Covid-19 has made staying sex positive challenging in 2020, because physical contact is now negative. How is a person supposed to enjoy having sex when you’re supposed to be six feet apart from people, minimizing touch? Add disability into the equation and you have a recipe for further isolation and loss of intimate citizenship — a person’s right and access to intimacy.
It’s a really tough situation. And as everyone’s needs, wants, living situations, and desires are different, it would be disingenuous for me — your friendly neighborhood disabled (I prefer identity first language) sexuality educator — to pretend there is a cross-disability solution and magical answer that addresses and works for everyone. What we can do is discuss some common challenges folks with disabilities face in accessing intimacy, what roadblocks Covid-19 is throwing up, and offer some suggestions.
The first thing? Get creative. Disabled people are familiar with getting creative in order to make inclusive adaptations for processes and activities — making some way out of no way is our superpower. That kind of creative thinking outside of the box can lead to figuring out more pandemic-friendly options to engage sexually for those people you aren’t isolated with.
For example, both my husband and my boyfriend are people with non-visible disabilities. Covid-19 has meant staying 24/7 in a tiny one bedroom apartment. Even though we are kitchen table polyam (this means we all know each other and can hang out together), my husband working from home means my boyfriend and are unable to access intimacy in this space. Due to his disability impacting his employment and economics, my partner lives with family. We’re adults, but we’re uncomfortable getting busy with the parents nearby!
As having sex is a vital part of our relationship, thinking of where to go was a challenge. I found a budget-friendly hotel, with plenty of accessible (thanks, ADA!) rooms, near an airport (pandemic means less people flying=cheaper rates). It took some research to find an establishment whose Covid-19 sanitation and social distancing protocols felt safe and low-risk for viral contact. We figured out that meeting several times a month was within our economic means if we pooled our resource.
It turns out that planning sexual time away together is hot! Having that scheduled time to look forward to means being in a position to physically and mentally prepare for intimacy. Of course, this also means that you have to trust that the person you have in your pandemic intimacy bubble is also interacting with the world in a safe manner. We get tested periodically and self-quarantine in the event that we have unavoidable contact with someone who has traveled or been exposed to the virus. Orgasms aren’t worth getting sick or dying over.
One of the silver linings of Covid-19 is the normalization of video chatting and interaction, which disabled people have been using for social and business interactions long before the pandemic. Many people folks with disabilities are isolated and don’t have the ability, autonomy, or funds to go places or travel.
Since going out on a date with people you aren’t bubbled-up with is inadvisable, virtual sessions allow for sex positive visual and audible contact. Video dates can be fun! Sex workers are also available online, if you interested in and have the resources to connect with someone unfamiliar.
Whether professional or personal, y’all can plan desirable scenarios and play together. Dressing up in ways that make you feel hot and tempting can be stimulating for those who are visual. Activities like reading erotica out loud to each other, or sharing personal sexy stories can provide aural pleasure. For physical sensations, you may not be in the same room, but you can engage in self-stimulation, watch your date masturbate, or mutually get off together.
For suggestions on masturbating when your body needs daily living assistance, Cripping Up Sex with Eva is an invaluable resource. Eva Sweeney is a disabled sex educator, a powerchair user, and is non-verbal. She offers real-talk, advice, sex toy product reviews, and affordable classes that address disability, sexuality issues, and techniques for all kinds of bodies and living circumstances.
When talking about disability, realize that a community’s system of access affects the ability of people to connect and interact with others in the first place. Accessible transportation and spaces to visit for sexy times are not available everywhere, particularly in areas that lack public transportation. Additionally, people with disabilities live in poverty at more than twice the rate of people without disabilities. People with disabilities make up approximately 12 percent of the U.S. working-age population; however, they account for more than half of those living in long-term poverty. Money impacts your living situation and choices, which in turn affects your ability to engage in social access.
Staying sex positive with a disability while figuring out how to minimize the risk of contracting the Covid-19 virus during a pandemic is unprecedented. Establishing and focusing on intimacy and sexual expression in these uncertain times takes creativity and effort, and the answers aren’t readily available. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, but conversations like these can help provide some ideas, suggestions, and inspirations for ways people with disabilities can have safer/lower-risk sensuous contact.