, I’ve been working on a theatre project with the Barbican called Redefining Juliet. It’s a play based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but changing the conventional casting of the female lead. I have a lot of ‘different’ Juliets, a larger woman, disabled women; women who don’t usually get to play these types of roles.

Over half the cast is disabled. I wanted to challenge traditional perceptions of what society finds attractive and show different types of women in a desirable role. The response has been overwhelmingly good.

Scandalous

I did a very small sex scene in a programme called New Tricks a few years ago. All the publicity focused on this one scene.

The media was always asking if I was comfortable with it, if I was made to do it. I really enjoyed myself and I think it’s so important to show that disabled people have sex like everyone else.

I don’t know what everyone was so uncomfortable about, but I certainly wasn’t.  It was such an ordinary thing – a kiss and then a bit of a fumble with clothes. I do that sort of thing all the time. Lots of actors do nude scenes, Game of Thrones is full of them, but because someone is in a wheelchair and shows a bit of flesh it shocks people. It was so tame!

I’m not sure if the reaction would be different now. My family is from Ireland and there was a headline in the Irish Sun saying ‘Disabled sex scene causes scandal in New Tricks’.

Getting over it

Actress Storme Toolis laughingI always felt like I wanted to do a sex scene. I wanted to feel like I could be seen in that way – sexual and desirable.

With roles like Elizabeth Bennett, they’re just characters, anyone would want to play that role. I have the same desires as anyone else, but, because I can’t walk, society doesn’t allow me to be seen in that way.

I love burlesque.  It would be great to get involved with something like that. Sex and desire is part of enjoying life, disabled people shouldn’t be excluded from that. It’s part of life as a young woman, finding out and experiencing things, being able to express myself.

The lack of disabled people as sexual beings on screen reflects how the world is. Initially it’s going to cause some controversy, but it’s important to show it. Disabled people have sex lives, just because you don’t see it on TV does not mean it doesn’t happen.

When I did the Romeo and Juliet production, all these women that would never normally be cast in that role, as soon as they began performing their impairment or differences disappeared and they were desirable, sexual beings, they were Juliets.

The audience was far more receptive that we thought. Once they saw the actors in the part, they didn’t see their impairments. It shows that once you bring diversity and inclusivity to what people watch, they aren’t fazed by it – they get over it.

Y is for Yes! (Oh yes!) is part of Scope’s A to Z of sex and disability. Read the rest of the A to Z

X is for X-rated #EndTheAwkward

Spinal cord injuries and other impairments can affect the way people feel aroused and reach orgasm. Broadcaster and journalist Mik Scarlet is unable to get an erection after a spinal injury in his teens. He explains how this has led him to explore alternative erogenous zones, multiple orgasms and no end of X-rated fun…

X for X-rated 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, so please only continue if you are 16 or older.

Sex is so much more than the method for making babies. It should be fun, exciting and a great way of bonding with a partner, whether they are the love of your life, your current squeeze or a one night stand.

It’s this element of their sex life that many spinal injured people feel they have lost, especially early on when they are learning to live with their injury.

But trust me – nothing could be further from the truth.

If you’ve lost the ability to gain erections, but can still feel aroused, then with a little effort you will find that you can achieve multiple orgasms. It transpires that it is the erectile system that prevents men enjoying sex in the way women can, and once you experience this you tend to not miss a ‘hard-on’ in quite the same way.

For those who have lost sensation, there is now a growing group of therapists and disabled people, myself included, that are promoting various ways of turning the erogenous zones on the parts you can feel into orgasmic zones, which opens up a whole new world of sexuality.

There are many differing techniques so it might be worth trying a few to see which suits you. But trust me; it really is possible to orgasm even if you are paralysed from the neck down.

Sure, sex after a spinal injury will be different than it was before, but with the right attitude, support and partner it can be better.

When I incurred my spinal injury I thought my sex life was over, but nothing could beat the sex I have now. A lot of that is due to my injury and how it made me re-examine what it means to have sex.

• Read Mik’s article about sex and spinal injuries in full at Pos’ability magazine.  

In this video, Mik reveals how to create orgasmic erogenous zones anywhere on your body and how to enjoy “thought orgasms” by conjuring up your sexiest, X-rated fantasies.

• This video first appeared on the Wellcome Trust’s blog, Mosaic.

Helping with the extra costs of disability: our new money information hub

Following the Extra Costs Commission, a year-long independent inquiry into the extra costs faced by disabled people, we’ve been working with the Money Advice Service to develop the information on our website so it has a greater focus on the needs of disabled people as consumers.

The Extra Costs Commission found that disability-specific information can be hard to find on the web unless you know it exists. As a result, we’ve created a new area of our website to provide impartial money management and cost cutting advice to disabled people.

We hope that this new hub helps to filter useful information and that our online community offers a space for disabled consumers to share shopping experiences and tips.

Extra costs of disability

On average, life costs you £550 more a month if you’re disabled. These costs make it harder to save and increase the likelihood of falling into debt. Here’s how our new hub can help:

Managing your money

To help manage the extra costs of disability, here are a few positive steps you can take:

Bank accounts, credit cards and loans

As well as free and impartial money advice, our new money section features video guides on how to choose a bank account and access to online tools that can help you compare prices.

Savvy disabled consumers

We’ve also got money saving tips on a range of consumer issues, including:

Visit our money hub to find out more, or share your own money saving tips on our online community.