Though a taboo subject in many communities, discussions around sex, sexuality and intimacy should not trigger feelings of shame or embarrassment. The truth is, sex, pleasure and intimacy are normal and healthy parts of life but many people, including persons with disabilities may not see themselves or their personal experience represented in typical narratives around sex in the media or even in education and schooling. Persons with disabilities, however, are sexual and express their sexuality in ways that are as diverse as anyone else.
Concern for sexual health among persons with disabilities needs to be a greater priority amongst educators and health care professionals. Lack of understanding around anatomy and physiology and the practical aspects of sexual function and sexual intimacy after a neurologic injury or when living with a neurologic disorder can often leave individuals feeling confused, frustrated or alienated. Additionally, the social-emotional aspects of this topic often go unaddressed. Though this is certainly not my specialty area and I am not an expert on sexual health and function, my work and research as a neurologic physical therapist has led me to many great resources that I think you will find helpful and inspiring!
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Online Resources for Sexual Function after Spinal Cord Injury
Craig Hospital Sexual Function for males after SCI
Craig Hospital Sexual function for females after SCI
Facingdisability.com is a website for families facing spinal cord injury. The website is extensive and absolutely worth checking out. Included on their webpage is a section on sex and fertility information. They cover gender-specific issues such as sexual function, aids, pregnancy and childbirth for women and erectile dysfunction, medications, fertility and more for men.
Books and Guides
Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability: For All of Us Who Live with Disabilities, Chronic Pain, and Illness by Miriam Kaufman, M.D., Cory Silverberg and Fran Odette. This book is written by a sex educator, a disability advocate and a medical doctor to provide a wide reaching perspective on all aspects of sex for people living with disabilities, pain, chronic conditions or illnesses.
Pleasure ABLE Sexual Device Manual for Persons with Disabilities (2009) is a great resource I recommend for my own clients. Be aware that this manual contains anatomical images, pictures and descriptions of sex and descriptions and photos of devices and ideas to facilitate sex and intimacy. This manual is a great tool to learn about alternatives and modifications to what may be considered traditional methods of sexual intimacy and intercourse including examples of helpful devices, strategies for positioning and many other great tips.
Other Helpful Websites
SEXABILITY Resources from the Division of Disability Resources and Educational Services from the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is an extensive list of books, websites and films. Subtopics include such things as Spectrum Disorders, Relationships and Sexuality, Physical disabilities and sexuality, and more.
A Neurologic Diagnosis Doesn’t Mean the End of Intimacy: Brain and Life Magazine (2016/2017). A publication of the American Academy of Neurology
Sex After Stroke: A resource published by the UK Stroke Association