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Sex and disability: Sex after spinal cord injury topic of upcoming workshop

A car crash. The word “paralysis.” In one critical instant, life as one person knew it seems to come to an end.

However, disability doesn’t necessarily mean a sex life any less exciting than that of any able-bodied person. Thanks to progressive developments in the definition of sexuality, “disabled” does not have to describe anyone’s sex life.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Center for Health Statistics, 34.4 million people in the United States had “limitations in usual activities due to chronic conditions” in 2006.

Affecting no small part of the population, sex and disability are a topic of discussion in many places, including Seattle.

People at Seattle-based sex shop Babeland have taken notice. The shop offers many sexuality workshops and caters several to people with disabilities.

One of the store’s upcoming workshops for people with spinal cord injuries is being held at the UW Medical Center this month.

“It should be a really positive event about sexuality and disability,” said Holly Siegrist, director of the UW Student Disability Commission.

The workshop will focus specifically on sex after spinal cord injuries, but the fundamental topics of communication and intimacy apply to everyone.

“We encourage everyone to participate and feel that people with disabilities can sustain a normal and active sex life,” said Status Causey, assistant manager at Babeland.

Aided by the scientific knowledge we have of pleasure-based anatomy, sexual alternatives exist for those with all ranges of ability.

“Sex toys are great for anyone expanding their sexual possibilities,” Arbor said.

While sexual function in the traditional sense depends on the extent of a disability, the alternatives that exist can be integrated into anyone’s sexual repertoire; Oral and visual stimulation can both be ways to arouse the senses, and various erogenous zones can be explored.

“I think the hardest thing for people with disabilities to get past is the cultural myth that they are no longer sexual beings,” said Kelly Arbor, a Babeland assistant manager, who will teach the workshop on campus.

There is no single definition of sex. Expanding thinking and embracing the differences that make us unique show that sexuality is something everyone can experience.

Sexability workshop: Sex after spinal cord injury

University of Washington Medical Center

Find out how sexuality and intimacy are accessible to everyone regardless of ability.

When & Where:

Tuesday, Feb. 10

6-7 p.m.: Social hour in hospital cafeteria

7 p.m.: Workshop in cafeteria conference room B/C

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