Let’s talk about making sex more physically accessible to those of us who need to fuck outside the box (so to speak.) In this piece, I’m going to cover:
- Changing how you think about sex.
- Deciding what your goals are.
- Finding the right sex positions.
- Using sex toys to make sex accessible.
Excited? Let’s get right into it!
Changing How You Think About Sex
Most of our expectations of sex are pre-scripted by movies, mainstream porn, religious and/or traditional values, and lack of comprehensive sex education. And it’s a very narrow script! Anything outside of these expectations seems foreign, weird, or incorrect. If you’re not doing it like the Janes and Johns on screen, are you really even having sex?
The problem is, we are not all like the Janes and Johns on screen. And we definitely don’t all bang like them.
“Society’s perception of sex [...] is arbitrarily limiting, and it erases the experiences of queer, trans, and disabled folks,” I pointed out in Pursuing Sexual Intimacy With Sexual Assault Survivors. “This cisheteronormative lens can negatively impact survivors because it implies that if they choose to have sex another way, they’re choosing a substandard method. They’re “missing out” on “real” sex. Oral sex, tribbing, sex toys, hand use… these are all sex acts, and they can be just as satisfying.”
“Sex is an entire universe of possibility. When you deconstruct your culturally seeded expectations of sex, you can define it according to what suits you and your partner(s)’s needs and boundaries,” I wrote in What to Consider When Defining What Intimacy Means For You. Writing your own script for sex can be easier when you have more relateable examples than the ones put forth by tv and mainstream porn.
A few places to start:
- Cripping Up Sex With Eva (site, classes, and consultations by sex educator Eva Sweeney)
- The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability (book by Miriam Kaufman, MD, Cory Silverberg, and Fran Odette)
- Disability After Dark (podcast hosted by activist Andrew Gurza)
- Disability, Sex, Relationships, and Dating Roundtable (video)
- BDSM & Disability (Kink Academy class presented by Robin Wilson-Beattie)
- Cripping Up Reviews, Kinky Autistic, Eve Adler, Hedonish, Chronic Sex (sex blogs)
- This list (by Rachel Rose) and this list (by Caz Killjoy) of sex and disability activists and educators
- Twitter hashtags like #BatteriesForSexChat and #DisabledAndSexy
Deciding What Your Sexual Goals Are
When I’m asked for sex advice, I try to understand what someone’s goals are before I actually answer their question. “How can I make my girlfriend come during PIV?” seems like a straightforward question, but it’s often a clumsy way of asking “how can I make sure my girlfriend is satisfied with our sex life?” Satisfaction isn’t always about orgasms, and all the tips and tricks in the book (which will never apply to everyone and thus are kinda… moot) won’t trump a genuine conversation about needs and pleasure.
When you’re seeking to tailor your sexual experience to cater to your needs and your partner(s)’s needs, you have to decide what’s actually important to you. These goals will help ensure you and your partner(s) are happy with your sex life, but they’ll also help you decide where you’re willing to compromise or get creative.
Is your sexual goal to feel heightened intimacy with your partner? You need to flesh out intimacy looks and feels like to you. Is it accidentally bumping heads and sharing a laugh? Is it prolonged eye contact? Is it soft, lingering kisses?
If your ideal exercise of intimacy is eye contact, your initial instinct might be to have sex in the missionary position. But maybe your hips and back make that position painful. You can feel just as intimate staring into each others’ eyes while laying side by side.
Or, hell, maybe your partner is autistic and is uncomfortable with direct eye contact. What are other ways to communicate and experience the same kind of intimacy? Perhaps closing eyes and touching foreheads. Or your partner whispering sweet nothings in your ear. You can prioritize intimacy while still being flexible about how it’s explored and expressed.
“You find other ways,” Angela Rockwood tells Refinery 29, “I’m paralyzed from the neck down, so I don’t have dexterity in my hands. If I can’t open my hands up to caress my boyfriend’s face, then I’m going to grab his head and caress it with my cheek or forehead or lips. You learn to adapt.”
With compromise and a bit of creativity, you can meet your goals without feeling like you sacrificed your desires.
Finding the Right Sex Positions
Human bodies – even those that need moving through partner or caregiver assistance, or through mobility or positioning aids – can entangle with each other in countless ways. There are dozens of books devoted to the topic of positions, including Cosmo Kama Sutra, Curvy Girl Sex, and Lesbian Sex Positions. But which positions are accessible?
“A “good” position for sex is one that will let you do what you want to do, let you touch the parts of your partner or yourself that you want to touch, and let you be comfortable. So start thinking outside of the traditional positions you come across in movies, books, and television (all two of them!),” reads The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability’s opening paragraph on Sex Positions.
In my experiences having sex in non-traditional positions, there are two things you need to keep in mind:
- Any position you can get into can be a “sex position”.
- Sometimes ‘classic’ positions are still viable, they just need adjusting.
Non-Traditional Sex Positions
In her video Orgasmic Sex Positions, clinical sexologist Lindsey Doe dons a spandex suit and illustrates a number of interesting entanglements. There are two I find especially great, because they challenge our notion of “sex position”.
The Threshold is essentially one partner being gathered close and held similar to how brides are carried over thresholds in movies. Doe points out that this position is great for hand sex and toys. Depending on how heads and faces are angled, it can also allow for eye contact, kissing, or getting at each others’ necks or chests.
This position is not about penetrative sex (at least not with a penis or strap-on.) Because PIV is not even a possibility, its other appeals stand out: intimacy through physical closeness, and prioritizing easy hand/toy-to-genital touch. Depending on your physical support and reach needs, it may or may not work for you – but it probably brings to mind a number of variations that have the same physical intimacy and reach priorities.
Dr. Doe calls this one The Finishing Touch. One partner lays down and masturbates while the other assists through cheering on (such as dirty talk) and/or providing additional stimulation (like nipple play.) There are many ways this position can be altered to suit your needs, including being further apart to decrease distracting (or unpleasant) sensory contact.
This position is also not about PIV, and its approach to intimacy is less cuddled than the Threshold. It is, essentially, partnered masturbation. This is even further outside the realm of “sex position” than the last one. There’s no penetration, there’s even less physical contact, and one partner is getting themselves off! But it is sex. And it can be good, satisfying sex that can meet the needs of its participants depending on their goals. (It’s also one of my favorite positions.)
Adjusted Sex Positions
You don’t have to completely divorce yourself from ‘traditional’ positions like missionary, ‘cowgirl’, and doggy style. Often these are still workable positions, you just have to tweak the framework.
I have incredibly weak wrists. So weak that yesterday I was careless about how I picked up a small object and I’ve been in pain ever since. In the past, this has limited my ability to be on top because I need to support myself on my hands. (Like most autistic people, I have really poor balance.) If I put weight on my hands or shift them the wrong way, one of my wrists inevitably give out and I tumble over.
To combat this, I will sometimes wrap a strap through the cabinet handles above my bed. Holding that gives me enough balance/security to stay up when riding my partner (or to not fall over while topping in adjusted missionary) and it reduces the weight on my wrists.
“Because of my disability I am unable to spread my legs without feeling a lot of pressure and pain in my hips. Being on top, or on the bottom and laying on a flat surface like a bed, isn’t possible for me,” a contributor writes in The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability, “What I’ve figured out is that I lie on my back and hang my hips over the side of the bed or couch, I can still have vaginal penetration.”
Using Sex Toys to Make Sex Accessible
It’s no secret that I think sex toys can be downright magical for some folks. I’ve written about how shame and negative stereotypes about sex toy use are especially harmful for those of us that need toys (whether it’s because of stimulation preferences or accessibility needs.) For many, sex toys are important tools.
If you struggle with desensitized genitals, for example, a powerful wand vibrator might be your best option for pleasure. If you don’t get erections, Hot Octopuss’ toys can reconnect you with penile stimulation. If you have limited mobility in your fingers, a finger vibe like the Je Joue Bullet with Sleeve or the Dame Fin can put the pleasure back in your own hands – literally. But while magical, sex toys don’t (yet) address every need or solve every struggle.
Here are a few ways sex toys can be used to help positioning:
- Sex furniture can prop up bodies, give better access to genitals, or ease the strain of certain positions by providing soft and angled surfaces.
- Straps and sex swings can position bodies similarly to sex furniture.
- Using sex toys with remotes (or app compatibility) means you don’t have to position your body around how best to reach the toy (or the toy you’re using on your partner.)
- Dildos with handles like the Tantus Echo or Uberrime Night King can make penetration easier because you don’t need to reach as far. You can also use the bulb of a strapless dildo for easier holding.
- Self-thrusting toys can take the pressure off of creating or maintaining movement. The Teddy Thruster can even be coupled with a harness!
- Vibrators with handles (like wands) give you a longer reach. Angled handles like the Sola Sync give you even better positioning. For more on wands and accessibility, read my wands piece for Peepshow Toys.