29th December 2018
by Fan Yiying
For China’s Disabled People, Sex is Still Taboo
While the country is paying more attention to employment and health care, the need for intimacy is still often ignored.
A spinal tumor paralyzed Nie Shujie’s legs when she was little. Growing up, she never considered intimacy possible. Nie was ashamed of her own body and wouldn’t let herself think about sex. She was never rejected, but she also never gave anyone a chance. “I wasn’t sure whether I could or should have sex,” she says from her wheelchair.
At an event for people with disabilities, Nie met her future husband, who has a hunched back. They married in 2014. “Before I met him, I didn’t dare think about marriage, because I’m severely disabled,” she says. “I have so many concerns. Can I satisfy my husband? Can I get pregnant and deliver a baby?” She says her husband understands her, and she feels comfortable around him. But her insecurities are hard to shake. Nie doesn’t like the way her body looks or feels, she says. “It still takes a lot of courage for me to undress in front of the man who’s deeply in love with me.
China was among the first countries to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2008.
Nevertheless, many of the over 85 million people living with disabilities in China still struggle with myths and stigmas that they are not sexually attractive, not interested in sex, and not worthy of marriage — unless it’s with someone who also has a disability. “People assume that having a disability means losing sexual attraction, desire, and ability,” says Cai Cong, project director of Youren Foundation, a nonprofit organization for disabled people.