2 min

Expanding sexual possibilities

Disability doesn't have to get in the way

“There’s a world of opportunity out there,” says Miriam Kaufman, co-author of The Ultimate Guide To Sex And Disability. “So many people have been told their whole lives that they have to limit the [sexual] possibilities for themselves, that they aren’t going to be able to do X or Y or fit outside a really narrow little box.”

Sex And Disability, a guide for people living with disabilities, chronic pain and illness, is looking to change all that. Published by San Francisco-based Cleis Press, the book was co-written by Kaufman, a pediatrician and adolescent health specialist at the Hospital For Sick Children, Cory Silverberg, a founding member of Toronto’s co-operative sex shop Come As You Are, and Fran Odette, a project coordinator with Women With Disabilities And Violence Initiative at Education Wife Assault.

“Hopefully part of the message of the book is that gay and disabled aren’t separate, exclusive things,” says Kaufman. “There are lots of people out there who are gay and disabled. There are lots of people out there who are gay and able-bodied who won’t be in a week or a month or a year or 10 years. And that to look at disability in its broadest context, we all have some kind of disability and we all have lots of abilities.

“I would hope that people, just by seeing this book, might think more about making their events accessible and think about what accessibility really means, and that there would just be more awareness in general.”

This book is different from most sex manuals, says Silverberg, because it is grounded in real-life experiences rather than expert advice. “Whereas a lot of sex manuals are just experts saying, ‘I know this. I know this. Listen to me and do it this way.’ We tried very hard not to do that.”

Instead, the book is largely based on first-hand experiences gathered by way of phone interviews and an on-line questionnaire. The range of experiences included in the book challenge the perception that people with disabilities have boring sex.

“Accessible toilets are fab…,” writes one respondent. “One can get pushed in there by a lover and everyone thinks, ‘Isn’t that sad, someone needs to wipe their bum,’ and you can shag away in private and then come out and no one has a clue as to what really went on. It’s liberating and definitely one of the few perks of being a wheelchair user.”

The book also includes exercises that challenge readers to expand their thinking of both sex and disability, as well as practical information and how-tos to help them get there. For example, “Some toys for penetration are so small that once you’ve got a good grip on the toy you’re left with only a few inches to play with. If you need to get a really firm grasp on a toy, it’s better to buy something much longer than you would actually use. Another benefit of longer toys is that you can hold a long dildo between your knees to play with a partner.”

Plus, the guide covers new ground. “There’s never been a book anywhere about disability that has talked about SM,” says Silverberg. “There’s a little bit of conversation on-line. I haven’t even seen a pamphlet or a brochure about it, which I think just speaks to the fact that generally people think that sex and disability is straight sex, it’s conservative and it’s all these things which obviously it isn’t.”


Miriam Kaufman, Fran Odette

& Cory Silverberg.

Cleis Press.

345 pages. $25.50.