By Alice || Edited by Go Ask Alice Editorial Team || Last edited Apr 12, 2024
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Alice! Health Promotion. "Feeling frustrated about physical disability and sex." Go Ask Alice!, Columbia University, 12 Apr. 2024, https://goaskalice.columbia.edu/answered-questions/feeling-frustrated-about-physical-disability-and-sex. Accessed 28, May. 2024.

Alice! Health Promotion. (2024, April 12). Feeling frustrated about physical disability and sex. Go Ask Alice!, https://goaskalice.columbia.edu/answered-questions/feeling-frustrated-about-physical-disability-and-sex.

Dear Alice,

I have been dating this guy for ten years. We both have physical disabilities and therefore have very limited movement. However, we have complete sensation. We really want to have sex but are having difficulty with positioning. Since I have a little more movement than him, I am going to be the one who does most of it. We have had two very unsuccessful attempts and are getting very discouraged. We really love another, but are losing hope. Any ideas?

Thanks,

RP

Dear RP, 

Experiencing difficulties with sex can happen to anyone! That said, it’s not uncommon for people with disabilities to feel frustrated or discouraged about their sexual capabilities. Luckily, there are many different approaches that can help you achieve a fulfilling and accessible sexual life. You might try switching up positions and communicating openly with your partner(s) as places to start. Read on for more ideas! 

You mentioned that your primary challenges occur when trying to position yourselves comfortably. Before trying out any new moves, it may be helpful to reflect on your past attempts. If you’re comfortable discussing these questions with your partner, you may even work together to identify what may have contributed to any difficulties. 

  • Did you or your partner feel pressured to satisfy each other sexually? 
  • Did you feel emotionally connected throughout the process? 
  • Did you have specific expectations going into sex? 
  • Have you established a safe word or phrase to signal that you or your partner would like to stop what you’re doing? 
  • Did both of you clearly communicate your boundaries and preferences? 

After reflecting on these questions, you may consider exploring some new positions together. There are several modified positions you can explore depending on your level of movement. These positions can help create a more pleasurable and comfortable experience for both of you. These could include: 

  • Intimate sitting. Since you mentioned having a little more movement than him, you could try being on top. To try this position, you can sit in your partner’s lap facing him, with your arms around his neck for support and your legs around his waist. To add movement, you can gently grind or rock your hips against him. For safety measures, it’s recommended not to attempt this position in a wheelchair, as the chair can tip over. 
  • Spooning. To try this position, both partners lie on their side, facing the same direction, with your partner’s front pressed against your back. If he’s able to, your partner can engage in sex by grinding against you. Alternatively, you can also grind or rock yourself against him. 
  • Sideways 69. Depending on your differences in height, this may be a more accommodating variation of the classic ‘69’ position. To try this position, start by having your partner lie on their preferred side and raise one leg into a bent position, if possible. Position yourself with your genitals near his head and one leg bent over his head. This should bring your head within reach of his penis, and voila! For more head support, you can also try adding a headrest or pillow. 

As a general tip when trying anything new, starting off slow can help you ease into things. However, if you ever feel uncomfortable trying new positions, it’s okay to stop altogether or ask to try something else. Additionally, speaking with a health care provider may be helpful to ensure your safety in these new positions. 

It might also be helpful to know that there are other alternatives to give or receive pleasure besides penetrative sex. Using sex toys with one another and engaging in mutual masturbation could be a pleasurable and more accessible experience for both of you. There are several products on the market specifically advertised as accessible sex toys that you might be interested in trying out. Engaging in foreplay, like kissing, teasing, massaging, sexting, or sensation play, such as ice cubes, feather tickling, and massage oils, can also help enhance arousal and pleasure. 

While there are many different techniques for you to try, maintaining an open channel of communication with your partner(s) can also be an important part of your sexual journey. A strong foundation of communication can help create a more pleasurable experience by fostering trust and building intimacy. Examples of effective communication in the bedroom can include: 

  • “I really enjoyed that, what did you think?” 
  • “Is this okay for you? Do you want to try something different?” 
  • “I’m not comfortable, can we try something different?” 
  • “I really enjoy it when you do that.” 

Although it may be difficult to focus on the act of receiving or giving pleasure, it can be beneficial to refrain from focusing on reaching orgasm. Focusing on reaching orgasm can put added pressure on both of you, which may cause an unpleasant experience. An exciting part of enjoying sex often includes figuring out what you like or don’t like, regardless of ability. For more information or advice, feel free to check out other informational websites, such as Sexuality and Disabilities

Here’s to “cumming” up with new ideas! 

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