Relationships & Sex

Disability doesn’t stop desire: my sex life after a stroke

Here at Disability Horizons, we’re always trying to change society’s negative perceptions of disability and bust misconceptions. This is particularly true when it comes to sex and disability.

That’s why we’re publishing a series of stories from disabled people with different backgrounds about their experiences with sex as a disabled person. Today, on Valentine’s Day, Martin, who had a stroke seven years ago, shares his tips for continuing and even improving your sex life after becoming disabled.

Having a stroke affects your life in a million different ways. In my case, surviving a major stroke at the age of 49 killed my professional career as a journalist, severely affected my memory and left me with massive fatigue issues.

I walk with a limp, I can’t write with a pen (something I find hard to cope with after 30 years in the writing trade) and I suffer massive panic and anger attacks.

But I’m alive – and being alive, I still have natural human emotions, such as the desire to have a fulfilling sex life.

At the time of my stroke in 2013, my wife and I had been married for 23 years. Our sex life was as good as it had always been. We enjoyed experimenting, we had tried most things and we weren’t afraid to be honest with each other about our needs and desires.

I liked being underneath so that I could play with her chest and really feel myself in her – she liked being on top for the same reasons. But my stroke changed all that.

Sex after a stroke

For almost 12 months, the mental, emotional and physical stress I was under meant that sex was the last thing on my mind. Added to that, my legs wouldn’t bend, so being underneath was almost impossible.

In these circumstances, frightening numbers of stroke-survivors see their marriages or relationships break up, as their partner gets bored and frustrated and goes off in search of sexual fulfilment elsewhere. But we persevered and more than seven years later, we are still having a sex life.

Of course, our sex life is different, because my condition means there are things that are impossible now. But that’s just encouraged us to try lots of new and even more stimulating things.

We liked oral sex before; we adore it now and we have found lots of different ways to enjoy it. I’ve learned not to worry that sometimes I can’t sustain a serviceable erection, and I’ve started taking a twice-weekly testosterone supplement, which produces remarkable results, given the circumstances. I accept that I can pleasure my wife in other ways.

We have built up an impressive collection of sex toys, we’ve learnt that it’s not a crime to use artificial lubrication to help the process along and we’ve learnt that being romantic can often be as fulfilling as being athletic. Our naked hug when we get out of the shower in the morning has become an essential part of our day.

We’ve learnt that couples-friendly porn is widely available and can be an invaluable source of ideas.

It means we are no longer embarrassed to talk about sexual issues, which might not have been discussed before 2013 for fear of upsetting each other.

Most importantly, we have become indebted to a friend of ours who is a sex-educator. A couple of years ago she posted an article entitled: “75 ways to orgasm that don’t include porn.”

I printed off two copies and we went through the list, establishing what we did and didn’t like and agreeing on our favourites. These have become the mainstay of our ‘new’ sex life. They are:

  • breath
  • PC squeezes
  • hip tilts and thrusts
  • Jacuzzi jets (use your imagination!)
  • role play
  • sensory play (blindfolds)
  • masturbation (hands and toys)
  • food (again, use your imagination!)
  • movement
  • caressing and stroking
  • flirting
  • kissing
  • sucking and licking
  • teasing
  • erotic stories
  • hot showers for two
  • lubes/oils
  • toys
  • nipple play
  • lips
  • massage.

If you don’t find some new ideas in there, you’re not looking hard enough!

Some stroke-survivors find that their sexual urge nosedives because of the brain damage; others find that it soars. I would say that mine has taken the latter course.

Sex is possible when you’re disabled

Before suffering my brain damage, I would never have considered writing this piece. I’m doing it to offer the benefit of my experiences to others who may be frustrated, as well as offer ideas and suggestions.

I want to make it clear that your sex life doesn’t need to end because of your stroke, or any other disability, but that it may need to be different. But this change can be a great thing – it’ll get you to experiment, try new things and potentially discover and create an even better sex life.

There are a lot of blogs and websites doing this, but we’ve found the vast majority to be American in origin, tone and content and therefore not necessarily ideal for a British audience.

That’s why I applaud Disability Horizons for working to break the taboo that surrounds this subject and around disabled people and sex generally.

Surviving a stroke made me realise that life’s too short to stress about stuff and that sex is supposed to be fun. So let’s have some fun!

By Martin Warrillow

More on Disability Horizons…

Martin Warrillow

A writer and editor for Disability Horizons, Martin Warrillow worked as a journalist for 28 years before taking early retirement after a stroke. He speaks frequently about surviving and living with the effects of a stroke and has a blog at, The Warrior Podcast and a Facebook group called The Warrior.
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