Sex is often a curious topic of conversation for those that meet someone who has a spinal cord injury. There are many misconceptions about sex and spinal cord injuries. VICE-New Zealand combats these misconceptions by sharing three different perspectives of people living with spinal cord injuries.
“I felt like I needed cue cards, like, ‘Hello, my name is Nadia and I have this and this might happen, it’s okay if my leg spasms.'”
Nadia was involved in a car accident at the age of twenty-two. Before her accident, Nadia would describe sexual experiences as fun, exciting, and normal. Post-injury, Nadia finds herself not afraid of sex, but afraid of having to explain the details of paralysis. She gives the example of explaining why her legs might spasm or why she has a sub-pubic catheter.
Nadia says she is her own worst enemy because she is always putting up barriers to prevent the possibility of a relationship because she is afraid of feeling like a burden. She feels the need to tell her partners she is a “little different to sleep with than a normal person.” Her partner's reactions have surprised her as she says most of them respond in a positive way.
“Everyone has just been like ‘Yeah, it’s alright’ and I’m like ‘Okay cool, this is awkward.’”
Cody was injured at the age of fifteen in an accident while playing rugby. He was paralyzed from the chest down. Cody admits that during his late teens he was treated differently, especially by girls who compared him to his friends.
“People are quite funny. They just assume [that because] you’re in a wheelchair you can’t do anything.”
Cody realized soon after his injury that his sexual experiences may be a little different than they were prior to his injury. The doctors explained everything to him in ‘medical terms’, but as Cody states “you won’t know until you try.”
“That’s one of the nerve-wracking things, that’s not the same as what it used to be and the first time is always a bit weird, but, you know, it comes with the territory.”
After his injury, Cody says sex no longer was a priority. It was important for him to meet the right girl and not rush into anything. Cody eventually met his girlfriend Jess. When the time was right and he was ready for sex Cody was not worried about too much. He says, “If you have to go through the processes, take a Viagra or whatever, it’s all good… You know, life throws you curveballs and you've just got to get on with it. For me, I just try to have fun and make the most of the opportunities.”
Claire was injured in 1995. In her twenties, Claire had a different perspective on sex than she does now at the age of forty. Twenty-year-old Claire thought of sex as all about having fun and experimenting.
“For me it was like, I’m doing them more of a favor in a way. I rephrased it in my head so it wasn’t like ‘I have these problems they’re helping me with’, it was ‘I’m wonderful for helping them out.’ That was the only way I could really deal with it back then,” she says.
Sex for people with spinal cord injuries can be more about pushing boundaries and thinking outside of the box rather than penetration. VICE writes, “The nature of the injury results in a disconnection between genitals and the brain, so even though someone may be turned on, it may not show physically. This means patience and understanding, but also exploring other options and methods of stimulation.”
Claire states there should be more discussion on the brain because it is a “real sexual organ if people knew what to do and how to use it.”
Share this post with someone who is newly injured!