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!