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Interview With Sex Self Esteem and Body Awareness With Sex Therapist Melvin Phillips



Sex Positive for Chronic Illness and Disability RecommendationsAASECTPsychology TodayGaps in the Research: Identity and Sexual Communication and Gender Minorities with Physical DisabilitiesPeople with disabilities (PWD) have become the largest minority group in the world, with the number of PWD increasing to approximately 10% of the world’s population.16 million people in the US experience physical disabilities. 40 Percent of the US population live with chronic illness.  The current research is focused on sexual self-esteem and social attitudes on sexuality, not how People with Disabilities (PWD) negotiate sex/engage sexually.There is a need for research about the sexual expressions and partner communication among people with disabilities.More research is needed on more of a social framework, instead of from a solely medical model. Like disability, gender is a social construct. Still today, society relies on the gender binary system, the concept that everyone must be one of two genders: man or woman.In the past 15-20 years, research has begun to expand regarding the self-described sexual identities of those who have disabilities .Some of these identities included gender identity/presentation, sexual orientation, and relationship types, as well as the impact having one or more disabilities has on sexual satisfaction and more. More recently, the body of literature exploring experiences and issues around the sexual expression PWD has developed, both nationally and internationally, covering a wide range of topics within the field of study. Misconceptions of Sex and DisabilityPeople with disabilities are not desirable.The sexual well-being and the sexual desire of physically disabled people often is unrecognized in the public domain and research. The media reinforce normative conceptions of sexual activity and sexual behavior, and determine what is “sexy”, sexually disenfranchising disabled people. There are people in the world who treat disabled people like desexualized children. I found this to be true for people who are visibly disabled, and it’s called infantilization. Disabled people are often thought of as being incapable of having their own wants and desires and because of that there is also a misconception that people in interabled relationships (where one partner is abled and another is not) are taking advantage them.

Why is pleasure so important?Pleasure is an affirmation of life. Pleasure is defined as an addition to life or a form of luxury rather than a centrally motivating and defining feature of social action. Sexual pleasure is powerful in making one feel alive. It can enhance an intimate relationship. It can add a sense of connectedness to the world or to each other. It can heal a sense of emotional isolation so many of us feel even though we are socially integrated. It helps layout the foundation of body acceptance and it is anecdote to pain, both emotional and physical. When we do not include a discourse of pleasure, gender minorities with disabilities may perpetuate their asexual and victimization status. Negative sexual messages about gender minorities with disabilities fuel negative attitudes and misguided beliefs about sexual potential can take their toll on sexual self-esteem. Low sexual self-esteem combined with the likes of physical limitations, diminished sensation, lack of escalating arousal, difficulty with ejaculation, or difficulty with orgasm may make sex and sexual relationships seem pointless, may reaffirm unexpressed beliefs of asexuality. 

Identities and Coming Out LGBTQ with DisabilitiesThe term “coming out” is one that seems most commonly used among members of the LGBTQ community when referring to the process of sharing identity/identities with others or “publicly communicating one’s sexual orientation and sexual identity. LGBTQ individuals frequently face stigma and being pathologized when they disclose their gender identity or sexual orientation to others, the process of choosing to whom, when, and how to “come out” regarding one’s LGBTQ identity can be difficult and stressful. Coming out around sexual orientation can be very complex, multi-layered process that includes a stage regarding decisions around sexual expression, and having one’s needs around sexuality met. Given the similarities of individuals who have to “come out” or disclose a less than obvious or “invisible” disability to a partner, it is possible that LGBTQ identified people with disabilities may be required to perform their coming out process more than once with the same partner, around different identities.

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