S3, Ep 9 Alex Cowan: Sex and Skydiving - Looking Beyond Disability
Today we welcome Alex Cowan, a leading disability activist, performer and writer challenging the sexual erasure of differently abled people around the world. Alex has been a real pioneer, In 2014 she appeared in Alternative Miss World - their first contestant in a wheelchair, and appeared on Channel 4 discussing her relationship with her husband. She was the first disabled person to attend the world-renowned European Society of Sexual Medicine Summer school and has worked with Alistair Morrison, photographer to Hollywood royalty, reinterpreting the iconic Christine Keeler photos replacing the Arne Jacobsen chair with her wheelchair.
Alex developed Multiple Sclerosis in her late teens and documents her journey (with the man that eventually became her boyfriend and now husband) as the effects of illness changed and challenged her body, her self-view and her relationships. Alex describes what that has meant for her ability to physically navigate sex when disability meets ageing. We talk about the frustration of friends presuming she’s celibate as if disability changed who she was as a person and shares how a really low point triggered the need to shock herself out of her despair - and so she jumped out of a plane!
We discuss the importance of sex workers in helping provide intimacy and physical contact when the dating scene can be significantly more challenging to negotiate, let alone finding suitable accessible spaces for disabled people to meet.
Read her writing for Good Housekeeping and see more of those Alistair Morrison photographs here: https://100stories.leonardcheshire.org/changing-perceptions/
Thank you to Alex for this inspiring conversation that reminds us again to see the person rather than the disability and providing practical tips on how to keep a sexual relationship going with a differently abled body.
Just a little note that Naomi had to pop out for the last part of the interview, in case you’re wondering why she goes quiet later on!
Alex kindly supplied the following list of super-helpful books and links (on GoogleDrive for convenience!):
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Naomi Sheldon: @NaomiSheldon1
Anand Patel: @therealdranand
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