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Diversexy program smashes stereotypes about sex and disability

cohealth’s Diversexy program kicked off with the first of two online sessions for people with disability to talk and learn about sex in a safe and positive environment led by peer advocates.

Although disability-focussed sexual health workshops are not new, Diversexy is different because it empowers people with disability to enjoy sex, rather than focussing on abuse prevention.

This is an important distinction, says Luke Nelson, one of the peer advocates who was instrumental in co-designing the program, and is now co-leading the online sessions with other peers.

“Talking about people with disabilities having sex is a bit taboo. It shouldn’t be. Diversexy moves away from the darker, cautionary stuff, and talks about sex in a positive way,” says Luke.

“The program is vital to teach people that sex is okay. Sex can be fun. There are boundaries, of course, and we talk and learn about that as a group. But mostly it’s about how to make sex a positive and pleasurable experience.”

Meredith Drinkell, Health Promotion Co-ordinator and manager of Diversexy, says, “Sexuality is a fundamental aspect of being human, but the stereotype of a person with disability is that they don’t have sex. Or if they do, they are straight.”

“Diversexy flips that stereotype on its head and tackles some important topics including sexual devices and aids, consent, LGBTQIA+ issues, and myths about sex,” she says.

“For example, conventionally when we think of sex it’s two people in a bed, but that’s not always the case for people with some physical disabilities. Another important topic is how to recognise consent when someone is not verbal.”

“I’m not aware of another program that has been designed, developed and led by the disability community,” she says.

A landmark Federal court ruling in May 2020 means that the NDIS can be used to pay for sex aids and sex workers.

“For people with disabilities, that’s going to open up a range of opportunities, and avenues to pursue their sexual rights. It’s ground breaking. The legal ruling might be there, but we’ve still got a long way to go to get better community understanding of disability and sex,” says Luke.

Victoria, another one of the Diversexy co-designers agrees.

“The federal court ruling really helped acknowledge the important link between our mental, physical, sexual and emotional health, and our right to good health in all those areas.”

“When people with disability are growing up, they often don’t get told about their sexual rights.

“Diversexy says ‘yeah, go for it! There are boundaries, but it’s healthy and normal.

“To anyone thinking about enrolling, I want to say ‘you’ll be amazed at what you can learn! Don’t be shy – it’s something new, but it’s something powerful.”

For more information email Diversexy@cohealth.org.au

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