A woman with a disability gets real about dating and sex. She's funny and honest.

This article originally appeared on 07.22.15



"So just recently I went out on a Match.com date, and it was fantastic," begins Dr. Danielle Sheypuk in her TEDx Talk.

If you've ever been on a bunch of Match.com dates, that opening line might make you do a double take. How does one get so lucky?!


Not Dr. Sheypuck's actual date. Photo by Thinkstock.

But don't get too jealous. Things quickly went downhill two dates later, as most Match.com dates ultimately do. This time, however, the reason may not be something that you've ever experienced. Intrigued? I was too. So here's the story.

Dr. Sheypuck is a pretty amazing woman.

Gorgeous! Photo from Dr. Sheypuk's Instagram account, used with permission.

She's a licensed clinical psychologist, an advocate, and a model — among other things. She's also been confined to a wheelchair since childhood. And that last fact is what did her recent date in.

On their third date over a romantic Italian dinner, Sheypuk noticed that he was sitting farther away from her than usual. And then, out of nowhere, he began to ask the following questions:

"I've been thinking, how are you gonna be a mother? How are you gonna do the duties that's gonna be required of you? And even as wife — how ... I'm not sure how this is gonna work."

Used to this line of inquiry, she had the perfect quippy reply: "Well that's simple: I'm just gonna hire someone like every other New Yorker."

I mean, what's not to get?! GIF from "Scrubs."

But despite her witty answer, he'd already made up his mind. She never heard from him again.

"I tried to convince myself that this was like any other relationship, but deep down I knew the reality. Who wants to date someone in a wheelchair?"

Dr. Sheypuk knows that that single question is evidence of a really serious problem —not just on the dating scene, but in society in general.

Society has factored out an entire group of potential romantic partners: people with disabilities.

Photo courtesy of Danielle Sheypuk.

In her words:

"We are completely left out of the dating picture. Society, media included, seems to ignore the fact that we have the same emotional needs and desires as everyone else. Is this injustice born out of the concept of the poster child and his or her duty to induce pity to raise money?

Or maybe it's a conclusion drawn form mainstream porn where we have actors performing, like, gymnastic stunts with the stamina that none of us have of bucking broncos and jackrabbits."

Um, yes. So much yes. She continues:

"The silent message: The more in shape your body, the better the sex. The unspoken conclusion: If you have a disability, you are too sick to have sex.

The silent message: The more in shape your body, the better the sex. The unspoken conclusion: If you have a disability, you are too sick to have sex.

"Now let's look at the continuum in our society where sexual is measured. On the one hand, we have humans that are the ultimate sex appeal object. So on that end, we have Victoria Secret models, Playboy centerfolds, people like that.

On the complete opposite end, we have people with physical disabilities. And it seems like the more we deviate from this ultimate sex icon, the more desexualized we become, the more taboo the topic, and the more damaging the consequences.

Now, for most people there are quick fixes, right? We have Hair Club for Men, Botox, Spanx, butt implants. But for people with disabilities, there are no quick fixes. There is no magic pill."

"And we are hit hard."

Watch the rest of Dr. Sheypuk's talk to hear her important insights about what dating and relationships are like when a person has a disability — and how much of society is limiting itself.

She talks about a guy on Tinder who asked her if she was capable of having sex (her answer is funny), why people with disabilities can have sexual experiences that are even better than those of able-bodied folks, and more.

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Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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