Sexuality 101

Overview

This chapter is an introduction to some of the most common questions that are asked about sex and sexuality following spinal cord injury. It will discuss some common beliefs and myths, as well as some tips for getting you started.

 

FUN FACT

Fun Fact: Sexual function is one of the top three priorities for recovery after SCI.

What is it?

Sex, sexuality, & sexual health are all common words about a very big topic.

Simply stated, sex is what we do and sexuality is who we are.

“This area” can touch every aspect of your life: relationships, life roles (being a mother, father, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, friend, partner (romantic or not), teammate, co-worker, peer, etc.), your self-esteem, confidence, body image, communication, your physical body, appearance, personality, pleasure, and more.

What’s Different Now?

No one is prepared for a spinal cord injury. Everything is new. The way you experience your body is different now.

Sex and sexuality are really important parts of being human. When you first are injured it is common to have some questions about this area of you life. Exploring sexual health is an ongoing journey and you may not know where, or how, to begin. That’s where we come in. There will be lots of information that you can access when you are ready, here’s a start.

What questions first came into your mind after your injury? (Male Perspective)

When did you start to think about sex after your injury? (Female Perspective)

unicorn transparent

MYTH

Now that I have a spinal cord injury, the sexual part of my life is over.

FACT

Sexual activity is possible after SCI with information and support.

What can I Do?

Asking questions can be a great way to start putting the pieces back together. Questions can sometimes be difficult to ask because of fear, embarrassment, being shy, or simply not knowing what to ask. But don’t worry, it’s very common to be afraid or nervous about this part of life. You may never have talked about your sexuality or your sex life before. It’s not easy, we get it!

Because of your possible emotions surrounding this subject, you may try to avoid it, but we encourage you not to. Those lingering questions in the back of your mind are probably the same ones everyone else has. Getting a little bit of information can help you to relieve some of the worry and help you move on with everything else in life and in rehab. So take a deep breath, use this site as a resource, and ask away.

RESOURCE

PleasureAble Sexual Devices Guide

What Do I Need to Know?

Here our five of the most common questions people with spinal cord injuries ask about sex:

  1. Can I still have sex? YES! Your ability to engage in sexual activity is still possible; however you may experience changes to erections, vaginal lubrication, genital sensation and mobility. For more, see Sexuality 201.
  2. Am I still able to have children? YES! In general, women’s reproductive ability is not affected by spinal cord injury, there are some things to consider before pregnancy though, see the Female Fertility chapter for more information. For men, ejaculation may be effected after injury but sperm is still being made and there are procedures available to assist proper functioning. Check out more in our Male Fertility chapter.
  3. Will anyone want to date me? YES! (But this may depend on how dateable you were before your injury!)
  4. Will people still think I’m attractive? YES! Confidence is attractive. The first step is in believing that you are still a desirable person. Basic hygiene practices are helpful too!
  5. Will my partner leave me? There is no simple answer here. How your relationship will sustain itself is dependant on how well it was doing before your injury or accident and on how well you cope and communicate during stressful times. Check out the Relationships and Partner Information chapters for more information about this topic.

Explore these topics with your partner, health professionals, and trusted friends and family. Discussions like this can lead to greater intimacy—a word that can be defined and explored in many ways.

My Role

If nothing else, just start thinking about sexuality. What’s important to you? How does your body feel? What does sensation feel like in different parts of your body? What are you attracted to?

Who Can Help Me?

Sexual Health Rehabilitation Service (SHRS): This service is unique to Vancouver B.C. We can help you apply what you learn in this website to your own life. It’s a place where you can talk in person with a nurse clinician to assist you in your sexual health journey.

Spinal Cord Injury BC (SCI BC): SCI BC is a nonprofit organization that helps British Columbians with spinal cord injuries adjust, adapt, and thrive. They offer peer mentorships, events, and various programs throughout BC that encourage connection between other people living with SCI. Their programs foster an environment of open dialogue and their online database features over 800 resources. Bonus: they have a FREE Info Line that aims to answer any questions you may have.

Referral info: Your physician, nurse practitioner or other heath care professionals may refer by faxing to: 604-737-6259

VIDEO

Check out the Video Playlist for this chapter

Conclusion

Thinking about all the changes after a spinal cord injury can be overwhelming. Avoiding discussion about sexual health concerns is common because most people are scared that their bodies aren’t going to react the same during sex. Even though your experience of your body will be different now, it doesn’t mean that the sexual part of your life is over.

Exploring your sexual health after injury takes time — the first step is to ask questions. Get your answers, and go from there!

Resources

Clinical Resources

Regain That Feeling – A book about the “Secrets to Sexual Self-Discovery: People Living With Spinal Cord Injuries Share Profound Insights Into Sex, Pleasure, Relationships, Orgasm, and the Importance of Connectedness” by Mitchell Tepper, PhD.

Sexual Health Rehabilitation Service (SHRS) – Contact SHRS or consult your rehab doctor for information on a sexual health clinician in your area.

Videos

SCI U – An online site that offers virtual courses in sexuality

Check out the Video Playlist for this chapter.

RESOURCE

Sexuality Virtual Courses