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Nine top tips on talking about sex… for young people with a life-limiting or life-threatening condition

Updated Wednesday, 3 July 2019
Let's talk about sex! Sarah Earle and Maddie Blackburn outline 9 ways you can find out more about sex, intimacy and relationships if you have a life-limiting or disabling condition.

1: Don’t be embarrassed


Talking about sex can sometimes feel awkward but don’t be embarrassed! You might find it useful to make some notes or record something about what you want to say. You could also practise what you want to talk about by yourself. Remember that other people are probably just as embarrassed as you!

2: Find someone you trust

Junior with his carer

If you’re finding it hard to talk about sex, then the first step is to find someone that you trust. This could be a parent, sibling, family member or carer. It could be a teacher or tutor. It could even be a nurse or a doctor. It will be easier to discuss things if you find someone that you can talk to.

3: It’s OK to ask questions


Never feel afraid to ask questions and never let someone shut you down. If you want to find out more about sex, intimacy and relationships then remember that you have the right to receive information and support.

4: Be body confident

Two people on a stand at Brighton Disability Pride

No-one has a perfect body and most people feel insecure about their body some of the time. We all need to learn to love the body we have whether it is scarred, has tubes sticking out of it or bags attached. Learning to love ourselves and be confident in our own skin is often the first step to accepting who we are and being accepted by others.

5: Remember, it’s OK to make mistakes


It’s important to learn how to keep ourselves safe but it’s also important to take risks, make mistakes, and move on. We learn as much from what we do well as from what goes wrong. Whether you’ve dated the wrong person, gone on a one-night stand or put yourself in an unsafe situation, it’s best to talk about it and learn from what you might to differently in future.

6: Telling a new partner you have a life-limiting condition


Telling a new partner that you have a life-limiting condition can be a really difficult conversation to have. You might be worried about how they’ll react and what the future of your relationship might be. Only you can decide what information you share about you and your life but it’s important that you’re both honest about your feelings.

7: Know your rights

disability rights concept

It’s important that you know what your rights are. The Sexuality Guidance and Standards (3rd Edition) will help you understand where professionals stand in supporting you. Do your research and be prepared to be assertive about your right to explore sex, sexuality, intimacy and relationships.

8: Be you

Disability Pride

You are you, a unique individual. You need to ensure you are comfortable with who you are and are able to advocate and be assertive around your needs, and your rights. This is especially true if you identify as LGBTQ+ and may encounter more challenges around your sexuality or gender identity.

9: Keep talking…


Whether you’re in a relationship right now or not it’s really important to keep talking about sex! When we’re able to talk about sex we can tell people what we do and don’t like. We can also talk about the new things we’d like to try to help us achieve a fulfilling sex life.

Guidance and reports

PDF document 2021 'Let's talk about sex: a love & relationships guide' by The Open University and Mencap. 908.9 KB

PDF document 2021 'Talking about Sex: Young people speak out'. 1.7 MB

PDF document 2020 'Talking about Sex: A booklet for young people with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions and their carers'. 2.9 MB

PDF document 2019 Guidance and Standards 'Talking about sex, sexuality and relationships: For those working with young people with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions'. 1.5 MB


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