“Can you… do it?” An Exploration of Sex and Disability

Presenter: Samantha Slawson

Read Presenter Bio

Saturday 10:30-11:45AM

Sturm Hall 134

Program Description

Did you know that at a summer camp, teens and young adults with disabilities had so much sex it led to a crab outbreak? That summer eventually led to the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (Newnham & Lebrecht, 2020). Society assumes that people with disabilities (PWD) fall into two categories: asexual or hypersexual (Kulick & Rydström, 2015).

PWD are made to feel as though they are undesirable or incapable of sexual intimacy. Whereas, invisible disabilities, such as ADHD and Autism are deemed as problematic sexual behavior, such as hypersexual or addiction (Kaufman, Silverberg, & Odette, 2010; Mann & Travers, 2019).

In adolescence, parents feel uncomfortable or unsure if their child will have a romantic relationship. Parents hope doctors will handle ‘the talk’ while doctors assume the parents have discussed it (East & Orchard. 2014). Mental health professionals lack exposure to PWD focusing on the emotional impact of the disability or the needs of the non-disabled partner. Desire discrepancies, chronic pain, and sensory issues are just a few examples of frustrations within couples. Without addressing the importance of sex, clinicians risk neglecting a core part of an intimate relationship.

Learning Objectives

By the end of my presentation, the audience will be able to identify barriers that impede supporting the sexual needs of disabled clients. They will be able to identify new skills to be sexually inclusive. So, before you find yourself asking “Can you do it?” We can, we do, and it’s time that we learn to talk about it.

Presenter Bio

Samantha Slawson is a graduate student at the University of Colorado- Denver. She is earning her Master of Arts in Couples and Family Therapy. Her specialties include working with disabilities, neurodivergence, grief, and trauma.

Her disability has guided her to a career that encourages her to embrace the taboo. Her goal is to destigmatize sex and disability while offering her experience to those who want to be more inclusive. Serving on various committees and professional societies has helped her stay involved in the needs of her communities. She co-founded and was Vice President of CU Denver’s Sex Positivity Society. She’s a member of AASECT and is planning to gain certification after graduation.