Before we get into how to adapt sex toys for varying abilities and capacities, let’s begin with this premise: everyone has the right to pleasure. Granted, there are limits imposed by society about the wheres and with whoms of how pleasure happens, but in its most basic essence, orgasms should be accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities.
Many activists and scholars center their work on promoting people with disabilities as sexual beings that have the same need and desire for pleasure, intimacy, and release as non-disabled people. While many barriers exist to this end, the biggest of which is society’s assumption that disabled means asexual, one of the most tangible is based on mechanics. Sometimes, a body doesn’t move in a way that makes getting off easy. Spasticity or muscle weakness can make it hard for one to engage their genitals, nevermind being able to manipulate said genitals to produce an orgasm. Fortunately, sex toys exist, and as the technology used in them grows, so does the potential for adaptive pleasure.
This article will give a very brief overview of the basic ways different sexual enhancement devices can adapt for pleasure based on three parameters: general sexual functioning, mobility, and dexterity.
There are a number of ways sexual functioning can be impacted in one’s life. This can include difficulty with arousal, orgasm, or stamina.
Medications, particularly SSRIs, antihistamines, and diuretics, can lead to serious dryness of mucosal tissues–including the skin that lines the vulva, vagina, and anus. Lube is meant to make sexual activity, with yourself or a partner, slippery. Lubrication makes sexual activity less painful. It makes insertion easy. Lube can be the difference between an accidental abrasion and an orgasm, particularly for sensitive skin. One can also increase vaginal lubrication through nipple stimulation.
Having an Orgasm
While there are many tools to use and things people with vaginas can do to get off, people with penises have been getting the limp end of the stick for a long time. While there have been medications on the market for a while that can assist in an erection, many times, erectile difficulties can be a huge barrier to having an orgasm. However, those days may be part of the past. The Hot Octopuss Pulse II uses a special vibration technology, based on medical devices used for artificial insemination, to coax an orgasm (and ejaculation) from a penis– no erection necessary.
For those looking to please a partner through penetrative intercourse, looking into cock rings, which keep an erection harder longer by restricting outgoing blood flow from the penis. If an erection is not within the realm of possibility, the Deuce Harness from Spareparts Hardwear has one hole for a home-grown penis, one for a dildo, and a pouch to accommodate the scrotum.
Being able to move easily through a sexual gymnastics isn’t an option for most people. When taking into account mobility constraints (e.g. using a wheelchair, joint hypermobility, and body shape), even the basic sexual positions can be impossible…without supports.
Sometimes, our bodies won’t hold the positions that make sex feel great. Enter the positioning aide. Modeled after adaptive positioning cushions from the medical community, things like Wedge and Ramp from Liberator can be placed under the hips, shoulders, lower back…or really anywhere, to make reach, angle, and pressure more suitable for sexy time. There are also a number of slings, cuffs, and restraints like the Doggy Rider from Liberator, that serve to hold parts of the body in place and can be useful for preventing fatigue during sexy time. Whether they are keeping legs over the head or arms from contracting, some traditionally kink-oriented gear can be used as position helpers.
When people picture harnesses, they generally think of those that fit on the hips and are used for “strapping on.” However, there are harnesses designed to fix a dildo to other parts of the body. Of particular interest for people with mobility concerns (and potentially those with erectile difficulties) are the Sportsheets Thigh Harness and La Palma from Spareparts Hardwear. The former is a band that fits around the low to mid thigh and allows a partner to straddle and ride the dildo. La Palma is a neoprene glove that puts a dildo in the palm of your hand…without needing to be gripped.
If you don’t know the difference between a pincer grip and a palm grasp, congratulations, you can probably do both! However, sometimes hands don’t function in the ways they are designed to do. That’s where some of really cool designs and tech in sex toys shine.
Primarily designed for people with vulvas, wearable vibrators may be a game changer for people with limited mobility. (While there are many options, this section is going to focus on grinding and rocking as the main method for using the toys.) The Eva by Dame Products, which was designed based on the finding that upwards of 70% of people with clitorises need them stimulated to orgasm. Eva has two arms that sit under the labia, holding the vibrating body against the clitoris. Similarly, the We-Vibe Classic and 4-Plus can be inserted, with one end stimulating the g-zone and distal third of the vaginal canal and the other sitting against the clit.
Finally, the Rocks Off Ruby Glow, with its tagline, “Pleasure for the Seated Lady,” is not technically a wearable, but it is one of the only toys currently on the market designed to be straddled and rubbed against. Like its predecessors, the RO-LO and RO-DEO, the Ruby Glow bears in mind that not all people masturbate on their backs with legs spread.
Toy Tech in the Palm of your Hand
For some people, being able to grasp a toy firmly enough and then manipulate it into contact with the relevant parts of the body is hard, if not impossible. For those who need a little extra reach, finding toys with handles, especially those that can use lever-based motion rather than thrusting, can be beneficial to the orgasm process. While there are toys that come with handles built in, like the Tantus Echo Handle, or that can be added on, like the Revel Body, some double ended dildos, are just the right angle to make penetrative action easier. Both the Tantus Feeldoe and Fun Factory Share lines have sturdy mid points and easy to grip bulbs (designed to sit in the vaginal canal when being used as a strap-free strap on).
Another potential point of difficulty for toy users is the control mechanism. Trying to change the vibration strength or pattern can be extremely frustrating, even with a full range of motion and expansive reach. Enter teledildonics, the fancy term for app enabled sex toys. While many companies are making bluetooth enabled toys, We-Vibe, with four app enabled toys (with more on the way) and a beautiful and intuitive interface is leading the pack. The concept shines with the Nova, whose unique shape and app compatibility make it one of the most adaptable toys on the market. Instead of having to fuss with on-toy controls, the Nova connects to your phone, making it remote controllable.
Regardless of how a body works or functions, the world of sex toys is rapidly growing to be more accessible.
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