Coitus Interruptus, Pure Sex and Prurient Interests, No Love#
“If you think paras or quads are safe, I suggest you don’t let your daughters go out with paras or quads. Because they’re not. Did you hear about that para who was sentenced to 20 years for rape?”
Sex for the disabled is a subject that was ignored for decades because of prudishness, because nobody wanted to embarrass the sexually handicapped, not to mention the many health professionals who were therapeutically impotent, because ignorance was thought to be bliss, and because professionals made the unbelievable assumption that reduced physical function indicated reduced sexual need.
Today the pendulum has swung with a vengeance, and the ability to express sex needs has been recognized as one of the cardinal rehabilitative factors. The new SCI may well be bombarded with how-to-do-it books, SAR’s, offers of prosthetic erections, sexual surrogates, discussion groups and one-to-one sexual counseling. The Significant Other now reigns supreme. This onslaught is extremely helpful to some, extremely distasteful to others and is therefore a subject I won’t touch with a pole of any length. The literature is available, and some of it is noted in the bibliography. SAR’s can be located through the Regional SCI Centers. The rest depends on what your rehab center offers, what you want and what you feel you do or don’t need.
In interviewing the people in this book, I did not ask for a lot of sexual candor. Some wanted to talk about sex; others did not. It is possible to pull together a few observations.
Most feel that, after some initial hesitation and experimentation, and sometimes after a difficult adjustment to an altered body image, forming sexual relationships has become as easy or as difficult as it was before. They feel no change in their ability to attract partners or to satisfy and be satisfied.
Virtually all of us feel that sex, not sexuality, has changed. Sex is less of a tumultuous release and more of a prolonged sharing. There are changes in techniques used and partners chosen.
“A woman that’s really good with my ears can just make me do anything for her all night — she’s got me forever. That’s important, and I have to let a woman know that, because a lot of women aren’t into ears. They just aren’t!”
Oral sex assumes a greater role for the obvious reasons of manual and penile dysfunction. Since many AB’s are put off by oral sex in the active sense, and since almost nobody is put off by oral sex in the passive sense, our own position in the home bed or the sexual marketplace is enhanced. He or she who gives generously shall be generously rewarded. In this lifetime!
There is an appreciation of appreciation. You can take joy in your partner getting off, even if you’re not getting off. You can take so much joy that you will get off. Somehow. The operative factor is receiving pleasure from someone else’s pleasure. This leads to a closeness and shared awareness of needs which is often lost in the explosive urgency which usually dominates the AB’d male. And since you’re probably not prone to premature ejaculation, you’re once again a hot item because you can keep going all night. To a SCI’d male who thinks he has lost his sexual power, nothing is more restorative than to witness and share as many orgasms as his partner wants to have. The SCI’d woman’s point of view is best expressed by a woman, and I recommend Sue Bregman’s ISexuality and the SCI’’d Woman*. Here’s more from male to male:
“(There’s a prevalent belief that) if your neurology is such that you do not get an erection physiologically, then you must have an erection prosthetically. I have no objection to this procedure, but I do object to the procedure being offered to newly injured people who have not had an adequate trial at living an integrated life as a para or a quad, who have not learned to like themselves again, who still see themselves as some kind of abomination, who think the big thing in sex is genital activity.”
“Before, I never took the time with a woman. I never really gave to her; I wanted. Now I find that by giving, it gives back one hundred times over. Makin’ love with a woman is priceless.”
Some of us turn to lustless, but not lusterless, affection. Relationships can flourish on other kinds of energy:
“Sex is the most direct form of communication between people. And to feel that that’s thwarted is horrible. But what you realize is that real communication doesn’t depend on just that one gimmick. It’s possible to reach people intimately on all channels, not just one.”
A few of us have become sexually apathetic, and successfully directed those energies elsewhere. This is not failure, for the sublimation of desire is a time honored solution. Perhaps if the physical juices are diluted, then the emotional and intellectual stews thicken.
A very few feel that reduced sensation and function have rendered the sexual experience boring. It’s all give and no take, and their itch seems unscratchable. This is more likely a failure of relationship than of sex, but it feels like a sex problem. The cure is obvious but not necessarily easy — get into someone else’s head and body.
Since even the sexual information explosion of the seventies maintains a profound silence on the subject of disability and homosexuality, I want to state that at least one woman and three men in this book are gay. There are many whose preferences I don’t know. The point is that the disabled population faithfully represents the composition of the AB’d population from which it sprang, so if Kinsey is correct, 10 or 15 percent of us are gay. The only counseling for gays I found was, not surprisingly, in Berkeley. Ask at CIL. If you’re not in Berkeley, just ask. Don’t hang out in emotional drag just because you’re gay and gimped. You’re not alone.
It must be recognized that we’re all different in what we can do, what we need to do and what we need to have done. There is no sacred standard of performance to live up to.
Finally, this is about sex, which is only one of the rewards of relationship. The real story is still, as it always was and will be, people interacting with people. Sex has been pried loose from the totality of relationship, in this case, only because most of us once worried about our ability to attract and perform after our accidents, just as we did when we were teenagers. Some of us are doing both, simultaneously developing a sexual identity and a new body image. These are permissive and experimental times, good times to learn or re-learn about sex. Disabled or not, sex is the easy part of a relationship. Don’t be afraid of it.
Sex is the Sabre Toothed Guppy of SCI.
“So many people never used to think that a person in a wheelchair could have any kind of relationship on a meaningful level, and now people understand. Yeah, Hey, this guy and this girl, they can be good lovers. They can have good relationships.”
Love and Relationship, No Sex#
“You meet in your lifetime, 10,000 women, 500 of whom are remarkable in your own estimation, 100 of whom you can get to know a little bit, and five of whom may be candidates for a long term relationship. When you narrow it down so much, it seems to me that this unique condition doesn’t really move it one way or another.”
It should be obvious by now that paras and quads of both sexes fall in love, have affairs, get married, have homes, raise kids, have lasting relationships and get divorced just like everybody else. There is no reason for loneliness to be the absolute condition of our days.
Why should it? The people in this book tell it the way it is, and I have no reason to embellish. Relationships are the most important part of most lives and relationships are a large part of what this book is about.