In our series on disability, sex and relationships, expert and resident agony aunt Tuppy (who runs Outsiders – a private club for disabled people looking for a relationship) answers your questions. This week, working through two different disabilities for a couple.
Dear Aunty Tuppy,
I am writing on behalf of myself and my partner, as we both experience our own different problems when trying to have sex together. We wish to remain anonymous so our family and friends don’t guess this is us. My partner has spina bifida and he has never been able to reach orgasm, which we both find really frustrating. I have CP and suffer spasms, so that my vagina clams up when we want to have sex and I have difficulty parting my legs. However, we are very happy together, love each other very much and, despite no sex, we have lots of fun in bed. We are engaged and getting married soon, and really hope to start a family, so thought we would ask you if you know a way for us to enjoy proper sex.
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Dear Lovely Anon Couple,
First let me tell you that there is no such thing as ‘proper’ sex. The word sex encompasses a wide range of wonderful things, and there is much more to it than intercourse and orgasm – as you have proved to each other enjoying yourselves in bed. Our bodies have many erogenous zones where pleasure can be enjoyed, stretching from our inner thigh to the nape of the neck and ear lobe. Plus lots of fun can be had playing with BDSM, role-play, exhibitionism, voyeurism and fantasy enactment.
I can understand why you want to be able to enjoy things which you have not been able to manage yet, but always remember, sex is far more enjoyable if you forget goals – including the goals of intercourse and orgasm and just enjoy living in the moment. Tantric practice is especially valuable for people living with disability.
Having said all that, once you get married you will have a legitimate goal (which is what sex was for in the first place) – to have babies, and you will want to have sperm from your partner inside your vagina to fertilise your eggs.
When the first man with spina bifida called the Sex and Disability Helpline saying he could not come from stimulating the penis, I had to think on my feet and I suggested he try stimulating his prostate gland (which has different nerves going to it). I asked him to call back as I had no idea if it would work. It worked! I was pleased because the idea was my own and I thought, where do I advertise this discovery? In The Times? Anyway, a few months later, after I’d had many similar calls, one guy called back after 10 minutes to say it worked! I hope it works for your partner.
I have also been approached by girls with CP who experience the same problems as yourself. Indeedy, I tried to set up a group for them to discuss the problem but this did not really work out. The best solution I have found is you have an orgasm before you want to have intercourse – by stimulating your clitoris and perhaps your nipples – anywhere that turns you on, either with a vibrator or fingers, maybe using lubricant.
The orgasm should relax the muscles around your pussy so that your partner can get inside. You may need to put lubricant on his penis if you are dry, perhaps because of anxiety.
Some women have vaginismus which is a condition where your vagina clams up so they may not even get tampon inside. There is no reason to think that women with CP cannot have vaginismus. It might be caused by anxiety resulting from bad experiences. A sex therapist alone is not allowed to intimately touch their client unless they are also a doctor or a nurse, and to get treated, you will need to be touched. Find a suitable therapist – you can look on www.cosrt.co.uk. They will probably introduce what are called ‘trainers’ inside you, and teach your partner to do so. They starting with a very narrow one and while getting you to relax. Over time, they place increasingly wide trainers inside. I doubt if you have vaginismus but I thought I should mention it.
With regards to not being able to spread your legs – this is not always essential for intercourse but it’s nice for one person to be on top sometimes and we need to spread our legs for that. I know a girl with CP who went to a male sex worker as she’d never had pain-free sex and could not part her legs. He massaged her and made her feel relaxed and assured her he would not hurt her. After a few sessions with him, she was fine and went on to enjoy sex with her boyfriend. Maybe your partner could do the same?
Now I’m trying to picture you together enjoying intercourse, your partner hoping to ejaculate to make you pregnant. He is happily swinging in and out, with a prostate vibrator stuck up his arse. Hmmm. It definitely sounds a bit precarious to me, but you sound like a fabulously ingenious couple, so you might manage it fine. If you find he cannot come inside you, you can always catch his ejaculate and stuff it inside you or, worst case scenario, allow the medical profession to fertilise you. But fertility is not my expertise.
I am eager to encourage you to enjoy what I am telling you but not give up on all the other fun you had before. Embrace all the pleasures you stumble across and keep talking about what you both want to try out, or do over and over again! Communication is the best lubricant.
By Tuppy Owens