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How I Went From Being a Psych Major to a Sex-Toy Creator

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alex-fine-janet-lieberman

Like many little girls, Alex Fine wanted to change the world.

Her approach was a little uncouth — by young adulthood she decided the best way to make things better would be to give people a better understanding of human sexuality. Alex and her partner Janet Lieberman founded Dame Products in 2011 to do just that — and to ensure every single woman could have an orgasm when she wanted one.

The women designed toys that could work WITH couples during sex to ignite arousal and pleasure. Their first product, Eva, launched on Indiegogo and quickly became the most successful crowdsourced sex toy in history. And Dame’s latest invention, the Fin, made news as Kickstarter’s first-ever sex-toy crowdfunding campaign.

“I grew up empowered by sexuality, but aware of its dark side. I have felt empowered by my sexuality since I was very young…”

Even very young, I was aware of my femininity. The only epiphany I ever had about sex was when I grew boobs. I remember waking up and being like, “Oh my God! I officially have boobs.”

I first experienced slut-shaming in sixth grade, when I kissed three boys in one night. They were all my good guy friends and they were like, “What would it feel like to kiss a girl?” and I said, “I’m a girl, I could show you what it feels like to kiss.” I’m an open person. That’s me.

It only bothered me the next day, when I got to school and everybody was talking about it. People were so mean to me that day and called me a slut. I did not kiss a boy for like two years after that.

I caught on early to the power of sharing stories about sexual experiences

In high school, I dated the same guy from freshman to senior year. I lost my virginity to him… and got HPV. I wanted to share what I went through with my health class. My teacher told me not to — she said it would be a really awful idea because kids can be so cruel. I told her that was wrong: “You are telling me not to share my experience and you are perpetuating the cycle.” I refused to shut down and pretend these things hadn’t happened. So I kept talking — and other girls started coming to me to talk through their own stuff.

As high school graduation approached, I was seriously considering becoming a sex therapist. I am so fascinated by the psychology of gender and sex and how it shapes our society. I wanted to be a part of this conversation. I ended up going to Columbia University for a masters in clinical psychology. It was during that time I realized this dialogue was one I wanted to have.

My goal was to figure out how to make the biggest impact

Growing up, my father really instilled in me the entrepreneurial spirit. It was a belief that there were no limitations on what I could do — and if I didn’t know how to do something, I could look it up on the internet and get the answers I needed. I think a good entrepreneur has this really ridiculous belief that they can figure out how to do anything.

I remember mapping possible futures out for myself in grad school. I could become a sex therapist, sex educator, teacher… And then I added, “I could make a vibrator.”

I circled that last sentence on my idea board. The thought resonated with me. My goal has always been to help people — especially women — feel empowered and aware of their own sexual identities.

So, it was in that headspace that I ended up working in a consumer goods company. I wanted to learn about what it means to be a brand and sell a product around the world — and that’s when I started drawing out what would eventually become the Eva hands-free vibrator for women to wear during sex in order to close the orgasm gap.

Complete Article HERE!

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All My Son Needs to Know About Sex and Being a Good Man

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By Megan Rubiner Zinn

When I was pregnant, and learned I was going to have a boy, my first thought was “Here’s my chance; I can help put a good man out into the world.” Utter hubris, I know. We only have so much control as parents and we often don’t know what we’re doing. I had no idea how I was going to do this, but I knew I was already ahead of the game, since his father was such a good man. When my second son came along four years later, it was my first thought again: another chance.

There are scores of qualities that make a good man, but as I’ve raised my boys, three values have consistently bubbled to the top: Be honest, be kind, take responsibility. I’m never more proud of my boys when they demonstrate these qualities, and as we’ve all learned the hard way, nothing will make me more angry when they don’t.

I’m about to send my 18-year-old son off until the world. He’ll be 750 miles away, on his own, and he’ll be able to do whatever the hell he wants. Whatever the hell he wants will undoubtedly include having relationships and sex. There is so much I want to say to him, and really, to every young man about to strike out on his own, so much I want to impart about how to be a good man in a relationship. Yet, really, it comes down to the same three things: be honest, be kind, take responsibility.

in love

So here’s my didactic list for my son, who is nearly a man, and anyone else who wants to listen.

1. If you like someone, tell them. Don’t play games. Don’t make them guess. Don’t make them question their judgment.

2. If you love someone, tell them. But not on the first date. Use a little judgment.

3. Don’t pretend to be in a relationship or in love to have sex. If you just want to have sex and fun but not a relationship, be honest about it. It’s up to your partner to decide if that’s what her or she wants, too.

4. If you can’t be yourself in a relationship, find a new one.

5. If you’re trying to be who you think your partner wants you to be, stop it.

6. If you can’t or don’t want to be monogamous, don’t commit to someone who wants monogamy.

7. Get to know your own body before someone else gets to know your body and before you try to figure out theirs.

8. Sex is about being open, vulnerable, and naked. It’s about trusting your partner. You don’t have to be in love. You should be in trust.

9. Sex brings responsibility, for yourself and for someone else. Don’t underestimate that.

10. If you can’t talk to a partner about sex, you shouldn’t be having sex with them.

11. Don’t overestimate and don’t underestimate the importance of sex in a relationship.

12. Figure out birth control before you have sex.

13. Learn how to use condoms. Not just that they exist, but how use them, how to make sure they don’t fail, what to do when you’re done.
Make sure you know about women’s birth control and emergency contraception. This is your responsibility just as much as it is theirs.

14. If you’re too embarrassed to buy birth control, you shouldn’t be having sex.

15. Sex doesn’t always have to mean intercourse. There are plenty of ways to have fun without a pregnancy risk, though these do often come with STI risks. I would enumerate, but I’m sure you don’t want that.

16. Don’t expect to be good at sex right away. Practice, practice, practice.

17. There are words for women who like sex and don’t hide this fact. Self-aware, satisfied, and good company are three that come to mind. Most women like sex. There is no such thing as a slut.

18. Don’t guess whether your partner is as satisfied as you with sex. Ask. If they weren’t, ask what they need and want. If you can’t, you shouldn’t be having sex in the first place.

19. Your partner has had some partners before you? Great. It might mean they know what they’re doing.

20. Laugh during sex. If you can’t, you shouldn’t be having sex. Sex can often be ridiculous; respond accordingly.

21. Consent consent consent.

22. Drunk, incapacitated, and unconscious people can’t give consent.

23. Porn is a terrible way to learn about sex. This is not what most men look like. This is not what most women look like. This is not what most sex is like. It’s a movie. It’s no more realistic than Star Wars or The Avengers.

24. If you’re going to watch porn, pay for it. Look for feminist, non-exploitative porn. It will be just as fun, just as effective, and your partner may want to watch it with you.

25. One night stands, hooking up, and friends with benefits: not everyone is doing this. Some people can have casual or anonymous sex without damaging themselves physically or emotionally. Some people can’t. Figure out which of these you are and which your partner is, and tread carefully.

26. There are more ways in heaven and earth to be a sexual being and to have relationships. Accept who you are, let others be who they want to be. Unless someone is being coerced or hurt, don’t judge. In their eyes, you may be the weirdo.

27. Be honest, be kind, take responsibility.

Complete Article HERE!

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Slut Shaming

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Name: Martin
Gender: Male
Age: 50
Location:
Thanks in advance for your assistance, Dr. Dick.
Here’s my dilemma; I’m so in love with my partner, he’s actually the man of my dreams. We met much later in life, he being 45 and I’m 50.
I was married before w/children, out now as a gay man and all is well with my children’s relationship.
My partner has always known he was gay, has had numerable relationships, and was a sexual addict. He has wanted me to understand his past in relationship to his level of happiness now, stating that he was a bottom slut only because he was never truly in love or satisfied.
He wants me to believe that “I’m the one” that has changed his life-long addiction to strange dick up his ass.
I can’t seem to get past his past slut behavior, and oftentimes get so pissed off because he wants me to meet and develop friendships with many of these past fucks (primarily because they were military buddies also).
Why can’t I accept his slutty past and stop the suspicions?
Why do I get so upset just knowing that he was a total bottom slut??
How can I get him to understand that I have no desire to know any more about his sexual past and just focus on creating our lives???
Thanks,

Martin, Martin, Martin! How you do go on, darling.bullshit

Take a look at your language, why don’t ‘cha? Could you possibly be any more pejorative when speaking of the sexual experiences of someone who has lived a different lifestyle than you? I doubt it. Look at how many times you use the word “slut” to describe the man you say you love. I’m gonna call you out on that. You simply can’t tell me you love someone that you have so little regard for.

Your man wants you to understand his past, but you won’t take it at face value. You belittle his experience, possibly because it doesn’t match your own very limited, sexually exclusive, predominately heterosexual lifestyle.

circle jerkListen, lots of gay men (and some straight men) have loads of sex for lots different reasons. Sometimes just for the fun of it…or, as your man suggests, just to be a big old bottom slut. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. One can be happily sexual without loving each and every one of his partners. And the sex can be really good too. Just as one can have very unsatisfying sex with somebody one loves deeply. Sex, intimacy, and love are not necessarily dependent on the one another. No need to make such a tangle of it all, Martin.

I also want to reinforce my belief that there’s no such thing as a sex addict. Compulsive behavior? Sure! Out of control behavior? You betcha! Self-denigrating behavior? Absolutely! Sexual addiction? No way!

Try for just a minute to extricate yourself from your sex-negative mindset by exchanging the notion of eating when you talk about your friend’s sexual exploits. Would you have the same revulsion if your guy said he had shared food with lots of other guys? Some of it was fast food that didn’t satisfy all that much. Sometimes he ate just because he wanted to, not because he was hungry. And now he wants you and he, as a couple, to be friends with some of the men he ate with. Sounds perfectly reasonable to me!fingering his ass

Your man is inviting you to open yourself up and see life and sex as most openly gay men do. This is fundamentally different from how some formerly closeted men see life and sex. If you let him, he just might help heal you of your sex-negativity.

Finally, jealousy is one of the worst human emotions. It’s actually a kind of hatred, you know. Sometimes it’s hatred of another, but it is always self-hatred. You say you love this man; again, I challenge you on that. It’s clear to me that you have a much greater love of your provincial notions about sex then you have for this guy.

Here’s a tip, Martin. Jettison the unhealthy attitudes about sexual expression and give your guy a chance to be himself, not the idealized man you’ve made him out be, or think he should be. You’d be well served by working with a sex-positive therapist to help you get over this. Do it now, because if you hesitate you will surely ruin the very relationship you claim to treasure.

Good luck

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IS THERE A SPLINTER IN MY EYE?

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Today, we visit with a pair of very disgruntled correspondents. How nice!

Have you ever noticed how some folks have an inordinate amount of time on their hands? Time they use to poke around in the lives of the rest of us poor, unfortunate, benighted souls. They love to point out the errors of our ways. Whatever would we do without these guiding lights? It’s always been curious to me how the least capable among us are always the first to set himself or herself up as the arbiter of proper and wholesome living, especially when it comes to sex.

Who was it that said, “remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye”? Oh yeah, now I remember. I am in really good company today. 😉

And today, dear readers, I’ll not bother tidying up my correspondents’ spelling and punctuation. I want you to experience the fullness of their brilliance for yourselves. Besides, I’m too busy trying to dislodge this plank from my eye.

Hey Dickhead
I would really like to know who you are and what are your qualifications in sexual matters. I was just reading one of your replies to a young person whose lover is 17yrs older than her. I am so saddened by your reply. You advised her to have extra relationship affairs which we all know that relationships that incorporates a third party is destined to ruin and the couple is inevitably be living a lie. I do not know what sort of sexual development you had and how you’ve come to separate love and sex but you are surely promoting a negative in this case.
Sex is something that is for the relationship and that relationship alone, not to go all around town giving out at free will. Being a slut. Im sure there are different things that they together as a couple can do with out the help of somebody else. And like slutting around is actually gonna save somebody’s relationship, yea i see that happening every day.
Even if this is a hoax and not a real problem, I’m afraid it is in bad taste. I do not know you from Adam but please think before you answer any of these questions. The gay communities in many places and the gov’t have spent a lot of money in the fight with Aides. One of the things that was being promoted is finding one partner and sticking to him. The more partners one has the higher the risk. There is also the aspect of using another for selfish sexual gratification. Yes you may say It’s Ok if there is consent but really, Is it? After all we all know what happens to our feelings once we have had orgasm. You are a bad person. You shouldn’t be telling anybody anything.

Whoa, what a charmer!

What a dangerous and disturbing thing it is to be so judgmental about the sex lives oft21.jpg others. Isn’t it possible for well-meaning people to have a genuine disagreement on such matters without interjecting all the disparaging and rude remarks?

As I review my response to the person in question, I see I offered her a number of sound suggestions on how to deal with her sexual frustration. The thought, that she might discuss an accommodation with her primary partner, allowing her to seek sexual fulfillment outside her relationship, was just one of the ideas I had. Why did you focus only on that? And would you really characterize that as “slutting around”?

It’s been my experience that many long-term loving relationships continue to be successful precisely because the partners make adjustments for the inevitable disparity of sexual interests that develops between them over time. After all, accommodations and a healthy give and take are hallmarks of a well-adjusted relationship. And who says fidelity is a genital issue? Not me!

As the resident sexual advisor on this website, (you can check out my substantial qualifications in my bio) I offer advice on the problems that my correspondents present me. I stand by my advice. The people who write to me are adults. They can choose from among the helpful hints I offer, or disregard them all together. But it is certainly not my role to choose for them. So, if I had omitted the option that gives you such offense, I would have, at least by default, made part of her choice for her.

You defend your point of view from a position of fear. You claim that we should be sexually exclusive with one partner because there is a higher risk of being infected with AIDS if we aren’t. Is that the best you can come up with? Is that really why we should pair off with just one other person, because we’re afraid of disease? And then there’s this other curious comment: “After all we all know what happens to our feelings once we have had orgasm.” What are you insinuating about “us”? Me thinks you disclose more about your personal prejudices then you intended.

My advice to you, deary, is to sit down and take a deep breath. Your undies are in such a bunch, you’re beginning to screech. I also suggest that you suspend judgment, particularly as it applies to the manner in which others live their lives, or at least till you have more information about the intricacies of life, sex and love.

Good Luck,

Dr. Dick,
I am a 27 year old male that has never had sex or been in any kind of a relationship. I’ve looked but all I’ve found is that every guy I’ve met seems only to be controlled by his dick. I’ve come to the conclusion that all men my age are the same. It’s gotten so bad that not only do I hate my own kind but I hate sex because of what it stands for. I have even lost the need to please myself and I think of others as weak and pathetic for not being able to use their hearts. I know that sex is a healthy part of human life but why (especially in our community) is everything based on sex and/or crammed down our throats? Even the simplest of ads has to have some dude brandishing his schlong just to get attention. I can’t even enter a chat room without somebody asking me what my cock size is. I’ve come to hate everything we stand for and it’s left me cold and I tend to shut myself out of any function that is sexually related. Friends tell me to get off my high horse but I can’t see any reason to. Just by observing from up here all I see are a bunch of HIV infected rabbits that have reached the end of their evolutionary path because they no longer communicate with word but only with sex. I thought I’d grow out of this but that was seven years ago.
Cold, Clinton J.

Dear ClintonJ,

How in the world did you get to be so incredibly bitter and jaded at such a tender age?

jockbutt.jpgYour friends are right, puppy, get off your high horse. The observations you make about us mere mortals are more than a little skewed, coming as they do from your angelic vantage point.

Listen, it’s true what you say about our community’s obsession with sex. Kudos to you for pointing out the obvious. But hey, it’s not just us homos. Look around and you will find our entire culture is fucked up in this way. You can have a full and life-affirming sex life without participating in or being co-opted by the madness that abounds. You can, like others do, choose a life path that is both sexually enriching and adventurous without succumbing to a preoccupation.

You claim to be 27 and say you’ve never had sex? And you make this proclamation like it’s something to be proud of. I wonder, how much of this bitterness is just sour grapes? Like Bette Midler is fond of sayin’: “You’re crackin’ up from a lack of shackin’ up.” You need to get laid, doll. It’s as simple as that.

And what’s up with this? “…all I see are a bunch of HIV infected rabbits that have reached the end of their evolutionary path…”? Shame on you. Try pumping some life-affirming blood into those icy veins and see what happens. Do not stand in judgment of something you cannot or will not participate in. It makes you look like a bounder.

Good Luck

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Why Sex Education for Disabled People Is So Important

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“Just because a person has a disability does not mean they don’t still have the same hormones and sexual desires as other individuals.”

 

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“Sex and disability, disability and sex; the two words may seem incompatible,” Michael A. Rembis wrote in his 2009 paper on the social model of disabled sexuality. Though roughly 15% of adults around the world (that’s nearly one billion people), and over 20 million adults in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 64 have a disability, when it comes to disability and sex, there’s a disconnect. People with disabilities often have rich and satisfying sex lives. So why are they frequently treated as though they are incapable of having sexual needs and desires, and are excluded from sexual health education curriculum?

According to Kehau Gunderson, the lead trainer and senior health educator at Health Connected, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing comprehensive sexual health education programs throughout the state of California, the sexual health and safety of students with disabilities is often not prioritized because educators are more focused on other aspects of the students’ well-being. “Educators are thinking more about these students’ physical needs. They don’t see them as being sexual people with sexual needs and desires. They don’t see them as wanting relationships,” Gunderson told me when I met her and the rest of the Health Connected team at their office in Redwood City, California.

When I asked why students with disabilities have historically been excluded from sexual education, Jennifer Rogers, who also works as a health education specialist at Health Connected, chimed in. “In general, the topic of sex is something that is challenging for a lot of people to talk about. I think that aspect compounded with someone with specialized learning needs can be even more challenging if you’re not a teacher who’s really comfortable delivering this kind of material,” she said.

But it was the third health education specialist I spoke with, DeAnna Quan, who really hit the nail on the head: “I think sometimes it also has to do with not having the materials and having trouble adapting the materials as well. While people often just don’t see disabled people as being sexual beings, they are. And this is a population who really needs this information.”

The complete lack of sexual education in many schools for students with disabilities is particularly alarming given the fact that individuals with disabilities are at a much higher risk of sexual assault and abuse. In fact, children with disabilities are up to four times more likely to face abuse and women with disabilities are nearly 40% more likely to face abuse in adulthood. Yet students in special education classes are often denied the option to participate in sex education at all. When these students are included in mainstream health courses, the curriculum is often inaccessible.

Disability activist Anne Finger wrote, “Sexuality is often the source of our deepest pain. It’s easier for us to talk about and formulate strategies for changing discrimination in employment, education, and housing than to talk about our exclusion from sexuality and reproduction.” But as Robert McRuer wrote in Disabling Sex: Notes for a Crip Theory of Sexuality, “What if disability were sexy? And what if disabled people were understood to be both subjects and objects of a multiplicity of erotic desires and practices, both within and outside the parameters of heteronormative sexuality?”

When it comes to disability and sexuality, a large part of the issue lies in the fact that disabled people are so infrequently included in the decisions made about their bodies, their education, and their care. So what do people with disabilities wish they had learned in sex ed? This is what students and adults with disabilities said about their experience in sexual health courses and what they wish they had learned.

People with disabilities are not automatically asexual.

“The idea of people with disabilities as asexual beings who have no need for love, sex, or romantic relationships is ridiculous. However, it is one that has a stronghold in most people’s minds,” wrote disability activist Nidhi Goyal in her article, “Why Should Disability Spell the End of Romance?” That may be because disabled people are often seen as being innocent and childlike, one disabled activist said.

“As a society, we don’t talk about sex enough from a pleasure-based perspective. So much is focused on fertility and reproduction — and that’s not always something abled people think disabled people should or can do. We’re infantilized, stripped of our sexuality, and presumed to be non-sexual beings. Plenty of us are asexual, but plenty of us are very sexual as well, like me. Like anyone of any ability, we hit every spot on the spectrum from straight to gay, cis to trans, sexual to asexual, romantic to aromantic, and more.” Kirsten Schultz, a 29-year-old disabled, genderqueer, and pansexual health activist, sexuality educator, and writer, said via email.

Kirsten, who due to numerous chronic illnesses has lived with disability since she was five years old, was not exposed to information regarding her sexual health and bodily autonomy. “I dealt with sexual abuse from another child right after I fell ill, and this continued for years. I bring this up because my mother didn’t share a lot of sex ed stuff with me at home because of illness. This infantilization is not uncommon in the disability world, especially for kids,” she said.

Growing up in Oregon, Kirsten said she was homeschooled until the age of 13 and didn’t begin seeing medical professionals regularly until she turned 21. “This means all sexual education I learned until 13 was on my own, and from 13 to 21, it was all stuff I either sought out or was taught in school.” Schultz explained. But even what she learned about sex in school was limited. “School-based education, even in the liberal state of Oregon, where I grew up, was focused on sharing the potential negatives of sex — STIs, pregnancy, etc. Almost none of it was pleasure-based and it wasn’t accessible. Up until I was in college, the few positions I tried were all things I had seen in porn…AKA they weren’t comfortable or effective for me,” she added.

Internet safety matters, too.

While many disabled people are infantilized, others are often oversexualized. K Wheeler, a 21-year-old senior at the University of Washington, was only 12 the first time their photos were stolen off of the Internet and posted on websites fetishizing amputees. K, who was born with congenital amputation and identifies as demisexual, panromantic, and disabled, thinks this is something students with disabilities need to know about. “There’s a whole side of the Internet where people will seek out people with disabilities, friend them on Facebook, steal their photos, and use them on websites,” she said.

These groups of people who fetishize amputees are known as “amputee devotees.” K had heard of this fetish thanks to prior education from her mother, but not everyone knows how to keep themselves safe on the Internet. “This is something that people with disabilities need to know, that a person without a disability might not think of, ” K said.

K also believes more general Internet privacy information should also be discussed in sex ed courses. “In the technological age that we’re in, I feel like Internet privacy should be talked about,” they said. This includes things like consent and sending naked photos with a significant other if you’re under 18. “That is technically a crime. It’s not just parents saying ‘don’t do it because we don’t want you to.’ One or both of you could get in trouble legally,” K added.

Understanding what kinds of sexual protection to use.

Isaac Thomas, a 21-year-old student at Valencia College in Orlando, lives with a visual impairment and went to a high school that he said didn’t even offer sexual education courses. “I did go to a school for students with disabilities and, unfortunately, during my entire time there, there was never any type of sexual education class,” he said.

And Isaac noted that sexual awareness plays a large role in protection. “They should understand that just because a person has a disability, does not mean they don’t still have the same hormones and sexual desires as other individuals. It’s even more important that they teach sex education to people that have disabilities so they’re not taken advantage of in any kind of sexual way. If anything, it should be taught even more among the disabled community. Ignoring this problem will not make it go away. If this problem is not addressed, it will increase,” Isaac said.

Before entering college, Isaac said he wishes he had received more information about condoms. “I wish I had learned what types of condoms are best for protection. I should’ve also learned the best type of contraceptive pills to have in case unplanned sexual activity happens with friends or coworkers.”

Body image matters.

Nicole Tencic, a 23-year-old senior at Molloy College in New York, who is disabled, fine-motor challenged, and hearing impaired, believes in the importance of exploring and promoting positive body image for all bodies. Nicole, who became disabled at the age of six after undergoing high-dose chemotherapy, struggled to accept herself and her disability. “I became disabled when I was old enough to distinguish that something was wrong. I was very self-conscience. Accepting my disability was hard for me and emotionally disturbing,” she shared. “I was always concerned about what other people thought of me, and I was always very shy and quiet.”

It was when she entered college that Nicole really came to accept her body, embrace her sexuality, and develop an interest in dating. “I had my first boyfriend at 21. The reason I waited so long to date is because I needed to accept myself and my differences before I cared for anyone else. I couldn’t allow myself to bring someone into my life if I was unaccepting of myself, and if I did, I would be selfish because I would be more concerned about myself,” Nicole said. She also recognized the fact that while sexuality and disability are separate topics that need to be addressed differently, they can impact each other. “Disability may influence sexuality in terms of what you like and dislike, and can and cannot do,” but overall, “one’s sexuality does not have to do with one’s disability,” she clarified.

It’s important to make sex ed inclusive to multi-marginalized populations.

Dominick Evans, a queer and transgender man living with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, various chronic health disabilities, and OCD, believes in the importance of sexual education stretching beyond the cisgender, heteronormative perspective. He also understands the dangers associated with being a member of a marginalized group. “The more marginalized you are, the less safe you are when it comes to sex,” he said in an email.

Dominick, who works as a filmmaker, writer, and media and entertainment advocate for the Center for Disability Rights, has even developed policy ideas related to increased inclusion for students with disabilities — especially LGBTQ students with disabilities. “These students are at higher risk of sexual assault and rape, STIs like HIV, unplanned pregnancies, and manipulation in sexual situations,” Dominick said. “Since disabled LGBTQIA students do not have access to sexual education, sometimes at all, let alone education that makes sense for their bodies and sexual orientation, it makes sense the rates for disabled people when it comes to sexual assault and STIs are so much higher.”

According to Dominick, the fact that many disabled students are denied access to sexual health curriculum is at the root of the problem. “When it comes to disparities in the numbers of sexual assault, rape, STIs, etc. for all disabled students, not having access to sexual education is part of the problem. We know this is specifically linked to lack of sex ed, which is why sex ed must begin addressing these disparities.”

So what does Dominick have in mind in terms of educational policies to help improve this issue? “The curriculum would highlight teaching students how to protect themselves from sexual abuse, STI and pregnancy prevention campaigns geared specifically at all disabled and LGBTQIA youth, ensuring IEPs (individualized education programs) cover sex ed inclusion strategies, access to information about sexuality and gender identity, and additional education to address disparities that affect disabled LGBTQIA students who are people of color.”

Understanding power dynamics and consent.

It’s important to understand the power dynamic that often exists between people with disabilities and their caretakers. Many people with disabilities rely on their caretakers to perform basic tasks, like getting ready in the morning. Women with disabilities are 40% more likely to experience intimate partner violence compared to non-disabled women. This includes sexual, emotional, financial, and physical abuse, as well as neglect. For this reason, women with disabilities are less likely to report their abusers.

“Sometimes they’re more likely to think ‘this is the only relationship I can get,’ so they’re more likely to stay in these abusive relationships or have less access to even pursue courses of action to get out of the relationship. Especially if there is dependence on their partner in some way,” said K.

Dominick agreed. “Many of us often grow up believing we may not even be able to have sexual relationships. We often grow up believing our bodies are disgusting and there is something wrong with them,” he said. “So, when someone, especially someone with some type of power over us like a teacher or caregiver, shows us sexual attention and we believe we don’t deserve anything better or will never have the opportunity for sex again, it is easy to see why some disabled people are able to be manipulated or harmed in sexual situations.”

Dominick said this ideology led to his first sexual experience. “I probably should not have been having sex because I lost [my virginity] believing I had to take whatever opportunities I received,” he said, before going on to acknowledge the falsehood in these assumptions. “I’ve had many other relationships since then, and my last partner, I’ve been with for 15 years.”

But when it comes to disability, consent can be tricky. Some disabilities make communication a challenge. The lack of sexual education for many developmentally disabled students means they often don’t understand the concept of consent.

People with disabilities are more at risk for sexual exploitation and abuse.

According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, children with disabilities also face a much higher risk of abuse. In 2009, 11% of all child abuse victims had a behavioral, cognitive, or physical disability. In fact, when compared to non-disabled children, children with disabilities are twice as likely to be physically or sexually abused. Those living with developmental disabilities are anywhere from 4 to 10 times more likely to face abuse.

Deni Fraser, the assistant principal at the Lavelle School for the Blind, a school in New York City dedicated to teaching students with visual impairment and developmental disabilities, believes it’s important for all students to understand the importance of boundaries, both other people’s and their own. Many students at the school, who range in age from 2 to 21, also have co-morbid diagnoses, making the students’ needs varied.

“It’s important for our students to know that we want them to be safe at all times,” Fraser said. “Letting them know what’s appropriate touch, not only them touching others, but other people touching them; saying things to them; for people not taking advantage of them; knowing who is safe to talk to and who is safe to be in your personal space; if there’s anything going on with your body, who would be the appropriate person to talk to; not sharing private information — so what is privacy; and the importance of understanding safe strangers, like doctors, versus non-safe strangers.”

The portrayal of disabled bodies matters.

The media also plays a part in perpetuating the idea that individuals with disabilities do not have sex. Sexuality is often viewed as unnatural for individuals with disabilities, and many disabled students internalize that. “Even Tyrion Lannister, one of the most sexual disabled characters on television, usually has to pay for sex, and even he was horribly deceived the first time he had a sexual experience,” Dominick noted. “If the media is not even saying sex is normal or natural for disabled people, and sex education is not inclusive, then often disabled people are having to learn about and understand sex on their own,” he added.

Many students with disabilities also want to see their bodies reflected in sexual education materials. “Part of the curriculum at a lot of different schools includes showing some level of video,” K said. But including a person with a visible physical disability in these videos would go a long way in helping to shatter the stigma surrounding sex and disability, she said. According to K, this would help people understand that sex isn’t only for able-bodied people.

People with disabilities make up a large part of the population. They’re the one minority group any person can become a part of at any time. Therefore, incorporating disability-related information into sexual education curriculum not only benefits students who are already disabled, but it can help students who, at some point in their lives, will experience disability. Embracing an inclusive approach and keeping bias out of the classroom would help raise awareness, create empathy, and celebrate diversity. By listening to disabled voices, we can work toward a society that values inclusivity.

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