We Need Sex Ed Too!
Originally Published: October 29, 2010
Revised: November 13, 2012
At age 11, I remember being curious about sex. I knew I could one day have it, but because I had been in an accident at age six, which left me with a spinal cord injury (SCI), I was never sure how I would have sex. I am partially paralyzed and have had to use a wheelchair to get around. I was looking forward to taking the sex ed class at my middle school, but it was never offered to me. Maybe the teachers didn’t know how they would teach me—a person with a disability—sex ed.
Even though I didn’t get any formal sex ed instruction, my mother was very receptive to any questions my siblings and I had about sex. She always talked to us about the importance of preventing pregnancy, using condoms to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and waiting until you’re ready to take on all the responsibilities of having sex. My friends would talk about their experiences with sex, but this was (most of the time) in a joking manner. I had also looked up some information on the Internet. All of this was OK, but with me having an SCI, I guess what I was looking for was a fellow handicapable person’s perspective.
I was fortunate enough to have someone teach me sex ed, but other people with disabilities should be given the same opportunity.
I didn’t find what I wanted to learn until we moved to Phoenix, Arizona, and I started going to therapy at Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center. This is where I met Sonya Perduta, a registered nurse, who also has a spinal cord injury. Over a period of time, I met with her and read a book she gave me to learn sex ed for those with an SCI. All sexually active people have to prepare for sex by getting tested, buying condoms or getting birth control, if necessary. But people with spinal cord injuries have specific things they need to be aware of if they choose to have sex.
- It’s very important to empty your bowel and bladder before oral, anal or vaginal sex to avoid any accidents that could occur during sex.
- It is also important to do range-of-motion exercises, which keep arms and legs stretched, so that muscles are relaxed during sex. These exercises can prevent uncontrollable muscle spasms. (Although a muscle spasm at the right moment might not be such a bad thing!)
- If your partner is a woman with paralysis below the waist, it is still possible for her to get pregnant. Some males with paralysis can get someone pregnant, so guys should still use condoms. Whether or not pregnancy is a concern, condoms should still be used to reduce the risk of STDs.
I assumed that doing bowel and bladder treatments before sex was a must, but I had never thought of birth control and spasms causing complications during sex!
The information I got was like a gold mine to me. I wanted to pass this knowledge on to other people with disabilities.
I’m involved in Youth Action Council of Arizona (YAC-AZ), a group of youth with disabilities who work to empower themselves and other young people with disabilities. We approached the Arizona Department of Education about having a session on sexuality education for people with disabilities at an educational conference, but we were denied. Although the doorway would be monitored to make sure that no one under 18 or without a parent or guardian’s permission could enter the presentation, the Arizona Department of Education didn’t want to risk having anyone underage attend the presentation.
Though the department of education won’t allow us to have the session, their decision won’t prevent us from having a sex ed presentation at one of our monthly YAC-AZ meetings.
Sex education is important. I was fortunate enough to have someone teach me sex ed, but other people with disabilities should be given the same opportunity. We have relationships, whether they are sexual or not, and we need sex ed just like everyone else.
Calvin Mykl D. Cook is a contributor from Arizona.
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