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A photograph of a scrabble board, with the letter tiles spelling 'ADHD' cenred

Being ADHD: Five Things I Wished Someone Had Told Me

By Sex & disability, Undressing Disability

By Carolyn DeBarra

When it comes to being neurodivergent, I am very proud of the way my brain works. I was diagnosed at the age of 10 with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD) along with Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD). The combination of all three can be a blessing, but it can be a curse too.

It can be really difficult being neurodivergent especially as so much of the world doesn’t cater to different neurotypes. Combine that with the fact that so many of our conditions can be so different from each other. My ADHD is very different from the next person’s.

While we do understand a lot more now than back in the day when I was first diagnosed, there are so many areas of neurodiversity that we hear little about.

Here are five things that I wish people told me about ADHD.

1 – It’s okay to feel grief or anger

ADHD diagnoses are on the rise at the moment as more people recognise the signs of the condition through social media and articles. It has prompted many people to seek a diagnosis or speak to a GP. While many feel relief and a sense of power in knowing their diagnosis, there can also be a feeling of grief.

When I started to learn about my condition as an adult, I felt sadness at understanding how I could have overcome challenges by accepting my own neurodivergence. I also felt angry for not getting help sooner. I also felt grief for my childhood where I struggled as much as I did. All of these feelings are not only valid but part of the process.

Thanks to the emotional dysregulation of ADHD, processing the range of emotions associated with a diagnosis can be difficult. It’s important to take time, talk it out with loved ones and let yourself feel how you need to. But do know this, it’s completely normal and you are not alone if you feel sadness at your diagnosis.

2- Your workplace can and will make reasonable adjustments for you

In the past, I’ve made mistakes due to my ADHD but then, we are all human at the end of the day. Despite my difficulties with certain tasks, I’m a good employee with tons to offer that can be utilised by a company. However, I often worry that an ADHD disclosure will put employers off.

While I may have hidden this in the past, I now refuse to pretend. Your company can make reasonable adjustments for you and it is completely okay to ask them to do so. There is no timeframe on this. If you didn’t disclose the second you were hired, you can ask at a later stage.

There is no set list of things that can make your workday easier but having a look at what causes you difficulties is a good place to start. Simple things like being able to take a break in a long meeting because I am struggling to sit still help me.

There are grants available such as Access to Work which can help people change their workplace to make things easier. It could be money towards software or physical items such as desks or chairs. You are worth it. All you need to do is ask even if it’s the last thing you feel like doing.

3 – Postural Sway and bad balance

When I was a kid I had the worst balance which occasionally caused me great panic. While I always thought this was down to a fear of heights, I’ve realised that it goes deeper than that.

My ADHD plays a part in bad balance because those with neurological conditions can have poor motor control. My body struggles to find its centre of gravity so this means I have a harder time balancing while standing still. I often find heights, patterns, lights or movements can be disorientating so I can lose my balance while not moving. Over time, this has also been exacerbated by my anxiety as the two work in tandem to destroy my day. I often find I need an arm to hold or a banister or something to steady myself when it’s particularly bad.

I wish someone had told me when I was younger that this is not only okay but it’s totally normal.

4 – Caffeine affects you differently

Anyone who meets me for breakfast is horrified at how many coffees I can put away in a short space of time. It’s truly a sight to behold as I throw six or seven back easily.

While most neurotypical folk would be bouncing off the ceiling by now, or throwing up, I am absolutely fine with the mildest of buzzes going on.

You would think that the last thing a person with a hyperactivity disorder would need is a stimulant but you would be wrong. A lot of the drugs to treat ADHD are stimulant based because our brains devour them differently.

Caffeine stimulates the body’s central nervous system and boosts dopamine production. ADHD brains are thought to have lower levels of dopamine so no longer we love a coffee break. Dopamine helps us with concentration and focus. So if we have lower levels of dopamine compared to neurotypical folk, stands to reason we may need more coffee to get us to focus. So hence why my seven coffees don’t touch the sides for me.

Although make no mistake, there is a sweet spot and for me it’s usually around eight.

5. – ADHD can go hand in hand with other disorders

It is estimated that about 40% of people with ADHD have oppositional defiance disorder like me. In my daily life that means I can be defensive, anti-authority and a bit combative when I don’t
want to be or intend to be.

ADHD can often be diagnosed alongside other conditions such as mood disorders, learning disorders, sleep problems, anxiety or tics and Tourette's syndrome. It’s also worth noting that substance abuse disorders are higher among ADHD people than neurotypical people. This means we have a higher chance of developing issues with alcohol, drugs or nicotine. I wish before I started smoking I had known this.

There is power in knowing the full picture post-diagnosis as it can help you to explain how you behave or feel. However, if there are other conditions in the picture, it could affect what medications you need or how things work for you. It can be difficult as ADHD presents very differently in each person so sometimes it can mask symptoms so keeping a diary can be helpful to note what is happening.

A person stood with the palm of their hand facing outward, covering their face. With a purple background

Neurodiversity and Abuse

By Sex & disability, Undressing Disability

There are many forms of physical, emotional and sexual abuse and it can be really hard to spot when this is creating a problem in your relationship. 

While anyone can be a victim of abuse, research shows that those who are neurodiverse may have a heightened risk of violence, bullying or controlling behaviour. ADHD, Autism, Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, and Tourette’s syndrome are all examples of neurodiversity. It is believed that 15 to 20 percent of people are neurodivergent. 

Studies show that autistic people may be up to three times as likely as their neurotypical counterparts to experience bullying, and physical or sexual abuse. 

As an ADHD adult, I struggle with impulsivity, inattentiveness and hyperactivity among other traits. My relationships can be impacted by these which can make it difficult for me to form healthy connections with others but not impossible. However, one area that I need to be extra aware of is physical or emotional abuse. 

 

Here are three ways in which physical, emotional or sexual abuse within a relationship may be difficult for neurodiverse people to identify

1 – Dopamine seeking

When it comes to ADHD, we have lower levels of dopamine in our brains than neurotypical people. Dopamine is a hormone that controls many areas including memory and pleasure. When I form a new relationship, I crave the mental stimulation that I get from a new person. 

This, in the past, has made it very difficult to walk away from a relationship and risk losing that dopamine supply. It means that my brain can often gloss over the bad stuff to get to the good bits even if there are very few of them. 

Red flags at the start of a relationship can reveal a lot about what is to come. If you are getting serious warnings at the beginning then it can be really dangerous if your brain doesn’t allow you to stop, process or leave. Abusers are often clever and can spot this. They may take your lack of acknowledgement as acceptance and may keep pushing the boundaries on what they can get away with. 

Dopamine seeking can also mean that we do not recognise red flags in sexual situations either. It can be difficult to recognise dangerous situations, stop or ask yourself if you truly consent. We may also say yes in order to for fear of losing the person we get this stimulation from.

 

2 – Gaslighting

Gaslighting is when a person tries to get you to question their reality, memory or perceptions. It may be difficult for neurodivergent people to recognise when someone might be trying to change details, memories or events to control them. 

The reason for this may be that neurodivergent people can struggle with low self-esteem and be extra vulnerable as a result. We can often hear negative messages about ourselves while growing up which can have a last effect on our confidence levels as an adult. 

The immediate start of gaslighting in a relationship may feel more like hyper-acceptance from a partner which can become control over time. I struggle with my memory as a result of my ADHD, thanks to the lower dopamine levels, so it’s easy for me to forget details. Partners could easily use this to change small details without my noticing. The memory issues are mostly harmless, although annoying when I lose my keys, but they can be dangerous if a person is repeatedly changing the narrative in their favour. 

As a neurodivergent person, I tend to overshare which can also provide a lot of information for people about me. While most partners take this as a way to get to know me, albeit, in a short space of time, some may store the information for use at another time. This is where the devil can use the details you have told them, and then forgotten you’ve told them, to make gaslighting seem even more real.

 

3 – intense connections

Abusers can be incredibly manipulative and able to exploit a vulnerability. One of the ways this can manifest is through love bombing. 

Love bombing can be excessive attention, admiration, and affection from someone often at the start of a relationship. If we, as neurodivergent people, have lower self-esteem and confidence, this can masquerade as acceptance.

It can be difficult to leave if you believe that this is the only person who accepts you or is affectionate towards you. Often abusers can separate a person from friends or family through gaslighting or other methods so you may feel the connection more intensely because they are the only person you feel understands. 

As an ADHD person, I struggle to form boundaries with people where I can recognise where I need to safeguard myself. I have very intense friendships and relationships as a result. The intensity of the connection, lack of boundaries, pleasure and reward-seeking mean it is very difficult to walk away.

When it comes to sexual abuse, we can often mistake intensity for acceptance. Neurodivergent people can be too trusting and struggle to read a situation or social cues. This can place us in difficult situations or around dangerous people with no idea how to get out. To be accepted, we may find ourselves saying yes to things we don’t understand or want to take part in.

 

How to get help

Research 

Record

Communicate

 

Research:

It can be very helpful to know how your traits, like the ones above, can make it difficult for you to spot the signs of abuse. This means doing a bit of research around neurodiversity or even what to look for when it comes to emotional or physical abuse. 

 

Record:

No matter how difficult it might be, recording your experiences can be a big help. Make a note of something that doesn’t sound right to you and add to the list if you need to. If you can see a pattern start to emerge then you can address it. Writing everything down can help things to seem clearer, less overwhelming and help you to feel in control.

Also, if the situation needs to escalate, it can be very helpful to have a clear timeline or a list of things in case you forget.

 

Communicate:

Open up to someone you trust who is not connected to that person. This could be a friend or it could be a someone at an organisation who has training in this area. 

 

You are not alone and here are some organisations that may be able to help:

National Male Survivor Helpline and Online Support Service.
A dedicated service for anyone who identifies as male affected by sexual violence, and those who support them. You can contact them via Phone: 0808 800 5005 or Email: support@safeline.org.uk


Refuge.
For women who have experienced domestic violence. Refuge operate a freephone, 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline. To use this service please call: 0808 2000 247


The Survivors Trust.
This is a free helpline open 7 days a week for people over the age of 16 who have experienced sexual violence or support someone who has. To contact them call: 0808 801 0818 


Rape Crisis.
Anyone over the age of 16 who has experienced sexual violence can contact rape crisis for advice and support by calling 0808 802 9999 or going online via https://rapecrisis.org.uk/get-help/ 

A photograph of someone dropping massage oils on their hands

Our favourite massage oils

By Sex & disability, Undressing Disability

When it comes to sex, there are plenty of different lubes, toys and accessories on the market. However, nothing beats a good old-fashioned massage after a long day to get you in the mood. Even if it doesn’t end in sex, it’s a great way to connect with your partner while you unwind. It might even help to alleviate some aches and pains too.

Adding a massage oil to the mix can be a great way to take your back rubs to the next level. Although, it’s worth noting that a lot of oils are not made to be used in the place of lubricant and are not the same thing. Similarly, a lot of products may not be condom or toy compatible so always be extra careful.

It’s hard to know where to start as there are so many options out there from CBD to scented to self-heating oils. Fear not, we’ve done the hard work for you so you can sit back and prepare to relax

 

Here are our four favourite oils:

Grassroots Super Charge Massage Oil

Image of a white matte bottle of Grassroots massage oil

The first thing you notice about the Grassroots massage oil is that it smells incredible. This is down to a combination of essential oils which include neroli, sweet almond oil and frankincense. The different essential oils are great for helping you to relax and unwind especially linalool which is a terpene commonly found in lavender.

It’s also worth noting that the oil contains a whopping 1000mg of CBD. CBD is a cannabinoid which is thought to help with relaxation and also with muscle pain. But it won’t make you high as it is not psychoactive so it’s safe to use. This makes it a great choice for anyone who is looking for something that could help with muscle pain. CBD may also help with sexual arousal too as well as aiding sleep.

The pump is super easy to use as well so there are no awkward caps or screw tops to fiddle with. A little goes a long way with this one so you need very little top-up meaning it lasts for ages. One of the best parts of this oil is that the body feels incredibly hydrated after it sinks into the skin.

 

Great for: Value for money due to size and CBD amount

Avoid if: You struggle with strong scents or nut allergies due to almond oil

Price: £39.99

Website: https://grassrootsskin.com/product/super-charge-massage-oil-massage-oil-for-the-body-decolletage-neck-and-face/

Rating: 5/5

 

Templespa Drift Away Massage Oil

Image of a green bottle of Templespa massage oil bottle

Sometimes we all need to feel a bit fancy, this is where Drift Away comes in. It’s a luxurious oil which feels soft on the skin yet helps fingers to glide. The oil contains patchouli, lavender, geranium, frankincense, chamomile, myrrh, dill seed and orange, suspended in a lush base of sesame, jojoba and avocado oils, plus vitamin E.

The addition of patchouli may help to soothe skin conditions such as dermatitis, acne, or dry, cracked skin. Chamomile and geranium oils are thought to help with this. In massage oil, frankincense essential oils are often added to help soothe pain while helping inflammation.

Drift Away is not just a massage oil as it can also be used as a bath oil too so whatever way you prefer to use it – prepare to relax. A little goes a long way with this oil so you don’t need much to make a difference. The scent isn’t overpowering but it does linger on the skin which isn’t a bad thing as it’s quite a relaxing smell.

The bottle can feel a little heavy as its glass which means, if it falls, you will know about it. However, it’s a great shout for anyone who might be concerned about the amount of plastic. It’s also a screw top in comparison to a pump bottle so it might be trickier to navigate.

 

Great for: A good night in

Avoid if: You struggle with strong scents or nut allergies due to almond oil

Price: £26.00

Website: https://www.templespa.com/drift-away-bath-and-massage-oil

Rating: 4/5

 

Smilemakers Massage Oil: Wild Erotic Kneads

Image of a range of Smilemaker massage oils

If heavier glass bottles are a bit tricker or like us, you worry about potentially dropping them then we have an alternative! The Smilemakers natural massage oils are not just a light, easy-to-open product but also a lighter, easy-to-use oil too. It spreads easily across the body without feeling sticky or tacky.

There are two in the collection for consideration called wild and slow. The two products may look similar but are very different in that slow is a lighter, floral scent whereas wild is a deeper, woodier and warming scent.

In trying both, slow was a clear favourite as it contained ylang-ylang, jojoba and sweet almond essential oils. The lighter scent isn’t over-powering and helps to release stress from the body. If you prefer something a bit spicer then wild might be a better choice in that it combines black pepper, rosemary and lavender for a dark, woodier scent. We did find that the scent did fade a bit after a while but nothing a quick top-up couldn’t fix. A little goes a long way with this reasonably priced vegan product.

Also, the packaging deserves a shout-out as it’s well designed to open easily, leak less and be lighter to lift. We also didn’t have to spend ages worrying about dropping it once our hands were a bit slippery!

 

Great for: Light and natural product

Avoid if: You struggle with strong scents or nut allergies due to almond oil

Price: £24.95 each

Website: https://smilemakerscollection.com/shop/wellness/wild-massage-oil/

Rating: 3.5/5

 

Absolute Aromas

Image of the bottle and packaging of the Absolute Aromas oil

There is no essential oil product that you could want that Absolute Aromas doesn’t sell. However, it’s their range of massage oils that deserves attention as there is an entire range where you can find the oil that suits your needs the best. Not only that, but you can also purchase different size bottles which are perfect if you fear being stuck with a big bottle if you don’t like the scent.

The Refresh massage oil is a good place to start and it’s another duo product as it doubles up as a bath oil too. Three drops should do the trick and it’s great for creating a relaxing evening. The uplifting scent has sweet orange, eucalyptus and spearmint in it along with lots of other essential oils which gave it a more natural smell that appear to last the longest out of any that we tried.

The formulas are super hydrating on the skin when used as either a massage or bath oil so it’s great for helping with dry skin conditions. We found it soothing on irritated eczema which may be down to the addition of vitamin E.

It is also worth keeping an eye on their mobility massage oil which contains ingredients such as evening primrose oil and black spruce to help soothe tired joints or muscles.

 

Great for: Essential oils and long-lasting scent

Avoid if: You struggle with strong scents

Price: £9.50 +

Website: https://www.absolute-aromas.com/product-category/premade-massage-oils/

Rating: 4.5/5

 

An black and white image of a person, naked with their arms in a posed position above her head

What is Body Neutrality?

By Sex & disability, Undressing Disability

When it comes to loving our bodies, there are plenty of us who would describe our relationship status as ‘it’s complicated’. It’s not always the easiest to feel positive about ourselves or to recognise when we need to take care of ourselves.

It can be really disheartening when you are having a bad day which can make you feel negative about yourself. While the body positivity movement may have started with the best of intentions, it can be an extra pressure to always feel body confident. This might be even more difficult on days when you may be experiencing pain or discomfort.

There has been a shift to a more neutral form of acceptance – body neutrality. It helps to remove the pressure of constant acceptance which can feel unrealistic. Allowing us to accept ourselves the way we are. It can be a healthier approach as it encourages a more natural acceptance and, respect for what our bodies like more rest or giving in to that extra treat.

 

What does Body Neutrality mean to me?

Emily Rose Yates, Head of Accessibility, and Inclusive Design, Mima and Ade Adepitan, explains what body neutrality means to her and says that self-care can look different for each of us.

“It’s accepting that your body is a vessel, ultimately getting you from A to B. It helps you to complete your daily activities, but the vessel needs to be respected, cared for, and looked after. It doesn’t have to make you feel a certain way,” Emily said. “You don’t have to love yourself and the way you look, move or how your body works but you don’t have to feel negative or disgusted about it. You need to appreciate that it is there and part of your identity.”

Importance of practicing self-care

While body neutrality acceptance may sound easy, the practice can be a different story. It is essentially practicing good self-care where you listen to what your body needs. Accepting it by resting, taking time out or even staying home. Instead of going out to an event or meeting friends when you are

“It can be different for people depending on interests, abilities and backgrounds. For me, the difficult thing has been the need for rest and to understand that it can be productive – and that I don’t have to feel guilty about it,” Emily explained.

“It’s been a really important point of not feeling one way or another about my body but respecting its needs which is a huge part of self-care. Another element for me is having a creative outlet and learning when I need to do something other than sitting in front of my laptop.”

 

Fear of missing out – or FOMO – can make practicing self-care extra difficult. A glance at our phones when we are resting can remind us of all the fun we could be having. Friends, families, and carers can play a part in how we care for ourselves.

“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that plans with people can change and that they can be flexible. You are not letting someone down or being awful by cancelling. Setting those boundaries, expectations and, acceptance with yourself but also having people around you who understand that” Emily said. “So that you are not having to constantly make up excuses because people understand the situation.”

 

Pushing ourselves to overwork, overproduce or be sociable when we don’t feel like it can have a negative effect on our physical health in the long term as it can lead to burnout. It can affect anxiety, exhaustion, and depression too. As can feeling a constant pressure to accept the way we look or fit a particular aesthetic.

“If we worry too much about the way our bodies look aesthetically and how that makes us feel then that can make us feel a certain way emotionally. On a minor scale, it can lead to unhappiness and wasted time when looking in a mirror,” Emily said. “On a major scale, it can lead to damage to the body, the mind and all these different things. The body is there to enable you to fulfil your potential as a person.”

Inclusion of disabled people in any movements

As with any movement, inclusivity is vital. However, concerns are still raised around inclusiveness of the body-positive movements. Especially when it comes to disabled bodies. Emily highlighted that there needs to be more visibility for all bodies including disabled people. “Disabled bodies need to be shown more, no matter what movement you are talking about. Representation of Deaf or disabled people, in general, is better than when I was growing up.”

“It’s’ definitely getting a lot better, but I think there is a long way to go.”

a young male carer with his disabled client smiling on a bridge pointing to the distance

Dear PA’s

By Sex & disability, Undressing Disability

Dear PA’s,

Firstly, thank you. Thank you for choosing to do this job, allowing us to live our lives as independently as possible. Without you we may need to stay living with our parents as our carers or have to reside in a social care setting. All of which might hinder our personal development and freedom of choices.

I know how hard it can be looking after someone 24/7 for weeks at a time. It’s mentally, physically and emotionally taxing. You’re always thinking of someone else and following their lead in the choices of how the day will be structured.

Different disabilities present different challenges. Living with someone with dementia will be draining in a completely different way to living with a 20+ something with a physical disability but full cognition.

However, something has really troubled me. I have noticed it many times over the years but this summer, going to many events, it made me sad and angry. It’s the observation that disabled people with a PA can be very lonely and isolated DESPITE having someone at their side all the time.

For example, I was at a Fatboy Slim concert on Brighton beach this summer. The atmosphere was electric. It was almost like a spiritual experience of everyone being on the same page, enjoying the moment and being lost in the music. Apart from one PA looking after someone next to me on the accessible platform. She spent the whole concert looking at her phone, sat or stood next to her client. I assume he had some kind of brain injury; he could stand a little bit but was very shaky and non-verbal. He was taking photos of the spectacle, yet every photo was coming out blurred due to his shakes. Why didn’t his PA suggest taking one for him? Even better include him in it, to make a crisp, focused memory for him?

Maybe because she wasn’t noticing as she was on her phone. Maybe because it wasn’t important to her. Maybe because she just saw her role as being there if he needed a drink or a loo visit. Not thinking about what this concert meant to him. Or how he may want to share photos of where he’s been.

Another wheelchair user came up between me and this guy. She put her arms round him and shared her euphoria with him, dancing, and grinning. She did the same with me and it was really bonding. I will never forget the smile on his face and the way you could tell he was set alight by this engagement. He was SHARING the experience with someone.

This is what is so important. Engage with your client. Even if it’s something you’re not particularly interested in. Try and show interest, ask questions, dance with them, comment on the surroundings. We need to feel like we are sharing our experiences with someone, like you would a friend. It is not enough to just ‘be there’ for us, disengaged. It can feel so isolated and lonely. It can also affect self-esteem with the reinforcement of their social status as a ‘disabled person’ out with their ‘carer’. Human’s connecting, be it with a meeting of eyes, a touch on the shoulder, a smile, a joke about the surroundings, is vitally important for our soul.

Let’s take someone who is paid to analyse spreadsheets; now, they probably wouldn’t say it’s their favourite thing in life, but they must give their attention to it to get paid and keep their job. Care is more relaxed in the sense you can look at your phone and be in your room or take calls from friends and family all day but please don’t let that lead you down the path of thinking you don’t have to give your best to your client SOCIALLY and EMOTIONALLY. You may find you get even more reward out of your job.

I have so much experience of this myself, where a carer is with me but not mentally. They are on their phones, and just pushing my chair round a shop. I speak, don’t get a response or one that is vague, proving they are not listening to me. It’s soul destroying. I’ve had 16 years’ experience of this. A client may then behave badly to get attention or withdraw completely; what’s the point of talking if someone’s not willing to hear me and care about what I’m saying. Being truly understood and having your social needs met is a huge aspect of care. And for some people, you are the only relationship they have in their life.

 

Yes, you really are that important. Keep being the best you can be. And thank you again for choosing this job.

Our top five favourite lubricants

By Sex & disability, Undressing Disability

There are a lot of reasons why people might need a little helpful lube from time to time. This can include medical conditions, dehydration, stress, or different forms of birth control. If you are a person who menstruates then at different times in your cycle, or even menopause can make a difference. Lube can help to reduce friction, prevent injury, and make sex less painful.

When it comes to buying lubricants, there really is something out there for everyone. However, it can be really overwhelming to know which one will work for you. There can also be a bit of a stigma around lubricants but there is no reason to feel embarrassed if you need one.

Lubricants don’t need to be expensive either as there are plenty on the market that are reasonably priced. When shopping for a new lube or your first one, you do have to consider safety. Oil-based products can cause issues with different materials including latex or silicone, not all products are toy or condom safe. If you are using sex toys or condoms, then you will need a water-based product instead so it’s worth double-checking before you purchase. Ingredients or formulas may change over time too.

 

Here are our five favourites:

Naked Grapefruit. Just Lube

Just lube literally is exactly that. It’s a simple take on lubricant without the complex ingredients or fussy packaging. As a result, it’s an easy-to-use, straightforward product at a great price.

Bottle of Naked Grapefruit Just Lube placed in front of a blue background

The small bottle is perfect for popping in a pocket or into a hand luggage bag ready for a flight. The pump design means it’s easy to top up when you need it to. While a little went a long way with this product, we did need a top-up from time to time with this.

The lack of scent was another bonus with this product as this can be really challenging for those with sensory issues. It may irritate sensitive skin or those with allergies too. Thanks to the colourful packaging and easy-to-read information – it makes a great first lube purchase.

The product is also glycerin-free which is useful for anyone struggling with yeast infections. Glycerin can be added to lubricants because it helps them to stay wet, but it helps yeast to grow in the body.

Just lube is water-based and is, therefore, condom and toy safe.

4/5

£9.99 https://nakedgrapefruit.com/product/just-lube/

 

Smilemakers Generous Gel

The texture of this generous gel makes it immediately different from the usual lubricants in that it feels thicker and less watery. Despite the thickness of the lubricant, it doesn’t interfere with any of the sensations during sex and it didn’t feel unnatural when applied to the skin.

In fact, the thicker consistency meant it was less messy than some of the other lubricants. This is great news when combining it with sex toys. We also found that it needed less topping up in comparison to the others. There was no artificial smell to the lube either which can be great for anyone who struggles with strong perfumed scents. The bottle was also very easy to navigate with a clear pump design and minimal packaging.

It is also made with only five ingredients including dipotassium glycyrrhizate. This natural ingredient comes from the liquorice root and may help to reduce inflammation. It may help with skin conditions or irritation that may occur during sex.

The PH-balanced and water-based formula is safe to use with sex toys or condoms.

5/5

£12.95 / https://www.boots.com/smile-makers-generous-gel-10271782

 

The Natural Love Company Simply Lube

This lubricant is a great option for anyone looking for a natural, cruelty-free, vegan alternative that contains no nasty additives or chemicals.

The product felt natural on the skin without being too sticky. The pump bottle is easy to use, and the lube doesn’t have a strong overpowering scent. We did find that it needed the occasional top up but that’s common with most water-based lubricants. It also contains aloe vera which can be soothing and calming on irritated skin.

It’s worth mentioning the eco-friendly bottle design, which is made from compostable, wheat-based plastic. The ingredients are also 99.2% natural including Forsythia Herb Extract and purified water. If you fancy a bit of a change or if aloe vera isn’t your thing, then the company also offer another version which has wild strawberry extract. Both lubricants are condom and toy-safe.

The natural love company simply lube, decoratively placed next to strands of wheat and a shell on a pink piece of fabric

Overall, this is a well-thought-through product which could be a great addition to the bedside cabinet. It’s also, thanks to the lack of chemicals, a good choice for anyone with allergies or sensitive skin.

4/ 5

£14.95 https://www.thenaturallovecompany.com/shop/eco-friendly-sex-toys/sex-accessories/natural-lube-and-organic-lube/simply-lube-natural-aloe-vera/

 

Sh!

Pure Lube is a bit of a bestseller thanks to how long it lasts on the skin without needing a top-up.

Despite it being water-based, it isn’t overly watery but has a silky feeling without any overpowering scent.

It was also one of the best value for money since the bottle is huge at 250ml for just £12. A little goes a long way with this product so it is designed to last.

The vegan lube is great for combining with sex toys as it doesn’t need to be touched up. It was great to note that Sh! also does a range of thicknesses including Pure Plus which may struggle with dryness or anyone who might be using dilators for vaginismus.

The lube is water-based which means it’s condom and toy safe. We found it easy to wash off the skin afterwards which is a plus. The pump bottle means it can be used with one hand which is great considering the other might already be in use.

3/5

£12 https://www.sh-womenstore.com/lush-pure-lube-250ml.html

 

Hoo Raa Wake the Neighbours

CBD lube is fast becoming a popular addition to the market, and it can be difficult to know where to start if you fancy trying it out.

Hoo Raa is a great first try product as the bright packaging is colourful, playful and not ‘overly-hempy’ or scary. At £30 for 120ml, it’s not the most expensive CBD lubricant out there. It contains 240mg of CBD isolate.

CBD, a cannabinoid, which comes from the cannabis plant is not going to get you high, but it may help you to relax. It may also be a great choice for anyone struggling with sensitivity as CBD is thought to increase blood flow to the area. It has also been associated with reducing painful irritation.

We found that the lubricant felt natural on the skin but a little goes a long way, so we didn’t need a huge amount. It can be a little cloudy in appearance but thankfully it didn’t have the overly hemp-ish smell that some CBD oils can have. While it was hard to know about irritation, we felt a bit more relaxed during use which makes it a potentially great product for anyone with anxiety.

This product is not condom safe however nor is it safe for use with toys.

4/5

£30 https://www.wearehooraa.co.uk/product/wake-the-neighbors-uk/

A selection of grey and orange vibrators in different shapes.

The top five ‘game changing’ vibrators

By Sex & disability, Undressing Disability

While choosing a new sex toy can be really good fun, it can feel a little bit….repetitive after a while. When a new technology, style or shape is released, it’s not long before a lot of brands start to produce a copy of their own. This leaves our sex shops feeling a bit same old, same old when it comes to sex shopping.

There are some out there who are offering something new and exciting but how to find them?

Sex tech designers are listening when it comes to taking note of our needs and wants from our toys. There have been huge developments to inclusivity and access in design as well as the actual functions of the toys on offer. While there is a lot more to be done, there are some amazing toys out there that have been thought about what they have to offer.

We’ve created a list of the top five toys getting us excited for all the right reasons.

 

Putting the toys to the test

Some important things to note about the tester: they are a non-binary person with a vulva so the toys are chosen with this in mind. They are also neurodiverse so sound can be an issue for them.

 

Satisfyer. Elastic GameYellow banana shaped vibrator and also shows its flexibility by having it curved above

Sex toys can be so incredibly gendered when they don’t need to be. As a non-binary person, it feels annoying to be ignored when all it takes is care with the wording and consideration of design.

Satisfyer has thought about this with their new toys which are described as ‘non-binary’. These two new releases are designed to be used by anyone. The Elastic Joy and Elastic Game are multi-use to the extreme in that they can be used in so many different ways.

The versatile toys can be bent, pulled or stretched into positions. This means it can hit the clitoris or G-spot, anal stimulation, prostate massage or even to stimulate the nipples. There are no ends to the uses you can get with this clever toy -even the box demonstrates several handy ways.

The toy can be pulled apart to create a ring too. With two motors on either end which can also be controlled separately, with seven rhythms and 3 intensities.

 

£44.95 https://www.satisfyer.com/uk/satisfyer-elastic-joy/

5/5

 

Love not War. The Heads Collection6 vibrators of different sizes against a sparkly backgrounf

The team at Love not War have created a very simple vibrator with a very simple concept – more orgasms, less waste.

It comes with a series of detachable heads which you can screw on (ahem) or off. The idea behind the vibe is that you only need to buy the base and charger once. Instead of ending up with several toys with multiple accessories and packaging. The toys are made from recycled body-safe materials too.

However, it’s the design of the heads that makes this stand out. It allows you to get creative with pressure so that if you prefer a firmer top (again ahem) then you can switch out that one. If you collect the set of five heads then you can mix it up depending on what you need at the time. This was a godsend for a neurodiverse tester working out what type of pressure they needed from a toy. In that it could be simply switched out.

The heads are all named after different words for love in various languages which is a nice touch. However, when it came to good vibes, the Amour and Kama attachments were head and shoulders above the rest.

 

5/5

Buy now: £69.99+ https://www.l-n-w.com/collections/heads

 

Lioness. Lioness 2.0

Okay so there is one downside to the Lioness, it isn’t available in the UK yet.

However, it’s one to note as it can offer a fantastic insight into the way our bodies….and our minds work together. We are counting down the days until it’s available in the UK.

On the face of it, the Lioness looks like an ordinary vibe. But it’s actually an impressive bit of technology. There are sensors at the side of the toy to measure pelvic floor movements and it feeds information to the app it pairs with to track your orgasm. It can tell you when your body changes, at what time and what intensity your orgasm is at.

The vibrator records this information over time too so you can see how your orgasm is getting better or if it’s getting worse. The goal of this is to help people understand their bodies better while improving relationships and helping aid experimentation.

It’s incredibly fun to watch how your orgasms change depending on circumstances. You can try different things to track how your body responds and you get an orgasm out of it. Science can be really good fun.

 

4.5/5

$229 https://lioness.io/products/the-lioness-vibrator

 

 

Satisfyer. Double Joy Partner Vibrator

The We-Vibe DoublPurple rounded vibrator with plus and minus buttons on the tope Joy is definitely one for the couple who enjoy a bit of tech and a fancier vibe. The C-shaped vibrator is matched to an app which can be used as a remote control.

It might sound like a lot of toys that are on the market but it was another feature that caught our attention, one that allows you to pair it to music. Maybe not be to everyone’s taste but as a neurodiverse tester, anything that allows us to cut back on the minor noises that set off our ADHD and put off our orgasm could be helpful.

Additionally, it can be partnered with a Spotify playlist to create an immersive experience. It’s a huge upgrade from the early days of toys like this that connected to iPhones using far too many wires. Not a lot of vibrators feature this but it’s a case of a small design detail that could make a big difference for someone.

The toy is designed to be worn internally with one end inserted and the other on the clitoris. C-shaped vibes can be a bit tricky to fit if you are relying on someone for help, but not impossible.  The vibe has 10 speeds or patterns that can be controlled on the toy through the app. You can also score some bonus speeds should you need to by using the app.

Double Joy is very carefully crafted with soft silicone which makes it easy to wear or adjust if you need to.

 

4/5

£44.95 https://www.ricky.com/products/satisfyer-double-joy-partner-vibrator

 

Self & More. Zumio X SpiroTip Clitoral MassagerStraight purple vibrator in a charging stand

The Zumio X Spirotip may look a little strange, but the unusual design is what makes it a game changer. It’s a super-powerful direct clitoral stimulator that isn’t shaped like most bullets. It has been designed to mimic precise fingering and uses a rotating motor rather than vibrations.

The toy offers eight powerful speeds which can, despite its size but thanks to clever design, be quite intense. It does have a little bit of noise to it which is completely understandable due to its intensity.

The tiny head of the Zumio may look a bit different but has won design awards and is easy to see why. It is a powerful toy that is a great choice for anyone looking for a firmer choice or an intense experience. The lightweight toy can be taken into the shower too as its waterproof.

The charger is another reason why this is a great purchase. It comes with a dock rather than an awkward cable or magnet charger which means a lot less fuss. But be warned, this toy sells out fast and currently has a waiting list so you need to get in there quickly.

 

4.5/5

£99 https://www.selfandmore.co.uk/collections/sex-toys-vibrators/products/zumio-x-spirotip-clitoral-massager

 

 

Read our top picks of quiet vibrators here

Blurred out images of people on a bed with scrabble tiles in focus reading sex

Spinal cord injuries, intimacy, and sex

By Sex & disability, Undressing Disability

The support around spinal cord injuries (SCI) and sex isn’t great, and often isn’t even provided. Sex and intimacy are a huge part of a person’s life and will be impacted by this type of injury.

We spoke with Ian Hosking about his injury in the hopes that hearing advice from someone else in a similar situation may provide you with some support.

 

Meet Ian

Ian is a 52 year old man who currently lives in Wendover, Buckinghamshire with his wife, son, step-son & step-daughter .

At 34 years old, Ian and his then wife were in a car accident, leaving them both with spinal cord injuries, and Ian became tetraplegic paralysed from the chest down. Changing his life for ever.

Of course, this wasn’t easy for Ian to adjust to initially, however it didn’t stop Ian enjoying the activities he enjoyed. Amongst other things, Ian has a love for Wheelchair rugby, he played for 16 years and is now the chairman & player with Stoke Mandeville Maulers wheelchair rugby team.

Another of Ian’s passions is helping others with a SCI to regain confidence and navigate a new and unexpected journey. He has done a lot of work with the Spinal Injury Associations which includes delivering talks to organisations and groups.

Eighteen years on Ian has created a new life for himself and offers some great advice that could be useful to hear.

 

dimmed lighting, laptop on in the background with a heard shaped ornament on too and a candleOnline dating

Adjusting to an injury of this extend is difficult, and every situation is different. It caused a huge strain on Ian’s first marriage, resulting in separation for the pair.  After this, Ian tried online dating where he met his current wife 10 years ago. We wanted to get Ian’s opinion on when and how to tell your matches about a SCI.

Firstly, don’t feel pressure to advertise being a wheelchair user in your bio but also don’t hide it. After all your injury isn’t who you are, just a part of it. With a SCI, it isn’t always easy for someone to notice, especially if the pictures you are using are of you sitting down or from a certain angle.

However, as Ian suggests, it’s probably not a good idea for you not to hide it either. Ian would often talk about playing wheelchair rugby, which is a pretty good indicator. If someone stops speaking to you after this, then they likely weren’t the right person you would want in your life anyway!

We have a Love Lounge question answer more about disclosing disability when online dating that you might find useful.

 

Taking time to adjust

After the car accident, all Ian remembers is waking up in the hospital with his hands not working fully and with out being able to feel three quarters of his body. Now he has learned to use the function in his hands as best he can and is paralysed from the chest down.

One of the things Ian had to adjust to were leg spasms. With a SCI, the muscles are no longer responding to brain signals. Therefore, involuntary spasms can occur. This can be frustrating, you can take medication to reduce it but there is no way to stop them happening. Ian decided not the take ant medication and to just cope with the spasms.

Another adjustment is the loss of control over bladder and bowels. Accidents can occur, which obviously is not a pleasant experience. Ian says he was lucky as before his incident he didn’t have any issues with his bladder and bowels, therefore making it slightly easier to pre-plan his bathroom visits. However, this is not the case for everybody and will take a varying amount of time to adjust to these changes.

 

Ians advice

The number 1 thing is to be patient with yourself. You are relearning your body, and this takes time. You may find you now have different values and purpose. There is no ‘right way’ to adjust, so take time and learn what works for you. In time you will have new ‘normal’ routine, which many people establish through rehabilitation and support from family and friends. Which takes us on to having patience with your loved ones, communication is key.

Yes it is your body, but it will also impact the lives of those you are close with. Having an understanding to how others may react will go a long way. The people in your life will want to help, and any conflict or frustration can most likely be solved through an open and honest conversation.

Another piece of advice would be to stop trying to avoid problems and try solving them instead. What could a potential solution to your issue be? And if that doesn’t work then maybe something else will.

 

Intimacy Blurred image of someone lying on a bed. There are scrabble tiles in focus reading sex

Ian says the need for communication and honest conversations after a SCI made sex more intimate. The first step should always be honesty with your partner. This will also help relieve any nerves – which are completely normal for someone to experience around intimacy after an injury.

Planning your sex can be beneficial so you can make sure you have been to the bathroom beforehand and prepared yourself mentally if necessary.

One thing to consider and talk about with your partner is positions. This will depend on the level of injury as everyone will have different capabilities.

There are various medications that can taken which allows a male to become hard. Each with different strengths and side effects. For example, some medications will remain in the body for longer, which as Ian pointed out, is not ideal when it’s the next day and you’re trying to get about your daily life. It might take some trial and error to find what works for you.

 

Focusing on the positives

It goes without saying that adjusting to a SCI will be challenging, but Ian was determined to not let this change him from a happy and positive person.Ian and Lenny at his concert

He even laughed about how it can actually have many benefits. Like him and his wife getting priority seats to a past Lenny Kravitz concert resulting in being in the right place when Lenny did a walk around. Lenny then stopping and giving Ian a hug and kissing him on the head!

Ian also gives advice about the positives it can bring to a relationship, specifically being less selfish in the bedroom department. I’m sure many women (and men) can relate to sex sometimes feeling a bit…underwhelming. However, Ian says that his SCI made him more aware of what his partner wanted and liked. Pleasing them became more of a priority as the focus was taken off pleasuring himself.

 

 

Resources

If you have any questions about Spinal Cord Injuries and intimacy, write in to our Love Lounge where we will offer some practical advice to your problem

We also had Dr Mitchell Tepper on our Undressing Disability Podcast, who is a sex educator and coach who specialises in Spinal Cord Injuries.

 

 

Someone holding a pink vibrator. It is larger than their hand

The top five quiet vibrators

By Sex & disability, Undressing Disability

When it comes to good vibes, the ones generating the best buzz are the quieter ones on the market. After all, who wants to worry about noise when you live at home, have housemates or might be sensitive to the sound?

There are a lot of reasons other than housemates why people may prefer a quieter vibe. This can include neurodiverse conditions such as ADHD or autism where you may find the noise distracting or uncomfortable. It may also be difficult to determine the volume levels of a toy if you are deaf or hearing impaired.

Sadly, not all vibes are created equal, so some can be a lot louder than others creating potentially uncomfortable situations all around. However, there are some out there that are quieter than others.

It’s important to note that all toys will have some sound, and the higher the setting, the more noise it will make. That said, toy companies are becoming aware of the need for ‘quiet time’ and creating better options.

Putting the toys to the test

We’ve created a list of the Top Five Toys we rated and recommend for a practically silent session.

Some important things to note about the tester: they are a non-binary person with a vulva so the toys are chosen with this in mind. They are also neurodiverse so sound can be an issue for them.

 

Image of the vibrator and the box. they are pinkThe Smile Makers. The artist vibrator

The artist is a wonderful innovative toy and has become something of a favourite in recent times thanks to its versatility.

This almost silent toy is possibly one of the quietest vibes we have ever sampled although it’s worth noting that it does get louder when the speed increases. However, it’s nothing that can’t be covered with a closed-door – it doesn’t need much.

 

When it comes to speed, the toy has nine pulsation modes, but it’s the way that they can be used which makes it a clever purchase. The toy has two parts: one for insertion and another for clitoral stimulation. It can also be used for clitoral or penetration alone if you prefer one or the other. As clinical as that sounds, dual stimulation toys don’t come to play when it comes to the main event.

It has been designed for vulva owners and does fit the body perfectly, although it is also adjustable in case you need a minor change. It also features two sensors at the side of the toy which allow you to select two different pulsations for either part of the vibe. It’s the truly customisable options that makes it a great purchase.

It’s also easily gripped, waterproof, easy to clean, and also scores bonus points for not being gendered or shaped like a rabbit.

This is a great purchase for anyone who needs a well-designed toy with options.

Rating: 5/5

£107 Shop here

 

Picture of the stimulator. It's purple and in a u shapeAnn Summers. The Whisper Clitoral stimulator

Ann Summers is one of the most notorious sex shops on the high street so it can often be the first venture for beginners new to sex shops. The online store also feels a little less scary than some of the other options out there.

The Whisper is a clitoral stimulator that has two rounded sides that pulsate. It can also be used as a bullet vibe. It’s a great choice for anyone who enjoys a bit of clitoral action or prefers a firmer texture from a toy.  Texture can matter when it comes to selecting the right toy as some people prefer softer or harder materials. The body-safe silicone of Whisper is firmer than it feels and provides the right level of stimulation. It’s a lot easier to grip than a standard bullet too.

The toy offers 11 different patterns and speeds but doesn’t compromise on strength despite its quietness. It estimates that it comes in at 35db which makes it house share ready.

The Whisper toys are great for anyone who might be searching for a starter vibrator but feels a little frightened by some of the tech options out there. It is incredibly easy to operate as you just need to click and go – no fancy app pairing or confusing buttons to learn about.

If a bullet-style toy isn’t your thing but you like the quietness of the Whisper then it’s worth noting that this is a collection. There is also an insertion option which has the iconic Ann Summers rabbit shape. They even have a more classically shaped bullet so you can find what works for you.

Rating: 3.5/5

£48  Shop here 

 

Someones hand holding the turquoise vibrator.Mystery Vibe. Poco vibrator

The Poco vibrator is an impressively designed toy which has been created to feel like a finger. The toy bends into almost a U-shape in the body with a little bit of pressure. It can be used either for insertion or held against the clitoris for extra stimulation.  There are two joints on the toy so you can curve it into three sections which fit your own body or between yourself and your partner.

There is some noise with Poco but it’s nothing a closed-door or light music couldn’t handle. It’s more of a low purr or pulsating noise in comparison to a full-scale intense rumble.

The smaller size of the vibe at 1.6 inches at the widest point, and 5.9 inches long. Making it a great option for anyone who is feeling nervous about making the jump into sex toys – especially anyone worried about noise levels.

For couples who like a technical option, the vibrator can be paired with an app that your partner can control. It’s also waterproof so it can be taken into the shower to mix it up a bit.

The vibe has eight different speeds and 16 different intensities which you can mix and match so it is very difficult to get bored. You can also program it to remember your preferences as well so even if you forget a favourite setting – the vibe won’t.

Rating: 3.5/5

 £90 Shop here 

 

The white vibrator against a beige backgroundDame products. The Com

This has become ‘the one’ in what is a very overcrowded bedside table drawer. The com is a great toy and one of the more quiet ones we have quite literally come across. It’s a fantastic option for anyone struggling with reach, grip or someone who needs a strong pressure or firmer texture from a toy.

 

It’s a truly quiet vibrator that doesn’t sacrifice strength for silence when it gets going. It was impressively silent only letting out a solid purr sound instead of the usual buzz.

The com, despite its design, is actually a clitoral stimulator although it looks more like an insertion toy. It’s designed to fit with the body so the medical-grade silicone is soft to the touch and sleekly contoured. It features five different patterns or intensities so you can mix and match to see what suits you.

The stronger the setting, the better the vibes – trust us on that. As with all vibrators, the noise does increase slightly if you up the ante on the speed but it’s still not that loud in comparison to others out there.

The powerful toy is really simple and quick to use which is great for anyone looking for something easy to hold with intensity. Or something that is no muss, no fuss – just good vibes all around.

Rating: 4.5/5

£125  Shop here 

 

Pink background with the toy in black. It looks similar to a computer mouse in shape Sinful 2 in 1 Bliss

Sinful is one of the quietest multi-use toys out there and it makes a great couples toy. It comes in two parts: a remote and a simple egg-shaped toy with ten speeds. The layout is thankfully simple and it’s really easy to use.

The versatility vibe can be used in many different ways. Including as a clitoral bullet, insertion toy or remote-control option. This means lots of super options for solo or couple play. The different choices with this toy made it fun to use as it felt like the options were endless with it.

The vibrations could be intense but thankfully it does come with a softer side too. The versatile toy also looks discreet and is contoured to the body similar to the artist and com.

If any criticism, sometimes love eggs can be difficult to use if you rely on someone to help you position sex toys or struggle with grip. What goes up, must come down… so all egg-shaped toys like this need a well-attached cord to help them be removed.

We did like that the toy wasn’t gendered which made it more appealing and it came in a neutral colour too. The range on the toy is 10 meters but frankly, we ended up not making it that far apart when testing….

Rating: 4/5

£47.99 Shop here

 

Looking for more like this? Our Undressing Disability Hub has more sex toy reviews for you to browse. Sign up for free here

 

 

Woman with knee high boots standing next to a railing, she is visable up to her waist. The backlighting is pink and blue

Disability and sex lessons from a striptease artist

By Sex & disability, Undressing Disability

“What stripping for people with disabilities taught me about sex”

Ruth Ramsay is a sex educator and coach, but for over a decade was a striptease artist ‘Solitaire’. Here she shares the lessons that performing for audiences with disabilities has taught her about disability and sexual needs.

“Right now I feel on top of the world!”

Peeping out through the stage door, I see the audience are ready for the show to begin.

I’m performing at Extreme Burlesque, a striptease show for people with disabilities. I’m delighted to see many of the women in the audience are dressed-up, with feather boas draped over wheelchairs and sparkly makeup. It’s always more fun as a performer when the audience is into it.

Chatting to some of the ladies later, I become aware there is more at play here than a fun night out. “Thank you for this” one says, gesturing to the glittery corset her carer helped her to put on earlier. “I never get the opportunity to dress like this. I never get to act as sexy as I am inside. Right now I feel on top of the world!”

I hadn’t thought before about the day-to-day barriers people with disabilities may face to express their sexuality. There was also the deeper issue of ‘desire – ability’*: we receive messages from media, culture, caregivers etc about what bodies are approved in our society to feel desire (as well as which are desirable). This nuance was something I had never been aware of before.

Importance of independence black and white image of a woman upside down on a pole. There is smoke to the left of the picture

I’m stood by the stage curtain, ready to step out onto the stage and start my show, and I’m feeling emotional.

It’s a Sunday afternoon at a strip pub in London. I have just been talking to the friend of a young guy in the audience who I’ve seen before on Sunday shifts. He has cerebral palsy, uses a wheelchair, and has limited control over his movements and vocalisation. His friend lines up pound coins on the edge of the table (this is a venue where we collect £1 from each audience member in a beer jug before each show), and he has just enough mobility to knock them into the jug if we hold it just below the edge of the table.

This same friend has just explained his Sunday visits to me. The disabled mans mum – his main carer – thinks he’s at a social club for people with disabilities, with a membership fee. She’s happy to pay, as he comes back so happy and invigorated. She doesn’t know he is visiting a strip pub and the money is going to dancers. “This is the highlight of his month. It’s what keeps him going the rest of the time,” his friend tells me.

Before this I hadn’t properly appreciated before, sexual energy as such an uplifting and healing force: the power of being recognised as a sexual being, welcomed and accepted in an environment that’s all about erotic energy.

Night of The Senses

I’m gazing around me in amazement, my eyes drinking in the scene of naked skin, moist lips, kinky and fabulous outfits and sex acts happening in full sight…

I am at the Night of The Senses, the after-party to the annual Erotic Awards. It’s early in my stripping career, and I’ve just performed in the Awards show. Proceeds go to Outsiders, a charity which helps people with disabilities find friends, romance and partners. The Night is my first-ever raunchy anything-goes party.

Skimpily-dressed people are kissing, caressing and more; there’s leather and whips and toys; the dancefloor is a mass of motion, smiles and laughter. And about half of this sexy crowd have disabilities.

It was an important lesson to me early on, that having a disability in no way necessarily impairs a person’s ability to want or enjoy sexual pleasure. Access to such pleasure should not be dependent on a conventionally ‘functional’ or attractive body. “Of course!”, I hear Undressing Disability readers shout. But nearly 20 years later, it still feels mainstream awareness is lagging behind.

“What, is it off? Already???!”

Blue and pink lit image of aa music deck with a dancer in the backgroundMy final lesson brings us back to my Extreme Burlesque. During my striptease I am allowed off the stage to roam around the audience.

At mainstream venues like this I’d sometimes choose a guy to undo my bra clasp. Usually this involved quite a bit of fumbling and took some time! I admit that in that moment, I assumed that it would take an audience member here a lot longer.

I chose a guy who had the mobility in his arms and hands to attempt the task, and was sat where I could rest on the edge of a table while he took his time. He had a respectful vibe – I didn’t want to get groped – and looked like he had a sense of humour.

Sashaying over to him, I gave him a big smile, then turned my back and pointed to my bra clasp, with a “will you undo this for me?” motion. I settled down in front of him, ready for us all (him included) to have a laugh as he tried to undo it, looking back over my shoulder at him.

He gave me a cheeky grin, then with one hand quickly reached up, pinched the clasp between finger and thumb and pinged it off. It was undone in under a second. Never before (or since) has anyone done that so expertly.

Lesson – do not assume someone’s level of sexual experience and expertise based on them having a disability!

Concluding thoughts

These lessons served me well during my career as a stripper, and continue to now I am a coach. I was taught the healing power of sexual energy; made aware of how many people are denied access to it; saw the importance of feeling desire-able (as well as desirable); and learnt to never make assumptions. Plus so much more that there isn’t space to mention here.

Without these lessons, I might have had fun as a dancer for a few years, then left that world behind. Instead, working with sexual energy became my life’s passion and purpose.

Thank you to all the diverse communities – including disabled, trans, ageing and non-binary – who continue to teach me so much and expand my view of sexual expression.

 

Find out more about Ruth and contact her via her website.

 

*This concept has been brought into clearer words for me by the author and therapist Lucie Fielding, in her amazing book ‘Trans Sex – Clinical Approaches To Trans Sexualities And Erotic Embodiement’. Find the book here

 

Read more like this on our UndressingDisability blog 

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