This book is a compassionate, inclusive, and thoughtful guide to sexuality that is relevant to everyone, not just those of us who might identify as disabled. The authors explain that “While many of the issues in this book are unique to disability, the larger experience of trying to define one’s own sexual life is not.” The experiences of illness, injury, chronic pain, physical or mental trauma, and mental health issues affect most people or those they love at some point during a lifetime. In addition to the challenges that these major changes or conditions present, many of us grapple with, on some level, the way our bodies look, feel and function.
The authors debunk myths about people who have disabilities and explain how these myths negatively affect and limit everyone, disabled or not (i.e. that people living with disabilities are not sexual or desirable, that they have more “important” things to worry about than sex, that people living in institutions should not have sex, etc). They also remind readers that many people who are currently disabled were not always so.
The content and discussions in each chapter are carefully drawn from the personal and professional experiences of the authors and that of their diverse respondents, but that the authors are certainly not claiming to have “the final word on sex and disability.” There’s a fairly extensive list of other resources in the back of the book on each topic covered. Of the three authors, one is disabled, one has a chronic condition, and one is non-disabled (and works at a sexuality shop in Toronto). The overall goal of this book seems to be to help people discover the ways they want to experience their own bodies and sex. Specifically, they want to help those people who usually don’t get encouragement to be sexual or an honest discussion of their particular concerns in an ableist culture.
There is a chapter about self-esteem, and how it relates to disability and its impact on a person’s sexuality. There’s also a lengthy discussion of sexual anatomy in which all readers are encouraged to observe their own anatomy in whatever way possible. Sexual response is discussed in this same chapter. They explain that it is often assumed that if someone’s sexual response doesn’t work the way it’s “supposed to,” they won’t be able to have sexual feelings or experience sexual pleasure. This assumption, they assure readers, is simply not true, and so readers are encouraged to become familiar with what responses, feelings, and pleasure they experience, instead of worrying about which ones they ”should” experience. Other topics covered: the influence of pain, fatigue, mobility, cognitive issues, and privacy on people’s ability to be sexual; communicating about sex and/or disability with prospective partners, attendants, and health care professionals; sex with yourself; sex with others; positions (complete with illustrations of interracial couples with different kinds of bodies and different kinds of disabilities); specific sexual topics like oral sex, tantric sex, S/M, and sexual health. Overall, a very thorough, practical, and reassuring/inspiring reference book.
Paperback. by Miriam Kaufman, Cory Silverberg, and Fran Odette. 2013. 360 pages.