Deaf women join Cosmo to speak openly about sex

Stack of Cosmopolitan Magazines with Rihanna on the cover
photo credit: emka74 /

Recently, Cosmopolitan decided to address misunderstandings around deaf women and sex. Cosmo interviewed three deaf women about their experiences having sex in order to raise awareness of the fact that most people with disabilities enjoy, and are having, sex just like everyone else.

The women who participated were all mid- to late-twenties either single, seeing someone, or married, and all of them were born deaf or became deaf around the age of two. They also all chose to keep their names private. The interview is honest, engaging, and highlights the views of the three women speaking, all of whom emphasize that sex as a deaf woman is similar to the anyone else’s experience of sex – in that its specific to the participating individuals and communication is often essential.

The women were asked how they prefer to talk about their disability. In their answers, one woman touched on the Deaf vs. deaf distinction, saying, “Now, I have started to refer to myself as deaf because I no longer think it’s such a bad thing. I don’t use Deaf with a capital D because those who use Deaf with a capital D are part of a specific community, with sign language as their primarily means of communication. I’m deaf with a lower case d because I can’t hear without the use of cochlear implants, but I never learned sign language and don’t have much of a desire to.” One of the other women stated, “I honestly don’t have a preference between uppercase and lowercase d/Deaf. I see making a distinction between the two often divides the culturally proud Deaf from those who have a similar experience and shared oppressions, but are maybe not friends with tons of Deaf people or what have you (because of accessibility and other factors).”

All three women believe that they face similar challenges around having healthy sex that most people face, just a little more specific to them as individuals. One woman stated that “there’s no difference in my sex life with a hearing man or d/Deaf man. The differences have come out of different personality types and levels of self-awareness.”

The conversation also included discussion of the positive and negatives of dating hearing people as deaf women. The women disclosed that there are some helpful perks of dating a hearing person, such as your partner being able to add insight when watching movies without subtitles, or assisting with communicating with third-parties while on dates, such as waiters. However, there can also be negatives. One woman stated, “Drawbacks have been some guys trying to use my condition against me when I turned them down. I’ve had guys say things like, ‘You should be so lucky I gave you the time,’ or, ‘You’re deaf, so you shouldn’t have unrealistic expectations.’”

When asked what the best or most challenging parts of having sex as a deaf person is, one woman stated that, “The most challenging part is helping guys stop thinking of disabled people as china dolls you have to be careful with. The best part is I don’t have to listen to anyone’s weird sex noises.”

In response to the interviewer wondering what misconceptions exist about deaf people having sex, the women explained  that hearing people often think sex with a deaf person is different than anyone else having sex. In reality, sex is sex. Additional misconceptions are that deaf people don’t know how to have sex or that they’re bad at communicating, or that deaf people need taking care of, which can stem from a fear of being “perceived as taking advantage of a disabled person.”

All three women took the interview as an opportunity to offer advice to fellow deaf women in regards to their romantic lives. The first woman stated that “communication is key. If your partner becomes really frustrated, or loses their cool, or won’t work with you, run.” The other two women emphasized that no-one should “ever be ashamed of being d/Deaf, in the bedroom or elsewhere. I’ve noticed more and more that hearing people romanticize deafness, so use that to your advantage if you want to! Be a signing seductress if you like, but just do you,” and finally that deaf people should, “Own it. The world will never let you forget that you’re different, regardless of whether that’s well-meaning or spiteful. The truly good people won’t view your deafness as a negative thing.”

If you would like to read Cosmo’s full interview, it can be found here: “Deaf Twentysomething Women Get Real About Sex and Dating.

Emily Pate is a third-year student at Seattle University interested in Strategic Communications, learning Spanish, and working with non-profits. Her work for Rooted In Rights is focused on discussing current events in the community of people with disabilities. Her experience previous to Rooted In Rights includes writing broadcasts for KBOO radio in Portland, OR, and managing a neighborhood blog in the Seattle community. In addition to work, Emily enjoys drawing, spending time with her friends and family, and backpacking.