Considering the Quirky Quad Diaries is a blog on “Sex, Sass, and Spinal Cord Injuries” I thought I would dive into the topic of Sex in intimate detail!
Sex … I grew up in a culture in Europe where sex was a very open topic. I was taught to embrace my sexuality and not be ashamed of it, which so many societies, especially here in the United States, seem to shy away from.
Most sex shops are in the back of parking lots and buildings with no windows. I’m not quite sure why as a culture we are ashamed to go buy a porno film, vibrator or any other sexual toy that one desires. Why are we so quick to judge people on race, sexual desires, sexual preferences, etc.? The human condition perhaps?
This spills over into another topic. SEXUALITY & BEING HANDICAP. From numerous conversations with handicap folks and able-bodied folks over the years I’ve come to gather the impression that many people think just because someone is paralyzed that they are not sexual, cannot feel sex, nor do they enjoy it.
This is a very sensitive topic for most and one I am also intimately familiar with. For almost 5 years after my accident I did not think I would ever find love, have sex again, or find someone who would see beyond my disability. Whether you are overweight, short, tall, skinny, disabled, mentally impaired, or different it can be easy to assume sexuality can go out the door. I did not feel sexual, pretty or desirable as I did before the accident, which took me many years to overcome.
However, this particular blog is not about the emotional roller coaster of dealing with sexuality and being handicap. I want to focus on the physical act of Sex. I am constantly flooded with questions from handicap folks and able-bodied folks alike with respect to what the sex actually feels like for me? How about for most handicap folks?
While I cannot speak for everybody I can say that when you do have a spinal cord injury sex dramatically changes. The sexual nerves are wrapped around the bottom part of the spinal cord called the sacrum. If you sustain a spinal cord injury then your sexual function is impaired in the traditional sense no matter how paralyzed you are; whether from the neck down, chest down, waist down, legs down, etc.
As I was preparing to have sex for the first time I had no idea how it was going to feel like or if I would be able to orgasm.
The first question is what is an Orgasm?
Well, most simply it is some sort of external stimulation to the body, which then relays a signal up to the brain to release certain hormones resulting in a feeling of pleasure. Now, this could be from sexual intercourse, stimulating areas that are super sensitive, like the neck or ears, or simply through an erotic conversation. So, pleasure is a signal from the brain.
Just because most handicap folks cannot experience an orgasm in the traditional sense, pleasure can be experienced in a variety of different ways. Speaking from personal experience, my neck and ears are more sensitive than they have ever been because I have full sensation in them. However, the act of physical intercourse also offers some incredible benefits for me as well as many other quadriplegics I know whom I have spoken with. In my particular case, whenever there is an external stimuli to my body it changes my equilibrium and creates a rise in blood pressure. Ordinarily, this creates quite a lot of pain for me and increases my internal nerve pain, which feels like hot burning pins and needles. Obviously, this is not good and can be dangerous!
With that said, there is a physiological response when having sex, and I can only speak for women in my case, that when my blood pressure rises from sex it creates this tingling sensation in my body, but not in a bad way. Perhaps it is the release of endorphins from the brain knowing that I am having sex with someone I love and care for! I never really experienced an emotional connection with any man in my life before until the relationship I am in now. Sure, I could have an orgasm, but I didn’t really have any attachment to these guys.
While I cannot orgasm in the traditional sense anymore there is something about how the neurons fire together in the brain to form an intense mental emotion when having sex. This feeling manifests itself physically in my body with a “Tingly” sensation all throughout my body that makes me feel like I am on the brink of orgasm, but better because it never ends! This rise in blood pressure turns from a negative association to a positive one. The power of thought & the brain never cease to amaze me!
“A Night To Remember for My Man”
Do I miss a traditional orgasm? Of course I do, but do I also miss not walking? You betcha, but we, as human beings, adapt to our situations for better or worse. Having said that I now enjoy a wonderfully fruitful sex life with an unbelievably caring man who makes me feel special physically and mentally on a daily basis.
I had heard this from fellow quadriplegics when I was first injured, but I simply could not or did not want to believe it would ever happen to me. I became close minded and turned off the concept of the idea for many years, which was probably pretty detrimental to my mental health. When you become closed off to an idea or concept I find that the universe has a strange way of attracting the type of people in your life for the state of mind you are in at that moment. I didn’t believe I would find anybody, therefore I stopped looking, and nobody entered my life romantically.
To the new be quadriplegics out there I would have to say that love, sexual relationships, dating, and marriage will come in your own time. I refer to the famous quote “Life happens as you are busy making other plans.”
So, there you have it … Probably a little bit more information than you were bargaining for before reading this blog, but you were probably curious and just never wanted to ask because sex in this country is such a taboo topic. Not in my world though … I say the more sex the better 🙂