Disability and BDSM

Sticks and stones may break my bones… but whips and chains excite me! For some people the idea of BDSM and kinky sexual play is completely taboo. It might be hard to see the appeal of being tied up, spanked or punished. For many disabled people however, BDSM and kink offers a means to explore their sexuality in new ways. It moves beyond the hetero-normative and sometimes inaccessible idea that penis in vagina (PIV) sex is always the goal and anything else is just foreplay. Intimacy and pleasure can be achieved through exploring new sensations and using creativity and imagination. 

So what is BDSM? 

BDSM, which stands for Bondage, Discipline, Sadism and Masochism, covers a huge amount of erotic practices alongside other forms of kink such as fetishes or fantasy play. Whether you enjoy being told what to do or taking charge, underpinning a lot of forms of BDSM is the exchange of power. Choosing to give up or take control with a trusted partner is in itself exciting and arousing. Kirsten, who runs chronicsex.org explains ‘As someone who has multiple chronic illnesses, I always have to be in control of my life. From appointments and medications to avoiding things that set off my MCAS and educating people about accessibility, it’s really a lot. I really enjoy the power dynamics and letting go of control.’  

For some people it is physical sensations like being spanked or restrained that appeal. Although care should be taken, experiencing pain in a controlled way can lead to an endorphin rush, blurring the line between pain and pleasure. Kaja, who has rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia said ‘Impact play – activity with implements like floggers, paddles, and straps – seems like it would do a lot of damage to someone who is physically more vulnerable or frequently in pain, but I find that it actually relieves tension and helps work out knots that form in my back and legs. Being able to focus on the pain of a spank or slap makes me feel more in control of my pain, because I’m choosing it.’ 

Kinky play also enables people to explore sexuality and intimacy in ways beyond PIV sex. ‘A’ who is a wheelchair user with muscular dystrophy said ‘My experiences of kink have enabled me to embrace my body and my sexuality in ways I felt unable to before, to appreciate and enjoy my body for what it is rather than being self-conscious that it differs from the norm.’ 

Is BDSM Accessible?

Although each individual and their desires and limitations are unique, there’s no reason you can’t have kinky disabled sex. With creativity most things can be adapted and there are an increasing number of accessible sex toys which can help make your fantasies happen. Rebecca recommends ‘Using several of the leather strap based forms of bondage actually eases the pressure on my joints in a bunch of sexual positions and allows for longer, more enjoyable play.’  Easy to open bondage cuffs, supportive pillows and slings and vibrators with handles are just a few more examples. At The Pleasure Garden we are also able to provide personalised product recommendations if you are not sure what would work for you.

Sportsheets Sports Cuffs neoprene bondage restraints

Sportsheets Bondage Cuffs which use a Velcro fastening for easy access.

 

Many of the people I spoke to for this article said that they have found the kink community to have a pretty inclusive attitude. However, some aspects of the kink scene, such as events and parties can be less accessible. Many venues aren’t full accessible and may not meet your needs – but there are some out there and it is always worth asking. If you are interested in attending events, the best place to start might be a Munch. This is a non-sexual meet up (often in a public venue like a pub) where like-minded kinky people can meet and get to know each other. It can be a great way to make connections and find out what events go on in your local area.   

Interested in giving BDSM a try?

If you are interested in exploring BDSM or kinky play further there are lots of resources out there. There is also a thriving online community of disabled kinksters (some of whom kindly contributed to this guide) who are happy to share their experiences and answer questions.

Think about what you want and find your limits

Spend some time thinking about what aspects of BDSM you would like to explore and what you want to get out of it. New sensations, freedom from responsibility, a sense of control or a fantasy brought to life? Just as important is thinking about what you don’t want. What are your physical and emotional limits? ‘A’ describes that ‘…because of my condition I have specific needs, abilities, and limitations that have to be understood and accommodated. This requires some discussion and negotiation – which is something people in the kink world should find quite normal! It makes no difference to an understanding partner whether a hard limit is emotional or physical.’

There may be things that you would love to do, but are outside of what your body is capable of. Be reassured that this is true of everyone, not just those with disabilities. Your physical and emotional safety are critical and it is totally normal for your limits to fluctuate and change. Do not be ashamed of your limits and be very wary of anyone who ignores or pushes your boundaries. 

Communicate constantly

Before you get anywhere near the bedroom, discuss your desires and limits with your partner. Disabled people have to spend their lives communicating to others about their bodies and their limitations. Use this awesome ability to your advantage and get specific about how you would like things to go. Choice and mutually agreed consent is critical to any form of kinky play.  

Many people chose safe words which guide what is happening, from avoiding a body part or having a break to stopping things completely. Safe words can tell your partner to stop completely, or back off from what they are doing. For example, some people might use ‘orange’ to mean slow down or reduce the intensity and ‘Red’ to mean stop immediately. P & K who are both disabled and are living in a sub/dom relationship suggest ‘It’s extremely common for one or both of us to use a body-related safe word. ‘Neck’, ‘knees’, ‘back’, ‘hip’ and ‘arg, leg cramp’ are all safe words in our world!’.

Make sure to take in to account any communication difficulties you and your partner might have. Where verbal communication is limited or impossible you can agree alternative safety signs such tapping out or dropping an object held in a hand.

Get Online

If there is a type of kinky play that has got you excited – spend some time online doing a bit of research. With any kind of BDSM play it is important to learn how to do it safely. Take the time to get educated (as well as inspired). 

  • Twitter is a great place to connect and ask questions, as well as more specialist social networks such as Fetlife.
  • Chronic Sex is fantastic resource with information about all sex and chronic illness/disability.
  • Arousability is a sex blog which covers sex and disability alongside sex toy reviews
  • Betty Butch is a disabled kinky sex toy reviewer
  • Helen’s Toy Box blogs about kink, sex positivity and disability

If you have questions or want to find out more drop us a line at info@pleasuregardenshop.co.uk. We will happily make answer questions and make personalised recommendations for products that will work for you. 

A version of this guide originally appeared online at Disability Horizons.