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Q&A: Sex Advice for Intersex People?

September 20, 2012
The CSPH

Q. Any sex info/advice for intersex people? I can’t find any positive porn, info, or stories about intersex people’s sex lives anywhere on the internet.

A. Note from the author: This response is partly for the person who asked the question, and partly to be informative to those who might be reading it and do not know much about intersex individuals.

Unfortunately it’s not that common for individuals to be “out” as intersex, and what is considered intersex varies widely even between doctors; what one physician would classify as intersex, another would consider a minor variation of biology and may not even mention it to the patient. Each doctor’s approach to treatment of an intersex individual (if required) is subjective as well. This, in turn, impacts the amount of sex advice, writing, and pornography that’s available.

What is intersexuality?
The term intersex refers to the biological condition of having reproductive and/or sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit the usual definitions of male or female. There are many misconceptions regarding intersex people but intersex anatomy differs from person to person and can include having in-between male and female genital characteristics (e.g., a scrotum shaped like labia, a noticeably large clitoris, etc.) or having male physical traits externally but female anatomy internally. While intersexuality can be identified at birth, sometimes intersex anatomy is only found at puberty, in adulthood (e.g., during infertility testing), after death (when autopsied), or not at all.

Our bodies’ biological/physical sex does not always define our gender or the societal roles we play (i.e. man/woman/other identity). This is the same for intersex individuals and such a nebulous term may or may not be used to define their gender. Some live their entire lives completely unaware of their intersex anatomy; however, others may be “assigned” a gender at birth, determined by the most prominent gender traits, via reconstructive surgery and/or ongoing medical treatments. Some may transition from one gender to another and use the label transsexual or transgender instead of intersex. Some define themselves based on their intersex anatomy while others have no obvious physical traits of their intersex anatomy and instead identify as male, female, queer, trans, femme, butch, or various other labels.

Sex advice for the intersex person
With so many variations, every intersex person’s biology may impact their sex life in different ways, or not at all. A good start are books or sites that provide great general sex information and also address aspects of your unique sexual anatomy:

Though not all intersex people are trans* or identify that way, there may still be valuable information on trans* sites. Anatomy and the impact it may have on your sex life is often discussed in the trans* community, such as this post from the Self Made Men blog.

If you’re an intersex individual and comfortable talking about it, we encourage you to start posting some advice you wish you’d had at the start of your sexual journey. Honest, sex-positive information for everyone can only become widespread if all communities are heard and not just “talked about” by professionals and “experts.”

Note: if you have a medical condition associated with your intersex diagnosis, the Accord Alliance Advocacy and Support Groups list can help you find a support group with more specialized information for that condition.

Many of the sites listed encourage new questions, so drop them a line if you can’t find what you’re looking for. If you have a very specific question, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your doctor or find a sex positive practitioner here.

Intersex positive art and writing
Though they don’t focus specifically on sex, there are some amazing writers and artists talking about their intersex life and experiences:

Other recognized “out” intersex individuals include Cheryl Chase (intersex activist), Alec Butler (playwright and filmmaker), Stanisława Walasiewicz (Olympic athlete), Caroline Cossey (model), Eden Atwood (jazz singer), Eva Robin’s (actress), Sarah Gronert (professional tennis player) and many more.

Porn and intersexuality
Finding positive porn about any orientation, gender, race, or body type can be difficult as there is no shortage of bad porn. On top of that, pornography fetishizes deviations from the “norm”; whether it’s hair color, orientation, or anatomical differences. Among the most popular fetishes are adult films that showcase “Trannies, Shemales, and Hermaphrodites.” Those are all terms that should NOT be used to refer to intersex or trans* people as it is a maligned, incomplete, and offensive view of their sexuality. In fact, those films usually feature performers with penises and augmented breasts, some of whom may identify as trans*, rather than biologically intersex individuals. Furthermore, it’s important to note that the aforementioned terms are also incredibly offensive to the trans* community. (Still, here at the CSPH we encourage self-definition and if someone uses those terms to refer to themselves, we support their autonomy.)

A quick search for “intersex porn” brings up very few results, but by looking at sites and studios that support a diverse view of sexuality and gender, we find more options:

Starting with sex and body positive pornography will lower your chances of coming across any triggers and maintain a more respectful view of intersexuality. If you’re still having trouble finding films that suit your erotic tastes, try altering the way you search. Start off with a genre of film (e.g. lesbian, oral sex, BDSM, etc.) and then include terms like “intersex” or “trans” to help you find more options.

Additional resources
Keep an eye out for Intersex Awareness Week events near you!

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