A Conversation with Eva Sweeney
Q: Tell me a bit about yourself; your name, your pronouns if you’re comfortable, and anything you’d like to share. You don’t have to tell me how you identify but you’re super welcome to.
A: My name is Eva, I am 36, I identify as queer and use she/her pronouns. I have cerebral palsy, which for me means I am non-verbal and use a wheelchair. I run Cripping Up Sex with Eva, which is my platform to educate people about sex and disability.
Q: Did you struggle with identifying as disabled?
A: Luckily, no. From the time I was a kid, my parents were into disability culture so that helped me a lot.
Q: There’s a lot of erasure for disabled queer folks. Disabled folks erase our queerness and queer people erase our disabilities. How’ve you navigated that?
A: When I was first coming out of the closet, that was tough! I basically had to make my own space to feel queer AND disabled. The queer community was much more accepting than the disability community tho.
Q: There’s a lot of emotional labor that comes from having to educate people around you about your disabilities. Can you speak to this?
A: I think because I have been educating people all my life, I am just used to it at this point. But yes, it can be taxing.
Q: You’ve talked about adapting sex toys, assisted masturbation, and talking to your partner(s) about being disabled. How did you start doing this work? Do you feel just as passionate as when you started?
A: I started this work because as a teen, I could find virtually no information about sex and disability and queerness, So it was kind of self-centered in terms of my motivation to do this work, but so many other people could benefit from my research and trial and error which is why I have been doing this work for over 15 years. Yes, I am more passionate now because I see other people doing this work now as well, so that makes me happy and want to keep going forward.
Q; How do you feel being disabled has affected how you approach sexuality—emotionally, physically, mentally, etc?
A: My disability has made me much more creative in all aspects of my life, but certainly with my sexuality as well, not only the physical aspect but because I am non-verbal communication in bed can be tricky sometimes, so it's important that my partner and I are on the same page.
Q: Dating and hooking up is almost always tricky—for everyone; what’s your approach to dating, hooking up, and new (sexual) partners?
A: I am very upfront! From putting my disability in my dating profiles to explaining exactly and what I can and can’t do sexually, to being open about bringing my assistants on dates with me, and so on. I just put it all out there and if people can not hang with it, then, by all means, I’ll find someone who can.
Q: Desirability can be an important part of how we approach our sexual relationships. Have you struggled with that before? How’ve you dealt with it?
A: I have always had a good self-image, and I think I am hot so that aspect hasn’t been a problem for me.
Q: How have you approached sexual health with new doctors? Do you feel there’s added difficulty because you’re queer?
A: Oy! Yes! I have had such a difficult time with doctors, especially with sexual health. They don’t think any people with disabilities even have sex but when you add a layer of queer, they really don’t know what to do with you! I have to advocate for myself in order to get the sexual health care that I need, and often have to educate my own doctors about my sexuality.
Q: Why do you think it’s important for conversations around sex and disability to be grounded by disabled people?
A: This topic is rarely discussed, but it needs to be! It is such a vital part of being human. As people with disabilities, we know our bodies best so no one is more qualified to lead these discussions the PwDs!
Is there anything you’ve learned from other disabled queer people in terms of sexuality that was new or surprised you?
I have learned a lot of tidbits from different people over the years, but it's hard to say anything that REALLY stands out because the way everybody navigates their sexuality is different.
Q: Many disabled sex educators and activists have spoken on “the right to pleasure.” Can you speak to this at all?
A: That's so important! Many times our bodies are just seen as objects to take care of, not as bodies that can experience pleasure and sexuality and everything else that comes with being human! So it is vital we talk about pleasure as a birthright for all humans, especially PwDs.