It was supposed to be a nice little story about sexuality. More specifically, a story about little people and their sexuality and what, if anything, was different about it. And it was amid researching the topic that I stumbled onto the webpage of sexuality educator Marylou Naccarato.
We connected and discussed ideas and laughed and grew increasingly comfortable peppering the F-bomb into professional conversation. I read her pamphlets and her thoughtful, engaging posts at DodsonandRoss.com. I spoke at length with some of the people who have sought her counsel. And I watched charming WEtv vignettes about her business, her personal life with partner, Michael, and – always ever-present – her size.
You see, that was the thing. The more I got to know this vivacious 51-year-old mom, the more I researched her work, the more I heard from the people whose lives she helped empower sensually and sexually, the more often she left me hilarious, voicemails about the invention we came to call her “fuck table,” the more I realized that Naccarato (a statuesque 3’ 11” with a lion’s mane of hair and a toothy smile to match) was in fact so big, that she was actually my story.
Marylou’s Pied Piper journey leading people down a path toward happier sex lives began with the ancient teachings of the Kama Sutra — except that instead of reading it by candlelight on a pile of pillows in a silky Bedouin-style tent, she was home, in bed, watching a Discovery Health program.
“The narrator began to describe a position: the man was standing up, penetrating the woman as she lay on the edge of the bed,” she remembers. “What got my attention was that he explained that as opposed to missionary, this way, the man wouldn’t have to put as much pressure on his lower back.”
It got the wheels turning. What other positions might put less stress on different areas of the body, she wondered, particularly if (as she did) you have medical issues? And so, curiosity getting the better of her, she decided to ask friends in the LP community what they did in their own bedrooms to accommodate.
“I had to make modifications myself due to my size – and at that time was married to an average-sized man who had back problems … we would typically use the side position because straddling was hard for me (Happily, a later hip replacement surgery rendered this a ‘non-issue’).”
What she found was that everyone was struggling in their own way.
“And worse,” she adds, “They were embarrassed. Their sex lives were going down the tubes, but they pretended everything was okay.” Her most important discovery? “They loved the idea that they could talk to someone, to try and see if they could improve things.”
One conversation led to the next and before long, Naccarato was researching and writing what became a manual of valuable information with recommended positions, toys and products. “There’s not a lot out there for disability, and there’s almost nothing for little people.” And what is there, she says, doesn’t effectively cover the bases.
“It’s not as graphic as my information,” she laughs. “I like to cut to the chase and get down and dirty.” Initially, that was precisely the concern of Little People of America (LPA), the national nonprofit that provides support and information to people of short stature and their families.
Little People, Big Taboos
I am five feet tall. An inability to reach things with ease is something with which I can wholly empathize. Short people endure this – and the jokes and the songs (thanks ever so much, Randy Newman) and the ill-fitting clothing – with aplomb and dignity and quality tailoring for the most part. But for little people, people with dwarfism (of which there are more than 200 different types), who often have shorter limbs; mobility issues can be far more challenging. Some, in fact, cannot reach their genitals.
Forgetting for the moment any difficulties that might arise in the arena of partner-to-partner sexual activity, the inability to effectively masturbate could almost certainly send massive, ominous storm clouds into an otherwise sunny disposition. To her credit, Naccarato brought an arsenal of figurative umbrellas – with extra-long, flexible, vibrating handles – to her first LPA convention workshop eight years ago.
With the organization’s officers watching hawk-like from the rear, she entertained and educated a packed room, covering positions and toys, answering questions, pulling attendees out of their collective shells, and winning over the organizers of a historically conservative, family association. It was a smash hit. She even sells the products she recommends at the LPA’s related tradeshow.
Marylou’s toy selection is not comprised of goodies designed with disability in mind. “They’re simply items that really lend themselves to people with different kinds of mobility issues,” she says. Take the Top Dog, for example – a stamina-training and hands-free pleasure tool designed for Fleshlight by Liberator. Essentially a cushioned “mount” for the popular Fleshlight toy, Top Dog affords men added reach and allows for an assortment of self-pleasure options. “A person can use the cushion and penetrate the Fleshlight without having to hold onto it,” she explains, “but it also gives guys with shorter arms the ability to use the sleeve in a more ‘traditional’ sense. I brought it to a contingent of men who were looking for something like this.” Needless to say, they were exceedingly grateful.
Liberator Top Dog for use with Fleshlight
Naccarato does the research for her clients, putting items together in one inventory that makes finding the right one easier. In essence, she is a vibrator aggregator.
“Marylou,” says the venerable Betty Dodson – sex educator, author, artist and undeniable pioneer in the realm of sexual liberation – “is an inspiration for everyone.” She and business partner Carlin Ross met Naccarato several years ago at the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists conference (AASECT). “We were sitting in the bar of the host hotel and Marylou came zooming up on her hot-pink scooter and introduced herself. What a dynamic woman! Ever since then, Carlin talks about getting one for me so she can hook a ride on the back as we rush around airports.”
Dodson, now in her 80s, says she often gets into a funk about aging. “I get critical of my body and how I look and here is a woman with a size disability who puts me to shame. Her upbeat attitude is an inspiration to the so-called able-bodied American woman who constantly criticizes her body.” That said, Dodson admits that getting older does have its realities: aches, pains, the gradual loss of mobility – things most people don’t think about until it happens to them.
While Naccarato’s practice started with little people – “My people!” as she calls them – it has since expanded into wider circles: seniors groups, women over 50 and others. “One thing lead to the next and I began to realize that because of the advent of better medical care and longer life spans, there are an increasing number of people with factors that lead to limitations — diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, medications that are associated with their treatment — that make them disabled.”
“For a big portion of my sixties I was suffering from hip-joint problems that curtailed my mobility,” notes Dodson. “Until that time, I took my good health for granted – which is when I really appreciated having sex in a swing that hung from the ceiling.” After years of pain, Dodson had hip-replacement surgery. “That’s when I became a born-again Hedonist!”
“If you’re overweight, if you’re recovering from surgery, if you’ve had an accident or an injury, you might be disabled in some way,” notes Naccarato. “The Center for Disease Control’s own statistics cite that 22 percent of Americans have some kind of disability.” Generally speaking, however, she largely rejects that particular D-word.
“We’re all differently-abled,” she explains. “And being different isn’t necessarily a bad thing when it comes to sensuality and intimacy. I like being different. I just have to do things differently. It’s fun!”
Don't miss part 2 of Marylou's story tomorrow, including her own sex-toy guide for the differently-abled.