How to Meet Our Needs

There’s a lot here at BISH about what kinds of sex we might want, why we want it, and how to talk about it. But I think there’s a more important thing to think about before we think about what we want and that is how we meet our needs.

Here’s me reading this out

Needs are something that have to be in place before we can do things that we, or someone else, wants. Like I needed to have lunch, drink tea, and eat a Snickers before I could write this. You might need to have a nap after you’ve read this article, who knows. But anyway, we all have needs. Things that our body needs in order that we can think about what we want. 

Before we have any kind of sex we need to meet our needs first, either by ourselves or from another person. It’s an important thing to think about, ask about, and prepare for. If we pretend that we don’t have needs, or that this is a question that you don’t need to ask or answer then you’re wrong. 

Because disabled people can like sex too

A lot of people who enjoy having sexy times are also people who are disabled. By denying that people don’t have different needs in order to have sex, then we disabling them. It also reinforces the idea that it’s only non-disabled people who are capable of having sex, which is discriminatory. It’s disablist. 

By denying that people don’t have different needs in order to have sex, then we disabling them.

I think we should all be making space for conversations about our needs so it’s not always on the person with disabilities to bring it up. It’s also not a good idea to just guess what someone’s needs might be (though here’s an interesting blog about access intimacy, which is when someone ‘gets’ someone’s needs). Another thing about meeting our needs before we can have sex is that we all have them, so this is a useful conversation for all of us. 

Anyone here need to go to the loo before sex? Who needs to have some water nearby? Do you like to use pillows or cushions to feel more comfortable? Who needs to keep some clothes on? Okay, so it turns out you do have needs. You were just hoping that you wouldn’t have to talk about them. 

So let’s please give each other permission to be able to talk about our needs before we talk about what we want from sex. You could say “can I get you anything?” “what do you need before we do anything?” “the toilet is just over there” “feel free to stop and let me know if there’s anything else you need.”

Sex can still be exciting and spontaneous even if we have to prepare for it: just like most other things you enjoy, you need to talk about what you need and want before you enjoy it. 

I’ve just come up with a list of a few things below, but there are many many things that I’ve left out. This is just to let you know about some of the things that people might actually need to prepare you and just to give you an idea. Do not assume what people might need and don’t guess, you need to find out from each other because all bodies are different. 

You could chat about these before sexy times commence. You may also need to chat about your needs during sex (“can we just”, “I need to sit here”, “can I have water”, “I think you’re trapping my foot”). Or it might be useful to chat about after, like a post match analysis. 

I’ve got a lot of ideas for this from this excellent video from Hannah Witton and also the excellent The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability by Miriam Kaufman, Cory Silverberg, and Fran Odette


I’ve written about which is the best sex position for you already, which covers this stuff. The most important thing about choosing the best sex position is that it’s comfortable, you’re not in pain, and that you can communicate with each other. Positions applies to all the different kinds of sex that you can have. 

The main positions are sitting, lying down, lying down on your sides, one person lying on top of another, kneeling, being on all fours (like a cat or a dog). There might be a particular side you or they need to lie on to be able to do certain things: for example; if someone can’t masturbate you with their weaker hand, or they don’t have use of that side of their body then you might need to turn the other way round.

Where you do it

Beds are a popular place to have sex, yet there are rarely reviews for mattresses about what it’s like to have sex on them as well as sleep on them (I will accept sponsorship from bed companies btw). You might need to have sex on a bed, but others might not find that very comfortable. Or the type of bed that you use might not be very comfortable, sexy, or might not have the kinds of functions that you need. 

Other prefer to have sex sitting down, on chairs, or wheelchairs. Others might not need to use any furniture at all. As well as thinking about furniture different people might need different props like cushions, or harnesses, to help them get into and out of positions for sexy times. 

Work out how to make first time sex better


Having sex in private is pretty important I think. It can make us feel more safe and comfortable, but also other people shouldn’t have to see us having sex (unless they consent to it). Some of us are able to have more privacy than others when it comes to sex. I live by myself, so unless the window cleaner is coming round, I know that it’s going to be private in my flat.

You might be planning sexy times in your family home, so make sure that your doors are closed. If, say, you live with your parents and you are planning on having sex in the hours between you finishing school and them coming home from work, make sure you’ve got your timings right. Similarly if you have kids you might want to make sure they are asleep and that you are quiet. 

If you live with a lot of other people then privacy is something which might be even more difficult (especially if you have carers and attendants are checking in on you a lot). So try to get a good idea of when people come round and when they don’t – perhaps even try to have a conversation with your carers about this if you can. You might actually also need someone to be around to put you in position to have sex, either with another person or with yourself. 

How to have sex

Wearing things

Some people need to keep some clothes on during sex, like a top, or some underwear. It could be that they feel more comfortable wearing some clothes, or underwear that can hold things like pouches or tubes in place. Some folk like to keep their socks, or stockings on. Other folks might need to wear a harness, or a strap, or a brace during sexy times….

Stimulation levels

There can be a lot going on for people having sex, and sometimes it can be a bit too much for some people. Doing more than one thing at a time can make it too difficult for people to concentrate (for example, from mutual oral, or 69ing). For other people it might be tricky having someone being too close to their face. Perhaps when there are too many of our senses being stimulated at the same time (seeing, hearing, touch, taste, smell) it can be overwhelming. So some people need to either slow things right down, or talk about doing particular sexual activities that mean they can focus on one thing at a time. It’s good to talk about that before it happens. 


A lot of people really need to use the loo before, during, and after sexy times. It’s a good idea to go to the loo before sex because a lot of people worry that they might wee or poo during sex – so this means it’s less likely and that they can worry less about it. They might also need to take their moon cup, or tampon out if they’re having a period. During sex the pressure on the bladder, or on the urethra (pee tube) from different kinds of sex can be too much, and they might need to pee during. Timing sexy times around when you need to go to the loo might be useful too. 

Some people might like to put a towel down in case they ejaculate a lot (which some people do), or in case there is a wee bit of wee, or period blood. Also some folks like to not go to the loo before sex because they like all of the above, which is chill. Lots of people enjoy having sex in toilets and baths or showers for this reason. 

What food people eat

Related to the above people might need to be careful about what they, or you, eat before sex. If someone has a severe food allergy they might be allergic to something you’ve eaten that day. But also some people might need to not eat certain things before sex in case it sets off an allergy or an intolerance, so ask about that before you put milk in their tea. Also some people might need you to chew some gum if you just ate a load of garlic, or something else. 


Sex can be really tiring. It often involves quite a lot of physical movement and exertion, particularly if you are doing any of the kind of gymnastic sex that you might see in porn. Also if you’re enjoying sexy times then your heart rate might increase a lot, your body can have lots of muscle contractions or spasm, your breathing might increase, your nervous system is tingling – it’s a lot. So a lot of sexers need to nap before, during, or after sex. It’s chill.


Obviously people might have different communication needs if some forms of communication aren’t available to them. There are lots of different ways to communicate before, during and after sex, and I’ve written a lot more about that in my guide to sex talk and communication. 


A lot of people might need to take medication before having sex. It might be their pain medication, or insulin, or small blue pills to make their penis harder. 

The Hard On Explained

Relaxing mood

Some people might need to get really relaxed before they have any sexy times. So think about asking what the other person might need in order for them to relax. Gentle music. Levels of lighting. Perhaps it is just time for them to get comfortable in the room, to breathe and bring their heart rate down a little bit. Remember that there are tonnes of reasons for why people might be very anxious about having sex and they might need more time than you before they can be calm enough. 

Safer sex

People might need to do things before having sex to make sure that they are safe from unplanned pregnancy or STIs. I have a whole section on that. Remember that some people might need help getting a condom open, or on. Also dams can be a bit of a faff, so that might need to have another hand or two involved. There’s also this post about lubricant, which a lot of people might need for masturbating, or for penetrative sex. 

Hot bath or shower

Some people might need to take a shower or a hot bath before or after sex. Either because they like to be clean and smell of soap, or because the heat can help loosen up stiff joints and muscles. Some people also like or need to have sex in the bath or shower for this reason.

What have I missed? Let me know in the comments below (I pre-moderate them, so they won’t appear straight away.)

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© Justin Hancock, 2024 Find out more about me and BISH here.

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I’ve been a sex and relationships educator since 1999 (with a background in youth and community work). In that time I’ve taught and given advice about sex and relationships with thousands of young people in person and millions online. I’ve worked with many charities, local governments, schools and youth organisations facilitating training and workshops. My two books, Enjoy Sex (How, When, and If You Want To) and Can We Talk About Consent? are widely available around the world. I’ve been on the telly and the radio and have written articles for newspapers and magazines. I’m also a member of the World Association for Sexual Health. Read more about me and BISH here. Find out about my other work here Justin Hancock

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