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Romina Puma on disability, dating and the myths about wheelchair users’ sexuality.

Cher_ScopeCher_Scope Posts: 3,347

Scope community team

edited January 9 in Dating and relationships

Romina Puma is a comedian with Muscular dystrophy who is perhaps best known for being candid about her sex life as a disabled woman.  Using comedy as a tool to confront prejudice, her upfront words both make people laugh and challenge the views that oppress people living with impairments.  

To see Romina in action, check out this video from Scope’s 2016 #EndTheAwkward campaign in which she talks about the pleasure of sex toys.


Interview with Romina Puma

We caught up with Romina over the New Year to chew the fat about dating, sex and how far society still has to go in dismantling stigmatised views.

It’s been 4 years since you recorded ‘On the prowl’ for Scope.  Have you always been so open about your sex life and what reaction did you get at the time?  Do you still advocate the use of sex toys?  :D 
Wow, already 4 years? Time flies! No, to be honest I wasn’t so open when I was younger, probably getting older you don’t care so much anymore what people think. People were impressed, you don’t see often talking about that topic, it was eye opening and a lot of fun. It all started from my solo show where I was talking about my disability and all the things I went through since I was diagnosed, and the part of the show people remember the most is the part about sex and disability. I’m very proud of that show, because I raised a little bit of awareness about it. I do not really advocate, but if I get asked to advise I always recommend the use of sex toys, not only to people with disabilities but everyone should. With sex toys you can discover things about your body you never knew you liked, or at least that is what happened to me. 

Have you met anyone since 2016 and was being disabled ever an ‘issue’? Or, are you happily single and navigating the lockdown dating life? 
I have met my partner just before Christmas 2016. It was the best present I could ever get. We are still together, and he actually proposed last year. We met on Tinder, I know one in a million dates that actually worked, and in my profile picture I was sitting in my wheelchair. It was a quick way of making it clear from the start and if it was a problem I wasn’t even getting contacted. However, my partner didn’t mind me being in a wheelchair, so he swiped right, we met, we clicked and the rest is history; and now my show is all about him.    

Romina sat on a bench wearing a brightly coloured dress smiling

Overall, how do you think attitudes to disabled people and sex are progressing? Are there any stereotypes that you think still need to go?
There is still a lot of work to do. Stereotypes do not go away that easily. I’m sure there is more awareness, but also still a lot of ignorance. The most common stereotype about being a wheelchair user is that by default nothing works down under, but it is not always the case and on top of that there different ways to feel pleasure and more powerful than the normal sex everyone knows and does. Through comedy I always try to raise awareness, talking about being a person with a disability and in a relationship and my relationship is exactly the same as any other between able bodied people, not more nor less. 

What would your words of advice be to our disabled community members who are nervous about dating and don’t know where to start or lack confidence?  
I would say to be strong and be prepared for all sorts. Especially if you go for online dating. I went on and off a few times, because it was getting too hard to cope. But do not give up, go out, meet people or go online and do things you like to do, be yourself and honest, and maybe when you least expect you will find the right person. 

Thank you Romina, we hope 2021 is a great year for you.

To keep up with Romina, follow her on Twitter @RominaPuma and visit her website.


Over to you:

  • What stereotypes about disability and sex most frustrate you?
  • How are you finding dating during lockdown?
  • Do you have any messages for Romina?
Drop us your messages below!
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Replies

  • Tori_ScopeTori_Scope Posts: 4,031

    Scope community team

    I really enjoyed reading this! Lots of interesting insight, and it's great to hear a positive story :) 
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  • Richard_ScopeRichard_Scope Posts: 2,725

    Scope community team

    Thanks for the post, Romina.
    People assume all too often that disabled people can't or don't have sexual feelings or desires. Another thing that really grinds my gears is when people also assume that partners I have had are my carers!
    Scope
    Specialist Information Officer - Cerebral Palsy

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  • janer1967janer1967 Member Posts: 9,153 Disability Gamechanger
    Hi since becoming disabled and single I have used dating sites I have had 2 partners I met online sadly they didn’t work out but were amicable break ups 

    The first restored my sexuality and gave me the confidence to embark on a full relationship 

    It is hard to find a suitable partner who can find you attractive and can cope with your limitations but there are such people out there needle in haystack 

    however lockdown isn’t a good time to start anything as you can’t actually meet but can use the time to get to know each other more and if they get bored waiting then they prob not as interested in you as a person 
  • WestHam06WestHam06 Member, Scope Volunteer Posts: 1,261 Pioneering
    Thank you for sharing this, a really interesting read. Thank you. 
  • carthacartha Member Posts: 1,388 Pioneering
    Very interesting. Romina has some great recipes on her Youtube channel. I've given up on dating for now, found it too difficult to cope with break-ups, plus can't really date properly under current restrictions. Not interested in toys, they aren't the same.
  • SOBSOB Member Posts: 17 Connected
    My experience of dating is nil! I don't know if I'm gay or a-sexual etc, maybe being sexually abused as a kid is my problem!
    I've found making that first approach, asking for a date difficult. The fear of rejection maybe, being touched by a stranger?
    I had a look on dating websites, zoosk for one. But was hacked and I keep getting emails from the Ukraine, the women are phishing for dater or money. So everyone should watch out for this and do not get scammed. 
  • Cher_ScopeCher_Scope Posts: 3,347

    Scope community team

    Hi @SOB

    I've just sent you an email, if you could give it a quick read and get back to me.  Thank you :)
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  • lisathomas50lisathomas50 Member Posts: 3,840 Disability Gamechanger
    @SOB I am so sorry that happend to you I have also been through your experience as a child and it took along time for me to decide  when I was younger I am 58 now but its been a struggle you will get through it and you will find  yourself  and know   I hope scope can help you  and I sincerely wish you the best and take care 
  • SOBSOB Member Posts: 17 Connected
    Thank you for your kind thoughts and understanding, as for what happened to me still hurts. As an 8 year old, I didn't know what was happening. But till years later, I started having flash backs. Every time child abuse is mentioned on the TV, that terrible feeling comes back. I don't like to rake over the past, but I try forget and forgive instead. 
  • lisathomas50lisathomas50 Member Posts: 3,840 Disability Gamechanger
    @SOB I experienced this at a later age I was 14 it went on for two years  in my own experience you will need help to deal with it as from what you have written it is affecting your life 

    I know its hard but just telling someone about your experience  and talking about your feelings  realy does help please don't let the abuse lead your life and define the person you are it took me years to deal with it but now I am a stronger person for it  scope will help you please reach out and take that help  the abuse took your childhood  don't let it tske any more 
  • Ross_ScopeRoss_Scope Posts: 3,161

    Scope community team

    Hi @SOB

    I completely understand why you are still hurting after what happened to you, those mental scars can take a long time to heal if at all. I would advise reading the email from Cher if you haven't already, but I'm curious if you have ever sought counselling for what happened to you? You might wish to speak with your GP about this, or look for support through the Survivors Trust.
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  • carthacartha Member Posts: 1,388 Pioneering
    SOB said:
    My experience of dating is nil! I don't know if I'm gay or a-sexual etc, maybe being sexually abused as a kid is my problem!
    I've found making that first approach, asking for a date difficult. The fear of rejection maybe, being touched by a stranger?
    I had a look on dating websites, zoosk for one. But was hacked and I keep getting emails from the Ukraine, the women are phishing for dater or money. So everyone should watch out for this and do not get scammed. 
    A friend of mine was scammed by someone from one of those countries next to Russia. I can't remember which one. She wanted money for the air fare to come to UK to meet up but took the money and never arrived.

    I also have a problem approaching people, and find it more difficult as I get older. I think a lot of my problem is confidence, and I always seem to choose someone not good for me. I would like to have a special someone in my life but can't see it happening at the moment. I'm uncomfortable being touched by someone I don't know (really don't like hugs from complete strangers but I accept them because I don't want to be rude or give them the feeling of being rejected), Even hugs from most friends don't feel right to me. In a close relationship I do love the hugs and touching so it isn't that I have a problem with touching itself. My abuse happened as an adult but it was emotional abuse. I've also tried dating websites because I don't meet new people, but I gave up on them some time ago. I didn't pluck up the courage to contact anyone, and those who contacted me turned out a bit weird or scammers.
  • lisathomas50lisathomas50 Member Posts: 3,840 Disability Gamechanger
    @cartha so sorry you suffered emotional abuse have you sought help with this any sort of abuse is awful and can define how you live your live 

    I am sure you will meet someone one day I think during lock down it eill be harder 

    They used to have clubs  ore lockdown such as the over 50s club where you would go and meet people the one I  used to help out with was mixed disabled and able bodied  and we ran separate ones aseel

    It may help to talk to someone  about the emotional abuse thst  gappend to you maybe scope will be able to help you 
  • lisathomas50lisathomas50 Member Posts: 3,840 Disability Gamechanger
    @SOB how are you you doing today just wanted to check in with you hope your ok 

    Take care 🙂 
  • SOBSOB Member Posts: 17 Connected
    Thanks for message,
    Well I'am stuck at home today. The weather is bad, nice days can help lift my mood. 🙋
  • lisathomas50lisathomas50 Member Posts: 3,840 Disability Gamechanger
    @SOB 9 know the weather hasn't been good at all hope you feeling ok though 

    Take care 🙂 
  • carthacartha Member Posts: 1,388 Pioneering
    @cartha so sorry you suffered emotional abuse have you sought help with this any sort of abuse is awful and can define how you live your live 

    I am sure you will meet someone one day I think during lock down it eill be harder 

    They used to have clubs  ore lockdown such as the over 50s club where you would go and meet people the one I  used to help out with was mixed disabled and able bodied  and we ran separate ones aseel

    It may help to talk to someone  about the emotional abuse thst  gappend to you maybe scope will be able to help you 
    Hi Lisa, thank you for your reply. I've been trying to seek help for years but a recent event prompted the GP to send me off for testing. I've had the results but haven't found anyone to help. I have been referred to the mental health hospital twice but they tell me they can't help me with my mental health problems because I have autism. I'm on the waiting list for the Integrated Autism Service. I never knew I have autism until my recent diagnosis (in my 50's). Since doing a lot of reading it now makes a lot of sense of things that have happened in my life. One of my exes actually pointed out that I had the same weird behaviours as my daughter (she has ADHD and ASD), which I never picked up on because my daughter and I are normal to each other. Anyway, I've had diagnosis but no actual help yet. I have tried Mind, etc. but I was only offered groups, which I'm not ready for. There are things I'm not allowed to talk about outside certain professional circles so I really need a one on one with someone from within the circles, which includes social workers but they tell me they don't have any services that can help me. Everything is waiting on the Integrated Autism Service at the moment. CBT won't work for me, apparently. NHS (at least around here) only seem to do a autism diagnosis for adults but don't offer any help. My daughter has tonnes of help she has access to. Kind of feel like they have written me off because of my age. Or is the the ASD? Anyway, I don't like to go on about it I much prefer to try to cheer other people up. My mental health problems are PTSD, AvPD, depression and anxiety. It has taken a year or two for me to pluck up the courage to post anything on Scope. I joined ages ago. Just never felt I had anything interesting to say, and was worried about the response if I introduced myself and spoke about my problems. I don't like a lot of attention or sympathy, I just wish I could find solutions. I don't usually like going on about my problems. I did have eleven weeks of private therapy but didn't find it any help. I can't afford that any more, anyway. I married someone with NPD who completely took over my life. I would have been classed as a vulnerable adult according to the definition but I didn't know at the time. That's another story. Dating clubs aren't for me. I would be the one quietly sitting in the corner trying to not be noticed. Thanks for the thought, though.
    Carl.
  • carthacartha Member Posts: 1,388 Pioneering
    SOB said:
    Thanks for message,
    Well I'am stuck at home today. The weather is bad, nice days can help lift my mood. 🙋
    Have you had snow where you are?
  • lisathomas50lisathomas50 Member Posts: 3,840 Disability Gamechanger
    @cartha I am so sorry  I blurted everything out on another thread  about myself  because I was pushed but its out now so I can help others now 

    I have very good help for what happend in my past and for my disability I am sorry that you aren't getting  any help yet 

    It doesn't help  with the corona virus either can scope help at all they are usually very good  I hope it isn't because of your age I am 58 and get very good care did you say you live in Wales 

    I hope things will get better and you get the help you need 
  • carthacartha Member Posts: 1,388 Pioneering
    @cartha I am so sorry  I blurted everything out on another thread  about myself  because I was pushed but its out now so I can help others now 

    I have very good help for what happend in my past and for my disability I am sorry that you aren't getting  any help yet 

    It doesn't help  with the corona virus either can scope help at all they are usually very good  I hope it isn't because of your age I am 58 and get very good care did you say you live in Wales 

    I hope things will get better and you get the help you need 
    Thank you. Yes, I'm in Pembrokeshire but the services here are awful. They keep trying to close down the hospital, and it's nearly impossible to get a GP appointment at the moment (combination of lockdown and another surgery closing down). I haven't tried asking Scope yet.  I'm glad you have been able to find help. My problems are more complicated that I have explained but they're not for a public forum. I suppose I'm still at the beginning as I have only recently been diagnosed. And the lockdown problem, as you say. I'm also waiting for a support worker from Goleudy to get in touch but waiting lists everywhere at the moment. I've been 21 for 34 years (or at least my brain thinks so. My body will probably disagree) ;-)

    I'm working on things. Hopefully get there in the end. Just wish this virus would stop being a problem, it's holding a lot of things up. My dad just had is first jab so that's a start. It's nice to have a forum where I can talk and not be looked down on. I wasn't sure if this was the right place for me because my problems aren't physical but I have seen others talking about mental health and autism, so that has helped me a bit to talk (type). The games are a great idea. Keep them going :-)
  • lisathomas50lisathomas50 Member Posts: 3,840 Disability Gamechanger
    @cartha trying talking to scope they might be able to help give them a ring on the helpline or email if you don't want to talk I know its hard 

    Sometimes you have to reach out and help comes in unexpected  ways I am the same different sge in my head 

    The situation with the pandemic  could go on for a whilst yet  so getting any sort of help is good it is only a suggestion 

    Take care 🙂 
  • carthacartha Member Posts: 1,388 Pioneering
    Thank you, @lisathomas50. I'll send them an email later. :-)  You take care, too. How are you doing? You said you had the virus. Did you get it very bad? Hope you don't mind me asking.

  • lisathomas50lisathomas50 Member Posts: 3,840 Disability Gamechanger
    @cartha I am still testing positive I have been in bed I couldnt get up I had oxygen aswel I had a nurse looking after  me at home 

    My white blood cells are concerningly low as I have lupus and this is the 3rd time I have had corona virus  I had ti be taken to hospital yesterday for an mri I was still on the group lol I got bored  I got back last night and the nurse put me on a drip at hone as I only needed it overnight 


    I havent got corona virus symptoms now just the after affects but I xant get down stairs I am still poorly I have git the nurse fir another week 

    Being in here has helped keep me going although it has caused me stress aswll 

    I am glad that your going to email them its worth it you can tell them you are on the forum 

    Hope  they can help you 

    Tske  care 
  • carthacartha Member Posts: 1,388 Pioneering
    Good to hear you're on the mend, @lisathomas50. I think with Lupus that your body doesn't produce a good immune response (is that correct?) so your body can't defend you as easily from being reinfected. Hopefully they will find out for sure why some people are affected so much more than others with this virus. There seem to be a number of factors, including amount of vitamin D, blood type, etc. People I know who have been on oxygen have recovered but some take a very long time. Glad you're on the mend. Do you know where you caught it?  I'm worried about hospitals at the moment. Two people I know caught the virus from a hospital. Neither were in Wales. Our local hospital seems to have stopped appointments at the moment. A&E is open because I was taken there in September. I'm off to bed shortly. Seems quiet in here tonight. Take care :-)

  • lisathomas50lisathomas50 Member Posts: 3,840 Disability Gamechanger
    @cartha the first time I was a carer in the community I was on a ventilator poorly for 8 weeks  they told meci could get it again si stayed in but I had a hospital spointnrnt at morrisons hospital and I got it again  this time I got when I went for my eye test after my cataract operation 

    I didnt have a good immune system in first place becsuse of my lupus  thats why I cant have the vavine my body will regret it and fight against it and I would be poorly 

    It will take me a whilst to get better this time  though 
  • Cher_ScopeCher_Scope Posts: 3,347

    Scope community team

    I saw this video yesterday and thought it was perfect for this thread!  Let me know what you think :)

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  • carthacartha Member Posts: 1,388 Pioneering
    The way things are these days I think a birth like that would be all over Youtube in no time!

    I suppose you can be as tall as you like with the right wheelchair

  • lisathomas50lisathomas50 Member Posts: 3,840 Disability Gamechanger
    @cartha did you email scope  hope your feeling a bit better now 
  • carthacartha Member Posts: 1,388 Pioneering
    @cartha did you email scope  hope your feeling a bit better now 
    Hi Lisa, not yet. Head has been playing up lately. How are you doing?
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