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Free advice on all things sex, love and disability

If you feel alone and need to talk to someone, get a bit of down to earth advice or need some practical tips on sex, relationships and flirting, please come and talk to our resident love non expert experts! Everybody wants to feel that they ‘belong’ and finding a sense of belonging with another person is very important to so many of us. Yet finding a ‘soul mate,’ for many people, is not so simple especially when you have a disability.

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Sex and Disability

Even if you’re in an established relationship, all sorts of tensions and difficulties can crop up. It’s especially hard if one of you becomes chronically sick, disabled or has an impairment which changes. It can then become not only something you both need to get your head round, but could mean your partner now has to assist you in different ways and offer you ‘care’ in a way they haven’t done before.

The dynamic of your relationship could change, sex might become physically or emotionally difficult, or you may end up feeling like you’re living with your best friend and sex is off the menu all together. Maybe you’re single and want to date, have fun, find the person of your dreams or even play the field a bit but are scared of ending up feeling like a novelty shag. Where do you look? How do you look? When do you mention an impairment or disability?

Living in a care home and maintaining or even establishing a relationship is no easy feat. Lack of information, attitudes, privacy and access are massive barriers. After all, how many double beds have you ever seen in a care home?

GET TO KNOW YOUR LOVE GURUS!

Mik looking directly into the camera, with red spikey hair and a coloured grid pattern behind him

Mik Scarlet

Mik is a big personality in the media world, representing disability in his own unique way.  He has presented shows on BBC2, Channel 4, ITV, Total Rock Radio and BBC 3 Counties Radio.

Emily yates smiling with bright pink lipstick and a colourful dress

Emily Yates

Emily is an accessible travel writer and accessibility consultant, she has cerebral palsy, uses a wheelchair, and has had relationships with both able-bodied and disabled partners.

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Love Lounge Top Tips – Pushing away, and leaning on each other

By | The Love Lounge

Let’s face it: whoever we are and whatever our background, preferences or additional requirements are, we all need a helping hand and a shoulder to cry on every now and again.  The same can absolutely be said if you are disabled and, perhaps, you might require a little more support than you see other people in your life asking for.  It’s not unusual for this to get frustrating, and to encourage you to distance yourself from your loved ones, for fear of being ‘too much’ or even a burden. 

Today’s top tips revolve around this issue of pushing others away before they have a chance to do the same to you, and how leaning on one another can be a beautiful thing that leads to a strong, sustainable partnership.

What do you have to give?

12 years ago, when I was 16, I went on a month-long expedition to southern Africa with other disabled or disadvantaged young people.  As a wheelchair user, I had to depend on other, more physically able, members of the group to hurl me up sand dunes and help me onto buses for 6 hour drives.  There was one particular guy who went out of his way to support me at every moment, using his strength to make sure I got as much out of the trip as I possibly could.  One day, we sat together on the bus for yet another long journey, and he told me all about his childhood, describing things he’d seen that I could only imagine in my nightmares.  I listened and we talked, finding that conversation alone was providing at least some solution to his difficult past.  We continued to work in this partnership, with him physically assisting, and me emotionally supporting him.

Whatever you have to give, remember you are not only your impairment.  So, if your partner has to help you bathe, undress, or even position you in bed before you get intimate, remember that they are not the only ones providing in this partnership, and giving and sharing talents and support can be done in many differing ways.

Vulnerability is strength

In this day and age, when love is so fleeting and a new hook up is only a swipe away, it can be very difficult to let our guards down and let our vulnerabilities shine through.  We don’t want to be seen as weaker, or less attractive, and this can particularly be a difficult thing to navigate if you’re disabled. But, vulnerability is beautiful and, in its purest sense, shows real strength of character.  Whilst it might seem so much easier to close yourself off and stop doing the things you love rather than asking for help to do them, remember that the right person will take such joy in contributing to your happiness and love of life (and you might just encourage them to admit to their own vulnerabilities, too! Regardless of how many dating apps there are in the world, aren’t we all really looking for someone who we can trust to love our most authentic, stripped back selves?)

Become a Leaning Team

Once the vulnerability hurdle has been crossed, your relationship will only go from strength to strength.  Perhaps your partner will have to lift your mobility aid into the car every single time you go anywhere together, but perhaps, with your support and encouragement, they will also feel the most capable they have ever felt. Become a team that isn’t afraid to lean, and you’ll be the strongest team there ever was.

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this article please share it with your friends. Search hashtag #LoveLounge for more advice and information. Or follow us on twitter @ETUKUndressing and Instagram @UndressingDisability

Love Lounge Top Tips – Sex that’s out of sync

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

Positioning, pain and having those oh-so-intimate conversations in the bedroom – topics that we regularly get asked questions on at the Love Lounge.  Seductive Hollywood movies and porn films are full of sleek, perfectly angled bodies having sleek, perfectly angled sex. But what happens when what really goes on between the sheets isn’t quite as in sync as we’d planned?

Perhaps you’re struggling to get into those more daring, exotic (and frankly, uncomfortable) positions, or regularly experiencing pain during sex that puts a sharp stop to your partner’s orgasm.  Whatever it may be, out-of-sync sex can be frustrating, difficult to discuss, and often make people feel as if their whole relationship is not quite hitting the mark, either. So, what can be done about it?

  1. Play to your strengths.

Going on top might prove an uncomfortable nightmare for you, but you surely have other skills that will blow your partner away! By doing what we think our other half wants and taking little enjoyment in it ourselves, e often fail to show the best of ourselves and our talents, both in and out of the bedroom.  Most people would be mortified if they knew their partners were putting on a show but having a pretty rubbish time underneath it all. After all, sex is still out of sync if you have to pretend you’re enjoying it.  Play to your strengths (and not just what you’re good at, but what you personally enjoy) and keep the out-of-sync sex at bay!

  • Wear your heart on your sleeve.

If something isn’t working when it comes to sex, have the confidence to bring it up and discuss it. Let’s say that it’s pain that’s stopping you both from climaxing, leading to a very frustrating ending of the session – that frustration will only get worse if you don’t dare to venture into the realms of the awkward and talk about what might be done to change your experience.  Something as simple as a pillow or cushion underneath you might be the solution, or it might take a trip to the doctors.  Either way, taking action will always feel better than learning to avoid sex or intimacy because it hurts (and you’ll continue to feel close and loved up with your partner if you are searching for a solution together, rather than laying their awkwardly in silence after it happens again).

  • Let it strengthen you.

Funnily enough, what often never gets mentioned in the media, is that issues that make us stop, think and revaluate often lead to positivity in some way.  So, whether discussing your sex life makes it better in the long run, or having heart to hearts with your partner brings the two of you closer, ensure that you allow any out-of-sync issues to strengthen you in the future.

Wishing you luck, and in-sync loving!


Love Lounge Top Tips – Deteriorating conditions and intimate care

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

It’s fair to say that there’s an element of care in all relationships (or there should be!) But, for many disabled people, the amount of care received from friends, parents and lovers is often a little more than would be expected in a relationship between non-disabled people. Whether it involves something as simple as standing to barricade a toilet cubicle door when a wheelchair using friend just ‘needs to go’ and an accessible loo isn’t available, or something a little more intimate like helping a lover to clean themselves and their surroundings up when their stoma bag bursts during sex, that care element is undeniable.

In many ways, this kindness and care that is required should be celebrated; it can build incredibly strong, intimate bonds, especially in a romantic relationship, when teamwork means so much more than just being able to put up a tent together at your local campsite! But it can be equally frustrating for both parties when things go wrong, or conditions worsen, and pressure, dependency and expectations rise.

So, what to do if you are concerned that your new, or deteriorating condition is affecting the amount of care you require, and perhaps the way your partner sees you, as a sexual being as well as one that requires support?

  1. Check in.

One of the biggest mistakes we make in our relationships, be they platonic or otherwise, is keeping our worries strictly internal and failing to discuss them.  Talk to your partner about your concerns and discuss the solutions together.  It might be that you need to think about bringing some external help in, so that you can concentrate on building on the passionate parts of your relationship, rather than the practical.  Maybe it’s just reassurance that you need – along with someone to show you how sexy you still are, and always have been to them.  But, sadly, we aren’t mind readers, and we are unable to solve problems for our loved ones that we never realised existed.  Talking, however difficult it may seem, is always the answer.

  • Adapt.

One great thing about us human beings? We are pretty versatile, adaptable and resilient creatures! Our impairments differ, adapt, worsen and improve, too, and it’s vital that we learn how to grow with them, rather than get overwhelmed by them.  If, for example, you now have a stoma bag and didn’t before, maybe its time to invest in some crotchless knickers that keep your bag in place whilst not deterring from the fun.  Need a hoist and feeling pretty rubbish about it? It can always be made into a sex swing… thank us later 😉

Regardless of what you’re going through, you’re still gorgeous.  Don’t forget that! 

Love Lounge top tips – Love languages

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

When it comes to relationships, we all have our checklist (whether we like to admit it or not!) Whether it’s someone to laugh us into bed, with an accent that’ll make us swoon, or a sharp style that will knock us off our feet (or send us head over wheels), every one of us is on the lookout for a particular something that floats our boat.  But, what about after we’ve got into said relationship? Don’t we still have preferences, needs, and even a particular way to communicate that might be different from someone else’s ‘checklist’? Absolutely we do! If you’re interested in finding out more about love languages, and even working out what yours are, keep reading!

  • The 5 Love Languages

There are five Love Languages, or ways that we communicate our love and commitment within relationships, and like our partners to communicate the same to us:

  1. Words of Affirmation – communicating our love verbally.  This might be by saying ‘I love you’, or telling our partner they look great in that outfit, for example.
  2. Acts of Service – When actions speak louder than words, whether that means cooking a delicious meal for your love, or booking a trip to their favourite European city.
  3. Receiving Gifts – Simple really – some people just love to be spoilt with a thoughtful pressie!
  4. Quality Time – Giving your partner love and attention in a way that’s special to the two of you.
  5. Physical Touch – A kiss and a cuddle, or something more.  For some people, nothing is more important than physical affection.

These Love Languages make a lot of sense and, in reading them, it’s probably quite obvious to you which of the Love Languages relate to you the most (it’s not unusual to have two main Love Languages that really ‘speak’ to you).  So when we have that knowledge, what do we do with it?

  • Remember: our Love Languages are rarely the same.

If you’ve discovered your Love Language, ask your partner to do a bit of research and find out what theirs is.  Your Love Language relates to how you feel best loved, and what your partner can do to best show you that they care.  So, it’s important that you’re also aware of your significant other’s Love Language(s) so that you can return the favour in a way that will really mean something to them. What does your partner most ask of you? For a cleaner home? More quality time together? More affection? If they are asking for something in particular, you’re probably not catering to a certain Love Language of theirs, so discuss it and be creative with how you show your love next time!

Wishing you the best of luck on your Love Language journey: may it help you to better understand your partner (as well as your own needs and desires!) and lead to a relationship that’s all the more wonderful for it!

Love Lounge Top Tips – Losing feeling and function

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

One question we often get asked at the Love Lounge revolves around how to still be sexy and sexual after losing the sensation, and sometimes function, in your genitals. Our Love Lounge non-expert sexpert, Mik, spoke at length about this just a few weeks ago with someone who wrote in to ask for his advice, and great advice he gave! So, we thought we would make a blog out of some of Mik’s top tips for when worries about feeling, function and all things sex get on top of you.

  • See a specialist

As Mik very rightly says, if you do start to lose feeling and/or function in your genital area, be sure to get it checked out.  It doesn’t always mean you’ve lost that sensation or ability for good – far from it – and something else might be going on with your body that requires attention. As Mik has experienced himself, sometimes spinal surgery is what is needed, and that can bring back much of the feeling and/or function that was deemed to be lost.  It’s always better to be safe than sorry and ensure that a medical expert has had a chance to give you their thoughts.

  • Remember what you’ve got

If you have lost feeling and/or function and aren’t going to regain it any time soon, please do remember what other tips and tricks you have up your sexual sleeve! Sadly, we live in a society that believes penetration is the be-all and end-all of everything sexual, and that is plainly and simply not true! Become an expert in other areas behind closed doors – magic fingers and tongues are JUST as good as penetration (even better, some may say!) And there’s a whole host of accessible and inclusive sex toys at your disposal now, so no excuse to not still be incredibly sexy.

  • Remapping zones

Still wanting to get all tingly and experience orgasm? One thing that Mik is a real advocate for is the ability to remap your erogenous zones so that you are able to orgasm from a certain part of your body being touched that is not necessarily your genitals.  We’ll let Mik tell you how it’s done: ‘Basically, you have to learn how to masturbate without touching yourself. Lie on your bed & think very dirty thoughts. Let your imagination run riot. As you feel more and more aroused keep going. With a few tries you’ll find you start to be able to orgasm without being touched. Lots of fun if you ever bored at the cinema eh?

Now you can do this, just as you’re about to orgasm touch yourself or get someone to touch you on a part of your body you already like being touched. Nipples for example. Doing this a few times makes you start to be able to orgasm in a different place to your genitals. It’s a different orgasm as it’s very head first rather than groin first. Trust me it works.’

Whilst scary and full of sadness for many at first, a lack or feeling and/or function does not at all have to mean a lack of sexiness. 

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 

Losing sensitivity

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

Hey,

I’m a 40-something gentleman with Spina Bifida I’ve noticed over the last couple of years I’m slowly losing sensitivity in my penis, is there anything I can do about it? Any advice would be helpful.

M

Kind regards

Hi M


Regarding your question about losing sensation in your genitals, I should first ask have you been to see a GP or specialist? I’ve had a couple of times when sensation went strange and it transpired my spine wasn’t doing well so I needed surgery to make it stable. Well worth getting it checked as I know I found after the most recent operation I regained all the lost feeling plus some sensation I hadn’t had since my SCI in 1981.


If you have made sure it’s not a medical issue, don’t worry. Our society obsesses about willys. I’m not sure if you have erectile function but whichever the answer  you can use a technique developed to help people with SCI to develop orgasmic zones all over your body.


Basically you have to learn how to masturbate without touching yourself. Lie on your bed and think very dirty thoughts. Let your imagination run riot. As you feel more and more aroused keep going. With a few tries you’ll find you start to be able to orgasm without being touched. Lots of fun if you ever bored at the cinema eh?


Now you can do this, just as you’re about to orgasm touch yourself or get someone to touch you on a part of your body you already like being touched. Nipples for example. Doing this a few times makes you start to be able to orgasm in a different place to your genitals. It’s a different orgasm as it’s very head first rather than groin first. Trust me it works.


There are videos of me explaining the technique further online. 
While learning how to do this relocation of orgasmic zones is cool I’d definitely make sure everything is cool with your nerves first. Better safe than sorry eh?


I’ve seen guys and girls with zero sensation in their sex organs discover this technique and rediscover sex and their sexuality. If function goes too there’s still so much you can do. I did a video for the Love Lounge about this recently. You’ve still got your tongue, fingers and there’s a whole world of toys to play with. 


Hope this helps mate? I know how it can hurt your confidence. I remember waking up aged 15 to discover my SCI had changed my sexual function for life. Luckily I found it gave me a whole load of new options that everyone I’ve been with seemed to enjoy! 

Keep in touch and stay sexy, 


Mik

Love Lounge Top Tips – Trademarks and Confidence

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

When it comes to dating and relationships, confidence can be hard to find (not least for us disabled people). Regardless of how confident you are, or how comfortable with your impairment you may be, it can be extremely difficult not to blame a rejection on the fact that you’re disabled.  So, with this in mind, here are our tips for creating a confident trademark out of your features (including your impairment), and owning it!

A talking point.

Whilst no-one wants a thousand questions about their impairment or a particular aid the first time that they meet someone, this ‘see the person, not the disability’ rhetoric doesn’t really fly with us, either.  Come on, of course many impairments are visible, and that’s more than okay! We don’t have to pretend they don’t exist, they just don’t have to be an all-encompassing identifying factor, either.  If you’re confident about, or even proud of, your impairment, don’t be afraid to show how you feel it a way that fits with your style.  It can be a great feeling when someone comes up to you and says ‘Wow, I love what you’ve done with your wheelchair, that’s the coolest one I’ve ever seen!’ instead of crossing the street to avoid any interaction.

What about all those other gorgeous features?

We might sound like the Queer Eye team here (and trust us, we are MORE than okay with that!) but remember to focus on all of your other identifying factors that you love and not just the aids you use in everyday life.  Got a great smile? Wear some popping lipstick to show it off.  Love a certain style, pattern or colour when it comes to clothes? Wear them, and make that your trademark.  Perhaps piercings and tattoos are your thing, or suits and paisley shirts.  Whatever it is, make it ‘you’, and then people will have so much more to talk to you about than the elephant in the room (and it makes dating ice breakers a little easier, too!)

Inside always shows on the Outside

Ultimately, none of these tips are any good if you still feel shy, insular and unable to take action on the inside.  Wearing a colourful outfit means nothing if you don’t radiate positivity and an open, welcoming attitude.  This may sound a little strict (but we hope you know where we are coming from): If you want to be seen as more than a disabled guy or girl, you have to show those other facets to yourself in a loud and proud manner because, sadly, society is still waaaay behind in its perceptions of disability.  Let everything that you are shine through, and be proud of it, every single bit of it, ESPECIALLY the bits that are unique to you.

Sending love x 

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