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Raising awareness. Providing resources. Advocating for change.

Let's Talk About Sex

There are a lot of topics in our society that are "taboo" to discuss.  Politics, religion, and mental health are all topics that tend to be avoided around the family dinner table.  But among some of the topics that make the most people uncomfortable seem to be both sex, and sexual violence.

So much influences our thoughts, opinions, and feelings toward sex.  Our cultures, religions, families, and past experiences all dictate what is "appropriate" or "inappropriate" to be discussed.  But it seems to me that when we discuss sex and people with disabilities, regardless of religion or culture, no one wants to take part.

Why is that?  Many people unfortunately view someone with a disability as "asexual", someone who has no interest in having sex or relationships, or who no one else is "attracted" to.  We know this is absolutely not true.  People with disabilites often want the same thing as everyone else...someone to connect with, have meaningful relationships with, and YES....sometimes that means consensual intimacy is included in those relationships.

Some people believe that someone with a disability, particularly developmental disabilities, is "innocent" and needs to be sheltered from such conversations.  This is a dangerous attitude to hold.  It stops us from educating people with disabilities about sex, and therefore about sexual violence and abuse.  In my experiences providing education around relationships and sex to people with developmental disabilities....they can handle these topics just fine!  They want to learn.  In fact, in one of our groups for young women, one of the participants who rarely wants to leave her house reported that she came every week because we talked to her like an adult.  And this says a lot about how our society, including people who are trained support providers, continues to treat those with disabilities.  As people who don't have the same needs and desires as everyone else, who needs to be protected, and needs decisions to be made for them.

Even people who work with someone with a disability will often be uncomfortable when the topic of sex comes up.  And this is a problem.  If we are all so uncomfortable having these conversations, how can we possibly expect people with disabilities to get access to the information and resources they need to make safe and informed decisions about dating and sex?

I challenge you to really think about your views on sex.  What influences them?  Do you believe in waiting until marriage?  What are your beliefs about the use of contraception, and comprehensive sex education?  If you work with someone with a disability, think about whether or not you would be comfortable discussing these topics with them.  Why or why not?  Are you making decisions that are in the best interest of the individual, or based on your own beliefs around sexuality?

My point in all of this is that these conversations are not about you.  They are about providing skills, resources, and education to ensure the safety of all people of all abilities.  Because education is one step to reducing sexual and domestic violence, we all need to talk about sex a little more!

Thanks for reading!

Ellen Merker

Owner, Heart Consulting LLC