Sex and the Differently Abled African Woman

Ever since I moved back to the Continent (I live in the Western Cape of South South Africa), I’ve found myself spending more time indulging in one of my favorite pastimes: People watching. There is a healthy mixture of all sorts of people in the part of the Rainbow Nation where I live, however it struck me only yesterday that there is one group whose absence is profound; that being the dis/differently abled.

Over 2.8 million people live in SA with a disability, and the quality of social and health services provided to these citizens can vary, depending on where one lives in the country. This will naturally affect this population’s quality of life in general. When talking about the differently abled, we generally think of them in terms of infrastructure – widened doors for wheelchair access, ramps and stairs that are easy to navigate and so one. As a sex blogger, I confess that I dedicate a fair portion of the week thinking about what kinds of sex all kinds of people engage in and/or have a right to enjoy. I am ashamed to say that I have not given much thought to the differently abled in this regard.

I have met a number of phenomenal African women from both the Diaspora and the Continent who live full lives in bodies that function outside of the norm. They write code, wander and explore caves on crutches and slay in general. They are passionate about the work that they do, and as women, no doubt harbor the same desires for love and physical affection that the rest of us do.

But what is it about the differently abled that makes us ignore them in this light? Why have we been so conditioned to ‘unsee’ women – African women, especially – as fully realized sexual beings? I leave it to each person to speculate as to those reasons, but I personally believe that it is because we’ve been conditioned to feel shame and pity for those whose bodies who work outside of the confines of an ablest society and project that onto this group. Talking about these women as sexually desirable is made to seem like a lewd fetish, rather than as sincere passion. It’s unfair and unfortunate.

It’s a concern that a handful of folk who have conditions like cerebral palsy and amelia (a birth defect where one is born missing one or more limbs) have been brave enough to discuss online on various forums. Most of these voices have come from the West, but I would love to hear more from differently abled African women in the matter. I hope that Adventures will provide a safe space for them to do so. In the encounters that were described, the confidants talked about their physical needs in an intimate relationship that hardly differed from my own – or anyone else’s for that matter.

They talked about body-consciousness, fear that the person with whom they were engaged with sex with would judge them critically on their appearance, or that they would seize or have an episode during the act of intimacy. (As an able-bodied woman, I don’t have those limitations, save the occasional ass cramp or charley horse in my leg.) They talked about the difficulty in finding a partner who would take them seriously as a person with the same needs and desires. But primarily, they spoke in terms of how wonderful and powerful the act of physical intimacy made them feel…and more importantly, it did not always culminate in penetrative sex. Intimacy expressed as a caress, spoken desire and passionate kissing was achieved the desired affect.

Are you a differently abled African woman, or are you in a relationship with someone whose body woks around a handicap? What are your thoughts on how much (or little) you’ve been included in the discourse about sex and intimacy? We on Adventures would be honored if you’d jumpstart the conversation!

8 comments On Sex and the Differently Abled African Woman

  • Ohhhh CREA has some super cool resources around sex and the differently abled – I got a whole stack of really cool flyers on this at a recent conference

  • Really? That’s amazing! I swear, you get to see/read/do all the really cool stuff. Eh. You don’t leave anything else for us to enjoy! LOL!

    I need to check out CREA then.

  • @Malaka – Ha! hardly, but I’m lucky yes, I get to be in some cool spaces. When I get my printer/scanner back and running I will scan some of those images and share here. I just went to the CREA site, and didn’t spot them online but they may just be well hidden

  • I had thought of this once. It’s hard enough enjoying your sexuality as the average African woman, I wondered what it would be like when you have a handicap, or if you’re born positive. I felt inadequate considering it so just tucked it away

  • Oh Ladies, just found this blog yesterday and this post today lol! Iøm visually impaired, blind, call it what ever and very sexually active. I’ve been sexually active since 15 and have had relationships with both sighted and non-sighted guys. For me, sex has not been complicated so far since its only my sight which is not there. My foremost attraction to guys is through their voices. The voice must be sexy and pleasant to my ears. Since I depend a lot on my senses, the smell of the person should also be right and on point. When we get to know each other better then the height by touch should also be right and personally, the guy must be taller than me. I’m a curious person and currently studying for my masters so intelligence is also a an attraction. These are first turn ons for me. The requirements have evolved as I’ve grown because in my teenage years, there were no deep thinking associated with a horney teen. I guess I’ve always felt confident in myself and not stressed too much about perceptions I can’t do nothing about. I’m well read and know a lot about sex and sexuality as well.

  • I found the site called useful for more information about the topic under discussion.

  • Sure, will love to drop you one as soon as I finish my thesis at the end of April. What would you want me to specifically write about?

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