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#UndressingDisability: Sex Ed for Teenagers

At Enhance The UK, we believe more conversations around sex & disability need to be started. We’re not shy, we’ll discuss just about anything!

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Frequently UNASKED Questions!

On the contrary, there’s many Frequently Unasked Questions about disability! People are often afraid to ask questions and worry about how to treat disabled people to avoid offending.

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Your Sex Questions Answered

We receive a lot of curious questions from people with and without disabilities about sex. Here’s some of the most commonly asked questions.

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DON'T FORGET ABOUT
LIABILITY MAGAZINE!

Liability is an online monthly magazine published by us. It’s written by a group of women who all have disabilities and are not afraid to talk about them. They have a lot to say each month and topics covered range from sex and relationships to current affairs, politics and fashion. There really is something for everyone!

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Recent Blogs

There’s helpful information, questions and articles on our blog too…

Sex when you have a live-in PA A man kisses a womans neck as she lies on a bed, their hands are entwined

Sex when you have a live-in PA

By | The Love Lounge

The Question

Hello,

My question is about sex when you have a live-in PA as I worry about the thought of having sex when she’s around. I’ve been a wheelchair user for 8 years and haven’t had a sexual relationship in this time. It has become a big issue for me because I always have a live-in PA.

I worry about how I can have sex – either in a relationship or a one-night stand because I don’t know how the logistics will work. I’m not very sexually open/confident and the thought of my PA knowing I’m having sex in the other room freaks me out.

Also, would they have to get me on the bed in preparation? I just feel it’s going to ruin any sexy moment and what will the guy think of me? I’ll feel unsexy and like a child being helped.

Hoping you can give me some advice or support if you’ve had any experience of this before?

Steph, 30.

Our Answer

Hi Steph,

Thanks so much for writing to us! We often get asked this question about sex when you have a live-in PA.

There are a couple of things here; how close you feel with your live-in PA and if you have different ones? And, about owning your right to have a sex life. At ETUK we believe everyone has the right to have a sex life, no matter their situation!

So firstly, try and work on your confidence to be able to tell your PA what you want or need. Say ‘I want this to happen and I’d love for you to make it easier for me as I’m embarrassed’. They are there to enable these things to happen. You don’t have to worry about what someone else is thinking, it’s not their life. This is yours.

Expressing your Needs

I understand it may feel difficult to be open with them, making yourself emotionally vulnerable. But you can say as much or as little as you want to, whilst keeping yourself safe. I have found that being open and sharing things I’m embarrassed about can feel like the most scary thing. However, once you’ve let it out of your mouth and someone reacts kindly to it, it’s the most liberating thing ever! And you will then be confident to share more!

The Logistics

This is where the relationship with your PA will play a part. If they change and you have a favourite, start discussing it with that one and plan for the ‘event’ to happen when they’re staying with you. When you’ve done it once with one PA, then I’m sure it will be easier to do it again when another is with you. This means you won’t have to restrict sexy time to a particular week!!! Your live-in PA can always go out for a couple of hours so you have sex in complete privacy. But if that’s not safe for you, tell them turn their TV up! 😉

As for help in the bedroom, I don’t know your mobility needs but perhaps the guy you have sex with will be happy to help you. It can become sexy in itself… moving you on to the bed, kissing you in between stages…keeping the excitement going. Blokes like something different! And then he can undress you if you need help. This can be as slow or fast as you want – it can all be very tantalising.

Have confidence that if he wants to have sex with you, he won’t be worrying about the logistics of getting there! Don’t apologise for it, and JUST HAVE FUN!!!

Hope this helps.
Zoe x

A starry sky

My Vagina is The Star – Kiruna’s First Smear Test

By | Disability, Undressing Disability

A guest blog by Kiruna Stamell.

I am a dwarf woman, a little person, person of restricted growth, person of short stature. That is my ‘thing’. Or the ‘thing’ people focus on.

As a result, I had this long-held belief that I had received my ‘lot’ in life. You know, I had my ‘thing’. I been served my life’s challenge. Somehow this made me arrogantly believe I was superior to getting cancer, herpes, murdered by a serial killer or being struck by lightning. I was simply too unique to be touched by common problems.

I am not alone as a disabled person in this thinking. It seems to be a common idea amongst us disabled folk and reinforced by non-disabled people that we already ‘carry our burden’. We are externally defined by our impairments so often, we too subconsciously internalise the belief, that our impairments are our [winces] ‘thing’.

So, a vaginal or cervical cancer thing was not on the list of things to worry about.

The ‘woman’ part of my identity felt flimsy, secondary to the desexualised label of ‘dwarf’, but she’s always been there. And one day, I woke up to the reality that my health isn’t just about my impairment.

I don’t know what happened, but I think it was a desire to feel like every other woman. All my average height and non-disabled friends were having their vaginas looked at and I wanted someone to look at mine.

Also, I had had a period refuse to stop and thought this was weird. So did my doctor.

My First Smear Test

The first challenge was that I was a virgin, and the doctors were funny about putting a speculum inside a virgin. I think, this is why I got sent to a proper gynaecologist straight away.

I was not so precious. I liked that my vagina was getting a lot of attention and being taken seriously. It took the medical focus off my height. All eyes were on my foof, and my foof was equalising!

At my first smear, lubricant was liberally applied. This was really helpful.

There were a couple of challenges:

  • The building was an old hospital, so door handles were too high for me to open, so I had to be escorted through the building.
  • Getting onto the bed was a challenge. Doing it gracefully and with no knickers on more so, as for me it was a literal climb. They made a step up onto it out of a chair and a smaller step stool.

I discovered that my cervix sits very high up and to the front. I’ve remembered this detail for all subsequent smears, telling the nurse saves so much time!

I find the weirdest bit is when the speculum parts. It feels a bit like when the dentist pulls your cheeks apart. Sometimes, my vagina creaks. Not audibly but like a sound you feel in your body. On a good cervical smear day, it just opens up and if to say ‘wow’. These occasions are rarer, and I only really remember that happening with the lube.

I find it reassuring getting a smear. I find it a really good reminder that being a ‘dwarf’ isn’t my only ‘thing’. I feel connected to humanity knowing I need to look after my sexual health as much as anyone else does.

When I am on that bed getting a smear, my vagina is the star. In that moment it is the most unique thing about me.

Cervical Screening Campaign

Learn more about our Cervical Cancer Red Tape campaign. which aims to remove the barriers that many disabled women face when accessing cervical screening and sexual health services. Search hashtag #CervicalScreeningRedTape to join the conversation and follow us on Instagram and Twitter.

We hope our tips for improving access to cervical screening make a difference. If you work in the healthcare sector please feel free to share them with your network.

 

Cervical Screening and Deaf Awareness

By | Disability, Undressing Disability

Cervical screening saves lives and its so important that women have regular check-ups. So why did a survey by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust highlight that 88% of disabled women found accessing a smear test more difficult because of their impairment? Claire, our Deputy CEO shares her experience of cervical screening as a deaf woman.

6 Monthly Check Ups

A few years ago, I had to go for cervical screening tests every 6 months. It definitely wasn’t my favourite way to pass the time, but I know first-hand how essential it is. You see a smear test showed that I had moderate to severe abnormal cells caused by the HPV virus. Luckily for me it was picked up and I had laser therapy to destroy the abnormal cells. Now that’s resolved I go for a smear test every 3 years and hope for a positive experience. Unfortunately, a lack of deaf awareness frequently creates problems. As a result, I battle with feelings of anxiety before, during and after the test takes place. And I’m not alone. A study by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust found that 88% of disabled women found cervical screening tests difficult because of their impairments. Something needs to change!

My First Smear Test

The first time I had a smear test I didn’t really understand what was going on. I’m sure that’s common for many women but when you’re deaf there’s extra things to feel anxious about. For example, at my doctor’s surgery the examination room is right next to the busy waiting room. Before my smear test the nurse left the room for me to get undressed. She said she’d knock to make sure I was behind the cubicle curtain before coming back in. As I can’t hear the knock on the door, I felt panicked that I’d be exposed.

I explained that I was deaf, but unfortunately the nurse didn’t adapt her behaviour to ensure I was properly briefed. When preparing for the test she kept turning her head away to organise the equipment. This made it impossible to lipread, so I lay there with my anxiety growing by the second.

Once my knees were up and a sheet covering me, I couldn’t see what was about to happen. I knew she was talking to me, but I couldn’t hear what she was saying. I said “I can’t hear you” and instead of moving her head so I could lipread, she just stopped talking.

When she inserted the speculum there was no warning, so I tensed my body, and it was really painful. (I’m told by hearing friends that the nurse tells you when it’s about to be inserted and whilst it may be uncomfortable it usually doesn’t hurt.)

I also left the test with no idea of when to expect the results and went home upset and worried.

Deaf Awareness

My next experience of cervical screening was much more positive. The nurse told me her cousin was deaf, so she had great deaf awareness. Here’s what she did to make the smear test a much easier experience for me.

1. She explained the procedure from start to finish before asking me to get ready and lie on the bed.
2. Whilst explaining she maintained eye contact, used gestures, and demonstrated with the speculum what would happen. When I didn’t understand one part, she got a pen and paper and wrote it down.
3. When leaving the room for me to get undressed she said she’d be back in 5 minutes, rather than saying ‘she’d knock’. I looked at the time on my phone, got ready and waited.
4. We agreed that she would tap my leg as a sign that she was about to insert the speculum, giving me a moment to relax and prepare.
5. She understood that I was very anxious because of my previous experience and reassured me.

Make Appointments, Not Assumptions

If you are deaf and have never had a smear test, then please don’t be put off by my initial experience. Cervical Screening saves lives. My aim of sharing such a personal insight is that it will help bring about change, and help the disabled community have equal access to the services others access easily.

For medical professionals reading this hopefully my tips will be useful and improve deaf awareness within your surgery or clinic. Find more insight on our campaign page. 

#CervicalScreeningRedTape

Follow Our Campaign

Read more about our #CervicalScreeningRedTape campaign and follow us on twitter @ETUKUndressing and Instagram @UndressingDisability.

 

Worried about Cervical Screening?

Visit the Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust website where you’ll find lots of practical information, advice and a forum where you can pose questions and share experiences.

The Love Lounge

 

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