Sexual needs for people living with disabilities is a sore topic which is often ignored in Maltese society. There’s a lot of unspoken uncertainties when it comes to people with disabilities, but when sexuality is added to the equation, these uncertainties turn into taboos and giant unthinkable fears.
Lovin Malta spoke to Jeanesse Abela, a celebrated Maltese woman who has never let her cerebral palsy stop her, about the difficulties which people with disabilities may encounter when it comes to sexual experiences and services.
For Jeanesse, opening up to these experiences can give individuals a great boost in confidence. “Sex is part of our nature,” she starts. “It’s a valuable need, just like food and drink, your body cannot function well without it. This can cause problems for individuals, such as physical illnesses and even depression.”
Jeanesse feels like it’s hard for people with disabilities to find an outlet to express and connect with others sexually. “I think that sex is still a taboo,” she says. “Society seems to think that people with disabilities don’t have any sexual urges, or that we are incapable of having such relations with others.”
There are viable and healthy ways to approach this topic with the creation of sex surrogates, sexual assistants, intimacy coaches and sex workers.
Intimacy coaches offer rehabilitative services to people with disabilities. A sex surrogate, on the other hand, is someone who addresses sexual and intimacy issues by engaging in intimate activities. These collaborate with sex therapists in order to reach the client’s aim.
The term ‘sexual assistant’ refers to individuals who help people with disabilities understand their sexuality, intimacy and to improve their skills when it comes to relationships — be it physical or emotional.
When it comes to these approaches and services, Jeanesse fully agrees, but understand that there are certain limitations.
“It’s not easy,” she told us. “Not everyone finds it effortless to look for and find a partner to share with and express their sexual needs comfortably.”
“I find that a lot of people are afraid to put themselves through these experiences because of the judgement they might face”
“It hurts a lot when people react in a certain way to our needs,” Jeanesse continued. “Sometimes, I feel like I cannot speak clearly about the way I feel due to my condition. It’s almost as if some people think that I do not have any feelings at all.”
It’s hard to talk about sexuality in the world of disabilities, however we need to change our perspective when it comes to merging the two subjects.
“It would be really helpful if more awareness was created on this issue in particular,” Jeanesse continues.
“Social centres for people with disabilities are sorely lacking on this island, so it’s difficult for us to meet and interact amongst ourselves and exchange experiences and opinions.”
“I’ve always worked hard to make all my dreams come true, but this is one of the things which I have not yet fulfilled.”
However, Jeanesse does often finds herself discussing this topic with other individuals.
“I find that a lot of people are afraid to put themselves through these experiences because of the judgement they might face,” she says. “Many times, the lack of education and awareness in this aspect really holds us back.”
“I’ve always worked hard to make all my dreams come true, but this is one of the things which I have not yet fulfilled,” she says. “I hope and believe that sooner or later, I will find the right partner or service for this to happen.”
This subject shouldn’t be shunned or ignored anymore. We all have needs that need fulfilling, sex is an essential part of life. It’s a basic human right, not a luxury.
“Society as a whole can really help by not being judgemental or afraid of letting us explore our sexual needs just like everybody else,” Jeanesse concluded.