Health Library

Sex and Disabilities Not Mutually Exclusive

Common Sexual Concerns

IMAGE Having a disability does not change a person’s desire to express their sexuality. However, they may have concerns about sex and sexual performance. The good news is that couples can still have a loving, close, sexual relationship.

A disability may make it hard for you to have sex the way you would like. Some common concerns are:

  • Finding a partner, if you do not have one
  • Worries about your partner’s feelings toward you
  • Not feeling confident about your body or sexual abilities
  • Problems with pain, energy levels, or low desire

It is normal to feel frustrated about these concerns. It can help to think about different ways to approach sex. Also, keep in mind that:

  • Sexual pleasure is possible for people and their partners—even with a disability.
  • Intimacy and closeness can be enjoyed—even without genital function.

Do not be afraid to talk to your doctor about your concerns. Sex is normal and natural. If your doctor cannot help, they may refer you to a specialist.

Physical Changes

Physical changes depend on the condition. Some disabilities affect the spinal cord. This can cause sexual problems, such as:

  • More or less sensation in the vagina
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Problems getting an erection
  • Less sensation in the penis
  • Problems ejaculating

Other spinal cord problems may interfere with sex. They may include:

  • Thigh cramps
  • Pain syndromes
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • A catheter

Weakness, tiredness, and breathing problems can also interfere with sex.

Psychological Concerns

People with disabilities may struggle with stress, depression, and grief. Some common concerns are:

  • Pressures from not being able to work
  • Worries about being a burden
  • Changes in the way you look
  • Loss of independence
  • Change in roles and responsibilities

These issues can affect desire and performance. Some people even give up on sex. Therapy can help you get through these struggles.

Finding What Works

Different options can help people with disabilities enjoy sex. They may include:

  • Different positions
  • Touching, kissing, fondling, or oral sex
  • Techniques to increase sexual stimulation

Try different kinds of touch such as stroking, rubbing, and squeezing. Learn to use your mouth to kiss, suck, or nip. Play with different sensations on the skin. You could try lotions, oil, powders, feathers, silk, or a vibrator. Focus on a specific area without moving to intercourse. Make the goal intimacy and pleasure versus performance and orgasm.

It helps for partners to talk and experiment. Intercourse is only a small part of sex. You can explore a range of touching, caressing, positions, and pleasures.

Tips to Enhance Lovemaking

Here are some tips to enhance lovemaking:

  • Consider any sexual activity that you can do with pleasure. Be sure to find a comfortable position. Pillows and cushions can give support or ease pressure.
  • Try water-soluble lubricants, if needed. Do not use petroleum jelly, which can cause infections.
  • Ask your doctor about medicines to control muscle spasms and stiffness, if needed.
  • Consider using a vibrator. It can help increase sensation in the genital area.
  • Try to make love at times when you have more energy.
  • Ask your doctor about using medicines for pain. Medicines may be timed so they do not interfere with sex.
  • Talk to your doctor if you have problems with erections. There may be medicines, exercises, and devices that can help.
  • Learn other ways to touch your partner—if you cannot use your arms or legs.
  • Find ways to enhance the mood. You could try talking, music, candles, or incense.

Learn all you can about sexual issues. Share this with your doctor. If you are sexually active, ask about sexually transmitted infections and exams too. Birth control may also be a concern.

If you need more help, consider:

  • Support groups or counseling
  • A certified sex therapist
  • Pamphlets, books, and DVDs on sex and disabilities

Sexual pleasure adds to the quality of life. A loving partner, supportive care, and exploration can help. Sex can continue to be an important part of your life together.


The American Association of People with Disabilities

American Sexual Health Association

Canadian Resources

Council of Canadians with Disabilities

Sex Information and Education Council of Canada


Disability and sexuality. Better Health Channel website. Available at:

Let’s normalize sex and disability. Enhance the UK website. Available at:

Mythbusting. Sexuality and Disability website. Available at: