More Brilliant Sex and Disability Bloggers
20 September 2021
Disability Stigma Busting - Part Deux
Following last month’s popular post on disability stigma busting introducing some stigma-busting sex and disability bloggers, here’s part two, in which Ruby Rousson, Pillow Princess, Helen’s Toybox and Hedonish talk to us about their work.
Ruby Rousson – Arousibility.com (UK)
When and why did you start sex and disability blogging?
I started back in 2016. There was a lack of awareness around the accessibility of sex toys, and I wanted to chronicle my life as a disabled sex worker. I began posting accessibility reviews because I found it frustrating to operate toys, and had I known just how cumbersome some of the toys were, I never would have spent the money on them. I write mainly about chronic pain, mobility, and sensory difficulties, and I cover any sex topic that comes up.
What’s your approach to product reviews?
When I review a sex toy I think about fine motor controls, sensation, how easy it is to open the packaging, the weight of the toy, and I’ll always review the buttons on a product. One of my favourite products is my Doxy Massager. It’s a good all-round toy that can be used on all genitals, and it’s got big tactile buttons.
If I’m writing about sex in general I focus on how it can affect disabled people – for example although the UK ‘porn ban’ has been postponed there was never any talk about how disabled people would be able access porn.
Has your approach changed since you started?
I’ve become a lot less worried about public opinion when I publish a post, and I’ve realised that aiming for perfection isn’t possible. So, I try to settle on being 80 per cent happy with the post I’m writing because I know I’ll never reach 100 per cent. I also don’t post to a schedule, because it just isn’t possible. Instead I try to hit a number of posts per month.
“My ability to orgasm isn’t an acceptable sacrifice… pleasure is a human right.”
Why is it important to write about disability/health alongside sex?
When you’re disabled you’re forced to work out ways around your disability if you want to have a fulfilling sex life. Doctors don’t talk about sex and disability, so you’re left to figure out things by yourself. It’s common knowledge that a lot of anti-depressants lower libido, for example, and yet when doctors are confronted they think it’s an acceptable sacrifice. I don’t know about you, but my ability to orgasm isn’t an acceptable sacrifice, and I won’t treat it as such. Pleasure is a human right.
What’s your biggest frustration with sex blogging?
Some companies are good at receiving criticism, but some are appalling. When you mix pointing out the flaws in their product alongside a bad review, it’s a recipe for disaster. It’s sad because it shows just how little they care about accessibility.
Advice for a disabled person who wants to start a sex blog?
To quote Girl on the Net, ‘no one does what you do quite like you’. Quite honestly that quote keeps me blogging when I want to give up. It’s really easy to feel like my words don’t have value, but they do, and so do yours. No one else has your life experiences, and that’s what makes your perspective unique.
Bianca – Helen’s Toybox (Australia)
How did your sex blog start?
I started in August 2017, after Sugarcunt told me about sex blogging. Family, friends, so many people in my life have accused me of being sex-obsessed. I thought, ‘why not channel this passion for sex into something that can help the world?’.
What disability and sex topics do you cover?
I write about my blindness (I’ve been blind from birth), undiagnosed autism/Aspergers, about being fat, and any sex topic that I feel needs to be addressed.
Why is it important to write about disability/health alongside sex?
For most people, sex is associated with young, fit, healthy, able-bodied people. All you have to say is ‘Nanna has sex’ and people say ‘eww, gross!’. People also assume that disabled people are asexual. None of these things are true and if I can smash those myths to hell, I will.
I make fat jokes. I make blind jokes. I talk about sex and won’t shut up. I am that person. There needs to be a larger number of those people so that the world will start to see, especially as the population ages, that sex is for everyone who wants it. Of course, consent and agency are a given.
“As a blind, possibly autistic person… if I write a sex scene, it’s about touch and words and smell and taste.”
What do non-disabled sex writers get wrong?
If you are able-bodied, fit, healthy, young, and are writing about sex, comfortable in the so-called fact that only people like you have sex, then stop it right now. I mean writers, journalists, industry people. Before writing about people like us, go and ask some of us what it’s actually like. For example, blind people don’t touch everyone’s faces all the time. People just think that because of Hollywood. Just ask us.
How do your disabilities affect your writing on sex?
As a blind, possibly autistic person, I write about things with a very low level of visual content. I don’t just mean pictures, I mean emphasis on the visual. If I write a sex scene, it’s about touch and words and smell and taste. Also, I love to get sensory and am synaesthetic so I write about that as well. This gives my writing a somewhat different perspective than that of sighted neurotypical people.
What have you gained from your sex blogging?
I have gained a lot of knowledge from other bloggers about social justice, intersectionality, what privilege is and also what it isn’t. My sex life has improved a thousandfold from writing my blog because of the advice from others and the toys I have received for review and just the fact that I realise that I have a right to my own pleasure.
Name a product that works well for you?
The We-Vibe Sync has hinges on it that match to your body shape and stay in place. And the We-Connect app is relatively accessible with Voice-Over on iOS. Then there’s the Rocks Off Ruby Glow; I like that I can sit on it and not use my hands except to push the buttons. On both toys, the fact that I am fat doesn’t work against me and the interfaces are very accessible.
Rachael Rose – Hedonish (USA)
What got you into sex blogging?
I wanted to teach sex ed but the paths to that weren’t accessible to me, either financially or because of my chronic illness and disability. So I figured, why not start a blog about sex? I started out reviewing sex toys and then moved into writing more about sexuality in general, and that’s grown into presenting at conferences, recording podcasts, and some really wonderful collaborations with other sex educators.
Did you always intend to write about health conditions on your blog?
Yes and no. When I started Hedonish I had a diagnosis of Indolent Systemic Mastocytosis, plus a few other conditions, and felt very strongly about the importance of self-advocacy, especially around sexual health. My interactions with healthcare professionals had shown me most were not comfortable discussing sex. But it still took me time to get up the courage to talk about topics that felt deeply personal to me. Not long after starting Hedonish, I developed chronic vulva pain and lichen sclerosus, and after not finding the information on those subjects I wanted, I decided I wanted Hedonish to become the kind of resource I was looking for.
Name one sex product that works for you?
Lube is definitely at the top of my list. There’s a lot of weird shame around folks with vulvas not getting ‘wet enough’, but so many people are on medications that are really drying. Lube is essential to me being able to enjoy sex. I particularly love hybrid formulas, which are a mixture of water-based and silicone lubes. They tend to feel a bit thicker than most water-based lubes, they don’t dry out as quickly, and you can safely use them with silicone sex toys.
“My relationship with sex right now is tricky, and sometimes it’s hard to write about because I have feelings I haven’t quite sorted through.”
Why is it important to write about disability alongside sex?
Half of all American adults have at least one chronic health condition, and so many health conditions and medications can impact your sex life. Most healthcare providers don’t receive enough sex education (studies show most medical students only get 8-10 hours) or training in how to talk to their patients about sex, so people aren’t getting the information they need through those channels.
There’s also so much shame and isolation surrounding sexual dysfunction. When I was researching vulvodynia I learned that out of 5,000 people surveyed who had vulva pain, 30 to 50 per cent didn’t seek treatment. Discussing these topics openly is the first step in creating a world where people feel as comfortable getting help for sexual pain as they do for a headache or a broken bone.
How does disability affect your relationship with sex?
Chronic illness has changed my perspective on pretty much everything in my life, especially in the last few years where it has heavily impacted how I live. My relationship with sex right now is tricky, and that sometimes makes it really hard to write about because I have so many feelings I haven’t quite sorted through.
Developing vulva pain played a huge role in shifting how I relate to sex. I previously had a really high sex drive and sex felt really exciting and empowering to me. I’m working on getting back to that, but right now sex tends to cause a lot of anxiety for me and I struggle to not brace myself for things to hurt, even though I only have occasional vulva pain at this point. I find myself wanting to want sex far more often than I actually want it.
Sarah, Pillow Princess (Belgium)
What started you sex blogging?
I was having trouble finding reviewers who focused on two things: sex toys for regular use in f/f partnered sex, and sex toys described from the point of view of a person with mobility issues. My blog started in December 2016.
What do you write about?
I review sex toys as a cancer survivor with decreased vision and mobility issues. This makes me focus on things like buttons on sex toys, accessibility of apps, versatility of use when it comes to positions, etc. I review toys for masturbation and partnered f/f sex, as well as a few kink accessories.
How does your health affect your sex writing?
In my experience, my relationship to my body is different than an able-bodied person’s relationship to their body. For the purposes of reviewing sex toys, some things that work for able-bodied people just do not work for me.
Name one product that works well for you?
The SpareParts Joque harness has made ‘cowgirl’ much easier for me – it’s snug enough to allow me to rock back and forth when I’m on top, rather than bounce up and down (which is impossible because of a knee problem).
“What can non-disabled people do better? Include us more – for real, and not just for diversity brownie points.”
Why did you decide to write from a disability perspective?
Disabled and chronically ill people are often desexualised and considered undesirable and/or high-maintenance. They also often have fraught relationships with their own bodies and their bodily autonomy as a result of their bodies always having to be made available to medical professionals (and too often to rude strangers as well).
In my experience, sex is a very good way to reconnect with your body, so I wanted to show that, as well as the fact that disabled/chronically ill persons have a sexuality, are desirable, and can have truly excellent sex.
What can non-disabled people in the sex industry do better?
Generally, include us more – for real, and not just for diversity brownie points. Hire disabled/chronically ill people when designing toys. Mention in reviews if it seems to you like a toy could be hard to use for people with certain disabilities. Let disabled people speak for themselves and don’t speak for them in order to appear like a good person.
What have you gained since you started sex blogging, and has your approach changed?
My sex blogging has given me a continued increased perception of my body as me, and a renewed love for my body because it can bring me pleasure.
These days I try to focus more explicitly on the compatibility of sex toys with disabilities and chronic illnesses in general, and not only with mine.
Advice for a disabled person on starting a sex blog?
Talk to other disabled bloggers! And trust in the relevance of your experiences – we always need more attention for disabled and chronically ill people’s right to their sexuality.
*If you’re a chronically ill or disabled sex blogger who’d like to be featured on our blog, we’d love to include you.
Part one of this series featured Joanne’s Reviews, Fuckleberry Finn, Sat On My Butt Reviews and Chronic Sex, and you can read it here.