By Katrina Gossett – 03/18/2014
…About dating and sexuality for people with neuromuscular conditions. That was the message I heard today from Dr. Carol Gill PhD, who presented on the lack of discussion surrounding people with disabilities and sexuality. Everybody on the panel agreed that people with disabilities want the same things out of life, including out of their relationships. Unfortunately, there are a few barriers in the way for many. But worry not, Dr. Gill gave a few suggestions to allow us, like Miley Cyrus, to come in like a wrecking ball.
One of the barriers she discussed include a lack of sex education for adolescents and young adults with disabilities. Providers and parents often try to hold on to childhood as long as possible for those with disabilities. They need to realize, however, that those formerly adorable little kids are ready to step out of Chuck E. Cheese and into the club scene. If they don’t have the necessary information, they may get into dangerous situations.
Dr. Gill also discussed body image issues, promoted by the media, which can negatively impact people with disabilities’ self-images. Believe it or not, not everyone with a neuromuscular condition views themselves as the next Scarlett Johanssen. But unless those with neuromuscular conditions can view themselves as sexually attractive, they will not put themselves in positions where they can meet romantic partners.
Dr. Gill also talked about lowered romantic expectations for people with disabilities and social isolation. Many adolescents face these issues at a time when their peers are experimenting and starting to date. Unfortunately, this lack of experience can put them at greater risk for abuse because they do not know what to expect in a relationship.
All of this sounds pretty grim, but Dr. Gill made it clear that things are looking up and there are things we can do to ensure everyone has success on Match.com or wherever they want to meet that someone special. She suggested people with neuromuscular conditions get connected with their peers. There are already many Casanovas in wheelchairs who would be happy to share their expertise, and there are plenty of people not yet so skilled who would be happy to commiserate and come up with a plan. There are Centers for Independent Living across the country which can provide support, and in the age of Google and Facebook there are many online communities where people with neuromuscular conditions can speak freely about issues of dating and sexuality.
She also suggested making sure that people with neuromuscular disease have access to all the information resources about dating and sexuality, including those online. There is a Wikipedia page for about everything. Why not something near and dear to the hearts of many people with disabilities?
Finally, she suggested that people with neuromuscular conditions learn to think of sexuality and romantic relationships more broadly. With a little creativity, anything is possible. After all, she says the brain is the biggest sex organ. Sorry guys…