Listen to “158: Disability, Sex, and Creativity – Kate Wolovsky” on Spreaker.
Disability, Sex and Creativity
On this episode, we learn how to maximize connection and pleasure if you are affected by physical barriers. Kate Wolovsky shares her story being affected with MS and still having a happy sex life despite this condition.
Disability Affects More Than Your Physical Body
Kate shares that having a disabled body early on in life led to a lot of shame. She also shares her husband’s story as a completely disabled person, expanding on how disability extends from physical to emotional as well.
She refers to Dr Kinsey’s approach to research and how people react from physical trauma. We don’t need to ask about a traumatic event to know what the impact of it is. Indicators can be found in other areas of peoples lives through their emotions, sex lives, and interactions – according to her.
She sheds light on the difficulties disabled people have with even their medical professionals not being equipped to talk to them or understand them as normal people, which is something she is working on through her surveys.
Learning to Talk to Your Providers
Kate mentions that people struggling with disabilities are unsure of what they can ask and that’s where she plays a key role in helping people. Kate lightheartedly advocates that disabled people are sexy and uses the word “adumbptions” to describe dumb assumptions made about disabled people.
Kate strongly encourages more meaningful conversations with disabled people pointing out that conversations with disabled people can be broached the same way as able-bodied people. She discusses where the blocks are and how she and her husband try to alleviate these issues. Their surveys are an example of this. She suggests that you participate in their survey which is used to gather information to help you educate your providers.
What’s the same for everyone
Consent is important for everyone. Innovation in all aspects of your life. She mentions furniture that works for you or using zoom to keep your relationship alive. In addition to this, she mentions not allowing social media to dictate what YOUR body should look like. “Whatever your body does, its OK”
If you’re interested in our on-going free webinar – How to help your partner want more sex without making them feel pressured or obligated – you can sign up here.
Kate is a psychotherapist, sex therapist, clinical researcher, speaker, writer, and advocate, specializing in disability, sexuality, and traumatic stress. Kate sheds light into these marginalized realities, and exposes the gaps in knowledge, training, and professional care that “other” or exclude people from accessing full enjoyment of their life.
Kate is a Clinical Research Fellow at the Kinsey Institute Trauma Stress Research Consortium at Indiana University, where Kate is the co-author of a new, international, inclusive survey study, Body Mind, & COVID-19 that offers people of all backgrounds an opportunity to share how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected all aspects of their life (including sexual pleasure and sexual health) and what is important to them as we all search for answers about how to stay connected while physically isolated.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Kate is increasingly in demand as a subject-matter expert on disability, chronic illness, sexuality, and traumatic stress with an embodied experience of navigating all sides of the healthcare system, academia, and both in person and online. Kate offers professional consultation, customized training, and advocates for nurturing connection and evolving opportunities for healthcare providers and the communities they serve.
Social media post (if needed):
While so many of us are physically distant or isolated, you can share your personal stories and take our survey: Knsy.in/COVIDsation
Links and Resources
Listen to “155: Sex and the Developmentally Disabled – Richelle Fribotta” on Spreaker.
Sex and the Developmentally Disabled
On this episode, you will hear from Richelle Fribotta. Richelle discusses her work teaching people with developmental and intellectual disabilities about sex. While there are many misconceptions around whether people with DD are even able to understand or participate in sex, Richelle clears up these myths.
Compared to years ago, we learn that there is more activity around sexual education for DD people. Richelle works anywhere that has a need but her main visits currently are institutions.
Advice for Parents
For any parent trying to educate their kids about sex whether they suffer with DD or not, it can be a difficult journey. She approaches DD kids in a similar way to non DD kids, advising parents or caregivers to firstly open up and be approachable before trying to find a curriculum to share with their kids.
With many misconceptions out there, Richelle mentions just a few she comes across. Her work has led her to people who think sex ed cannot be taught to DD people and that people with an IQ under 70 are not sexual. Some she says, fear that broaching the topic would lead to people with DD looking to explore it in inappropriate ways.
Richelle points out her firm message around consent, age difference and sex with non humans, re-iterating that these are her hard lines and that she communicates this very clearly to her students. She also focuses on Increasing communication skills and how to say no, as well as prevention. For people that want to deliver sexual information to people with DD, she equips them with teaching methods.
What to leave out
According to Richelle, reading her students developmental age versus chronological age determines a lot of her content. Teaching where students are and reading them is a major part of her method. Richelle does not use lecture format and infuses pleasure into her lessons. There is no set prioritization in the order or learning as she deals with her students wherever they are.
Richelle has been a professional community-based Sexuality Educator since 1992 when she was employed at Planned Parenthood (Dayton, Ohio). First certified as a Sexuality Educator by the American Association of Sexuality Educator Counselors and Therapists in 1996, she is also a CSE Supervisor since its inception in 2014. She teaches a multitude of subjects that are human sexuality to many populations and in various venues: 4th – 12th graders, higher education institutions, public, private and non-profit organizations, faith communities, alcohol and drug rehabilitation facilities, jails…anywhere she is invited. When training colleagues and those working in human services, she emphasizes that sexuality education should be taught from a medically accurately and research-informed, compassionate, person-centred lens with methods that are developmentally relevant, culturally inclusive while grounded in social justice praxis and a code of ethics. She never forgets that teaching also means learning.
Richelle is most proud of her focus on individuals with divergent learning styles. She has authored curricula, trained staff, provided group education to parents, caregivers and self-advocates, and consultation services for folks in the Intellectual -Developmental Disabilities, Learning Disabilities, Autism Spectrum, and Traumatic Brain Injury communities. Most notably in 1997, she established a full-service sexuality education program for an Ohio County Board of DD. Richelle works with State of Ohio DODD, Council of Governments (COGs), Superintendents, and other invested professionals to offer multiple on-going education services throughout Ohio. Her most current work is with self-advocates in Oklahoma and training developmental center staff in Ohio. Both projects endeavor to establish local “sexperts” who co-author and train about quality of life and equity-based topics that are human sexuality.
Currently, Richelle occupies Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) where she is Coordinating the Dennis L. Carlson Sexuality Education Studies Center; Instructing in the Family Science and Social Work Department; and wrapping up her doctoral program, Leadership, Culture and Curriculum. Her 28+ years of experiences in providing education services informs her research. Richelle’s scholarship challenges contemporary sexuality education curriculum standards and teaching preparation practices. She prioritizes supporting those who want to be credentialed and trained in best practices pedagogy and praxis.
Richelle is an active volunteer member for AASECT having served on the Ethics Committee, the Board of Directors, Professional Education Steering Committee, and presented at numerous annual conferences over the last 25 years. She has been a board member for several prevention and diversity inclusion groups. She sings in classic rock bands for creative outlet, pleasure, and to blow off steam.
Raised in a traditional Catholic home and strongly influenced by education professionals who value the power of progressive teaching pedagogy, Richelle has a profound respect for diversity of all kinds, believes in prevention education and endeavours to empower people to make healthy choices for sexual pleasure, health, and wellness. Teaching about Human Sexuality is Richelle’s passion…she loves her work and can think of nothing else she’d rather do than talk about sexuality!
sex/ual/ity: a visual representation to remind that this word encompasses behaviors (sex), feelings and energy (sexual), and identities (sexuality)
Links and Resources
Intimacy with Ease Training
Chronic Illness and Sex
My guest is here to talk about chronic illness and how it relates to sex. Originally, there wasn’t a lot of information or resources on the subject, so to fulfill this pressing need, Dr. Lee Phillips made it a point to devote his time towards researching and alleviating some of the sexuality stressors of chronic illness.
Lee has worked for more than 12 years as a psychotherapist; he is a licensed social worker, an educator, a sex therapist, and a prolific researcher in the sexuality realm. He brings a lot of experience and wisdom to this episode. Check it out!
Listen to “97: Sex and Chronic Illness – Dr. Lee Phillips” on Spreaker.
The Inspiration for his Book on Chronic Pain
Lee says that he started a chronic pain management group through his work as a geriatric psychotherapist in Williamsburg, Virginia. This would lead to the inspiration for his subsequent work in understanding and mitigating the detrimental sexual effects of chronic illness.
Shortly after, he was approached by a colleague and persuaded to get into sex therapy because of the impacts of chronic pain on sex and relationships. He knew he could do some good work in that facet of therapy. He also says that he was inspired to take his own research further because there wasn’t a lot of information out there on the topic of chronic illness and pain, and how it relates to sexuality.
The Various Emotions That Can Accompany Chronic Illness in a Relationship
Lee says that some couples go through ‘crisis mode’ whenever a partner is diagnosed, but overall the emotions and dynamics vary from person to person.
He says that it’s typically a dynamic consisting of one ‘ill’ partner and the other healthy. Occasionally relationships can “open up” as the ill partner doesn’t feel adequate enough to pleasure their partner. But even more frequently, the healthy partner teams up and doesn’t act adversarial towards the illness, but instead looks for a way to manage it together.
And sometimes there’s actually relief after a diagnosis because it brings context to an otherwise mysterious ailment that hadn’t been understood.
The Mental Aspects of Chronic Illness
Lee says that the physical symptoms can be extreme for chronic illness, but they can also lead to severe mental health difficulties that should not be overlooked.
A big part of his job is to try and alleviate the mental turmoil that can arise dealing with an illness. When considering getting back into as healthy a sex life as possible, he likes to take into account their sexual history and see what can be done about getting back to the same level of frequency and intimacy. This can be a good boost for overall mental health in a patient.
Imago Dialogue for More Reconnection Between Partners
He says he uses Imago dialogue therapy for his couples. One of the core principles of Imago is that we unconsciously pick partners based on the qualities of our caretakers through life. So, if there’s a lot of isolation, anger, fighting, or depression within a chronic illness relationship dynamic, he will use the Imago model as exercises to break through some of those issues.
He says there’s a sender and also a receiver within this model. The basis of the practice is to have couples actively listen and repeat what is sent from the sender back to them. This builds the necessary rapport and reassures both partners that what they’re saying is being internalized and understood.
The Importance of Seeing a Sex Therapist
Lee encourages couples to see a sex therapist and make active strides for sexual reconnection. In addition, a sex therapist can help a couple figure out alternatives to the traditional way they’ve had sex. Because, after all, sex is so much more than just penetrative sex. There’s a whole spectrum, and a sex therapist can help illuminate this crucial aspect of sexuality to those suffering from chronic pain.
Key Links for Dr. Lee
Dr. Lee’s Website: https://www.drleephillips.com/
His blog: https://www.drleephillips.com/drleephillips
Facebook profile: https://www.facebook.com/drleephillips
Affiliate link for The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability