Q: I have had a disability since childhood, am in my twenties, but have never had sex. Now I’ve met someone I really like, and I think he wants to be intimate with me. I’m so afraid he’ll reject me because of my lack of experience as soon as we try to be sexual. What can I do?
A: Many people with disabilities did not get an opportunity to establish their sexual identities. Perhaps they spent their childhood and adolescence in an institutional setting, where staff did not want to deal with sexual activity between residents, much less provide any education. Or maybe their family did not support exploration of their sexual identity, afraid that they would be hurt by unmet expectations. And, unfortunate as it may be, people with disabilities are often discounted out-of-hand as sexual partners in a society that sees them as asexual by definition. For whatever reason, you’ve simply had less opportunity.
This just means that you’re getting a late start. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for you to catch up, to learn how your body responds, to get familiar with the dynamics of how people become intimate partners, to develop confidence in your sexuality. Your sexual nature is an innate and unchangeable part of what you are. You can overcome your inexperience and develop this important part of your life and self-image.
Ask yourself what you’re afraid of. I can imagine your being afraid that you’ll be rejected, that you’ll make some kind of mistake, or that you’ll touch on some strong, uncomfortable emotions in the course of being intimate. Perhaps you feel some embarrassment. Don’t allow your fears to cost you the chance to be with someone who is apparently interested in being close to you. Just be yourself. People come together because they like each other, not because they practice some advanced, complex art of seduction.
And if you reach a stage where your deeper emotions arise, then you’ll get to find out whether you can truly trust this person as an intimate partner who will accept you and your feelings. You’re not just looking for someone to have sex with, you’re looking for a partner you can laugh and cry with as well. Not to mention the joy of your sexual coming out.
Most of all, don’t try to pretend that you have more experience than you actually do. There’s no way to maintain that, and the only possible result can be that you’ll be found out! You have much more to gain by being honest from the start. Just let them know the truth, that you want to begin the long overdue process of embracing your sexuality, that you’ll need a little patience–and maybe some guidance–so you can make up for lost time.
Anyone who is considering an intimate relationship needs to decide if their potential partner is someone they can trust. Someone who is really interested in you, is attracted to you, cares about you, and will accept the truth of who you are. If someone would reject you simply for your lack of experience, maybe they’re not someone you want to be with anyway. Don’t allow your desire to explore your sexuality lead you to choose someone who is not going to be compassionate. You may have never been kissed, but the person who gets the privilege needs to earn it!
It might even be a real treat for them, sharing the process of discovering your sexuality, your delight in new sensations. They’ll be honoured to contribute to your growth as a person, exploring and celebrating their sexuality. Rather than thinking in terms of loss and fear, think of this experience as an opportunity. The bond you’ll form as a result of an experience this precious could be the basis of a strong foundation for a lasting relationship. Or at least a great friendship.