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Emily Yates

Untraditional proposals – Love Lounge Tips

By | Disability, Emily Yates, The Love Lounge, Undressing Disability

Last week, I did something I never expected to do: I proposed to my boyfriend, and HE SAID YES! Women doing the proposing is still rare, and whilst it’s applauded by many, it still seems to sit uncomfortably with others.  Why did I do it? I’m a real planner, and get so much joy out of creating things for other people that I know they’ll love. I felt ready to take our relationship to the next stage and, instead of nudging and hinting for him to take action (which I don’t think is very fair), I started to think of all the things I could do for him, and everything seemed to fit into place!

  • An idea.

I first started to get really excited about proposing to my boyfriend, now fiancée, when I discussed a few potential proposal ideas with close friends that I knew he would firstly, love and secondly, never expect.  The initial plan was to hire out a lodge in Scotland, where we live, and create a personalised ‘escape room’ for him based on our relationship.  A few weeks down the line, and the logistics of that started to get on top of me (where was I going to post everything to so he wouldn’t see? How was I going to set it all up beforehand without him even knowing?) so, on the advice of a good friend, I changed my plans, kept the lodge, but set out on learning basic code from YouTube tutorials to make my gamer boyfriend a video game from scratch that he could star in, alongside me and our two cats, Buzz and Woody.  It took about 6 weeks, but the wacky idea soon became a reality.

  • Dealing with nay-sayers.

When you do something a bit unconventional, like this, you are bound to get a few people (sadly!) who don’t like the idea and/or think you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. Some people asked me if I’d just been waiting too long for him to propose and wanted to take matters into my own hands – not at all, we’ve been together for just over 2 years, not 10! Others were worried that I might be stealing my partner’s thunder by proposing to him – why? Because society says it should be him to do it?! Thankfully, my boyfriend was bowled over, loved the proposal and didn’t at all feel like I’d taken one of his ‘manly’ activities away from him..! If you want to propose to your partner and think it would be the right thing to do for the two of you, do it! Who cares what anyone else thinks?

  • Allowing a little bit of magic.

The most difficult decision throughout the whole proposal process was whether or not to ask for his parents’ blessing beforehand.  Even though my proposal was going to be untraditional, I still wanted to be respectful and talk to his family.  But in the end, I didn’t tell them about the proposal at all; if I had done, my now fiancée would not have had the magic of being able to share the excitement and surprise with them himself, something that he really enjoyed and appreciated I’d left for him.

This week’s blog is a little different, and one that’s very personal to me.  My partner does so much for me, from valeting my car to cleaning all the bits around the house I can’t reach from my wheelchair, and it was a total dream to be able to do something for him in return, that I hope he will remember for years to come.  

Thinking of a ‘road less travelled’ idea? Go for it, and good luck! X 

Why do attraction sparks never go anywhere for me?

By | Disability, Emily Yates, Mik Scarlet, Sex & disability, The Love Lounge, Undressing Disability

Hi Mik and Emily,


I’m a full time wheeler with CP, degree educated, great friendships, a kind of job, stylish, friendly, funny and flirty if the mood is right. Thing is though every time there’s been sparks (three times in total, am in my 30s) it never goes any further. The first two I didn’t make a move. I was overweight, shy, studious and not really comfortable with my disability as an adult yet (Both times late teens to mid 20s) but they didn’t make a move either. The 3rd time, very recently, I asked a someone I know if they would like to do something at some point. Definitely a spark/connection. Timing not great, they recently out of a long term relationship. So unlikely to have gone anywhere anyway. However, the issue is, I didn’t get a response either way, so I’m left wondering: were they revolted that I asked? Embarrassed that a ‘pity flirt’ was taken serously? Don’t want to embarrass me, cause who wants to upset the girl in the chair, right? He knows I embarrass easily, but am hard to offend. I’d have preferred outright rejection, swift, painful for a day but certain.

Thing is though, I can’t shake the idea that the wheels and other stuff put guys off me. 

This causes me three issues:

1. If it’s true, then I’m obviously attracted to idiots and that’s a problem.

2. I’m only ever attracted to people I’ve got to know, because I have low body confidence, so if they don’t like my personality either, then what?

3. If it is the chair, I can’t change that, but if it’s not, but I think it is, then I’m driving myself cuckoo for no reason!

So in short, how can I stop thinking like this and relax?

Cheers and sorry for the ramble. 

Hi there, 


Thanks so much for writing in to us. There’s a lot to unpack here! But as a wheelchair user in her late twenties with CP, I can relate to a lot of what you’ve said here, so fingers crossed I can help a little.


Taking your most recent situation into consideration, perhaps you didn’t get a response for exactly the reasons you’ve mentioned. But it’s naturally easy for us disabled people to automatically think ‘Oh, it’s obviously about my impairment’ I’ve done that so many times, too.  The fact of the matter is, if it was because of that, they weren’t the right person for you anyway and there’s absolutely zero point in worrying about it because you can’t do anything to change it (as you say yourself! – Again, much easier said than done, I know haha!) Let’s be honest, sometimes it will be about the chair for some people, whilst others won’t be able to care less that you’re in a chair if they tried.  It’s just a shame that we can’t have a sixth sense to figure that out before we put ourselves forward and make a move, but that shouldn’t stop us trying because we’d be missing all the brilliant people, too.


Ultimately, you’ve got to think of it like this: the one and only time that you’ve made a move hasn’t gone your way, but it doesn’t mean the next time will have the same result.  As you say yourself, you’re smart, stylish, friendly, funny and flirty – all amazing qualities that a potential partner is looking for right now, but your own view of yourself, your body and your impairment is clouding your ability to go out and talk to them! One thing that really helped me like myself and my body a bit more is I started to make trademarks out of the bits I like about myself.  I’ve always had good hair, so dyed it pink and made it part of my image, I’ve got good teeth and a nice smile, and always wear bright, popping lipstick. I love colour and pattern and bright things make me happy, so my clothes and wheelchair are always colourful.  All of these things make me feel attractive, but they are also brilliant talking points.  It’s totally true that a potential partner is much more likely to make a move if you look welcoming (and feel confident on the inside!) And relationships develop from good conversation – it’s not always about one party making a move either – just loving yourself a little more, focusing on your beautiful features and qualities, and having the confidence to present yourself to the world in a more open way will make the world of difference 🙂


I hope this helps as a starting point, but do get back to us if we can support any further.


Em x 

Advice on lesbian sex and Cerebral Palsy

By | Disability, Emily Yates, Sex & disability, The Love Lounge, Undressing Disability

Hey there! 

I’m a queer able-bodied woman and I’ve recently started seeing a woman with cerebral palsy (spastic diplegia). We haven’t had sex yet and I’m writing to ask for some advice.

I know that everybody knows their own body the best and knows their own sexual desires the best, and that just by using my normal communication skills during sex I’ll be able to learn what is comfortable and pleasurable for her. However, especially because she’s relatively inexperienced, I would appreciate any practical tips for positions or anything else. Or for knowing if there’s certain things I should ask which I might not think of. Again I know this is a conversation I should have with her and I fully intend to, but especially since she is inexperienced I’d like to have some ideas going in. 

THANKS! Also thanks for your website in general and for the work you do. 

Hi there,

Lovely to hear from you and thank you so much for writing in to us! 

I also have exactly the type of CP you’re talking about, so fingers crossed I can help a little.

First things first – if your partner is inexperienced (as I was up until a few years ago) she is going to want reassurance that this is more than okay, and that you’ll be patient and take things at her pace etc. I’m sure you already know this, but worth reiterating! 🙂


In terms of positioning, I can only speak from my experience as a straight woman with CP, but I struggle to straddle at all, so any ‘on top’ positions are out of the question for me due to my hip and groin muscles being too tight – so probably a good thing for you to be aware of. 


If you have a nice big bath, that could be a really good way to start foreplay and help to relax her leg muscles. She may get spasms in her legs – don’t let this worry you too much (it can be part of the condition) but of course check that she is okay/doesn’t want you to stop etc. 


As you very rightly alluded to in your email, communication is everything!!! Further down the line, when you know each other’s bodies better, you might want to look at liberator furniture (or making your own foam sex furniture – much cheaper!!!!) As these can be great for aiding different, more exciting positions without putting any extra pressure on the body.

Hope this helps and good luck!


If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us again!

Thanks!

Emily x

Love Lounge Top Tips – Relationship ebbs and flows

By | Disability, Emily Yates, Sex & disability, The Love Lounge, Undressing Disability

Relationships, like life in general, have a habit of being incredible one minute, and pretty mediocre the next.  Depending on your personality type, you might be able to see through this cycle and plod along, waiting for the next wonderful moment, or you might find that pretty impossible to do and find yourself getting bored or feeling hugely unattractive when things aren’t at their best between you and your partner. Here are our top tips on dealing with the ebbs and flows, glorious and grimy times, when it comes to relationships.

This too, shall pass.

Ah, the infamous phrase ‘nothing lasts forever.’  When it comes to your relationship and its natural cycles, that is most certainly true. Our hormones, friendships, satisfaction at work, sex drives and fashion sense all change every now and again, so why shouldn’t our relationships? The trick is knowing how to live in the moment and appreciate things when they are good, as well as having the strength to know that things will get better if they aren’t going so well.  This is much easier to do when you’ve been in a relationship for a little while as you have hindsight on your side and can recognise cycle changes and work with your partner to make them not seem quite so dramatic when time goes on.  

This doesn’t mean ‘settle’.

We are not remotely saying that awful behaviour in relationships is okay because that’s part of its natural cycle, and it will get batter if you just sit and wait it out. No. Accepting unreasonable behaviour or bullying of any kind isn’t what you should be doing, and it’s more than okay to stop a relationship in its tracks if it’s not working for you and you feel threatened, unsafe or put down by your partner.  There’s a huge difference between getting itchy feet and working towards better times for both of you, and waiting for a partner that doesn’t deserve you to change their ways (which is very unlikely to happen, by the way).

But do let evolution take its course

If you are new to your relationship, do learn to sit back a little bit and allow yourselves to learn from each other in terms of how you communicate, what your love languages are and how you both fit into your relationship when it comes to preferences and roles.  As with anything new, there can be teething problems at the start, but give yourselves the chance to see the sunny side of each other, too.

Good luck!

Love Lounge Tips – Having a disabled partner: An education

By | Disability, Emily Yates, Sex & disability, The Love Lounge, Undressing Disability

This morning I was chatting to my boyfriend, who is non-disabled, about the misconceptions that he had about disability, relationships and sex before starting a relationship with me.  He said (and this is in-line with what most delegates say in our general disability awareness training sessions) that becoming a hinderance rather than a help was a concern of his, alongside saying and doing things that might be construed as offensive or patronising.  He’s glad that his friends and family have never ‘grilled’ him over having a disabled partner and have always been very accepting (which, of course, they should be. Sadly though, many aren’t).  He had far more positive than negative things to say when considering what he’s learnt from having a disabled partner, so I thought I’d share some thoughts on how having a disabled partner can be a real education, and a good one!

Awkwardness and avoidance disappears

Before our relationship, my better half would avoid getting himself into any situation that would be deemed a little awkward (because he’s a nice guy and wouldn’t want to hurt any feelings!) Two years on, and he’s helped me get dressed on bad days, aided with personal care and toileting when needed, and we’ve discussed pretty much everything to do with disability and sex that you could imagine! It’s almost impossible to avoid those ‘real’ conversations and situations of vulnerability when you date a disabled person, and that’s no bad thing in our eyes.

It’s okay to want to help

In fact, it’s natural! The difference between being helpful and becoming a hinderance, in my opinion, is accepting when your disabled partner says no, or lets you know that they can manage independently.  No disabled person should expect a non-disabled partner to automatically understand every single aspect of their impairment and how it affects them, either, but once boundaries of support and offence have been identified, they shouldn’t need to be reaffirmed every week.  Listen to each other’s thoughts and limits and respect them.

Our community has gained another ally

The one thing I love the most about having a non-disabled partner is I feel that our disabled community has genuinely gained another ally.  Asking about accessibility is now second nature to my boyfriend, as is ensuring that it’s present in all the work he does.  As much as I’ve learnt from him and his experiences, it’s nice to know that he’s also learnt from me and mine. Society shies away from talking about disability and relationships, as those of us with impairments are sadly still seen as undesirable, but let’s spin that mindset on its head somewhat and appreciate the education that can come from intimacy with someone that doesn’t have your background, ability or belief system.

Love Lounge Top Tips – Inclusive Erotica

By | Emily Yates, Sex & disability, The Love Lounge, Undressing Disability

It’s no secret that disabled people aren’t represented nearly as much as they should be in the media,
education and employment, amongst many other areas. The same has often been said about the
sexual arena – how many wheelchair users do you see in mainstream porn or read about in steamy
stories? Very, very few. With thanks to several brilliant writers and activists, this is slowly changing,
with inclusive erotica for all to enjoy and be able to relate to now being available. So, if you’d like to
read a short sexy story or watch a film that includes disability and desire, carry on reading!

Tip 1: Writings to Warm you up at Night

We definitely need more disabled people to write erotica for both disabled and non-disabled
readers. Why? Well, because not only does it give disabled people something realistic and relatable
to get off to (as well as inspo for their own sexual relationships), it also helps non-disabled people to
see their disabled peers as desirable and sexual beings. Let’s be honest – many non-disabled people
view us as people that don’t, won’t and can’t have sex, and those who know this is absolutely untrue
can sometimes fetishise us against our will. Anything that makes disability and sex appear as normal
as it bloody well is is doing a great job! If you fancy reading some inclusive erotica by disabled
writers, have a look at Xan West, who’s recent publication ‘Nine of Swords, Reversed’ is described as
a dominant/submissive “romance novelette” with “autistic, disabled, chronic pain, PTSD and
depression representation.” Penelope Friday, a writer who sometimes uses a wheelchair due to ME,
is also worth a read. Her writings are often inspired by her own experiences, and in a recent
interview she did with Scope, she stated that “[I’m] treated like two different people depending on
whether I’m in my wheelchair or not.”

Tip 2: Disability, Visual Arts and Alternative Porn

If you’re wanting to watch something to get your juices flowing, there’s now several disabled
performers who are doing their utmost to ensure that inclusive porn and sex work gets the attention
and recognition it deserves. Just one example of these people for you to check out is performer
Daniel James, who has cerebral palsy, and told Queerty that “People develop this screwed up notion
in their mind that all individuals with disabilities are physically incapable of sex… Sex when you’re
disabled all comes down to the technique and thinking of ingenious ways to use the surroundings to
your advantage.”

These are just a few examples of the inclusive, sexy options that are out there to be enjoyed by both
disabled and non-disabled people. For more, continue reading this great article that taught us a lot,
too!

If you have any works that you’d like others to know about, please do get in touch with us! We’d be
happy to share them. Until then, enjoy these ��

Love Lounge Top Tips – Ideas for an accessible, romantic weekend away

By | Disability, Emily Yates, Sex & disability, The Love Lounge, Top tips, Undressing Disability

Dare I say it, we’ve been having some pretty lovely weather recently (as I type this, I’m waiting for
the clouds to come in and ruin my introduction). When it’s as bright and beautiful as this, many of
us fancy a little weekend staycation to a part of the UK that we love, or are perhaps unfamiliar with
and would like to explore. But, as with everything to do with travel, planning a romantic weekend
away for you and your beau may require a bit more thought. So, we are here to help!
Here are three of our favourite spots for an inclusive break in the UK.

Tip 1: Glasgow
Scotland’s biggest city is known for it’s history, inclement weather and has been crowned as the
friendliest city in the world. If you’re fancying Glasgow as a destination for a romantic break, don’t
forget that Loch Lomond is only a 30 minute drive away! Lodges with hot tubs (many of them
accessible) are scattered along the banks, and country pubs with delicious food and phenomenal
views are never far away. For an accessible stay in the city centre, have a look at the CitizenM hotel.
It is as accessible as it is funky! A day out at the gorgeous Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is also
a must. If you’re feeling peckish, or even thirsty, after all of that, the Hillhead Bookclub is a real
winner on both accounts.

Tip 2: Liverpool
Most definitely continuing with the friendly theme, party and glamour loving Liverpool is an amazing
destination if you’re a fan of shopping, museums, live music, being by the sea…. It has a bit of
everything! For any Beatles fan, the Hard Days Night hotel is an obvious, brilliant and very accessible
choice. The nearby Cavern Club might not look particularly accessible on first glance, but there is a
(not so glamourous) service entrance around the back. Trust me, it’s worth it once you’re in! For
food, drinks and a great view of the dock, why not treat yourself to a meal at the very impressive
MATOU?

Tip 3: London
I couldn’t really write this and not mention the capital. Whilst plenty of London still isn’t accessible
via the underground, certain pockets of it really are. Transport-wise, all 22,000 buses are fully
accessible, as are all the licensed black cabs around the city. I would always recommend staying in
the East End. Firstly, because you’ve got shopping galore on your doorstep with Westfield Stratford
and Spitalfield Market, but secondly because you’ve also got the Docklands Light Railway (DLR)
which is also 100% step-free. If you’re looking for a fun stay that won’t break the bank, Moxy
Stratford is a good shout. And you HAVE to take advantage of the incredible curries available on
Brick Lane! There’s so much to do, I can’t even mention it all, but Shakespeare’s Globe, the British
Museum and a walk around the Olympic Park are some of my favourites. Enjoy!
Here are only three of the many brilliant destinations you could choose for an accessible staycation
in the UK. Whatever you choose to do this summer, have a glorious time!

Love Lounge Top Tips – Managing frustration

By | Disability, Emily Yates, Sex & disability, The Love Lounge, Undressing Disability

With a new, or even an existing, partner, it can take some time to find a sexual ‘niche’ – where you both feel like you really fit and are giving and receiving pleasure in a way that suits you best.  Of course, for those of us with impairments, finding that groove and really feeling comfortable and confident in bed can sometimes feel like it’s taking even longer. Managing the frustration of this can turn out to be one of the best things you’ll ever learn in a relationship, because when frustration takes over, we often fail to communicate effectively at all.

Tip 1: Voice sooner rather than later.

If something isn’t feeling right sexually or romantically to you, whether it’s to do with your partner’s kissing technique, or their ability to get you off, it’s best to voice things sooner rather than later (bottling up feelings and frustrations so often only ends in negativity).  By voicing something, you don’t need to be unkind or start an argument; you might start by trying to guide your partner in a more effective way, or showing them exactly how you like to be touched by showing them yourself and asking them to watch. In fact, guiding and educating a lover can be a really sexy and fulfilling thing to do, and perhaps we need to stop viewing it as such a bad thing when a significant other doesn’t please us in the way we expect immediately.

Tip 2: Be open to education yourself.

As keen as you might be to school your partner in pleasure, be prepared to be educated yourself, and remember to keep asking if what you’re doing suits your significant other and what they’re into.  We often forget, as we get comfortable in relationships, that our preferences, fetishes and interests can change when it comes to sex.  A sex life that’s full of communication, understanding and an ability to be open and honest will always be a good one.

Tip 3:  Still frustrated? Shake it up!

If you’re still struggling to find a common love language between the two of you in the bedroom, why not mix things up, lose your inhibitions and try something totally new? If dressing up and role playing often makes you cringe, why not reset your sexual meter and just have a go? Failing to communicate and deliver sexually is often all in the mind rather than the body, and you or your partner might be lacking confidence, be stuck in a rut or have had a particularly stressful few months – and these are all things that stepping out of your comfort zone together, in a safe and strong manner with no judgement attached, can help with.

Sex is supposed to be fun and enjoyable and, although a bit of frustration can be healthy and leave you wanting more, it shouldn’t be making you want to leave.  We hope these tips help and, should you have any questions or concerns, please do get in touch with us.

 

Love Lounge Top Tips – Moving in

By | Disability, Emily Yates, Sex & disability, The Love Lounge, Undressing Disability

Picture the scene… the honeymoon period may technically be over in your relationship, but everything is still going swimmingly.  You’ve got through those awkward first dates and cringeworthy double-texting, and you still love being around each other.  You’ve met their relatives, they’ve met yours, and there’s even been the odd item of clothing or toothbrush left at each other’s places.  You decide it’s about time to have that first serious conversation – should you move in together?

Tip 1: Avoid assumptions and expectations

No doubt all of us have done this at some stage – got really excited and passionate about the possibility of something happening, only to be bitterly disappointed when someone doesn’t feel exactly the same way.  It’s no different with this conversation; try your best (where possible!) to start the conversation without judgement, assumption or expectations. Then you’re not setting yourself up for disappointment, your partner doesn’t feel a pressure to agree with your way of thinking and you can rest assured that you are getting their honest opinion on the matter.  If that opinion is the same as yours, perfect! If not, calmly ask them to explain how they’re feeling and work through the difference together in a positive and progressive way.

Tip 2: Accessible planning!

If you do agree to take the leap and move in together, fantastic! If one or both of you has a physical or sensory impairment, this may well be where the need for planning kicks in. Will you require a step free home, a larger bathroom to cater for personal aids, or even a dedicated space and garden for your guide dog to lounge and play? Often, it’s not just about the home itself, either; many disabled people would prefer to live near accessible bus stops or train stations, and nearby supermarkets or pharmacies can be particularly helpful if there is ever an emergency.  Once you do start planning, don’t be shy in asking for support with moving.  Call or email your local estate agents and see if they have any suitable properties to match your criteria, put your name on waiting lists with housing associations (many of whom have specific accessible housing available) and ask friends and family to help, too! This stage of moving in together can be stressful (and might even put a bit of strain on your relationship every now and again!) But the result is more than worth it.

Tip 3:  Enjoy all the good bits.

Once you’ve found the perfect place and moved in, it’s time to get on with all the more enjoyable parts of the process.  If you’re a Pinterest or Instagram fan, there’s nothing quite like searching for the perfect paint colour or most kooky furniture, and we’re sure we don’t need to even mention the joy of being able to have sex whenever you want, and wherever you want it..! Don’t forget to congratulate yourselves on taking the next step in your relationship, and we’re sure our invite to the house warming will be in the post soon 😉

 

Love Lounge Top Tips – Feeling Broody?

By | Disability, Emily Yates, Lifestyle, The Love Lounge

For many people, becoming a parent and having children someday is absolute #lifegoals, but it would be difficult for anyone to dispute that it is a BIG decision, not least for those of us who are disabled.  If you’re feeling broody, that’s not to say that it’s not possible to be a brilliant disabled mum or dad, but there might possibly be a few extra things to consider on your journey to becoming one.  If you see kids in your future, but don’t quite know where to start, this one is for you.

Tip 1: Have the conversation

First things first, if you are currently with a partner, do they feel the same way about having children? As scary as it may seem, having the conversation and knowing that you are both on the same wavelength, or have similar timelines in mind when it comes to parenting, can be really helpful and productive for both of you.  And it’s totally fine if you’re not ready, or the person you’re with isn’t, as long as you are both honest with each other and never make promises that you don’t have an intention of keeping.

Tip 2: Plan as well as you can

Let’s face it, parenting takes a lot of planning, and this is most definitely the case for us disabled people.  If you are a wheelchair user, you might want to think about how you are going to get your baby, a pram and your chair in the car, if your energy levels can get considerably low, it might be worth considering whether or not you will express milk and bottle feed your baby at night time, so your partner and you can share feeding responsibilities.  Find certain positions difficult and painful? You might want to make sure this information goes into your birth plan.  These are just a few examples, and there are plenty of things to think about, but just remember, whatever works for you is the best and correct decision, regardless of what anyone else around you is doing or suggesting.  There is never a perfect time to have a baby, but it is possible to plan and make it the best time for you.

Tip 3:  Hack your way through parenting life

When the baby does arrive, enjoy parenthood! It might be worth becoming a bit of a parenting engineer, too, and hacking your way through the first few months.  Perhaps picking your son or daughter out of their cot becomes tiring and tough, and you might find a way that’s much easier on your body by creating a side door on the cot, for example.  Maybe body slings will work much better for you than a bulky pram, or perhaps you’ll come up with an innovative way to be alerted to your baby’s cries at night if you are hard of hearing.  Whatever ends up working for you and your child, please share the information with the communities around you, on or offline.  There is sadly still a taboo and fear around disabled parenting, with many people being desperate to be a mum or dad, but worrying quite how they will manage or whether they will be good enough.  Knowledge is power, as they say, and let’s remember that sharing a hacking success might empower someone else to take the beautiful leap to becoming a disabled parent.

 

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