Sex Gets Real: Episode 76

If you live long enough, you’ll become part of the club.

Robin Wilson-Beattie joins us this week to talk all about sex and disability. So often people with disabilities are seen as asexual, but that is so wrong.

Robin shares her journey with her body as an incomplete quadriplegic, sex and BDSM, ableism, and abortion as a disabled person. It’s juicy stuff. Oh, and her BDSM scene at the end is so fun to picture. Rawr!

If you’re looking for more information on sex and disability, or you just want to connect with Robin, check out her website, Sex Abled with Robin WB, and also follow her on Twitter.

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Episode breakdown

  • 0:45 – Dawn was at Sex Geek Summer Camp with the incredible, the amazing Robin Wilson-Beattie, who is here to talk about sex and disability.
  • 3:10 – Robin shares her experience with disability, and how she got to this place in her life of teaching sex and disability.
  • 4:10 – Just before going in for this very rare surgery on her spine, she found out she was pregnant. That was the first time she started experiencing some of the prejudice in the medical community around disabled individuals.
  • 4:32 – Robin is a C4 quadriplegic incomplete, which means she can walk with the assistance of a cane.
  • 5:35 – In rehab, they spent weeks discussing relearning bowel and bladder movements, all these processes, but they only got one 45-minute film when it came to sex and disability.
  • 6:27 – Imagine feeling as if sex was not something you could hope for any longer.
  • 6:51 – Before her injury, she was sexually adventurous and into BDSM. How can you find a way to still be that person after such a significant change, especially when information was so severely lacking?
  • 7:03 – Your desires and personality don’t go away just because your body undergoes a change. How do you learn to work with the body you have?
  • 7:44 – One of the first things Robin did was participate in a panel on sex with a disability at the feminist book store, Charis Books & More, in Atlanta.
  • 8:40 – There just aren’t enough resources on sex and disability. Robin wanted to fill that gap.
  • 8:50 – Robin met Bethany Stevens, who was working in this space of sex, disability, and reproductive justice.
  • 9:48 – Nothing about us, without us. Which means if you’re talking about women’s issues, then women need to be part of the discussion. If you’re talking about sex and disability, then folks with disabilities need to be part of the discussion and creation of the content.
  • 10:18 – What is somebody going to think about my body and the scars?
  • 10:48 – Disability is a natural part of the human condition. If you’re alive long enough, you’re likely to acquire some form of disability. We need to stop making disabilities invisible.
  • 11:50 – Social media has been a great way for folks who previously couldn’t connect to find each other – like for folks who may have mobility challenges.
  • 12:19 – Yay for Toronto throwing an accessible play party, thrown by a group called Deliciously Disabled.
  • 13:34 – Let’s talk about being fetishized by people who have a fetish for your body or your disability.
  • 13:51 – We learned a new term! People who have a fetish for disabled folks are called devotees.
  • 15:24 – The way Robin is wired (Dawn is the same here) is that she wants someone to appreciate her for the person she is, not for some external characteristic like a disability, skin color, or body size.
  • 16:05 – Dylan keeps it real and asks if the number one question Robin gets has to do with her sexual functioning and her genitals.
  • 16:11 – Ooooo. Robin has a story about that question.
  • 16:28 – We won’t spoil it here, but let’s just say Robin has a story about TSA and her vagina.
  • 18:12 – Robin keeps it just as real by telling the TSA person that she has a lot of sex. Boom.
  • 20:25 – Robin makes such a great point – it’s not that you can’t find her body sexy or appreciate her scars, but there needs to also be an appreciation of the person inside the body. That’s the difference between appreciation and fetishization.
  • 21:08 – How do you give the geeky boys an instant erection? By telling them you’re part cyborg.
  • 21:40 – Dawn went on a date with a quadriplegic last year, and it was the first time she learned about how sex is still possible even if movement is not. So, there’s this invisibility of sexuality for disabled individuals.
  • 22:31 – Every single person’s body is different, whether you’re able-bodied or not. Forgetting that is a big part of ableism.
  • 23:13 – Ableism is judging someone’s ability or lack of ability based on preconceived notions. It’s also an assumption that you don’t want to be in the body you have. Plus, it’s lack of access in ways that are invisible to able bodied folks.
  • 24:56 – People hold this assumption that the only bodies we all want to have are able-bodied, thin, white, young bodies. Dawn asks Robin to weigh in.
  • 26:08 – Robin has crip power, crip pride.
  • 28:15 – Hidden disabilities! Yes! Mental disabilities include PTSD, depression, anxiety, etc. These are disabilities we cannot see, so they’re often ignored.
  • 28:37 – PTSD and trauma affect your sexual experience, just like physical disabilities.
  • 29:11 – Trauma can affect the way you experience ownership of your own body and sex. Too often that gets downplayed or ignored.
  • 29:38 – Dawn asks a very ableist question about “folks with disabilities”. Robin responds with grace, and then Dawn calls herself out.
  • 30:23 – Some folks with disabilities want to pass as able-bodied for various reasons, so this ties back in with ableism in that we cannot assume what someone’s experiences or beliefs are just by looking at them. We need to get to know each person and leave space for all of those variances in experience.
  • 31:55 – Robin makes such a critical point – she didn’t disclose her mental disability around trauma and anxiety because she didn’t want someone to not want to have sex with her, so she hid it.
  • 32:18 – Regardless of who you are, talk to your partner(s) about your needs and experiences – disclosing physical or mental disabilities can be really important, but also preferences and needs based on your emotional space that day.
  • 33:46 – If all of us would just be willing to be open and discuss our needs, then we could have awesome sex.
  • 35:29 – Robin’s daughter, who is 10, knows to ask what pronoun people prefer. How cool is that?
  • 37:08 – How do you answer your 9-year-old when she asks, “So what is cheating in a polyamorous relationship?”
  • 37:43Robin’s story of abortion on The Abortion Diaries is incredibly moving and powerful. Let’s discuss.
  • 39:18 – Because of her disability, she couldn’t find a place to perform the abortion and doctors were treating her as if she had no business being pregnant, which is sad and disappointing.
  • 41:48 – The doctor she had to go to not only made her feel guilty about being pregnant but sexually assaulted her. But because she was already feeling so much guilt and shame around the whole situation, she didn’t know what to do.
  • 44:40 – Did you hear about the parents who sterilized their disabled daughter?
  • 46:00 – Too often folks that are into BDSM or non-monogamy fail to see how closely their activities are tied to things like reproductive justice and access to contraceptives, because it’s all about body autonomy.
  • 47:57 – BDSM. It’s talk to talk about it.
  • 48:38 – Robin is a switch, but she especially likes having a man on his knees doing whatever it is she wants him to do. YES!
  • 50:14 – Robin will be presenting at CatalystCon West on adapting sex toys.

And be sure to pin, share, and Instagram this bad boy

On this week's episode of Sex Gets Real, Dawn and Dylan talk to Robin Wilson-Beattie all about sex and disability. Disabled bodies are often seen as asexual, but in fact, folks with disabilities have just as varied and rich of an experience of sex as abled bodies. We also talk BDSM, kink, abortion, and ableism.

  • Dawn
  • September 13, 2015