From the Horse's Mouth

As a columnist writing for a magazine aimed at persons living with disability, I have been reminded by 'friends in chairs' that as an able bodied person I will never truly understand what it is to live with a spinal cord injury (SCI). Therefore, I often wonder to what extent my articles are helpful to persons living with a disability. I recently received a letter from a reader and I wanted to share it with you.

Hi Willem, thanks for a very informative column in the Rolling Inspiration magazine. I read your article ‘Too old to Rock ‘n Roll on pg. 50 of the Jan/Feb issue with great interest. I'm a 50 year old paraplegic (T5 complete, nipple line paralysis 15 years ago) and my wife and I still have a very active and fulfilling sex life. As you state in your article, the brain is the most important sex organ in the body. Very deeply seated in any man is the need to feel 'worthy' of being called a man. This entails far more than just sexual performance, it also encompasses things like protecting and providing for your family, being a proud parent and taking the responsibility of raising children, while being actively involved in daily life and not being a burden to anyone in the family. Having a fulfilling sex life ranks right up there too....

It is important to note that one can also use your brain to work out ways that can enable you to have sex, and then in various positions too. Also keep in mind that not all meals need to be feasts, sometimes it's good to just have a snack. I find penetrating /copulative sex very rewarding (even though we have to use medication to ensure a sustained erection), but a quick spell of oral and/or other stimulation goes a long way to preparing for the feasts, and it keeps things from getting mundane and boring routine - a risk in any relationship! One has to keep in mind that a SCI person has lost most of the ability to receive (sensation-wise) but hardly anything of the ability to give. And in a good sex life there is more pleasure in giving than receiving. Think about it. One of the systems that I find very important is Penile Vibratory Stimulation (PVS). I don't know if it's all psychological, or if the release of endorphins and 'feel good' hormones adds on, but there is very few things beating the ‘afterglow’ feeling after having had an 'orgasm' (probably just in the mind) and ejaculation.

The PVS also only brings about the ejaculation, but then it is completed by hand, oral or copulative means. Fantastic! Your article states that the newly SCI person needs to make a decision whether to continue a sexual life or not. I don't feel any new SCI person (or couple) is in the right frame of mind to make that decision so soon after the traumatic event. At that point they've lost so much already and the adaptations to ‘disabled’ life is so daunting , that it would be easy to say ‘let’s just forget about it.’ While I can understand it, I think it would be very sad. It would be much more valuable to teach them to take a ‘vacation’ and that a fulfilling, active sex life should be pursued in due time. Any new SCI couple will need to stand together to really get through a complete adaptation to the disability and nothing makes two people more in tune as being intimate. Nothing builds trust and companionship like exposing your vulnerability to your partner. Let’s never underestimate the healing power of good sex! I take note of the writer's advice to invite a new SCI couple to perhaps take some time out after rehabilitation before considering whether to resume their sexual relationship. I often have couples that contact me with sexual problems or concerns only several months after rehabilitation.

Thank you Andre for your open and honest letter.