“Ultimately” Complex and Cognizant: A Review of The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability

The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability!

Unpacking and introducing the multifaceted complexities of sexualities in one book – as The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability (published by Cleis Press) sets out to do – is an ambitious undertaking. If I were asked before reading Ultimate  if it were even possible to compose a comprehensive guide to sexuality and disability, my response would have taken a skeptical tone. However, Miriam Kaufman, M.D., Cory Silverberg, and Fran Odette have written an incredible primer on sex and disability that touches on masturbation, oral and anal sex, communication, S/M, sexual health, and even sexual violence relating to disabled bodies. It also addresses sexual education in an accessible, honest, and quite moving style. All three authors of The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability come at this project from different positions and collaborate on an effective and additionally affective guide to sexuality and disability.

At one point, I was brought to tears by the way in which they address the reality of healing from, understanding, and interpreting chronic forms of pain through sexual play and performance. Since the book ranges in topics, as reflected in the three authors different positions in fields of sex education, this book covers everything from yoga to anatomy to BDSM to sexual assault. If there is something you have ever had a question about relating to intersections of sexuality, gender, bodies, and disability, this book probably at the very least touches on it, if not goes into depth and examines the topic. The book destabilizes myths surrounding sexualities as well as those surrounding disabilities, and offers sex positive advice, as well as perspectives and exercises for readers at the end of each chapter. Various snippets of personal narratives and experiences representing the chapters are woven and interspersed throughout each one. The resources in chapter 14 are referred to multiple times throughout the book and present a comprehensive guide of contacts, organizations, and various other resources relating to all of the topics they address throughout the book.

I started reading this book on a flight to Oakland a couple weeks ago and was unable to leave off. I would open it up and read on the train, in the park, at a cafe, on break from work, and wherever I happened to wander into. In closing, though an “ultimate” guide to sexuality might sound a little too ambitious for anyone to complete, this book comes as close to achieving it as I can imagine.

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