The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability

by Miriam Kaufman, M.D., Cory Silverberg, and Fran Odette

reviewed by AlwaysArousedGirl on Tue 22 Apr 2008

My sister has dealt with developmental disabilities since birth. Even though I’ve been privy to her struggles and triumphs for nearly four decades now, I’d not given much thought to the sexual part of her life.

This is an uncomfortable topic for many people, I’d have to guess, and often the easiest thing to do with uncomfortable topics is to ignore them in the hope that they’ll never need to be addressed.

Often I wrestle with the idea that my sister is even an adult, much less a sexual adult. In my mind she’s still a child; her short stature and emotional immaturity play right into my erroneous perception. Add to this some very real fears about how she might handle both the physical and emotional difficulties that come along with intimacy, and it’s clear why it’s easier for me to think of someone like my sister as an asexual child.

The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability, available through Cleis Press, addresses many of the concerns that affect both people with disabilities and the other folks in their lives. The trio of authors has experience in dealing with their own disabilities and chronic conditions, as well as those of their clients.

The book covers topics such as anatomy, self-image, communication with partners and caregivers, adapting sex toys and positions, safer sex, and alternative sexual play. The authors’ intended readers are people living with disabilities, but these subjects are equally informative for anyone who has contact with those facing physical or other challenges.

It would also be excellent reading for anyone interested in being as informed a sexual partner as possible to as many kinds of people as possible.

I found the discussions on body image to be particularly interesting. While I’m currently not disabled, I do not have the sort of body one usually sees in magazines or the movies. The authors point out how very much attention we give to how bodies look, often to the exclusion of how they feel.

This was quite an epiphany to me. I began considering that my partners might actually be attracted to (and not just tolerant of) my soft curves, perhaps even more than they might be to expanses of thin skin stretched tightly over bones.

I also began to have more of an appreciation for the difficulties people living in group situations often have with privacy. The authors point out the restrictions sometimes placed on residents’ ability to be alone with others; this was a complete revelation to me. It forced me to rethink the extra hurdles that are placed in front of those who already must work around physical limitations. It hardly seems fair, does it?

The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability ends with an extensive list of resources for folks who want to learn more. From websites to books to organizations, if it deals with making sex easier and more fun, you’ll find it here.

I heartily recommend this book for people who have now (or who might have in the future) disabled people in their lives. You know what this means, right?

Just about everyone will have contact at some point with people with disabilities. So just about everyone could benefit from reading this book.

The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability by Miriam Kaufman, M.D., Cory Silverberg, and Fran Odette
Available at Cleis Press
6 "x 9", 360 pages
$18.95 (free U.S. shipping)