Sunday, March 30, 2008

So What Happened? All About the FRIDA Sex and Disability Town Hall!

On Saturday, March 29, 2008, FRIDA hosted our first ever Sex and Disability Town Hall meeting. Overall, about 75 people attended from many different areas of our community. Thanks to everyone who attended and to those who staffed the event! Folks had such an eager spirit to learn and the whole setup was done with creative flair (yes, we had penis and vagina cakes).

The morning was devoted to workshops and the afternoon was spent on a speakout forum where community members could have their say. Workshop topics included sex resources for people with disabilities, psychiatric disabilities and relationships, an LGBTQ forum, and a showing of “Doin’ It: Sex, Video and Disability,” available at and made by young women with disabilities ages 16 to 24.

Several organizations tabled at our event, including the RIC Domestic Violence Program, the Schwab Rehab AIDS and HIV Prevention Program, Early to Bed, Chicago ADAPT, the Disability Pride Parade, 3E Love, the Chicago Abortion Fund, the UIC Institute on Disability and Human Development, and of course, FRIDA. Many thanks to those who made donations, including Jimmy John’s for a steep discount on sandwiches!

Overall there was an incredible feeling of sharing and open mindedness about many ways to express sexuality. We had folks of all ages (from teens to sixties) and all colors of the rainbow too. Both disabled and nondisabled women attended. We were all excited to meet new folks from the community and make new friends.

For folks who were unable to attend, guess what? We took notes and photos! Below are general notes from the speakout forum and at this link you will see the pictures:

Keep scrolling to get the long-distance version of the FRIDA spirit!

The following notes were taken by Jenny Choi. Thank you Jenny! Please note that these comments are very brief and general notes on what was actually said at the meeting. We encourage to readers to have Sex and Disability Town Halls in their home towns.

How and where can we meet people for dating or relationships without going online?
The Internet can still be a good place to meet people.
Safety can be a concern.
We need more sites for disabled people.
Try to go out more to increase your chances of meeting someone.
Have the inner strength and self confidence to meet people. Try a phone buddy, Access Living, FRIDA (support network)
Defining sex:
Can be wild or mellow.
From the heart, not looks.
What is a visit to the gynecologist like?
The Fe Fes discuss this.
It’s a bit intimidating the first time.
There is a pelvic/vaginal area exam.
No needles! Not anything too scary.
It’s important to have an exam once sexually active to protect your health.
Sex is not just penetration
Different levels of sex for different people
For women who date other women, it can be a hand, a finger, a sex toy etc.
Foreplay is also important.
Definition of sex could be no penetration at all (it doesn’t have to involve a penis).
“Make love to my mind” (by talking)
What is foreplay?
Making love to a woman can be the way you say “good morning.” Treat her well, etc.
Touch/intimacy is important (a hug, etc). Skin to skin contact.
Why do people choose celibacy?
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
parents’ values/culture
interest in sex wanes
Why do people make fun of virgins?
Jealousy by people who regret some choices they’ve made.
Very few virgins.
It’s important to respect a person’s choice not to have sex, or to wait to have sex.
Older women can want and enjoy sex.
Sex ed should be more inclusive
Lack of knowledge
Schools in general are behind in educating about the disability movement
Sometime a woman with a disability needs to be more forward, etc in approaching people.
People are tentative if they are unfamiliar with disability culture
Women with disabilities can have one-night stands
How to deal with self-disclosure on private or personal matters
You don’t have to self-disclose if you don’t want to
You can make your own choices
We should have sex because WE want to.
If a man calls you a ‘ho,’ he is insecure.
Safety issues: going out alone (and not with a man)
Our society has certain expectations on how a man or a woman is supposed to behave. Challenge those expectations.
Women need to learn to protect each other.
If you have an attitude of dominance, it might help safety issues.
You should be able to have as much sex as you want without judgment.
Be true to yourself.
It’s not anyone’s business who I have sex with, or how many times I have sex.
We should celebrate all of our choices as women.
We can disagree, but not judge
Keep negative opinions to oneself
Maybe organize a group to address these issues (by age, disability…more like a support group)
When is the right time to have sex?
Embace differences, uniqueness.
Men who take out their frustration on women have unhealthy issues (the way they grew up, cultural expectations, etc).
Avoid people who try to dominate you.
Women are sometimes afraid of being taken advantage of because of their disability