Sex. A topic that invoke feelings and thoughts of happiness and sadness, fear and joy, insecurity and intimacy to name a few, whether they have CP or not. But when you have CP it can complicate matters a little, both physically and emotionally. And while I have been somewhat reluctant to write about this, I think it should be done, because after all, it is a fairly important and normal aspect of people’s lives. 

The Problem With Myself

My biggest concern when it came to sex, before I had experienced it was quite simply “Would I ever get to experience it?” In my mind this was a totally legitimate question, and one that I had no clear answer to at the time. I had only hope. Because relationships in general were such a big obstacle for me growing up, because nobody was interested in being with someone with CP when they were younger. But my own self-confidence was also down in the gutter, and I myself, could not for the life of me understand why someone would want me. People usually pick up on that, and let me tell you, it is not a chick/dude magnet. As I grew older my confidence in myself also changed for the better however, and relationships and subsequently sex was not just a pipe dream, but also a realistic part of my future.

Another mental obstacle for me to overcome was to let others near my body in an intimate way. Sure as a kid I was used to getting helping with various tasks, some more private than others, and in such a way I was not unaccustomed to having to have less privacy in some areas, but that was in a totally different setting. When it came to intimate and sexual settings I felt way more uncomfortable, in part also because I was uncomfortable with my own body as it were.
We were barely on speaking terms in my late teens and early 20´s, but I managed to live with it. The thought of someone else getting that close to me, and potentially see everything that was different or “wrong” was a tough one though.

Silly things like scars, suddenly started being a source of worry, when they never had before, and my stiffness and clumsy movement became a source of embarrassment as well. It took many hours of thinking and experience before I finally became comfortable with letting someone so close, but as with all things in life, we grow quicker when we are outside our comfort zone, as long as that is of our own choice at least.

I remember the first time I had sex, I was unsure and insecure (probably like most other people), however unlike most other people I was also unsure because of my CP. “Would I be able to do everything?” “What if I started to get spasms or cramps in the middle of it? How embarrassing! “Will she think I’m clumsy?”, “Should I tell her I’m nervous about this?”. These and more were all questions and concerns going through my head prior to my first time. I remember deciding not to say a word, because I was to insecure about it, and quite frankly I didn’t even know what to expect myself. For the first time in my life, I didn’t know how my body would react.

It actually went over fairly well all things considered, and it ended up giving some additional benefits (I think), in that because of my insecurities with myself, I ended up focusing on her a lot, simply because it was easier, and less chance of messing up, I don’t think she realized that was the reason, but I don’t think she minded either way. 🙂

In hindsight I think I should have said something before hand, and we did start to talk about these issues, as we got more comfortable with the situation, although, if I had talked it through with her before hand, it might have made me far less tense and anxious, and maybe have led to an even more enjoyable experience.

The Problems With Others

As mentioned above, when you’re not able bodied, it can be harder to find someone to accept you as equal and be open to a romantic relationship with you, not to mention have sex with you. Getting over the fact that it can be harder to find an accepting partner is hard in and of it itself, but it can be equally as difficult to find someone who is okay with the thought of having sex with you, be it in a relationship or in a more casual setting. And scientific research finds, not surprisingly that the sexual needs and desires of those with CP are generally the same as able-bodied people. And therefore the room for frustration, self doubt and insecurity to grow is larger.

And even if you find a sex partner, they may not treat you, as you would expect them to treat everyone else in that situation. I’ve experienced being “handled with kid gloves” even as an adult at school by teachers, my parents or other adults (as well as friends) in every day situations, because they were unsure of what I could do on my own, or if I needed help. That didn’t exactly make me feel very independent.

The same can unfortunately occur when it comes to sex. Your partner may go out of their way to be careful, or not act as free and uninhibited as they normally would in a situation, in fear of hurting you. Which is in itself quite ironic, because there are few people who can handle pain or discomfort as well as those with CP, simply because we experience it to some degree every single day. But to your partner, you may be “fragile” do to your disability. This is why communication is so important. You should be open and honest about what you want, as well as respect your partner in their wishes.

As in many other areas for me, the devil is in the detail, and so the small seemingly simple things, can really bring my self esteem down, also when it comes to this. For example, because of a lack of fine motor skills, the unwrapping and application of a condom may not be the easiest task in the world, in fact its much more difficult than any other part of the sexual experience normally. The best way I have found to tackle this issue is talk about it, tell your partner how it is, and it will diffuse the situation and make it feel less intimidating and more light hearted. Plus, your partner may be happy to help you.

The Benefits of a Good Sex Life

There are numerous benefits to a healthy sex life, for everyone, also those with CP; there is a Dutch study that indicates that it may help relieve spasticity and stiffness for example. But I think the rewards are just as much mental as they are physical. After I had my first sexual experience, I grew in confidence, not just sexually, but as a person over all. That was another and pretty big part of normal life that I had just done, I felt less different and I felt that the CP defined me in a lesser extent than before.

Please feel free to leave a comment below if you want to brave telling us about your own experiences, or if you have any questions about this! And if you liked the post, as usual it would help us greatly if you shared it on Facebook, Twitter etc. Thank you![/fusion_text]

13 Responses

  1. Very interesting read, and thank you for sharing. I let insecurities about my CP interfere with my confidence regarding sex many years ago (I’m now 47). As far as “going all the way”, that didn’t happen for me until age 23, and I was a dork and treated her badly. Had I been less selfish, we could have been together longer and my insecurities about sex probably would have been squelched. She was a really nice young lady and we were intimate just a few times. Fortunately, we connected via Facebook a couple of years ago and I was able to apologize for being so mean to her.

    I had several partners before meeting my wife at age 30 (I was 30, she was 27). My romances have all been with able-bodied ladies, except my first, who had CP. However, her degree of CP was very light, so most people didn’t realize she was disabled. She and I were together about 18 months… we did “a lot” sexually but never went all the way (both of us were virgins, and scared to death of her getting pregnant). It was shortly after we broke up that I met the lady mentioned in the first paragraph. All of my romances after the girl with CP were very brief, mostly because of my selfishness and continuing insecurities about CP. Fortunately I did some growing up before meeting my wife. We met online and got married 4 months later (that was over 17 years ago). She was previously married, so my insecurities about sex creeped up a little in the early days (since she technically had more experience with sex than me). We’ve had a fulfilling sex life together our entire marriage, though we’re not as frequent about sex as in the early days. Probably due to age and stresses of life, but our love is strong and marriage is great overall. She has two sons from the previous marriage, who are both grown adults. We decided not to have children of our own so I got “fixed” two years into our marriage.

    My degree of CP is moderate, I suppose. I’ve always used a walker and am very independent. I work full time, own my own home and drive my own car. If, God forbid, something happened to my wife and I was single again, I probably wouldn’t have any insecurities about sex (if I were to date again).

  2. I saw your post on ‘Adults with CP Advising Parents of Children with CP”

    I think it has now been taken down, sadly. Unsurprising since the site once had a horrible discussion in which the parents were discussing having their little girls sterilised…. I get angry that they want to say we can do anything : except sex and having children. My story is here:

    I have decided not to have kids in a society that treats disabled people (or anyone) like second class beings. but still…how about the sex? I still have to find a way to manage my sex life without heartbreak and understand how we came to be seen as a breed apart. I know about eugenics, I know about Dr Mengele’s experiments on disabled women, I know stats and arguments on why wecan’t have children and how often social services put our kids in care and still. I am a woman.

    I find it fascinating that as US states, teens and celebrities are having the courage to come out of the closet, so are we finding we can talk about sex and being sexual beings. I worry that we’ve taken a while this generation to get across that we too can be sexual beings. Though every generation loops around this issue my generation was notoriously quiet on this issue.

    My mother evidently hoped I would never have sex until I married and strove to achieve that end by making me extremely religious in the UK at a time when most people were not terribly religious. terrified of eternal damnation and STIs. And fear,, shame, anxiety and guilt and a strong desire to do the right thing and make my parents proud was absolutely zero protection against daily assault from the age of 11. The weird thing is that my mother did almost nothing to stop these assaults and never once seemed to take seriously the things that had happened to me. I didn’t even relate the nasty ‘bullies’ the teacher seemed to care so little made me cry with the rules my church and family were setting out for me. A lot of people have strong religious views but for some reason the indoctrination never happened to my siblings who were sexually active with her blessing by age 16 and probably without her knowledge before that. Looking back I realise WHY. What I really can’t grasp is why I didn’t realise and go ‘sod you’ and have sex with whom I wanted!

    Needing activism to get our sexuality and sexual needs recognised is a worrying sign that disabled sexuality is seen as a taboo, as something which like lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender sex is something that if we must do it, people would rather we did not talk about our struggles with it or the rights barriers we may face.
    I worry, given my own experiences and threads I have seen online that for parents their adult child’s sexuality is something many hope will just go away and is something which many strive to make sure it never happens. And yet…. we are told we can achieve anything we want, be anything we want….

    Luckily , my husband understands that some of this is some of why I came out as bisexual earlier this year. Luckily, he understands this isn’t a phase, or something to be stopped or worried about or upset by. Luckily….for him. Because after all that, walking out would have been so easy, sticks and all.

    1. Hi Anonymous! Thank you for sharing! I am sorry to hear about all the trouble you had to go through with your family but I am glad you were still able to break free, and not be afraid of expressing your own sexuality. Its true that sexuality and disability is something that needs to be talked about, its truly sad that we as disabled people are met with judgement, or somehow feel its “wrong” for us to talk about our sexuality.

  3. thank you for this very honest post also. I will keep it aside and show it to my son when the time comes in about 10 years! 🙂

  4. Thank you so much for being brave about this topic for people who have CP or other spasticity related issues. I look forward to reading more. I am a 25 year old female with spastic diplegia.

  5. My partner has cp and I love him. We have been together for 9 months. When we have sex I’m not enjoying it and I have to do all the work. Am I a horrible person for feeling this way

    1. No you are not a horrible person. Maybe try to talk about it with him about it. If you do not feel comfortable telling him that directly in fear of hurting him, maybe you can instead ask if there are things he would like to do (to you), so that he feels more ownership to it and feels like he can offer something to you as well. Sex is a lot more than traditional intercourse, so be creative and try to have fun! 🙂

  6. I need help. I have a 53 yr old uncle with cerebral palsy. His mind is fully functioning, but he is locked in a body that probably is only about 20 percent functionable. He lives in the middle of nowhere central Minnesota. He has been messaging me lately about if I knew any women that he could basically have cybersex with. He is on a fixed income and the webcam sites have found are really expensive. I am sorry if I am offending anyone, but at 53 he is probably past or near his life expectancy, and I want to help but have no idea how. I know sexuality is good mental and physical health but I live 1200 miles away so I can’t really pick him up and be his wingman. Does anyone have any ideas

  7. I’ll be honest. I’m a 20 year old, with CP, a mild form of spastic diaplegia to be exact. I didn’t get a formal diagnosis up until a week before my 20th Birthday. It never used to bother me much. I thought the fact that I haven’t had a partner yet was because I was not entirely desirable, not solely because of my CP but it did factor in.

    Ever since my diagnosis, I’ve become even more apprehensive to the idea of dating because of my inexperience and my disability. It also worries me because ironically my only real dream in this bleak world is to be a dedicated family man one day and I don’t know if it hereditary or not frankly because I was afraid to ask.

    I ‘dated’ someone 4 months ago, we met online and talked for a while and decided to meet and I’d love to point out that this was the first time I’d felt that someone was genuinely attracted to me. She was amazing, as the day drew closer for us to meet, I started having panic attacks, that I hid from her and my best friend. And all my insecurities just kept popping up in my head. She knew and knew how nervous I was and encouraged me sweetly and she was happy to still come see me but i was so scared. What if I couldn’t move my hips? What if I couldn’t do this or do that?
    It didn’t work out and we largely stopped talking. (We occasionally speak and I still care about her deeply but that phase is over.)
    I am still terrified. It weighs on me, and as helpful as this has been, it doesn’t really alleviate anything. As paradoxical as it may be, I never worried about my sexual activity or lack thereof before I knew fully about my CP. But now it scares me half to death everytime I think about fancying someone or being in a loving relationship, which is honestly all I want,

  8. I love that you made this post. I do not have cp but my daughter may have it due to birth trauma. I am shocked at how much harder life is with cp but also amazed at how people overcome it.

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