Sex Despite Disability: New Products Offer Hope

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In addition to depression and low self-esteem, experts say many people with disabilities must confront stigma and discrimination. Men and women who aren't in relationships before their disability may also find it difficult to find a partner willing to look past it, or may meet people who simply pity them and aren't interested in a romantic or sexual relationship.

"It's difficult to understand people's motives, and you may wonder if you're being seen for who you really are," said Ace.

Ace also said many ofveterans return physically and psychologically damaged.

"The person who went off to war isn't the person who came back, and that puts a huge strain on relationships."

Despite the many challenges people with disabilities face, sex can be a savior for many of them.

"Pleasure is protective against stereotypes and other negative messages," said Tepper. "One good sexual relationship can boost your whole sense of self and image and protect you against all these other things."

"The people who do the best physically in terms of having a successful sexual relationship are those who can sort of get stimulated in parts of the body where there's still sensation, and who can kind of think broader than just having intercourse," said Ducharme. "If you can rid of old views of sex and look at it in terms of getting emotionally connected with another person and getting stimulated in ways other than intercourse, those are the people who are the best adjusted."

Debate Over Whether Market for Sexual Aids is Expanding

"There's an appreciation there's a greater need," said Ace. "We're seeing it more with the aging population. There are a lot of chronic illnesses and physical disabilities."

"I wouldn't say they're more numerous," said Ducharme. "They are expensive and many people with disabilities are unemployed or on a fixed income. They don't have the money even for Viagra."

But Ace added that even if cost is an issue, people can look at these products and get ideas on how to adapt items in their own homes to perform similar functions. She also believes they're becoming more popular.

"Having as much functionality as possible is a goal for all of us," she said.

For people like Brian Chavez, products like the IntimateRider have made it possible to move beyond their disabilities.

"One thing that will always hold true is that life must go on, and being intimate is one of those things that has to prevail at some point in time," he said.

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