Skip to main content

Advertisement

Log in

Women with Disabilities’ Perceptions of Sexuality, Sexual Abuse and Masturbation

  • Original Paper
  • Published:
Sexuality and Disability Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

In today’s society, sexuality is recognized as a determining factor in everyone’s wellbeing. As such, it is undeniable that people with physical disabilities have the same affective and sexual needs as everyone else. Nevertheless, people with disabilities face more obstacles that can impair their sex lives. For example, the significant lack of intimacy due to the need for help manipulating personal hygiene products and the behavior of people around them (e.g., overprotection and desexualization) may make them more vulnerable to sexual abuse. Very little scientific and professional documentation or survey data documents their sex lives, and particularly the benefits of masturbation. The purpose of this article is to document the sexual experiences of women with disabilities, the sexual abuse they may suffer and the benefits of masturbation. To do so, a qualitative methodology was used, with eight participants with physical disabilities aged 18 years and over in semi-structured individual interviews. The results of these interviews show, among other things, that masturbation enabled participants to reconcile themselves to earlier negative experiences (e.g., sexual abuse) and to promote their sexual autonomy. Finally, a series of solutions must be applied to facilitate masturbation and protect these women from sexual violence (e.g., prevention programs in educational and hospital settings, better manuals, and training).

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others

Notes

  1. The main objective of the GSS is “to better understand how Canadians perceive crime and the justice system and to capture information on their experiences of victimization.” It is “the only national survey of self-reported victimization and is collected in all provinces and territories. The survey allows for estimates of the numbers and characteristics of victims and criminal incidents.”

  2. All quotations from participants are translated from the original French.

  3. ASAP: A Safety Awareness Program for Women with Diverse Disabilities.

References

  1. Vaughn, M., Silver, K., Murphy, S., Ashbaugh, R., Hoffman, A.: Women with disabilities discuss sexuality in San Francisco focus groups. Sex. Disabil. 33, 19–46 (2015)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Howland, C.A., Rintala, D.H.: Dating behaviors of women with physical disabilities. Sex. Disabil. 19(1), 41–70 (2001)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Browne, J., Russell, S.: My home, your workplace: people with physical disability negotiate their sexual health without crossing professional boundaries. Disabil. Soc. 20(4), 375–388 (2005)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Rousso, H.: Special considerations in counseling clients with cerebral palsy. Sex. Disabil. 5(2), 78–88 (1982)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Shandra, C.L., Chowdhury, A.R.: The first sexual experience among adolescent girls with and without disabilities. J. Youth Adolesc. 41(4), 515–532 (2012)

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  6. Nelson, M.: Sexuality in childhood disability. Phys. Med. Rehabil. 9(2), 451–462 (1995)

    Google Scholar 

  7. McCabe, M.P., Cummins, R.A., Deeks, A.A.: Sexuality and quality of life among people with physical disability. Sex. Disabil. 18(2), 115–123 (2000)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Zitzelberger, H.: (In)visibility: accounts of embodiment of women with physical disabilities and differences. Disabil. Soc. 20(4), 389–403 (2005)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Sevène, A.: Fonction sexuelle et handicap physique. La Presse Médicale 43(10), 1116–1119 (2014)

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. Edwards, G., Courtois, F., Dubé, N., Morales, R.: Pro(x)thèse—an interactive installation that enables the exploration of sexuality, disability and self image. The 4th ISCoS and Asia Joint Scientific Meeting. The International Spinal Cord Society and American Spinal Injury Association, Montreal, QC (2015)

  11. Kedde, H., van Berlo, W.: Sexual satisfaction and sexual self images of people with physical disabilities in the Netherlands. Sex. Disabil. 19, 5–39 (2006)

    Google Scholar 

  12. McCabe, M.P., Taleporos, G., Dip, G.: Sexual esteem, sexual satisfaction, and sexual behaviour among people with physical disability. Arch. Sex. Behav. 32, 359–369 (2003)

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. Statistics Canada: Measuring Violence Against Women: Statistical Trends. Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Ottawa (2013)

    Google Scholar 

  14. United Nations (UN): Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. UN, Geneva (2006)

    Google Scholar 

  15. Government of Quebec: Act to Secure Handicapped Persons in the Exercise of Their Rights with a View to Achieving Social, School and Workplace Integration. Government of Quebec, Quebec City (2015)

    Google Scholar 

  16. Office des personnes handicapées du Québec: Incapacité motrice; compréhension de l’incapacité. Government of Quebec, Quebec City (2014) http://www.formation.ophq.gouv.qc.ca/comment/favorisezlacces/rencontres-de-groupe/incapacite-motrice/comprehension-de-lincapacite.html

  17. Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (CRIAW): Fact Sheet: Violence against Women in Canada. CRIAW, Ottawa. http://www.criaw-icref.ca (2013)

  18. Disabled Women’s Network Canada (DAWN): Women with disabilities and violence. Fact sheet 2013. DAWN, Montreal. http://www.dawncanada.net/issues/issues/fact-sheets-2/violence/ (2013)

  19. Ministère de la Sécurité publique: Les agressions sexuelles au Québec. Statistiques 2004. Direction de la prévention et de la lutte contre la criminalité, Ministère de la Sécurité publique, Sainte-Foy (2006)

  20. Brownridge, D.A.: Partner violence against women with disabilities: prevalence, risk, and explanations. Violence Against Women 12(9), 805–822 (2006)

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  21. International Network of Women with Disabilities (INWWD): Document on violence against women with disabilities. https://www.google.ca/url?sa = t&rct = j&q = &esrc = s&source = web&cd = 4&ved = 0CDkQFjADahUKEwigwfKUstHHAhWKWT4KHW3eCh0&url = http%3A%2F%2Fwww.internationaldisabilityalliance.org%2Fsites%2Fdisalliance.e-presentaciones.net%2Ffiles%2Fpublic%2Ffiles%2FFINAL4Oct2010-INWWD-ViolenceAgainstWomenwithDisabilities.doc&ei = dUXjVeCyIIqz-QHtvKvoAQ&usg = AFQjCNFKNzNgKGzP5trCjrBJaeC0Xz-C-A&sig2 = RxHSyv3uZ-kA_cWNY6Gl7Q. (2010)

  22. Nosek, M.A., Howland, C., Rintala, D.H., Young, M.E., Chanpong, G.F.: National study of women with physical disabilities: final report. Sex. Disabil. 19(1), 5–40 (2001)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Herbenick, D., Reece, M., Schick, V., Sanders, S.A., Dodge, B., Fortenberry, J.D.: Sexual behavior in the United States: results from a national probability sample of men and women ages 14–94. J. Sex. Med. 7, 255–265 (2010)

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  24. Bowman, C.P.: Women’s masturbation experiences of sexual empowerment in a primarily sex-positive sample. Psychol. Women Quart. 38(3), 363–378 (2014)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Vansteenwegen, A., Jans, I., Revell, A.T.: Sexual experiences of women with a physical disability: a comparative study. Sex. Disabil. 21, 283–290 (2003)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Northcott, R., Chard, G.: Sexual aspects of rehabilitation: the client’s perspective. Br. J. Occup. Ther. 63, 412–418 (2000)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Tiefer, L.: Towards a feminist sex therapy. Women Ther. 19, 53–64 (1996)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Kaestle, C.E., Allen, K.R.: The role of masturbation in healthy sexual development: perceptions of young adults. Arch. Sex. Behav. 40, 983–984 (2011)

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  29. Fahs, B., Frank, E.: Notes from the back room: gender, power, and (in)visibility in women’s experiences of masturbation. J. Sex Res. 51, 241–252 (2014)

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  30. Taleporos, G., McCabe, M.P.: Physical disability and sexual esteem. Sex. Disabil. 19(2), 131–148 (2001)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Bailar-Heath, B., Hough, S., Kassioukov, A., MacHattie, E., Naphtali, K., Miller, v, Elliott, S.: PleasureABLE: sexual device manual for persons with disability. Sex. Disabil. 28(1), 61–62 (2010)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Savoie-Zajc, L.: L’entrevue semi-dirigée. In: Gauthier, B. (ed.) Recherche sociale: de la problématique à la collecte des données, pp. 263–285. Presses de l’Université du Québec, Sainte-Foy (1997)

    Google Scholar 

  33. Palisano, R.J., Rosenbaum, P., Bartlett, D., Livingston, M.H.: Content validity of the expanded and revised Gross Motor Function Classification System. Dev. Med. Child Neurol. 50(10), 744–750 (2008)

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  34. Miles, M.B., Huberman, A.M.: Analyse des données qualitatives, 2nd edn. De Boeck, Brussels (2003)

    Google Scholar 

  35. Deschenaux, F., Bourdon, S., Baribeau, C.: Introduction à l’analyse qualitative informatisée à l’aide du logiciel QSR Nvivo 2.0. Les cahiers pédagogiques de l’Association pour la recherche qualitative, pp. 1–45. Trois-Rivières (2005)

  36. Mongeau, P.: Réaliser son mémoire ou sa thèse: Côté jeans et tenue de soirée. Presses de l’Université du Québec, Quebec City (2008)

    Google Scholar 

  37. Noreau, L., Noonan, V.K., Cobb, J., Leblond, J., Dumont, F.S.: Spinal Cord Injury Community Survey: a national, comprehensive study to portray the lives of Canadians with spinal cord injury. Top. Spinal Cord Inj. Rehabil. 20(4), 249–264 (2014)

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  38. Curry, M.A., Hassouneh-Phillips, D., Johnston-Silverberg, A.: Abuse of women with disabilities: an ecological model and review. Violence Against Women 7, 60–79 (2001)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Statistics Canada: Police-Reported Crime Statistics in Canada, 2014. Juristat catalogue of Statistics Canada, Ottawa (2015)

    Google Scholar 

  40. Hughes, K., Bellis, M.A., Jones, L., Wood, S., Bates, G., Eckley, L., McCoy, E., Mikton, C., Shakespeare, T., Officer, A.: Prevalence and risk of violence against adults with disabilities: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Lancet 379(9826), 1621–1629 (2012)

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  41. Table de concertation sur les agressions à caractère sexuel de Montréal: Guide d’information à l’intention des victimes d’agression sexuelle. Table de concertation sur les agressions à caractère sexuel de Montréal, Montreal (2008)

  42. Robinson-Whelen, S., Hughes, R.B., Gabrielli, J., Lund, E.M., Abramson, W., Swank, P.R.: A safety awareness program for women with diverse disabilities: a randomized controlled trial. Violence Against Women 20(7), 846–868 (2014)

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  43. Public Health Agency of Canada: Canadian Guidelines for Sexual Health Education. Infectious Disease and Emergency Preparedness Branch. Public Health Agency of Canada, Ottawa (2008)

    Google Scholar 

  44. Connell, R.: Masculinities. Polity Press, Cambridge (1995)

    Google Scholar 

  45. Fédération des femmes du Québec: Vers un plan d’action ambitieux pour lutter contre les agressions sexuelles. Fédération des femmes du Québec, Quebec City (2015)

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

This research project was carried out thanks to funding from the Fonds de recherche du Québec—Société et Culture granting program for “innovative projects.” The research team would also like to thank all of the participants who gave their time to answer questions during the interviews. The principal investigator would like to thank his colleagues for their expertise, support and suggestions during the study, particularily David Gotti for his enthusiastic work.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ernesto Morales.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional. To ensure ethical conduct, the study was submitted to and approved by the Institut de réadaptation en déficience physique de Québec IRDPQ’s research ethics committee. Participants’ names and dates of birth appear only on the consent form. All other information is in a separate database, identified by a participant code and kept locked up in a safe place.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in this pilot study.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Morales, E., Gauthier, V., Edwards, G. et al. Women with Disabilities’ Perceptions of Sexuality, Sexual Abuse and Masturbation. Sex Disabil 34, 303–314 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11195-016-9440-1

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11195-016-9440-1

Keywords

Navigation