published on 18 Jan 2013
Soon to hit the big screen is The Sessions. Based on a real story, the film is about Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes), journalist, poet and activist who because of severe physical disability, hires a sex surrogate (Helen Hunt) to lose his virginity. Time Out London has an excellent article on the film.
The Sessions has received critical acclaim for its honest portrayal of the challenges people with physical disabilities face about sex. As the film exposes, sexual desire is as present and varied for people with disabilities as for those without. However, a lack of information and understanding can stigmatise and reduce the opportunity for people with physical disabilities to fully express themselves sexually.
Privacy can also be an issue. For those who are assisted by a carer (sometimes a family member), sexual needs can feel problematic. Feelings of arousal or physical responses, such as getting an erection when being undressed, may create feelings of shame and embarrassment and an uneasiness to talk about the subject. It might also be difficult to express a need for privacy or assistance with, for example, masturbation. Sex and relationships education (SRE) in schools is too often based solely around sex for people without disability, creating difficulties for young people in asking specific questions.
FPA recognises the need to tackle these perceptions and works to address these issues through a specialist training programme. We provide tools for people with disabilities to communicate constructively about their sexual needs, as well as supporting carers to respond and understand the sexuality of the people they care for. Problems and practical solutions are openly addressed (for example having sex in a wheelchair or masturbating with limited mobility) catering to individual needs.
Sexual pleasure is a fundamental human need. Desire and Pleasure is our online adult sex toy shop, run by FPA with the aim of helping people enjoy a positive and safe sexual experience. The Selected for You range caters specifically for people with limited mobility or a physical disability. The range includes products with chords or flexible shafts as well as hands-free sex toys. They’ve been specially chosen by experts and have supporting online information about how to enjoy the products in a safe and fun way.
Society’s perception of people with disabilities can be an obstacle. Attendees of FPA’s training sessions have expressed that having a disability means a constant medical focus by carers, doctors and family, which sometimes overlooks other ways of improving life standards. The lack of portrayal in the media of people with disabilities having sex reduces understanding of the emotional aspects, and feelings of intimacy or closeness, which sex can create, and deprives people with disabilities of their right to sexuality.
The Sessions is a welcome step in opening discussions on sex and disability, in reducing stigma and acknowledging everyone’s right to sexuality. We look forward to watching it.