Sex work and the NDIS: Frequently asked questions

Every adult, with disability or not, has a right to seek consensual sexual expression. People with disability have a right to a sexual life, just like everyone else.

We believe it is entirely natural and reasonable for a person with disability to want to have consensual intimate relationships as an ordinary part of exploring their physical, social and emotional needs for sexual intimacy and sexual expression.

Why do some people with disability want to use sex work services?

Historically people with disability have been subjected to societal beliefs that we are either asexual or hypersexual, while constantly being denied full autonomy over our own bodies.  Many people with disability also experience overwhelming stigma and discrimination when seeking to form intimate relationships with others. It is important that sexual services are recognised as a legitimate service for people with disability where they are currently unable to enjoy intimacy, sexual pleasure and release with another person, or to sexually express themselves in any other way. 

Is it only men with disability who want to use sex work services?

No! Many people with disability – of all genders, as well as couples, access sex workers to facilitate their sexual intimacy and expression. People with disability also have as many diverse sexualities and gender identities as non-disabled people, identifying across the LGBTIQA+ spectrum.

Why should the NDIS fund people with disability to pay for sex work services?

People with disability need to be able to exercise the same choices to sexual expression and sexual release that people without disability already have. The NDIS facilitates many different kinds of support for people with disability to be able to live an ordinary life, and sexual expression is part of that life.

People without disability have many different opportunities in society to satisfy their sexual desires and needs, either through masturbation or through finding sexual partners. Some people with disability do not enjoy the same degree of opportunities to either masturbate or to find a sexual partner.

For some people, paying for sexual services may fulfil short term goals about learning more about sexual enjoyment, their bodies and others, how to explicitly give and gain consent, or increase their confidence and skills in being able to start dating. It may be the case that, in some situations, access to sex workers will provide the only way to achieve this equality for the majority of their lives.

People’s basic daily care – bathing, eating, dressing and toileting – are top priorities. However, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities clearly states that governments have an obligation to ensure that people with disability can enjoy life, including in the areas of sexuality and relationships to the same extent as their non-disabled peers.

Is this really ‘reasonable and necessary’?

The NDIS will only fund services and supports that are ‘reasonable and necessary’. We believe that facilitating access to sexual intimacy and expression is absolutely reasonable and necessary. For some people with disability, this is the only way they have experienced a sexual life, while others utilise sexual services to learn more about themselves, their bodies and increase their social skills before finding a sexual partner in the community. It is reasonable for any adult to seek to experience sexual pleasure, which can contribute to building confidence in relationships. Adult people with disability need to be treated as adults, with adult needs and desires, just like non-disabled adults.

Having access to sex work services can assist with building self-esteem and give people with disability a greater degree of autonomy in being able to fulfil their desires independently.

What kind of sex work services should be funded?

We believe that will be up to the individual person with disability depending on their goals, their preferences and their needs. The person with disability must be able to give informed consent and be of legal age according to their state or territory sexual consent laws.

Call for the NDIS to develop a Sexuality Policy

Touching Base and the Disabled Person’s Organisations Australia (DPOA) put out a Joint Position Statement: A call for a rights-based framework for sexuality in the NDIS.

A sexuality policy should be positively framed and place sex, sexuality and relationships within the context of disability supports. The policy should include a broad range of goals an NDIS participant may seek to include in their NDIS plan.