By guest BlogBabe Carrie Kaufman!
In the 8 years since my injury, I’ve dated lots of people and been intimate. I’m not going to pretend like it didn’t take time for me to feel comfortable with my body. I’m also not going to pretend that there aren’t still times when I feel ashamed or insecure about my body, but that’s more about a patriarchal, heteronormative, non-crippled society’s pressure, than it is about something wrong me. I had to relearn confidence and assertiveness — get my game back, if you will. I went through many different modes of healing and discovery of my body and myself.
My spinal cord injury is the result of a drunken, skinny dipping, diving mishap that happened eight years ago, when I was 20 and right in the middle of all things college. As happens with the majority of us, my life has become completely normal, and the problems and barriers I face now are more related to other peoples’ stereotypes and attitudes, and less related to fact that I have fewer physical abilities now than I did for the first part of my life.
But back to being 20. Sex and dating were pretty important to my life, and I was doing a lot of figuring both of those things out. After my injury, I was sent the message by my rehab professionals, my friends, family members, & society at large that these things would no longer be a big part of my life; that I shouldn’t waste time thinking about finding love, having sex, or even talking about it. This message was delivered passively, in the way that nobody dared bring up the subject, but also aggressively, when those closest to me would say things like “I hope she’s already had sex!” or “Oh my gosh, you still get hit on?!” Over the course of five months of inpatient rehab, no doctor or nurse or therapist ever talked to me about sex. Granted, I may not have wanted to talk about it with them, but I would’ve liked to have had the option, or the door opened, at least. And the fact that my loved ones believed that now, disabled, my sexuality would cease to exist, dealt blows to my self esteem.
I’ve found that my relationships are so much more meaningful, because they require such a depth of intimacy, both on the physical and emotional levels. I’ve had relationships with other people with disabilities, and with able-bodied people. I’ve had to explore different ways of giving and getting pleasure, including many creative body parts, positions, devices, and modes, and I’ve learned not to take any of it for granted.
There’s always the first awkward conversations about how much I can feel (all of it) my catheter (I have one), and about how I can make the first symbolic move, but will inevitably need to be lifted right out of my chair, and that’s hot. As a result of having to lay these things out early on and be so disclosing about myself and my body, I get so much more out of my relationships — also both physically and emotionally.
I’m happy to be in a place where I can love my body, and let other people love it too. I’m a little broken, and kinda different; my body frustrates me in a lot of ways since my injury. It is also still an incredible source of pleasure, and who am I to deny myself that.