The Sex Toy Revolution
‘cause sexuality and disability co-exist
According to a research in early 2000s, regaining sexual function was the highest priority for paraplegics among those interviewed for the research. It’s almost two decades this research has been done. However, there’s still much ignorance around sexuality and disability.
A man from Canada wants to alter this situation. He has been actively sharing his own views and experience on sexuality as a person with disabilities. He also runs projects on sexuality and disability. His name is Andrew Gurza.
Sexually active in wheelchair
Andrew uses a wheelchair and he is gay. When he was young, he struggled to open up about his sexuality. He thought it would only add another burden to his life as a person with disabilities. However, at the age of 30, he decided to come out as a “queer cripple”: a term and a status which are not well accepted in the society. Not only that, he confessed to his mom that he hired sex workers.
To Andrew’s surprise, his mom has no problems with him hiring sex workers. After his confession, his mom said,
“Andrew, sex is not bad. You can just have sex – it doesn’t need to be tied to love.”
This simple yet powerful statement gave Andrew the confidence to live as his true self when and however he wants. Now as a disability awareness consultant, he runs projects and campaigns to challenge sexual ableism. Last year, he started a project on sex toys.
Sex toys and disability findings
Andrew considers sexual pleasure as a fundamental part of being human. However, the myth and misunderstandings of disability and sexuality have made it hard for him and other people with disabilities to achieve safe and pleasurable sexual experiences. It’s not only a problem of finding partners to have sex with but also having sex toys which would work for them.
Andrew has sexual desire like everyone else. While he enjoys intimacy with others, he also likes to have sex unaided. That’s why he started fundraising for a research project on sex toys last year. To support the fundraising, Andrew and his team conducted a survey about sex toys with over 50 people with physical disabilities. Here are some highlights:
- 96% of the respondents agreed that sex is fundamental to the human experience and that people with disabilities have the right to experience it.
- However, more than 50% of them had difficulties achieving sexual pleasure unaided.
- Reduced range of movement in hands (44%) and hand pain (19%) were reported to be the primary difficulties preventing unaided masturbation.
- Over 50% of the respondents found the sex toys on the market fail to meet their needs with main issues such as difficulty to hold, manipulate or use unaided.
- A vast majority of the respondents was interested to purchase a sex toy specially designed for people with disabilities.
Achieving sexual pleasure
The goal of Andrew’s project is to gather in-depth insights and inform design recommendations for a new line of sex toys putting the pleasure and needs of people with disabilities first. At the moment, several thousand dollars are still needed before this research can start with the support of the RMIT University in Australia.
Creating and bringing new sex toys to the market will take a few additional years. Until then, here are some suggestions from individuals and organizations on how one can achieve sexual pleasure as a person with disabilities.
Nick Mahler was born with a rare condition leaving him with extremely limited mobility. Nonetheless, he has an active sex life and has been in the sex toy business for over 10 years. He shared with Men’s Health magazine his opinions about sex toys:
“Disabled sex toys are the same sex toys we sell to able-bodied customers. What makes them for disabled customers is knowing how to use them in a different way than an able-bodied customer would or even think about.”
For example, he mentioned a suction sex toy which is initially designed for women and used for nipple stimulation. He pointed out that men with spinal cord injuries can actually use it to stimulate other parts of the body to achieve sexual pleasure. Often such sex toys are equipped with straps or custom wrist splints, so people with limited hand mobility can benefit from them.
Discussing feelings and concerns about sexuality with a doctor or a counsellor can help find the resources and solutions tailored to one’s sexual needs. There are also professional organizations (example) and sex toy shops (example) offering online platforms where people can have in-depth conversations about sexuality and disability. These platforms allow to discuss sexuality openly but anonymously.
Sources of information
In addition to the Wiki section “Health & Sexuality” on our Community, here is a sexual device manual for persons with disabilities compiled by occupational therapists in collaboration with the Disabilities Health Research Network in Canada. In this English manual, one can find a list of sexual devices recommended for people with disabilities. Each device comes with a brief description, cleaning tips, precautions and special considerations. With the practical information provided in this manual, one can easily continue the search of a suitable sex device in their own language.
What do you think about Andrew Gurza’s initiative? How can the barriers for sexuality with disability be broken down?