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I’m A Strong, Beautiful, Disabled Latina But I Feared My Body When It Came Down To My First Time Doing ‘It’

I fell in love with romance at a young age thanks to shows like “Sailor Moon,” “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” and “Lizzie McGuire.” I loved the concept of love and as I became a teenager and I read a lot of young adult romance books that talked about a similarly related topic that I became particularly curious about: sex. My close relationship with my mother facilitated my interest and gave me access to the laundry list of questions that I had. But, even with all of the knowledge I received from her, sex always seemed like something that would never happen for me because of my disability.

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It didn’t take long for me to understand how my disability made me different from my peers growing up. Still, it wasn’t until I went to high school that I came to understand a new way in which I stood out from them. At the time, most of my friends were already exploring their sexuality with their boyfriends. Meanwhile, I was still struggling to actually get a boyfriend. The books I read and the shows that I watched at that time told me that, for most, getting laid was pretty easy. According to them, the pursuit was also rather straightforward. You meet someone, there’s chemistry, you get to kissing, and ultimately the kissing led to sex. I knew that I could do all of that. What I didn’t know— what TV, movies, and book characters never seemed to address— was how to comfortably initiate sex as a disabled person. None of the media formats that I’d consumed had ever told me how to sit down with someone I wanted to have sex with and tell them that when it came time to get naked, they would see me, scarred disabled body and all.

So, for a while, I delayed having sex.

I dated a few guys in high school and in college but nothing really seemed worth my time. Instead of dating, I focused my attention on graduating and figuring out who I was, what I wanted for myself and what I wanted in a partner. When I finally finished my bachelor’s I moved straight to Los Angeles to continue my career in acting and activism.

Soon after I arrived, I met a sweet-voiced, kindhearted guy named Coqui*. It didn’t take long for him to become the romantic interest in my very own little love/ first-time story.

I always tell people I lucked out when it came to dating Coqui. Of course, he had his faults, he was stubborn, hard to read at times, and struggled to express his emotions but in the end, he put a lot of effort into our relationship and did his best to understand me and my disability. When things started out, I felt completely comfortable with him at all times. Then, we had our first kiss. When it happened, I remember immediately being sent through a mind tunnel, one where the lessons from books and shows careened through my thoughts and reminded me of what kissing led to. I remember thinking that if kissing really was the slippery slope that I believed it to be at the time, I was not at all ready for it. After all, our relationship was new, he didn’t know much about my disability and I was scared to tell him about it. So, naturally, I refused to let him kiss me again.

Andrea Lausell/Instagram

As the months went by, however, I got comfortable with kissing Coqui again. It didn’t take long for us to fall into heavy makeout sessions (my inner teenager who lived for this kind of stuff was on Cloud Nine), but when we’d get close to having sex, I would stop it. Fortunately, Coqui was patient with me and assured me that he was okay with waiting until I felt ready. Still, it took time for me to get there because I was scared for my own body. I didn’t know if having sex would trigger the symptoms that came with my disability and if it did, whether or not it would make my back hurt. I also wasn’t ready to explain to Coqui that the reason why I feared pain was because I had Spina Bifida.

Spina Bifida is a birth defect in the spinal cord. It caused my own to develop improperly in the womb and has affected me my entire life. Years of surgeries, chronic pain, and some other complications have left my back laced with scars. It’s also caused complications with my bladder which requires me to wear control pads 24/7. I grew up with a lot of insecurities over this and, as you might be able to imagine, the absence of similarly disabled characters in movies, ads, and television didn’t help to quell such feelings. In our culture and media, we’re bombarded with images of hypersexualized women, all of whom have perfect skin and whose backs are smooth and without scars. They’re certainly not disabled or in need of bladder control pads. When issues and concerns with bladder are brought up in media, the topic is typically reserved for ads targeting the elderly and pregnant people. So as a twenty-three-year-old non-pregnant woman who knew her partner had been surrounded by those same images growing up, I felt nervous about revealing my body to him. I feared that once I did, he’d instantly find me unattractive and leave.

Andrea Lausell/ Instagram

As time went on, and we got to know each other better, I started feeling ready for sex. I started to open up to Coqui about my back and the fears I had about pain during sex and together we talked through it and I learned his concerns as well. Eventually, we were able to get to a place where our fears no longer took over and we could just enjoy each other. I soon reached a turning point in our relationship where I realized that I needed to cross one last hurdle of particulars before having sex with him. I needed to tell him about my pads.

I finally decided to take the leap on a night that was pretty typical for us. He was searching for a movie for that we could watch and I was attempting to wait patiently. This time while simultaneously having an internal panic attack. Coqui noticed that I was acting strange and when he asked what was wrong I immediately burst into tears. When he took hold of my hands and assured me in the most gentle voice I’ve ever heard, that it was okay to talk to him, I cried more. I was so sure that the moment I told him about the pads, he’d find me disgusting and kick me out of his house, but through the tears, I found the courage to tell him. “I really want to have sex with you,” I told him. “But I don’t want you to be grossed out when you undress me because you’ll see my pads”. (Who knows if he understood whatever else I told him because I was in severe cry talking mode.)

And then, Coqui surprised me. He chuckled. Apparently, he already knew about my pads. He’d seen the scars and knew about practically everything I endured with my disability.  “You have a video all about it on your channel,” he said matter-of-factly. “I was just waiting for you to feel ready to tell me”.

Andrea Lausell/Instagram

At that moment, I felt a wave of the kick-yourself-style shock and embarrassment one tends to get when they realize that they’ve forgotten a pretty big detail. A couple of years before I’d started a Youtube blog where I made, and still make, videos with the intention of helping the disabled community. I started it hoping to help people in the Spina Bifida community to navigate the world and to help give them tips on what products I used to aid my disability. By the time I met Coqui, I’d uploaded a trove of clips, some showing my scars others talking about my pads. (Apparently, love can make you forget even your most popping Youtube channel.)

Coqui had seen it all, and none of it had mattered. He still felt attracted to me, still wanted to be with me, and definitely wanted to have sex. It was a massive relief and eventually, we did it. It was nerve-wracking, of course, but enjoyable. There was no shame and no back pain. Just me, Coqui, and compassionate communication right from the beginning to the end.

Even though Coqui and I are no longer together, the entire experience was something I treasure to this day.

I feel so grateful that he was the person I decided to have sex for the first time with. For so long, I’d waited to be that intimate with a partner, someone who would respect my feelings, my body and myself while also seeing the strong, albeit very anxious, Disabled Latina that I am. I wanted a partner who could empathize with, someone who would ask questions and listen with an open heart and mind. I was fortunate enough to get all of that with Coqui in the time period that we dated. With him, I was able to explore sex without judgment. I was able to be with a partner who I loved with all my heart.

In a way, I got the romance I had dreamed about as a kid. Though, I’d like to think mine was a little better than most of those stories. The relationship gave me a new sense of confidence and allowed me to feel ready for new partners. Because of Coqui, I was able to better understand the type of respect I wanted from people. Sure, to this day, bringing up conversations about my pads and back remain hard for me to do. I still fear rejection, but (ahem, hair flip) I also know that I have quite a few suitors ready to date me. Like Coqui, they may love me in ways I’ve never expected, and show me moves I never knew before. All I know is that, for me, sex will always be a little more complicated thanks to my disability. Still, that doesn’t mean that I can’t have amazing sex (trust, I can). The key I’ve found is to communicate and be honest about who I am and to make sure that this hot disabled body of mine has a good time with any partner that I choose.

*Name has been changed for privacy.

Read: This 2018 Graduate Was The First Latina Student Body President To Be Elected At the University Of Texas at Austin

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This Puerto Rican Illustrator Uses Art To Explore Her Sexuality

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This Puerto Rican Illustrator Uses Art To Explore Her Sexuality

Art has the power to shift culture, and in Puerto Rico, a young illustrator is using it to help demystify female sexuality in a society where it’s largely still seen as taboo.

For the last four years, Guanina Cotto has used art as a way to explore her own sexuality, drawing erotic moments she has experienced to better understand what she likes and doesn’t like.

“It’s a tool to get to know myself,” Cotto, 25, told FIERCE. “It’s like writing for some people. For me, it’s like having a visual journal, where I draw ideas, what I’m feeling, new things I’ve explored and using it to learn about myself.”

Using Instagram as her visual diary, Cotto’s illustrations, which depict her lounging naked on a hammock, masturbating in bed, kissing other women or engaging in sexual practices with men, caught attention beyond her eyes. With more than 5 thousand followers, it’s become a site to challenge machista standards of female sexuality, gender expectations and heteronormativity on an island where public education teaches students sex is to be engaged in after marriage and where women are shamed, sometimes attacked, for daring to display their bare or scantily-dressed bodies.

The Isabela-based artist welcomes the attention her self-described “biographic soft erotic” illustrations have received, believing her portrayals could make people more comfortable seeing sexually liberated women in real life.

“My art is a way of normalizing sexuality,” she said. “Art exposes and stimulates people in many ways. I think the more people see the naked body, the more normal it will become.”

The process of normalizing an aspect of humanity that remains hush-hush, particularly in rural western municipalities like the one she lives in, comes with strains, however. In 2015, for instance, Collectivo Moriviví, a young women’s art collective based in the island’s metropolitan area, painted an anti-domestic violence mural that showed full-figured nude Black women with their faces covered. Months later, the piece, displayed in San Juan’s art district of Santurce, was defaced, with vandals drawing undergarments on the women’s bodies. For Cotto, whose work lives online, backlash to her art exists in reports to Instagram for explicit sexual content, a reprisal she says has become less frequent over the years.

Through normalizing female sexual autonomy and pleasure, Cotto believes it could help generations unlearn messages they were taught about their bodies, consent and relationships in school, through church and in their families.

She knows firsthand how detrimental these lessons on female morality and respectability are for young women trying to make sense of their desires. Growing up, Cotto attended a religious school, where educational instruction, and home lessons from her grandmother, taught her that premarital sex and self-pleasure were sins. While the artist does have a mother, who she describes as a feminist, that told her that she is in control of her body, the mixed messages impacted her connection with her body and sexuality and, as a result, her future romantic relationships.

“I grew up scared, scared of my own feelings and wants,” she said. “We grow up not knowing our own bodies and that we are capable of experiencing pleasure, too. They teach us that sex is something done to us, not for us to enjoy. We become objects, as if being beautiful and desirable is the most important thing to be.”

That fear and unfamiliarity of what healthy, respectful relationships look like, she shares, previously kept her tied to former lovers who wanted to control the way she dressed and acted in public. She believes women are less likely to stay in situations where they aren’t valued and respected if they are taught earlier in their lives that they have autonomy over their bodies.

“When we learn sexuality isn’t shameful, we can establish healthy boundaries and be more in tune with what makes us our true selves. We become empowered,” she said.

While Cotto views her art as personal, she also believes it, and others like it, have the power to allow women to feel comfortable in their bodies, own their sexuality and demand pleasure and respect. Her illustrations, which, in addition to presenting women engaging in eroticism, also depict them participating in daily activities like lounging, drawing or breast-feeding their infants nude, is often the first time people see women represented through a female’s gaze.

“When I draw the naked body of a woman, it’s not always sexual. Oftentimes, it is, but not always. For me, it’s about normalizing the body, showing the beauty of women and what it looks like to be a free woman, through a female’s gaze,” she said.

Read: After Sex Shame Led To A Porn Addiction, This Latina Is Encouraging All Women To Unlearn Ideas That Sexuality Is Dirty

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20 Sexy Questions To Reignite Your Bond With Your Girlfriend

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20 Sexy Questions To Reignite Your Bond With Your Girlfriend

Falling in love with the right person and learning everything you can about her is easy and natural. But although you might think you know everything you can about your special lady, we bet that there are still questions that are left unanswered in your life. For one, do you know everything you can about her sexuality? Probably not. But don’t worry because learning about her in a more intimate setting is something that can help you two get closer and strengthen your relationship in the long run.

That’s where these 20 sexual questions come in. These sexy questions are all things that you can ask your girlfriend tonight, tomorrow and the next day. And they are all guaranteed to bring further intimacy and continue to build your bond. So, get to cuddling and share some details of your sexy past and even sexier future — and get ready to hear hers.

1. Have you ever skinny dipped?


This kind of question is sexy in and of itself because it forces you to talk about two things that are very alluring: Nakedness and being daring. It’s a question that can definitely create a lot more conversation and you can talk about where you’ve skinny dipped or, even better, where you want to skinny dip in the future, together.

2. Where would you love to have sex?


People can have a lot of different answers to this question, so it’s definitely one that you want to ask your girlfriend earlier on in the relationship or when you are feeling that things are getting a bit stale. It’s the kind of question that can lead to a lot of really interesting conversations, honestly. And plans. Don’t forget to make the plans.

3. What is the sexiest thing about women to you?


Women are sexy, period. And you probably already knew that since you find your girlfriend pretty darn sexy, too, but have you ever stopped to think what exactly makes her sexy to you? Ask this question of her and you both might end up surprising each other with what the conversation brings.

4. Do you like to be dominant or passive?


Every relationship is complicated and everyone’s sexual desires are complicated but you can really delve deep into your girlfriend’s desires by asking her this question. It might even spark a fuller conversation where you talk about your own preferences, too.

5. What’s the ultimate role play for you?


Role-playing is something that can take your relationship to the next level or get you out of a rut. It’s also something that can simply inspire some interesting conversations, which is why this is definitely a question that you should ask your sweetie. Maybe just wait until you’re in a really intimate moment first, though.

6. Who is your secret celebrity crush?


Talking about your celebrity crushes is a sure-fire way to invite some fun conversation and intimacy into your relationship. Of course, the key here is to ask your girlfriend about her secret crush. You know, there’s always somebody that she may name that is unexpected and will solicit more sexy questions.

7. Are you more rough or passionate?


Passion is an excelleny thing to have in a relationship but it’s definitely not the only thing. And when it comes to having sex, people tend to have a style. Some like it really rough and dirty while others like it passionate and sensual. Although neither is right or wrong, it’s good to know what your girlfriend prefers by asking her this question.

8. What kind of talk do you like, if any, in bed?


Some people like sexy talk. Some people do not. Some people like it super dirty. Some do not. You may not know exactly what your girlfriend prefers just yet because it can be an awkward subject to just bring up out of the blue, so why not ask her? This way, you’ll have something new and totally sexy to talk about in bed.

9. What’s the sexiest thing someone has done to you?


You can definitely make this a really interesting question if you ask what someone has done “to” her and “for” her. It will definitely mean two different responses, but I bet both of them will be surprising and interesting. Just don’t be afraid to share your own answer to this question, too.

10. What’s your favorite body type?


One way to talk about the things that you each find sexy is to talk about the type of bodies that you find most attractive. This can be an interesting thing to bring up but definitely make sure to only bring it up if you are comfortable in your body and relationship, since you don’t want to get jealous over what she says.

11. What’s your view on “50 shades”?

50 Shades of Grey is a book and movie franchise that changed the world or, at least, the way women behave sexually. All of a sudden, it became okay (and even encouraged!) to be kinky. But how much do you know about your girlfriend’s opinion on the books and the sexy topic? Now’s the time to ask!

12. Have you ever had sex more than once in a day?


No matter how good your sex life is, there is always room for improvement. When you are getting more intimate with your partner, you might want to know what their “record” is in terms of the most times they have ever had sex. And then, I suggest, you improve upon that number.

13. Where do you like being touched the most?


Some of us fully admit that our breasts are the most sensitive place while others love gentle little kisses behind the ears. And some of us still find something else so erotic that it makes sex even better. This is a great question to ask earlier in your relationship so that you can make sure to touch that part more and more.

14. Have you ever had sex in a public place?


Sex in public is still a taboo subject but it’s one that we should be discussing more because, for some people, it’s the pinnacle of sexuality. Whether or not you are turned on by it, it’s something that you should think about and consider with your partner. That’s why you should find out if she’s ever done it in a public place.

15. What is your favorite sexual position?


Everyone has a favorite sex position and anyone who claims not to is clearly lying. This is definitely a daring question to ask your sweetie but it’s one that can lead to greater sexual satisfaction. If you know what they like (and know what you like), then you can do a lot more in the bedroom to bring pleasure to each other.

16. Have you ever been so horny that you couldn’t control yourself?


This is definitely a sexy picture and an even sexier image to have of your girlfriend, though you’ll probably want to make sure that you’re fairly secure in your relationship before bringing this one up. It’s also best to talk about this when you are having a particularly intimate moment, perhaps laying in bed at the end of the day.

17. Have you ever been to a strip club? 


Who says that men are the only ones that get to enjoy strip clubs? Us ladies can love them too, and perhaps you’re even the kind of couple who has ventured out to one together. But even if you’re not, this is a fun topic to bring up with your special lady and hear about her experience.

18. Have you ever gotten with someone you weren’t allowed to?


One way to talk about taboo subjects in your relationship is to do it out in the open. That’s why you should definitely bring up whether your girlfriend has ever been with someone she wasn’t supposed to. Sure, it can lead to some interesting conversation… But it can also lead to some interesting revelations.

19. What kind of outfit would look best on me?


This is the kind of question that you’ll want to ask your girlfriend when you are feeling particularly comfortable with her. But, when it comes right down to it, it would be a good idea to know what your partner likes for you to wear… and visa versa. That way, you can both always look great for each other.

20. Have you ever tried tantric sex?


If you didn’t know this, tantric sex is about having a really intense, connected experience during sex (either by yourself or with a partner). It’s something really enjoyable that couples can enjoy together but, before you try that, you should definitely talk to your partner about whether or not she has tried it before… and what her experience was. And if not, perhaps it’s an experience you can have together.

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