Question:

My boyfriend and I were in a car accident during December last year. I got a T8 back injury and I have to use a wheelchair now. As a result, my boyfriend left me last week. He says sex is not the same anymore and in his culture it is not good for a man to have a wife who is in a wheelchair. He is also scared he is going to hurt my back again if we have sex. What must I do to get a boyfriend again? They all want sex.

Answer:

My honest opinion is that you are better off to be rid of this boyfriend. The objections he raised are unfound and reflect on his own ignorance and not you.

Unfortunately, it is quite a common occurrence and I have many case studies to confirm the fact that women are often rejected by their partners when they experience spinal cord injuries or become otherwise disabled. The answer to your problem is to become aware of the extent that your disability affects your sexuality, but also to adjust your attitude towards men and life in general from being “the victim” to “the survivor”.

As far as your partner as well as your enjoyment of your sexuality is concerned, the following is important. Sometimes sensation is lost in the genital area. As a result, stimulation in this area is not felt or enjoyed and lubrication of the vulva and vagina does not occur. This can be remedied by applying a water based lubricant to the area affected. Even though sensation in this area is decreased or lost you may still experience an orgasm like before, as recent research has proved that the function of the autonomic nervous system is relayed by the vagus nerve. This nerve functions despite spinal cord injury. It also increases arousal levels at the base of the cervix which is at the furthest end of the vagina. This area can be stimulated with a vibrator to produce very pleasurable orgasms.

It is important to remember that with spinal cord injury, the area where sensation remains often becomes extremely sensitive for stimulation.

This can sometimes include the area where surgical scarring has taken place, or at the line where normal sensation continues. I have recently received a report back from a patient I saw in rehab some five years ago and she has given me permission to quote from her letter in this article. I have translated the original text for purposes of this article.

“I got married with the angel of my heart in December. Although I have no sensation in my lower body, the sensation in my upper body has more than trebled. My husband and I spent many hours to find all the pleasure openings on my upper torso and we really have a fulfilling sex life. My neck and ears are incredibly sensitive as well as my hairline. When he touches my shoulders and back I get goose bumps and it is even better when he touches my breasts and nipples. I find the same thrill when he caresses the scar on my back where my back operation was done and on the line where the feeling comes back. I actually only want to say that any paraplegic can have a fulfilling sex life.”

As far as your ex-boyfriend not experiencing sex as being the same any more, the only thing really noticeable would be the restricted mobility of your legs. This can be addressed by experimenting with new positions for intercourse that can be an exciting journey of discovery instead of a problem.

Some positions you can try are:

  • Female on back, male on top with pillows under the woman’s legs for support.
  • Partners on their sides facing each other.
  • Partners on their sides, male entering from rear.
  • Female on back, holding legs up and back, male on top.
  • Female on top, pulling with arms and hands around partners neck and shoulders.
  • Female on stomach, partner entering from behind
  • Female on male’s lap, using a rocking motion

If your partner is scared that they can worsen your injury, it is good to know that in most spinal fusion cases, the healing process actually makes the back stronger where the fusion has taken place. It is more important rather, to focus on preventing injury to your vaginal area by using lubricants and to exercise caution with the use of sex toys, if you do not have vaginal sensation.

I am aware of gender expectations and their role in some cultures, but there are always exceptions to the rule. I am sure that in your culture there is also a man who is prepared to accept you as a unique individual, who will respect you for the person you are and not to trip over your wheelchair in the process! Another point to remember is that your injury was not self inflicted and happened out of your personal control. It left you with a spinal cord injury but for the rest you are still the same unique individual you were before and with a little adaptation you can still do most of the activities you did before. You therefore, do not have to feel inferior or sub standard to anyone else.

However, it does not help me telling you this, you need to believe it yourself! So take a good look in the mirror and repeat these words: “I am woman and I am invincible!”

When you do find that special man please write again and let me know how you are doing.

ri-dot