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. 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.
My honest opinion is that you are well to be rid of this boyfriend. The objections he raises are unfounded and reflect on his own ignorance and not on you.
It is unfortunately quite a common occurrence and I have many case studies to confirm the fact that women are often rejected by their partners when they become spinal cord injured or otherwise disabled.
The answer to your problem is to become aware to what extent your disability affects your sexuality and, secondly, to adjust your attitude towards men and life in general from ‘victim’ to ‘survivor’. Hopefully the information provided here will help you to become empowered and proud to be a woman again.
You do not mention your age or if you have had children already. If you were able to conceive before, you will still be able to now. Spinal cord injury does not physiologically interfere with a woman’s ability to conceive.
As for your own (and your partner’s) enjoyment of your sexuality the following is important:
When sensation is lost in the genital area stimulation in this area may not be felt or enjoyed and lubrication of the vulva and vagina may not occur. This can be remedied by applying a water based lubricant. Despite decreased or lost sensation in this area you may still experience an orgasm like before. 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 os 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 to stimulation. This sometimes includes the area where surgical scarring has taken place or at the line where normal sensation continues.
I recently received a report back from a patient I saw in rehab some 5 years ago and she has given me permission to quote from her letter for this article. “I got married with the angel of my heart in December. ...what I experience with my husband is that when one door closes another opens... 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 finding all the pleasure points 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. THAT drives me crazy. I just want to say that any paraplegic can have a fulfilling sex life.”
As far as your ex-boyfriend saying sex is not the same any more, the only thing really noticeable would be the restricted mobility of your legs and this can be addressed by experimenting with new and different positions that can be an exciting journey of discovery rather than a problem. Some positions you can try are:
• Female on back, male on top with pillows under the woman’s legs for support.
• Both on their sides facing each other.
• Both on their sides, male behind.
• 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 on top.
• Female on male’s lap, using a rocking motion
It is also important to bear in mind that, if you do not have vaginal sensation, you need to take care to prevent injury by using lubricants and to exercise caution with the use of sex toys.
If your partner is scared that they may worsen your injury it is good to know that, in most cases, when a spinal fusion has healed, it actually makes the back stronger where the fusion has taken place.
I am aware of role and gender expectations in some cultures but there are always exceptions to the rule and I am sure that in your culture there is also a man who is prepared to accept you as a unique individual and to 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 beyond 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.
It does not help me telling you this, you need to believe it yourself, so take a good look in the mirror and repeat the words of the songwriter: “I Am Woman, I Am Invincible!”When you do find that special man please write again and let me know how you are doing.
ps: Dankie “Geel kanarie” dat jy toegelaat het dat ek jou mag aanhaal in hierdie artikel!!
Email your sexuality questions to Willem at email@example.com