Tag Archives: Sex

What it’s like being disabled and dating online

Lizzy is a 21 year-old who volunteers at a Barnardos project in Bristol, helping children and young people who have experience of health services. She’s been disabled since she was 14, and like many people uses online dating apps like Tinder. In this blog Lizzy shares her experience of online dating. 

I used Tinder for a year or so, and didn’t mention in the description, nor showed in the photos, that I had a disability.

It was something I had thought a lot about: do I tell them or not?

So, I didn’t. Not until we were a little way into talking at least. This received mixed reviews. Some people were completely cool with it. Some people responded with ‘oh my friend’s sister has that’, some asked ‘but can you still have sex though?’ (to which I loved to answer with ‘yes thank you, can you?’).

Some didn’t know what my disability was, and asked questions, and some people stopped talking to me. I was cool with all of those responses.

It left me thinking though, how interesting it would be to have two accounts, one not showing the disability at all, and the other being real about it.

Creating two profiles

I wondered how different the responses would be. Whether it was better for them to see me for who I am, and how I like to dress and look, before seeing me with my disability. Or was it better to be completely open and honest about things?

This lead me to create an account on Plenty Of Fish, where I decided that was what I would do – be honest. I still didn’t show my illness in my photos – instead I showed my smile, which represents me far more than my disability.

However in the bio on my profile, I did write that I have a chronic illness, and that I often need a wheelchair to get about.

Breaking the ice

Underneath that, I cracked a joke, about how it’s a win-win situation, because they wouldn’t have to pay for the gym, they could push me around instead, and me being sat down gives them a good view down my top.

I know that wouldn’t be to everyone’s approval, but I like to insert humour into potentially awkward situations – it breaks the ice.

Being honest about it left me feeling much more settled. As the messages started appearing in my inbox, I felt calm knowing that I’d already put it out there. Calm knowing that if they chose to talk to me, they’d chosen to talk to me knowing the situation; they weren’t walking into this with their eyes closed.

I had so many people comment about how they loved my humour and my easy going view towards my disability, and it made them feel much more at ease.

Some asked questions, they were polite, and genuinely interested. Lots of people were totally fine with the fact I need a wheelchair, and didn’t seem phased by it at all. Others weren’t so keen being seen out with me using it.

Then there was the added stress, of going on a date and getting there without having my carer come in with me.

Good and bad dates

My parents were understandably protective of me, because I was their youngest child, and due to my illness hadn’t had the ‘normal’ experiences of someone my age.  But I wasn’t naive. I knew how to meet people in the safest possible way, I needed to learn, to have good dates and bad dates, to enjoy myself and make mistakes, like everyone in their early 20’s.

I wanted to experience life, and though its true I need so much care and support, I also wanted to break away from that a little and find my own path in dating.

In my opinion, it needs to be discussed more. I’ve had so many questions in my head about what I should or shouldn’t do. And when I ask friends, some say they didn’t know much about it, and had never come across disability in dating before.

Too often people assume that disabled people don’t have fulfilling sex lives and relationships. Nothing could be further from the truth. Read Scope’s A-Z of sex and disability to find out more.  

W is for Would you? – #EndtheAwkward

The answer from these loved-up partners of disabled people is clearly ‘I would!’ Three lovers tell us what drew them to their partners, and some awkward moments they’ve encountered as a couple.

W is for Would you? is part of Scope’s A to Z of sex and disability.

Claire on Mike

Bride and groom in a field
Mike and Claire on their wedding day last year

“He instantly made me laugh which hasn’t stopped since!”

I first met Mike 11 years ago through being introduced by a friend on a night out at a local bar.

We said hello etc., and at the end of the night Mike offered my friend and I a lift home. We accepted gratefully as taxis were a nightmare at that time of night!

He dropped my friend off first and then dropped me home and as I was getting out of the car he cheekily asked me for my phone number. He later told me that that was all part of his plan when offering me a lift!

We met up for a meal a week later and a few times after that and starting seeing each other more regularly.

First impressions

My first impression of Mike was I thought he was very charming and very good looking! He was so sweet and I could tell straight away he was interested in me.

I wasn’t really looking for a boyfriend at the time but there was just something very intriguing about him, and he instantly made me laugh which hasn’t stopped since!

Attitudes

Woman standing, man in wheelchair and toddler
Mike, Claire and their toddler

Mike may get the odd glance from people when he’s in his wheelchair, and again people do stare when he’s walking with his crutch, as he walks with quite a visible limp. But Mike is never bothered by this.

He usually ignores it – or if it’s children staring they will quite often come straight up to him and ask what’s wrong with him and he’s happy to tell them about his disability.

He feels it’s important to let children know that some people are and will be different to them.

He sometimes sees parents almost trying to drag their kids away looking embarrassed; I guess they find it awkward to interact with a disabled person.

But Mike would rather they let their kids ask him so they won’t grow up not knowing how to approach and deal with someone who’s disabled.

Filming for ‘End the Awkward’

The one time where people were really staring at us and murmuring to one another walking past, was when we were filming the ‘kiss’ scene for the ‘End the Awkward’ campaign.

We got quite a few strange looks then, as I was sat on Mike’s lap whilst he was in his chair and we had to snog the life out of each other… A number of times due to all the takes!! I guess people were just intrigued.

Popping the question

Man in wheelchair with toddler on lap
Mike with the couple’s two-year-old on holiday

We were engaged for 12 years before getting married. Mike proposed to me in Paris! We had gone there for his birthday.

I remember on the second night there I was in the shower in the hotel and when I came out, there he was on one knee wobbling all over the place (he’d been practicing it and I’d walked out just as he was struggling to get up again!)

We laughed our heads off. We finally got married last August 2014 and we have a beautiful two-year-old son.

Lindsey on Peter

A very awkward taxi moment… “Men need sex from a real woman”

Woman and man smiling at the camera in wedding clothes
Lindsey Marie and her husband Peter on their wedding day.

I’m in a taxi, we have stopped en route to our destination to get cash out of an ATM.

My other half jumps out to do it, leaving me with the driver. The driver makes conversation.

“Is he your family?” He asks with a smile.
“My other half” I respond.
“Oh, your husband. Does he look after you?”
“We look after each other, it’s a marriage” I tell him, somewhat pointedly but still nicely.
“He must love you to make such sacrifices” He then offers.

Astonished and trying not to make snap judgements towards his meaning, I give him the chance to clarify:
“I’m not sure what you mean by sacrifices”

He stammers a hint of embarrassment but proceeds, “well men need sex from a real woman, can you still do that?”

Shocked, humiliated and angry I tell him: “My husband makes no sacrifices in that regard but I’m sure he will appreciate your concern.

Now you may not consider me a real woman, but I am a real customer and I need a real taxi driver to keep his opinions to himself and drive this car, can you still do that?”

My husband, having got the cash from the machine climbs back in the cab and we continued our journey in awkward silence.

Diane on Mik

Diane and Mik's faces, Diane smiling, Mik with a bit of a scowl

Mik and I have known each other for 26 years, been a couple for 20 and married for 10 this November.

We met out on a Friday night at the Electric Ballroom in Camden, which was one of London’s premiere alternative clubs back then.

I thought he was really good looking, very cool but a bit of a lady killer. Everyone wanted to go out with Mik, but I wasn’t sure if he was a ‘player’ or not.

Inappropriate questions

Over the years we have been asked so many inappropriate and personal questions, but the weirdest thing is that women just think they can sit on Mik’s lap without asking, or even knowing him!

They get a bit of a shock when I pick them up and unceremoniously drop them on the floor. Mik’s far too polite, but I’m not!

We were in a nightclub once and someone came up to me, pointed at Mik and asked “Is that your husband? You must be a really nice person!” We both got so angry.

Us against the world

We just handle these situations with a sharp retort. It kind of brings us closer. “You and me against the world baby!”

It always amazes me how ignorant people can be about disability, especially as when we were younger, on the alternative scene, it wasn’t a big deal.

We didn’t care if someone was different because they were disabled. We all wanted to be different and individual – and Mik was that with bells on. He has always been a one off!

W for Would you? is part of Scope’s A to Z of sex and disability. Read the rest of the A to Z.

P is for PDAs (Public Displays of Affection) – #EndtheAwkward

Ever been put off your food by couples’ café canoodling, or been caught getting steamy with your lover in public? We’ve all had awkward PDA moments… For disabled people and their partners, getting intimate can lead to particularity  memorable PDAs. 

P is for PDAs is part of Scope’s A to Z of sex and disability.

Marie from Milton Keynes

Marie and Dan kiss outside the church on their wedding day
Marie and Dan share a kiss on their wedding day

“Dan and I had just started dating. It was midnight and we were on the way home from the pub, holding hands. Dan’s into astronomy so we stopped to look at the stars. What could be more romantic on a beautiful evening? A kiss seemed like the natural thing to do. After a moment, I became aware that a police car was driving past very slowly.

The officer was staring out of the window – eyes on sticks – like we were committing some kind of crime. He was concentrating so hard on us that he ended up mounting the pavement and crashing into a street sign. We couldn’t believe it! A few seconds later we heard the wail of the sirens and he sped off, clearly embarrassed. We still laugh about that incident now.” Read more from Marie and Dan.

Martyn from Cambridge

Man in wheelchair hugging woman
Martyn cuddles up with fiance Kasia

“My fiancé Kasia and I were out in a pub. Someone was doing the typical thing of talking to her and not me. After breaking through the stereotype that I couldn’t speak, the person engaged with me. To then say how great it was that my sister had got me out of the house! We just laughed and kissed each other.”

Kate from Truro

“I went on holiday with my other half last year and we got talking to two really sweet old ladies from America. They thought he was my brother, but rather than setting them straight I made sure they saw us kiss. The look on their faces was priceless!”

Kelly and Jarath from Birmingham

Man leaning over woman in a wheelchair, looking at each other and smiling
Kelly and Jarath get intimate at a festival

Kelly: “My husband Jarath and I got married this year. The asylum where we got married had steps at the front and a ramp at the back. My brother is in a wheelchair as well and he’d come round with us to the back and a lot of the residents of the place were saying, ‘Congratulations!’ but they were saying it to me and my brother! Because my brother’s in a wheelchair like me, they thought we’d got married. Like I couldn’t possibly get married to someone who’s not in a wheelchair.”

Jarath: “In the cinema, (which is probably the weirdest place where people would have a problem with people cuddling), we’re in the carer wheelchair space, where it’s kind of a bit awkward to cuddle anyway. So I’m normally a bit leaned over to Kel, and she’s a bit leaned over, and you will get the row behind you going ‘whaaa?’ Just having a good old nose. Whatever they’re talking about they go silent for a good few minutes! They’re thinking ‘what are they doing? Is she alright? Are they meant to be doing that?’ You get that quite a bit, it’s entertaining.

You know people are stopping and staring but you do kind of tune it out. You can spend forever getting wound up. You can look, but it doesn’t bother us.” Read more about Kelly and Jarath.

P is for PDA is part of Scope’s A to Z of sex and disability. Read the rest of the A to Z.

On nights out, strangers ask me if I can have sex… #EndTheAwkward

Sam Renke with long blonde hairGuest post from actor Samantha Renke, who is supporting Scope’s End the Awkward campaign and stars in our Awkward Moments film. She has brittle bones and uses a wheelchair.

Not to blow my own trumpet or anything – but I’m a good dresser, some people think I’m attractive, and I do attract good-looking guys.

I love dancing and going out, usually with a big group of friends. All of us tend to be quite loud – you’d definitely notice us in a nightclub.

Because I have a condition that’s commonly known as brittle bones, my bones break easily and I have to use a wheelchair all the time. I am also only four feet tall.

As you might imagine, I have had plenty of awkward moments on my nights out!

‘What’s your favourite sexual position?’

Sometimes people don’t seem to know how to start a conversation with me, so they end up asking very direct questions. Like whether I can have sex, for example.

I wouldn’t go up to someone in the street and say, ‘Excuse me, what’s your favourite sexual position?’

Or I get guys coming up to me and saying: ‘While you’re down there…’ Hilarious. I’m a northern lass and I can take as much as they can give, but I also like to be wooed and treated with common decency. I am a lady after all.

Generally, though, curiosity is a good thing, and disabled people will always come across it. I want to deal with it in a positive way. Ignorance breeds ignorance – how are people going to learn if they don’t ask questions?

Being comfortable with myself

It has taken me a long time to be comfortable in my disability, but I certainly am now.

When I started first going out aged 18 with the girls, I didn’t really get much attention. Boys wouldn’t want to be seen approaching someone in a wheelchair. You could tell some boys had egged each other on to talk to me in quite a jokey way.

Even today, I mainly have relationships with people who have started off as friends, because the barriers have already been broken down. With strangers in bars, it has always been harder.

But even there, it is all about bringing the barriers down. I try and encourage people to be more open-minded.

Don’t be scared!

Black and white profile shot of Sam Renke smiling
Samantha Renke is supporting Scope’s End the Awkward campaign

When I’m attracted to someone, I tend to make nervous jokes – like ‘I’ve never broken a bone during sex’, or ‘I do really want a family one day.’ They’re things non-disabled people would normally say later in a relationship, but I feel I have to do it quite quickly.

But other than that, there’s not much difference between my life and anyone else’s. We all want friendships and love, we want to date, and as disabled people we’re probably more comfortable in our own skin than a lot of others.

You’ll find that most disabled people are fun people to be around. There’s no need to be so scared of approaching us, or to be worrying about getting things wrong. I want people to learn something from meeting me, so if they meet someone else like me, they won’t feel that same kind of awkwardness.

We find a lot of situations quite humorous, and we don’t get offended easily. We’ve probably heard it before!

Do you have an awkward story to share? Submit your awkward stories, and we’ll publish our favourites on our blog and social media. 

Find out how Scope is ending the awkward this summer.

“Sex can be awkward if you are hard of hearing” #100days100stories

Jennie Williams, director of disability charity Enhance the UK, shares her awkward sex and dating moments as part of our End the Awkward campaign. Two thirds of people who are not disabled feel awkward around disabled people. We want to put an end to this, break down barriers and maybe even fall in love.

Update: Jennie’s story has inspired Malteaser’s to create an advert based on her story. Watch the advert on Youtube.

Jennie Williams, founder of Enhance the UK
Jennie is the founder of charity Enhance the UK

I have degenerative hearing loss, which is believed to be linked to a heart condition I have called long QT, also known as sudden death syndrome.

For communicating, I wear two hearing aids which I rely on a lot. I am also an extremely good lip reader and use British Sign Language (BSL).

People tend to associate hard of hearing with old people, so people often say to me, “Oh, yeah, my Nan wears a hearing aid, we shout at her. I think she has selected hearing… Chuckle chuckle.” I would be a very rich woman if I had a pound for every time I heard that, and yep, I mean ‘heard that’ because I can still hear things.

Telling people about my disability

When I am at work, I tell people from the off that I am hard of hearing and for them to please look at me when they are speaking to me or keep their hands away from their mouths. When I am in a social situation, however, things can be very different for me.

I tend to just struggle on a lot of the time, laugh when everyone else is laughing, strain to keep up and, even worse still, I apologise. I guess I don’t want to embarrass people and make them feel like they are not including me.

Dating with a hearing impairment

There can be some real perks of dating someone with a hearing impairment – we can get you into the theatre for free or cheap – same with the train. A lot of us can lip-read conversations that you were never meant to know about and get all the gossip. Winning!

Though dating someone with hearing loss can be awkward at times. When you are getting down to things and having a good old snog, the last thing you want is your hearing aids whistling every time the hot man – in my mind he is always hot – puts his fingers through your hair.

And then your aids end up flying out of your ears, onto the floor and the dog runs in and eats one of them. That is a true story, killed the moment I can tell you.

My favourite awkward date

I was single, living in London and looking for a boyfriend, so I did what many people do – I joined a dating site. I was chatting to a guy who looked cute and we had a bit of banter by email.

We met on the South Bank and went onto one of the boats on the river and had a drink. We chatted about work as you do. I may or may not have been twisting my hair and trying to make my lips look all pouty and thinking, ‘I really fancy this guy.’

I went to get my lip gloss from my bag and out fell both of my hearing aid batteries. They are really small and the guy said, “what on earth do they power?” I explained my hearing loss and he replied, “why do deaf people do this?”

Cut to him waving his hands in the air, scrunching his face up with the tongue in his bottom lip making weird groaning sounds. I thought about throwing my drink in his face but that would have been childish, and a waste of a drink, so I explained about British Sign Language and the culture behind it.

I don’t think he got it at all but he was embarrassed. He didn’t know what to say, so he offered to take me for a ride on his massive motorbike – not a euphemism – around London and buy me dinner. I am very shallow.

My next favourite subject… sex

Sex is great. But it can be a little awkward if you are hard of hearing and someone is trying to whisper sweet nothings in your ear. You can mishear totally which results in jumping up, turning on the lights and saying, “you want to do what to me?!” Again, true story, and I won’t tell you what I thought he was saying.

When I was younger I was having a fling with someone who was deaf and we always had to have sex by the door in case his olds came in. Or we would put towels down against the door to try and block it from being opened, but always having one eye open just in case. Real romance.

Undressing disability

Jennie with her partner Jonno and a dog
Jennie and her partner Jonno

I started the campaign Undressing Disability three years ago.

It’s about challenging misconceptions around disability and ensuring that better access to sexual health, sexual awareness and sex education is granted to disabled people.

Most people I know and talk to want a loving relationship, to feel loved and to love. Any sense of intimacy between two people who care about one another is so important. Even if it’s a one night stand – let’s face it, most of us have not only slept with people we ‘love.’

We all want to be found attractive and sexual relationships are the most natural thing in the world. Sadly, Scope’s new research shows that that only five per cent of people who aren’t disabled have ever asked out, or been on a date with, a disabled person.

Am I surprised by this? No, of course I am not. Am I motivated to keep pushing the campaign until these statistics change? You bet I am!

Help us End the Awkward this Valentine’s Day.

Find out how you can get involved in our 100 days, 100 stories campaign

Find out more about Enhance the UK on their website.

Being on Call the Midwife gave me the sense of being an actor in my own right

Guest post from Colin Young who will feature in tonight’s Call the Midwife

Jacob and Sally
Jacob and Sally played by Colin Young and Sarah Gordy

The reaction to this Sunday’s Call The Midwife has been overwhelming!

The episode features my character Jacob, who lives in an institution for disabled people. We learn about his relationship with another resident, Sally Harper, who has Down’s Syndrome. The story follows their struggle to be together as everyone around them rejects their right to be in love.

The media has described the episode as the most controversial story line yet. For me it’s highlighted an aspect of our social history that has not had the recognition it deserves: disabled people in love.

Meet Jacob

My character Jacob first appeared in series two of Call The Midwife. Living in St Gideon’s institution, he symbolised the segregation of disabled people in post-war Britain.

In the episode a couple need to decide if their child with spina-bifida should be put into St Gideon’s. Jacob steers them towards bringing their child up in the community with the line: “there’s a biscuit factory next door… we get the broken ones”.

Viewed by over 10 million people, people praised the show for using a disabled actor.

When we meet Jacob again in today’s episode he’s a responsible young man, contributing to the running of St Gideon’s.

How things have changed

Colin and Sarah
Colin and Sarah on This Morning

Lots of the media attention has been on my own love life. I’ve always tried to be as independent as possible, with support to enable me to achieve this. I believe that dating should be an ordinary part of my independence.

People aren’t as shocked at this as they were back in the 1950s. To see disabled people in a relationship isn’t the taboo it used to be. But it’s still difficult for disabled people to date.

Inaccessible venues, pressures to conform to stereotypes, and people’s attitudes all make dating challenging.

Changing attitudes towards disabled actors

I believe the courage shown by Call The Midwife will encourage writers and agents to include disabled people in their programmes. I hope we will see more disabled people in ordinary roles, where the focus is on their inclusion as equal members of the cast.

It was incredible to get my first professional acting role on such a popular drama. Playing the role of Jacob has been an amazing honour, but the best part has been the acceptance as an actor by the cast and crew. During the filming I felt like one of the family – chatting with Miranda in make-up, Helen and Bryony between scenes, and sharing banter with the sound crew. It gave me the sense of being an actor in my own right.

You can watch Colin in tonight’s episode at 8pm on BBC1.