Hear my voice: Let's talk about sex and disability

Triana Serfaty still gets asked if she can have sex with her boyfriend Enrique Plantey, a Para alpine skier. Enrique Plantey took time to overcome his fears about his sexuality after his accident. Two sides, one journey of a couple exploring their sexual relationship and making it their mission to normalise the conversation. 13 Jan 2021
A man in a wheelchair holding the hand of a standing woman
Enrique Plantey (elft) and Triana Serfaty met eight years ago and have been to two Paralympic Winter Games at Sochi 2014 and PyeongChang 2018
By Enrique Plantey and Triana Serfaty

Triana Serfaty and her Para alpine skiing partner Enrique Plantey wrote a book ‘Sexistimos’, a practical guide on sex for people with impairments set to be released in 2021. In their own words, the couple shares how they addressed the one topic so taboo in their relationship. 

Triana Serfaty:

At 19 and having not seen a wheelchair in my life (I thought wheelchairs were only for the elderly), I went to a nightclub in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires. I am Spanish and I had moved there only a year ago.  I was in a very small and crowded club, probably against the law. I was dancing with my friends and, at some point, I went to the bathroom and on my way, came across him — Enri. 

We looked at each other and he stopped me. This is where our fight begins about who made the first move, but since this is my version of the story, I will say that it was he who looked at me first. I was surprised to see him in a wheelchair at the nightclub. The biggest question in my mind was whether I should help him or not, but I was immediately overwhelmed by his personality. Anyone who knows Enri knows what I am talking about. Now I can confirm that it was Enri's self-confidence that made me forget about the wheelchair right away. Or as he likes to say, it is just a way to move around. 

Leaving my own prejudices aside, I forgot about it. That night we drank and talked for a while. But the following dates showed us that there were sparks between us - I am the romantic one of the couple. Maybe I'm exaggerating - I don't think so - but I swear I felt something special when we talked on our first dates. I didn't see the wheelchair as a hindrance or something that scared me. Rather, I was worried about our age difference. Enri and I are 10 years apart, and at that time he was 29 and I was 19. But the truth is that we connected so well that we didn't care about age or anything else. 

It took us a long time to get into bed, to get to sex. We gave ourselves the opportunity to get to know each other well before that. 

I didn't ask myself many questions about what would happen in that bed because by the time we had our first sexual relationship we were pretty confident and had a high physical attraction. It was about two bodies in a common space. That's how our relationship has always been, based on a lot of trust. 

At the beginning, our sexual relations were based on genitality, which is what we had both learned. That's what we all believe culturally; that everything has to go through the genitals. After some time, trust and communication, we began to realise that neither of us enjoyed focusing on the genitals. In fact, people with Enri's spinal cord injury do not feel the genitals, so why focus on something they don’t feel?  

After doing some research, we came across Para orgasm. We can now give a name to that sensation Enri felt when he was stimulated by another erogenous zone that he actually feels, like his neck. The Para orgasm is an orgasm that can be reached by stimulating any other erogenous zone; everyone should know his or her own. He didn't enjoy stimulating a part of his body he didn't feel, and I felt the disconnection that had created. 

Another thing that always caught my attention is how people come up to me and ask if I can have sex with my boyfriend. It's very crazy that people still ask that question. We are used to asexualising functional diversity. If he's in a wheelchair then he doesn't have sex, just like they sometimes wonder if they go to work or are surprised to see him at a nightclub. The idea of the book 'Sexistimos' that we will publish and should be released this year, is to change the image we have imposed for years on people with disability. Our goal is to talk about this matter in such a way that, in a few years, it will sound ridiculous to have made a book about sex and disability because no one will ever ask these questions again.  

Enrique Plantey:

I never saw myself as ‘different’ for having a disability. From my perspective, and certainly from the perspective of my friends, my family, my mother and my sisters as well. They never made me feel different. To be honest, it was easy from that point of view. And this applies to my sexuality as well. 

I had an accident at a very young age, at 11 years old. At that time, I didn't have many questions - or at least I didn't ask myself more questions than my able-bodied friends did - during my teenage years, which is the time you get to know your body and start having feelings for girls. 

My initial concern or challenge or fears were the same as everyone else's: how my body would react. I went through a phase where I masturbated a lot and explored my body looking for new feelings. 

I was lacking the orgasmic sensation you can have when ejaculating or during sexual intercourse. As a consequence of my spinal cord injury, I have no genital sensation. 

Eventually, I would discover Para orgasm, that is, the one reached by stimulating another erogenous zone. 

How did I overcome my fears? 

With a lot of work. This is the reason why I started writing 'Sexistimos' with my partner Triana. I would have loved if, at the age of 11, I could have read about orgasm outside the genital area. Intercourse and orgasm are closely related to the genitals, so we don't know how to find other kind of stimulations. 

If we go further into the bases of a sexual relationship, everything starts in the brain, as it generates pleasure. What happened is that I didn't have that information. 

I overcame it through trial and error, a lot of body’s self-exploration, of my feelings, little by little. I also owe it to my communicative relationship with my girlfriend Triana and the intimate connection we have created.  It is often uncomfortable or hurtful to talk about this, but you should not keep quiet. 

I would tell people with disabilities not to hesitate. If you have a brain, you have desire, and if you have desire, you are a sexual person. Anyone can have an orgasm if they put their mind to it and work for it without any preconceptions.  

They should practice, they should overcome their fears, they should ask and do some research, so they can develop their sexuality, which is something absolutely natural.