touching, and kissing is hugely important for all humans.
Agi ng, Disabi lity, and Sexual Wel l-Bei ng
Disability may occur at any time in life and may come in the form of a mental or physi-
cal challenge to one's abilities. In general, people with disabilities report greater issues
surrounding sexual satisfaction compared to the general population (Tepper & Owens,
2007). As people age, it is more common for disabilities to influence their sexual well-
being. It is notable that the new view of sex continuing until old age is occurring as the
baby boomers have come into middle age. This generation is living longer because they
take better care of their physical and mental health, and many of them expect to continue
having sexual relations (Laumann et al., 2006; Schwartz, 2008).
Among the many changes that occur along the road toward elderhood, the emergence
of disabilities may be a part of the human experience. In fact, as our society develops ways
to prolong life, the number of people who develop mental or physical disabilities or both
may increase (Oliver, 1990). Impairments in our abilities are often looked upon with
pity or scorn, or sti
a, or all of these (Oliver, 1990). Disabilities that involve sexuality,
in particular, are generally not discussed openly and honestly (Shakespeare et al., 1996).
In the United States, people often think of individuals living with disabilities and
chronic conditions as incapable of experiencing sexual feeling or sexual identity, and so
they rarely receive sex education. This gap leaves them vulnerable to exploitation, at risk
for STis and HIY, and without the knowledge and tools that they need to develop appro-
priate sexual relationships (Shildrick, 2007). The risk of sexual exploitation, coercion, and
assault among people living with disabilities is high, especially those with developmen-
tal disabilities. Many people living with disabilities and chronic illnesses may experience
some form of coercion or assault in their lifetimes (Shuttleworth, 2006). For the most
part, the perpetrators are their caretakers and family members, as is typically the case for
others who are sexually assaulted or raped. Vulnerability to assault reveals how important
sexual literacy is for people with disabilities. Like everyone else, people with disabilities
need the sexual knowledge and skills to navigate their lives, to protect themselves, and to
flourish in terms of sexual well-being.
Some people who are disabled are unable to meet their own sexual needs (Tepper &
Owens, 2007). Men who have degenerative diseases of the central nervous system may
not be able to use their hands to touch their own genitals or those of their partners.
One detailed study revealed that some men with this type of disability had not received
sexual education or experienced sexual relations of any kind (Shuttleworth, 2006). They
sometimes had an acute need for human touch and a sense of being loved. To help them
meet this need, sometimes caretakers masturbated them to orgasm, bringing them sexual
pleasure for the first time in their lives. A caretaker performing this service is controversial
due to the ethical concerns, but this study calls attention to the fact that people with dis-
abilities are sexual beings with a need for sexual fulfillment.