Disability and masturbation – how can sisters do it for themselves?

Reading this review of “Getting Off” by Jamye Waxman at Menstrual Poetry, I started to wonder: who’s assessing sex toys from an accessibility point of view? Where are the easy-grip variety-of-angles assistive devices for women with a range of different disabilities? When was the last time you saw a mainstream sex toy site include information on accessibility?

There are websites and stores and government departments where you can learn absolutely everything there is to learn about power wheelchairs and dressing aids and kitchen gear and computer equipment and sporting goods and knitting paraphernalia for people with disabilities, but where are the sex toys? My local Independent Living Centre has exactly one item listed under “Recreation > Sexuality, and that’s a set of furniture to fuck in. (For a comparison, they have no fewer than five smoking aids.)

And why do we keep hearing about female prostitutes for het men with disabilities and the debate about sexual facilitators and anal ejaculation devices for men with spinal cord disabilities, but we never hear about self-operated assistive devices for women with disabilities? OK, that last question’s a Dorothy Dixer, but I’m still interested in the others.

Categories: Miscellaneous

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11 replies

  1. I’m going to state the obvious. We hear about female prostitutes for het men with disabilities because it allows people to say that prostitution is doing good. Yea, it’s totally cool for me to go and screw this 14 year old over here, because what about the guys with disabilities that can’t get any?
    But there’s no excuse making for perfectly abled people in making it easier for disabled ladies to masturbate.

  2. Even for sex with my partner there is little to help. You know the popular position is add variety, try new things, etc. etc. I’m even too embarrassed to go into the modifications and adaptations we have to do for either of us to get anything out of it. But that’s part of the problem. PWD never hear about sexuality they can participate in. Women in particular.

  3. There’s a great sex shop in Toronto, Canada called Come As You Are- they are quite disability-friendly. Check out their website here: http://www.comeasyouare.com/index.cfm?fa=caya.Page&L=Info&P=Sex_and_Disability
    Cory Silverbery, the founder of the shop, is also co-author of “The ultimate guide to sex and disability”, which delivers exactly what it promises.

  4. There is a Canadian shop called Come As You Are which describes itself as “disability-positive” but sells all the usual clobber and does have a fair amount of info on adapting sex toys for our purposes: http://www.comeasyouare.com/index.cfm?fa=caya.Page&L=Info&P=Adapting_Sex_Toys
    Never used it, but it does appear to have the right kind of ethos.

  5. PWD never hear about sexuality they can participate in.
    Seconding this! I’ve noticed that the overall conception of “liberated” mainstream white het feminist-approved sexuality is pretty damn able-bodied (and ableist), partnered or not. Not everyone has the energy to do it all of the time, but nobody actually talks about it.
    annaham’s last blog post..Disability 101!

  6. Come As You Are – that’s a good write-up, in their Disability section. It looks like they’ve noticed the same issue:

    Handles and switches on sex toys are terrible, and you may need to get a handle built up, or a switch adapted. If you’re looking for suggestions on how to get a toy adapted feel free to email us and we can see if we can help to find someone locally.

    However with their individual sex toy ads, I note that they still don’t put any assessment there of the switches or grips, for those buying online.

  7. Rescued Comment from Wildly Parenthetical (this got caught in the spamblocker:
    It’s definitely a problem. I support, very much, the work done by Touching Base NSW (I had the link in here, but the spaminator didn’t like my comment, so…), which for the record is not just for het men, but for anyone willing to take it up (primarily men, then, though there’s at least one story from a woman on the site, but not only straight men) but I have pointed out to one of the people who founded the organisation that there’s very little support for women who feel uncomfortable visiting sex workers, in terms of sex toys or other forms of encouragement towards sexuality, etc. He was sympathetic, but… [sigh]. He was, however, looking for contributors to Touching Base, so I’m tempted to get back in touch with him now that I have a teensy bit more time and push the issue a bit more.
    In terms of accessible sex toys, I know this was a long time ago now, but one of the women who speaks in Untold Desires (a pretty amazing film about PWD and their experiences of sexuality) talks about her work producing accessible sex toys and a mailout business, specifically doing things like enlarging buttons and sending toys with batteries already inserted. I’ve been trying to find out her name, and whether she’s still doing it, but no luck, unfortunately. There are a couple of groups linked to from the Touching Base website, though (AccSex and bodiesdisability, both yahoo groups) which might be able to answer some of these questions. It’s definitely a problem, though, that accessible sex toys aren’t, well, accessible…

  8. Thanks, Tigtog! I’d recommend Untold Desires to all and sundry for its great discussion of sexuality and disability, even if it is about ten years old (if you ask me, the only thing that really shows its age is the denim shirt a guy wears in it ;-)). The women’s contributions to the film are particularly interesting, and provide a great antidote to the desexualising of women with disabilities, and a nice sense of the diversity of sexual experience and desires.

  9. anna, it also ignores those of us with low libidos, who are asexuals, etc

    shannon, who is very confused lately.

  10. Obviously the comment I have forgotten was golden and full of sunshine and rainbows. 🙂
    Sincerely, our local feminist book store & sex shop is pretty up front about disability. I’ve never had any problems asking them about things. When they were giving free talks during Pride Week, they even had an interpreter for Deaf women.

  11. Thanks for the feedback re the ILCWA. We are currently working on this and adding new items of equipment, information on services and literature, interesting websites and accessible shops etc. Please feel free to give us any information on the area and we will be more than happy to add it to our database. Regards Sacha ILCWA

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