Hesperian Health Guides
Harmful beliefs about disabled women's sexuality
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Some harmful beliefs about the sexuality of women with disabilities are described below. Many women with disabilities say these negative attitudes and beliefs disable them from enjoying close, loving, sexual relationships. Sometimes these wrong attitudes prevent women from finding faithful spouses and partners who respect and value them.
Harmful belief: Disabled women's bodies are shameful
In most communities, women are valued by a standard of physical attractiveness. If a woman looks very different from that standard, people may not think she is `worthy' to be married or to be a sexual partner.
Gita tells us about "perfect" marriage partners
In India, the problem is that we look for perfect people with perfect bodies. So much importance is given to physical appearance that there's no place for a person who is 'imperfect.' Just take a look at the matrimonial advertisements today—all the men want women who are slim, beautiful, fair-skinned, educated, of good breeding, et cetera. There is also a belief that if a boy marries into a family where one of the family members has a disability, his children will be born with that disability. It happened to me, so I know. There is a very strong gender aspect to this. It is the women who are expected to be perfect in every way. On the other hand, the groom could be disabled, ugly, epileptic, alcoholic, and he's still the perfect groom!
Harmful belief: Disabled women cannot have sexual feelings
Like other women, women with disabilities have sexual feelings. But members of her family or community may think she should not or cannot have sexual feelings.
Sometimes, a woman with a disability comes to believe she does not have sexual feelings and no one will be sexually attracted to her or want to have babies with her. If a woman is born with a disability, or if she became disabled as a young child, she may have a hard time believing she is sexually attractive as she grows and develops. If a young woman becomes disabled when she is starting to explore her sexuality, her self-image may be hurt and she may not believe she will ever have a sexual relationship.
Even an older woman who has developed and experienced her sexuality may change how she feels about her body after becoming disabled. She may think she is not sexually attractive anymore or feel sad that sex would be different now. She may not realize she can continue to enjoy sex.
Harmful belief: Disabled women always want sex
Some people think women with disabilities—especially women who have difficulty learning or understanding—always want sex. But this is not true.
Just like any group of women, disabled women have a variety of preferences. Some like to have sex often, and some do not like to have much sex at all.
Like any woman, a woman with a disability should be able to choose when she wants to have sex. And every woman must be able to say no to sex she does not want.