Cultural, political legal and philosophical aspects are intrinsically involved when ever there is a discussion about human sexuality. Morality, ethics, spirituality and even religion also do get involved in it.

But if we see from the psychological point of view, there are four basic drives which throw human beings to perform any kind of action. These are hunger, thirst, avoidance of pain and sexual urges.

Sex being a form of energy, plays a primal role in expressions of emotions and feelings. Sexuality doesn’t always mean “an athletic kind of intercourse”. It expresses our need of warmth and intimacy. It can also be comprehended as a desire to be touched, caressed and comforted in a physical manner.

But the “rules of the game” are not same for the persons with disabilities.

Because of the dogmatic attitudes of our society and its being extremely desensitized, the physically challenged people are reduced to the status of “asexual creatures”.  Talking about the sexual needs of disabled persons still remains a taboo. And, I won’t be surprised, if I also get labeled as an ‘absolute pervert’ for writing on this issue.

Disability brings pain, feeling of incompetence, inadequacies, frustration and emotional disturbances. Self esteem and sexuality get directly related in such cases. People might develop complexes due to their negative body images.  And at this point of time, if a person’s basic human right is encroached upon, it really becomes devastating for that person. There creeps in a fear of getting rejected. Low level of confidence becomes the mark of the personality. Restriction of the sexual expressions may aggravate these problems further in an individual.

The disabled are stereotyped in two extreme ways in our society. Either they are portrayed as “saintly” or “heroic” beings or shown as absolutely “pathetic” beings. They may, many times, have to live a life of celibacy because the pleasures of body are just not meant for them.

The greatest hurdle is to find a partner who is empathic and understanding.  Some non disabled men might seem inclined to have a disabled female as a partner as she can be an “interesting variation”. Otherwise there is no initiative from the “normal” men.

Only marriage is considered as a legitimate and a permissible relation for the expression of sexuality in our social system. But here too, the marketplace of relationships can prove to be exhaustive and humiliating for people with physical challenges. These people are disadvantaged due to differences in movement, postures and  non-functioning of some of their body parts and due to the non possession of “perfect idealized bodies”.

Non disabled girls from poor family are likely to get married to disabled men. The gender differences embedded in the mind set of the people and often paint the macho image of males!  So the disabled males prefer to get “perfect wives” i.e. non disabled females as their partner where as women with disabilities may be ready to marry men with disabilities. It all becomes a matter of demand and supply..! Discrimination results either in deprivation or in frustrations due to stigmatization making the situation even grimmer.

Does sitting on a wheelchair, walking with a cane, wearing an artificial leg or using a hearing aid rip off sensuousness and passion from a human being?

If no, then why is there is a definite distaste about disabilities in our society which shows intense obsession for body beautiful?

Isn’t sexuality and sensuality inherent part of us?

Why can’t it be accepted that we all are sexual beings irrespective of our physical status?

It is really high time that at least some of these unattended and unanswered questions get their answers and solutions.

Where do we start from,  if things have to be changed? The answer is:

The values need to be re-evaluated and the closed minds have to be opened. I know revolutionary changes are neither feasible nor possible but a little thought on the matter can initiate movement towards at least some kind of long awaited evolutionary change!


-By Abha Khetarpal

 Abha Khetarpal is principal counselor/founder of Cross the Hurdles. The article was first written for her blog Mindful Cogitations and is reproduced here with permission.