At SmartyGirlLeadership, our editors bring expert guides from a diversity of perspectives about health in particular. Caution: Because of the explicit sexual nature of this educational health report, we are labeling this sex ed article Not Safe for Work (NSFW).
Earlier this month, our reporters were invited to Oakland California’s first Queer Fashion Week.
Gender performance, gender-bending and the queer community are not are areas of expertise. So what do we do? Just as our editors usually do, we call in a SmartyGirl or SmartyFella subject matter expert for our educational report. The season’s theme of self-care continues. Today’s topic? Sexual wellness.
Many of our readership share overlapping beliefs about human sexual rights such as the right not to be exposed to sexual content and the right to refuse sexual contact. However, there is little public information about accommodations, health insurance coverage and hands on assistance for sex in practice with a disability. What to do with this knowledge gap about sex, intimacy, touch and human connection? This Monday, we invited SmartyGirl Rachel Dwight, M.Ed., a Sexologist and owner of the first body-inclusive sex store – Validity (age 18+), to answer questions our readers and viewers have about sexuality and disability. Rachel Dwight loves her body. She makes no apology. She describes herself as fat, disabled and queer.
Rachel Dwight’s stance is that human connection through sex is a basic need. She relates this to how prisoners who are put in solitary confinement show extreme emotional and physical distress when they are kept from other humans, “Humans are social creatures. We need human connection to both survive and thrive.”
She answers our readers’ first question: what is the stigma about disability and sex?
SmartyGirl Rachel explains that the stigma by society about disabled individuals and an active sex life are as follows: “othering”, squeamishness and pity.
Lesser known fact? Because of disability barriers to an active sex life might require equipment as a sexual accommodation.
Health insurance, currently, does not typically cover sexual aids or sexual counseling as a medical necessity. Some disabled individuals have difficulty with mobility because they are in a wheelchair, missing limbs, and/or have lost motor function over time. Modified sexual aids accommodate those who need assistance with grip with devices such as a strapless strap-on. Vice News, known for its controversial documentaries, also reports on sex devices and sex assistance in its Hand Angels report.
Rachel describes marginalizing disabled individuals and their sex needs as “othering” when a fully abled body individual does not show empathy, assuming someone disabled could not have the sexual wants that he/she also has. Rachel continues by giving an illustration of squeamishness that readers are likely to relate to: the idea that one’s parents have an active sex life.
Yes, Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 10th!
Rachel knows that lots of people have an issue acknowledging that their parents are/were sexually active. She finds this to be rather problematic, “This idea that someone who isn’t the the category of ‘I might have sex with this person’ is relegated automatically to ‘That person has sex!? Ew, Gross!’ is a huge problem. All people have a right to sexual pleasure and if we don’t actively acknowledge that right, then it serves to push those with non-‘mainstream’ bodies – like those that are disabled, fat, trans and aging – further from having that respect.”
The same squeamishness might apply as a cultural attitude to those who do not fit the traditional parameters of attractiveness. SmartyGirl Rachel gives personal analogies when working with her clients and when presenting to groups at advocacy events. For instance, she loves herself and her body size while others may regard her with pity. Rachel chooses to express herself and states, “I don’t edit myself just so others can be comfortable.” However, she describes that the struggle with self-acceptance is daily. Instead of an adversity that is overcome once and the battle is over, her internal critic emerges time and again. This is normal to work at positive self thoughts. As if it wasn’t hard enough with attitudes of oppression from the external?
How is Rachel Dwight these days? She reports that she is happy. Rachel says that she loves her life and she is fine with the struggle. Is her life much better on this side of the learning to self-love gauntlet? SmartyGirl Rachel says yep.
Her writing can also be found as a guest post on The Militant Baker. She looks forward to attending more in-person events such as the past Queer Fashion Week mixer and hosting private sex ed & gear parties to promote her message of self-acceptance for a variety of people, including an active sex life of different body types.
Rachel Dwight is a lover of music, animals and radical self-love. If you like her store’s Facebook page, Validity Initiative, from there you can sign-up for the newsletter to keep up with all the amazing things she is doing in the realm of sex and body positivity.