A disability or chronic condition, whether it results in muscle weakness, pain, paralysis, or loss of sensation doesn’t necessarily have to cripple your sex life. Some impairments will directly affect your sexual functioning in a negative way, but fortunately there are treatments available. Others will indirectly affect your sexual life by throwing a monkey wrench into your usual sexual routine or messing with your head. Many will do both. Communication, creativity, and adaptive equipment are all key ingredients in creating accessible sex.
Gerrad and Laurie (not real names but real people) developed an online relationship over a two-year period. Casual turned intimate, and intimate hot. After 24 months of mounting passion, they decided it was time to cross the digital divide and meet flesh-to-flesh. Their plan was to consummate their relationship in person.
After great anticipation, their dream of being together in the biblical sense was thwarted by the realities of their disabilities. Gerrad has a neuromuscular disease resulting in overall physical weakness. Laurie has quadriplegia. While she had enough biceps strength to help Gerrad get on top--the only position he can thrust from--they weren't able to position their body parts for intercourse.
Gerrad and Laurie came to me for advice. They were both aware that good sex and strong intimacy can happen in the absence of vaginal intercourse, and had explored other options for sexual expression. Recognizing that simple touch and closeness satisfies many people, they were still intent on having intercourse. After brainstorming about different positions and assistive devices, we talked about asking a personal care assistant (PCA) to help.
U.S. Marine Corporal William Berger talks about how his TBI soured the relationship with his girl friend. He describes how he was childish, irritable, withdrawn and unable to be intimate. His mood swings and reactions to medications became so extreme that she finally called it quits.
Chief Warrant Officer Richard Gutteridge describes how, during his struggle with severe PTSD after two deployments to Iraq, he became withdrawn from his wife and two sons,. His dependence on alcohol combined with depression and insomnia drive him to the brink of suicide. His wife appears with his packed suitcase when he leaves the Army base to check himself in to the psychiatric ward at Landstule Medical Center in Germany.
Many of us were taught before we became disabled or in adolescence that sex entails excitement that grows more and more intense until it results in a climax. The goal is usually seen as orgasm and the release of pent-up sexual tension. We learned about sex in a culture that treats it as sinful and unspeakable, yet uses a medical model to describe it. According to the medical model of sex and orgasm, a buildup of muscular tension leads to a peak, followed by a release - ejaculation for men and contractions of the muscles surrounding the vagina for women. Since what science can measure is primarily physical in nature, orgasm is seen basically seen as an autonomic reflex, a mere spasm of genital contractions. The medical model doesn’t work for all of us. When our disabilities are accompanied by loss of genital sensation, limited movement or inability to ejaculate or have genital contractions, we may feel like giving up. The sexual pleasure we learned about or once knew has become inaccessible. Tantric sex - based on the esoteric teachings of several eastern religions - provides an alternative way to experience sexual pleasure and bring new meaning to a loving relationship. Tantric orgasm is counterintuitive to the medical model. In Tantra, excitement is just the beginning rather than the means to the end. Instead of rushing toward a climax, a Tantric practitioner slows down, remaining in the moment, and travels toward deep relaxation. In the medical model, sexual energy builds, then is lost. In Tantra, energy is not lost but gained. Instead of using a partner for one’s own gratification, Tantric partners provide vital energy to each other.
It may be a little late for Monday morning quarterbacking as the public media hype over Super Bowl XXXVIII has come and gone in about the same time it took Janet Jackson to flash her nipple, barely covered by a silver sunburst nipple attachment. That being said, let’s get right to the point.
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