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You Can Rediscover Sex After a SCI (and Enjoy It in a Different Way)

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One of the biggest misconceptions about life with a spinal cord injury seems nightmarish to most – you can’t have sex anymore or if you do, you're not getting anything out of it. But if you ask people who've been living with a spinal cord injury for years, you'll soon find out that enjoying sex with lessened sensation is definitely more than possible.

It may be a forced perspective, but when you're stuck in a paralyzed body, this is an absolute necessary thing to do. We are all sexual beings and the desire to be with someone is within us all. And the good news: There are thousands of people with paralysis who’ve figured out how to rediscover sexual pleasure, and we’ve asked them to share with us how below.

Rafe – C5/6 Quadriplegic

Considered one of the leading experts in SCI sexual satisfaction is Rafe Eric Biggs, a 47 year old C5/6 quadriplegic. He’s also the founder of Sexability, an organization dedicated to helping people with disabilities expand their sexuality. He was very sexually active before his injury and even studied tantric and energetic sex.

After his injury, he had sex again after waiting a year, but it wasn't anything like before. "We didn't have any emotional intimacy. It was just physical and I didn't have any sensation in my [penis], so that was a bit of a disappointment." But he didn’t let that stop him, and he found someone to experiment with.

"I met a woman who I began dating and we explored each others bodies completely. I found that I had a very erotic thumb that gave me pleasure when I used my practices using energetic sex that lead to non-general orgasms" (something he had learned studying tantric sex).

Fortunately, a small amount of feeling did return to his penis. "And learning to masturbate again, once I started getting feeling in back in my [penis], was a huge and pleasant surprise." Rafe also gets a huge amount of satisfaction from giving his partner an orgasm.

If you're worried sex will be too different, he has this to say. "There is way more sex than penetration; especially if you don't have much feeling. Take time to learn what turns you on first, and practice. Think outside the box and learn from your peers. Also, check out sexability.org for resources. I'm available for coaching."

Monique Stamps – C6/7 Quadriplegic

Monique Stamps, a 39 year old C6-7 quadriplegic, waited 7 years before having sex again, but when she finally found a partner she was comfortable with, the experience was beautiful. "It was absolutely delicious,” she says. “Even though I couldn't feel my 'lady parts' the motion of my partner thrusting was amazing. The places he kissed and the way he touched and handled me were a complete turn on."

She is also a big believer in foreplay, which a lot of women with spinal cord injuries, and men as well, seem to enjoy more after their injury. "Lots of foreplay, massages and intimacy is important for a more 'spiritual' connection and it makes it more satisfying. Foreplay eases tension and relaxes me before sex as well, and I feel at one with my partner."

She is also a big believer in regaining confidence by exploring your body in its new state. "Get reacquainted with your sex organs and your body to become secure and confident with you first. Don't be afraid to talk SCI facts with your partner either; it is what it is. Take care of toileting before sex to minimize accidents as well, and the positioning comes naturally. Enjoy!"

Kevin Watson – L1 Incomplete Paraplegic

For Kevin Watson, a 51 year old man with a L1 injury, most of his sexual experience has come post-injury. "For me, what works best is alternative forms of sexual pleasure. Most of which would be labeled as ‘kinky.’ I get a lot of satisfaction in watching my wife/partner being satisfied. For myself, even though I have no feeling in my penis or scrotum, I still feel ‘pain’ in certain areas, which can be erogenous. My nipples are another erogenous zone, as is my armpits."

To enjoy your new sex life, Kevin recommends starting with a new slate. "Do not give up. Do not think you cannot. Forget what you ‘did enjoy’ much like you have to forget ‘how you ambulate.’ You cannot, will not emulate perfectly the same feelings. If you have lost sensation that is just an impossible feat. Believe that you can enjoy a satisfying sex life if you become open minded, and ignore societal labels and ideals.”

Ali Ingersoll – C6 Quadriplegic

After a diving accident caused Ali, a 30 something woman, to become a C6 quadriplegic, she waited five years before becoming sexually active again. "At first it was uncomfortable," but eventually her sex life started to change for the better. "I built a meaningful relationship," Ali says, "and I discovered that kissing on my ears and neck and could bring sexual pleasure. A satisfying partner/emotional connection helps also helps.” Remember she adds, "Pleasure is just a signal from the brain. Be patient with yourself to learn, always love yourself first and be prepared, because embarrassing things will happen."

At the end of the day, it’s up to you to do the research that's necessary to figure out what will bring you the most sexual pleasure. Don't skip this! Once you find out what you still enjoy and what still feels good, you’ll be unstoppable.

What helped you enjoy sex again in the face of paralysis?

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