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Common myths about Sex and Disability

Sex Ed

Common myths about Sex and Disability

Have a question on your mind about sex or seeking advice? Ask us on any topic and we’ll provide you with the answers from an expert. Send them in to For today’s question, we touch on a topic related to sex and disability from you and we’re delighted to have sex educator Rebecca Dewar share her answer below.

The most common misconception of sexuality and disability surrounds the myth individuals with disabilities are asexual. Asexual regarding individuals with disabilities refers to void of sexual feelings and\or desires; so, the myth is the belief just because a person has a disability (any type of disability) also means a person who has a disability does not feel sexual excitement (a.k.a. horny) or the extreme liking of another person (a.k.a. attraction). Another misconception is the belief people with disabilities are not sexually desirable (a.k.a. unattractive) individuals because of being considered “not normal” in appearance and\or cognitive ability.

People with disabilities (any type of disability) should only have sexual relationships with and marry other people with disabilities is a myth across the board regarding the topic. Other common myths include people with disabilities do not need sexuality education as well as people with disabilities do not get sexually assaulted. In addition, different myths are attached to individuals with physical disabilities vs. individuals with cognitive challenges (intellectual\developmental disabilities). For example, it is a common myth people with physical disabilities are unable to have sex; people with cognitive challenges often are considered sexually aggressive.

The myths mentioned are all false beliefs! Asexuality can be viewed more as an individual’s choice in relation to one’s sexual orientation, behavior, and identity. People with disabilities are sexual human beings and can express their sexuality in a variety of diverse ways; so, for lack of better words, it is insensitive to assume people with disabilities are asexual. Just like “normal” human beings, people with disabilities do feel horny as well as have their own specifics of what is attractive to them in others. People with disabilities are viewed as unnatural and undesirable because of physical impairment, possible bodily disfigurement, and\or challenges with cognitive processes. However, contrary to the societal popular misconception, attraction to body disfigurement dates way back to Ancient China (10th Century) when foot binding was a common practice done to girls. The practice of preventing the growth of young Chinese girls’ feet by tightly binding each foot was torturous yet considered beautiful. Often, people with cognitive challenges are viewed as undesirable because of the assumption they do not know about sex.

Everyone learns about sex from somewhere – hopefully, the information is accurate! People with cognitive challenges may need to be taught about sexuality, but desire should not be based on development of needing skills. The phrase “birds of a feather flock together” does not apply to sexuality and disability! Individuals with disabilities may not want to have sexual relationships with and\or marry other people with disabilities depending on their attraction and relationship style. People with or without disabilities need sexuality education! School systems often only teach on basic male and female anatomy as well as “preach” the message to avoid pregnancy; frequently, students in special education classes do not receive the information. There is much more to be educated on regarding sexuality than just anatomy and pregnancy prevention! It is sadly true people with disabilities are sexually assaulted; in some cases, sexual assault has been the only sexual experiences of people with disabilities. Often, people with disabilities do not tell anyone about being sexually assaulted; so, the trauma is often buried within persons with disabilities who have been sexually assaulted. It is an absolutely ca-ray-zee misconception people with disabilities are thought to be asexual, unattractive, and undesirable yet are considered to be sexual “enough” to be sexually assaulted! It is clear to see the absurdity within the myths.

Where did the myths or misconceptions come from regarding sexuality and disability? Good question! The Theory of Social Constructivism can be looked at to provide an explanation. The theory provides the perspective of examining links between subjective meanings and how they become social facts. Subjective meanings of social interactions are studied with a big piece of the theory coming from cultural development in relation to societal messages passed on through time. To change myths or misconceptions, it takes a person or persons to become educated and let their voices be heard by writing, public speaking, lecturing, teaching, etc. on different viewpoints to debunk false beliefs.

Rebecca has her master degrees in social work and human sexuality of which both degrees are clinically focused. Sexuality and disability is her area of interest regarding research and practice within the fields of social work and human sexuality. Read the rest of her profile below and the links to follow her!

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Rebecca Dewar

Rebecca L. Dewar is physically disabled from a car accident. Her physical disability is a high level spinal cord injury and she depends upon a ventilator to breathe. She is a licensed social worker in Pennsylvania. Rebecca has her master degrees in social work and human sexuality of which both degrees are clinically focused. In the summer of 2014, she began PhD level classes. As a licensed social worker, she has experience working with individuals who have physical and\or intellectual\developmental disabilities (children, adolescents, young adults, and older adults). She has experience in working with her clients providing case management, counseling, and education regarding life issues including concerns and\or inquiries related to sexuality. Currently, she works at Community Interactions, Inc. where she provides counseling and sexuality education to adult men and women with cognitive challenges (intellectual\developmental disabilities) as well as to direct support staff and administrative personnel. Rebecca has spoken to college students in various disciplines of study (social work, psychology, human sexuality, nursing, physical therapy) on the topic of sexuality and quadriplegia. Sexuality and disability is her area of interest regarding research and practice within the fields of social work and human sexuality.


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