Sex After Spinal Cord Injury


Last month as part of the ReelAbilities Film Festival Chicago BACKBONES hosted Sexy Saturday with a series of films that addressed sexuality and disability in addition to a  panel with two self-advocates and a sex educator. The panel gave rise to many questions and issues. We could actually write a series of blogs to address everything, but instead we will brief you and add some links to resources so you can do your own research!

Sexual Assistants
After a spinal cord injury you may have questions or doubts about your ability to have sex. Your partner may be someone with a disability, someone without a disability…or yourself…in any case, what if you need help?

The film Scarlet Road is about Rachel, an Australian sex worker who specializes in serving clientele with disabilities. Rachel advocates for the freedom of sexual expression and helps people explore, learn and experience sex. The film focuses on a first-time sexual experience so although “first-time” may not be the case with everyone especially those who sustained their spinal cord injury as an adult, the idea is transferable. You may not be feeling sexy in this new body or are scared of the logistics when working around spasms, neurogenic bladder, pain, limited or no sensation below injury level and other factors. The key to successfully redefining sexual identity is experimentation and open communication. It helps you understand your sexual function and response. Whether it is a partner you are in a relationship with, spouse or trusted friend, having someone aid you in creating a safe space where you can explore what your body can do, feel and experience after SCI can really impact your self-confidence and help build positive body image so you can “get back in the sack.”

What if you need the assistance of a personal care attendant with dressing/undressing and/or positioning, etc.? Read this article on Facilitated Sex

Healthcare Professionals
Sexuality is one of the main concerns people have after spinal cord injury yet many healthcare professionals are uncomfortable providing information about sexuality during rehabilitation. Many questions related to sexuality can include function, reproduction, relationships, self-esteem and body image and they should be properly addressed. If your doctor or healthcare worker is not discussing it openly, find a healthcare professional who you can discuss these topics with openly and in a nonjudgemental manner.

If you are a healthcare professional and want more information on how you can be a better practitioner when addressing sexuality check out this clinical guide: Sexuality and Reproductive Health in Adults with Spinal Cord Injury

Benefits of Sex
Aside from the obvious benefits of sex here are a few others

  1. Can lessen chronic pain.
  2. Can reduce spasticity.
  3. Can ease stress and anxiety.
  4. Can improve sleep.

Who doesn’t want all of the above?!?

The Logistical Stuff: Toys/ Equipment/ Positions
Had enough with all this reading and want something more hands on with the actual logistics of sexual activity? Below are some great resources:

A Guide on positioning and sexual devices that could facilitate sexual activity
Pleasure ABLE: A Sexual Device Manual For Persons With Disabilities

Videos on sexual positions, tantra, touch, erectile dysfunction and vibrators
Dr. Mitchell Tepper’s Sex and Paralysis Video Series

Sexuality and Reproductive Health in Adults with Spinal Cord Injury: What You Should Know A Guide for People with Spinal Cord Injury (A little more reading)




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