Hello Nicole – December 1991

 Hello Nicole, I am an able-bodied man who has fallen in love with a woman who is disabled.  She is […]

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By Nicole
Published December 10, 1991

 Hello Nicole,

I am an able-bodied man who has fallen in love with a woman who is disabled.  She is a quad.  I know she shares my feelings, yet both of us have been shy to express our feelings in a physical way.  I don’t want to jeopardize our relationship by pushing for physical intimacy if, due to her disability, my friend is unable to respond in kind.  I was under the impression that sexual relations are possible, but I haven’t been able to verify this.  What do you think I should do?

Hoping for More


Dear Hoping,

All people can become sexual.  However, wheelchairs and disfigured bodies are not commonly thought of as sexy.  Being disabled myself, I am always very hesitant to respond to any kind of sexual invitation.  In my electric wheelchair with my clothes on, most people don’t notice my deformities or my severely limited mobility; a man might not realize I am unable to perform many sexual acts.  Because of this I’m afraid if I reveal my true self to a man, he will be repulsed and reject me.

Whenever the possibility of a sexual relationship comes into my life I am as happy as I am scared.  I have to put myself in a very vulnerable position if I decide to begin a physical relationship.  Not only must I reveal the stark reality of my disability and my self-image, but I also need to place an immense amount of trust in my partner.  I must trust that when I am utterly helpless, my partner will not take advantage of me or hurt me.  I would never enter into sex casually.

When my partner compassionately listens to my fears and shares his own feelings and concerns it helps both of us feel more comfortable and more intimate.  I have found that this is the only way for me to begin to overcome these fears.

Most likely your friend may share some of my feelings and concerns.  She also has some other issues related to her own particular disability.  Being a quadriplegic, she has suffered the loss of an enormous amount of mobility and sensation.  She has also lost her self-image as a normal, capable woman.  I can imagine that many quads feel quite a bit of resentment about these losses.  Sex might bring up some resentment as she can no longer feel the bodily pleasures of sex or respond to you as fully as she would like to.  This can make sex a potentially frustrating experience.

I don’t think that people should limit their sexuality to traditional erogenous zones or intercourse.  This is especially important for quads because they may have more feeling in some other part of their body.  Focus your energy where her feeling is most pleasurable.

There are many other specific issues that she could have to deal with if you begin a physical relationship.  Some of these include the possibility of Dysreflexia, and the need for artificial lubrication (K.Y. jelly) and specific types of birth control.

As you can see, there are many things that could be preventing your friend from responding to you physically.  I think it is most important for you to be aware of these issues and any concerns they may bring up for you.  If you truly wish to share yourself with her, you need to be willing to join her in her suffering and limita­tions.  I think it is essential that you remain extremely sensi­tive to her and yourself.  You need to be willing to expose your fears and place yourself in a vulnerable position by openly sharing your true feelings.

I hope that you will communicate your desire for an intimate relationship with her.  Follow your instinct and your heart.

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