SCI & Sex: How to Explain Your Body to a New Partner
Many people still want an active sex life after a spinal cord injury. While, yes it’s true that some people are no longer interested in “normal sex” after an injury, many still are. And for those who do engage, one of the biggest challenges can be explaining your body to a new partner. It’s a vulnerable act that cannot be avoided.
There are so many things taught in rehab. Unfortunately “how to explain” isn’t as commonly taught anymore. Typically, this would be explained in a peer mentor group, one-on-one with an occupational therapist, or even a registered nurse. When this doesn't happen, you have to go at it alone.
It doesn't have to be a big deal. There are ways to explain what needs to be said without you or your partner freaking out. More importantly, there are things you should remind yourself so that this act doesn't scare you as much. Read on to see how it can be done.
While easier said than done, it's amazing how easy it is to explain possibly embarrassing things when deep down you’re confident. To learn how to be confident after a spinal cord injury, try repeating a confidence-boosting mantra the like, “I survived this injury and I'm still here. I am worth it.” However your brain best responds, write and then repeat that particular mantra daily and hopefully, over time, you will begin to truly believe it deep down. This is just one way to boost your confidence.
Another thing that can work is hiring a photographer to get professional sensual photographs taken of you. Having the opportunity to see your body in a beautiful way in spite of paralysis can prove to you that you are still hot even after an injury. Many people need this. Just recognize that you may be one of these people, and start looking for a photographer. Note: There are likely many trustworthy photographers around if you ask people you know.
Tell Them Everything Early
When you meet a new partner, let them know anything about your body early on, and way before having sex. Maybe you have a scar or you don't like your butt. Maybe you have a drainage bag. Whatever it may be, you have to have “the talk” with them early to quell nerves. You don't want to unload all of this on a first date of course, but it’s easier to say it earlier than to wait. Just like a band-aid, it's always better to pull it off quickly and in this case, get it over with early.
Often we will think their response will be worse than in reality, and this can be due to anxieties related to your injury. Try to remind yourself that if they seriously like you, it is highly unlikely anything you tell them about your body will scare them off.
Explain in Scenarios
When you explain how you have sex to a new partner, include how you still find pleasure. An easy way to explain everything is in scenarios versus just laying it all out there like it’s in a textbook. This is a much easier way to explain and to retain information. For example, you can talk about one of the best times you’ve had sex post-injury, and why it was so great. That story itself can teach a lot.
Use YouTube Videos
One of the best ways to explain technical things is to use video, and you can find many great videos on spinal cord injuries and sex on YouTube. This is a great thing for the spinal cord injury community. You can search and find videos showing almost anything, from how to position a female quadriplegic to how a man with paralysis can orgasm. It is real advice directly from people with paralysis and it can educate a new partner unlike anything else. Make sure to send them links to good websites as well. There are lots of amazing videos and information on sites like the renowned SCI rehab facility in Georgia, the Shepherd Center.
While it’s scary, please don't let the fear of having the talk with a new partner scare you off from having sex entirely. It is not as bad as it sounds when you do, if the partner is the right choice, they won’t care a lick about anything different about you anyways.
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Spinal Cord Team