Warning: Savage Love is an adult sex advice column. The contents of this article may be offensive to some people. And Utahns.
I’m writing on behalf of a 19-year-old guy with cerebral palsy. As you may know, CP is a brain affliction resulting from insufficient oxygen at birth, and it causes the part of the brain responsible for motor function to work incorrectly. Troubles for people with CP include muscle spasticity, weakness, and/or painful contraction, and in some cases a life spent in a wheelchair.
My buddy is, like any 19-year-old, interested in finding out more about his sexuality. He has watched his peers develop sexually, but hasn’t had the opportunity to do so himself. Intimacy aside, are there any services that you know of that could help him to experience sex for the first time? I don’t mean to buy the guy a hooker or anything like that, but I wondered if there are people who would assist him and a girl (disabled or otherwise) into bed.
Thanks, and keep up the great column. I’ve been a reader for years… —Friend In Deed
“Your reader shouldn’t make assumptions about what having sex or being sexual means to his friend,” says Cory Silverberg, coauthor of The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability. What if your friend doesn’t want to get into bed with a girl, but head into a dungeon with one? Or two? Or what if your friend is gay? Or what if all he really wants is to make it with a plush toy or a picnic table?
“Just like we do with everyone,” says Cory, “we tend to assume folks with disabilities are straight and just want to have penile-vaginal intercourse and some oral sex. We’re almost always wrong. So the first thing he should do is ask his friend what he’s interested in.”
Cory also suggests that you ask your friend if he’s having sex with himself, since masturbation is the easiest way for a person to explore his sexuality. “Mobility disabilities can make masturbation tricky,” says Cory, “but never impossible. Privacy and motor control can be challenging, but there are many workarounds.”
If your friend has or finds a partner and needs physical assistance during sex, you might want to help him find an attendant, a person who works with physically disabled people, who is comfortable positioning him and a partner in bed, assisting with condoms, and cleaning up. “In my experience,” says Cory, “attendants who are queer tend to be more comfortable talking about sex and making that kind of assistance part of their job description, but that doesn’t rule out straight ones.”
So if your friend has plenty of sex with himself and has a good idea what he’d like to do, but doesn’t have a partner to do it with, what do you do then? “I don’t have any new suggestions here,” says Cory. “He should get out there, use online and virtual spaces, join a social group related to something he’s passionate about—all of these are good ways to meet people. Paying for sex is also an option, but avoid the escort ads and try to get a referral from someone you know and trust.”