Sex at a Time Like This?

Q: I’ve just been seriously injured in an auto accident, and I’m lying here thinking about sex so much of the time. With all of my medical problems, and my family so upset and concerned, what’s wrong with me that I’m so obsessed with sex?

A: “Thinking about sex” is not just a matter of wanting to participate in erotic activity, but goes much, much deeper than that.

Your sexuality is an innate and extremely poignant part of your very identity as a human being, which is being challenged–if not threatened–by whatever physical changes you are facing. Whether it’s about your ability to move and achieve certain physical positions, or your capacity for intimate sensations and sexual function such as orgasm and ejaculation, these are very–and appropriately–important issues. They are a factor in your very sense of self.

It is not a violation of “proper values” or of your own personal priorities to be concerned about this absolutely central aspect of what makes you human.

You might not be the only one thinking about sex and wondering if it’s OK to bring it up. Maybe you have parents who are counting on some (more?) grandchildren. Or an intimate partner in your life who is wondering what kind of loss there will be to face in his/her sex life with you. How much, you need to ask yourself, is everyone avoiding the topic because it’s uncomfortable; somewhat of a stigma to bring up unless it’s the “appropriate moment,” and, as your question implies, not the topic that people think deserves a spot on the top-ten list in the current crisis.

Well it does, and not just because you want to get it on and experience heightened erotic sensations. Your sexuality is about much, much more than the act itself.

It’s about the partner I just referred to, or a future one you hope for. A change in your sexuality naturally raises fears that you might no longer be able to please your partner or attract one. It raises fears that you’ll be lonely, rejected, and sexually frustrated. It evokes images of watching people having fun with their lovers and their families, of dating, and the whole suite of social interactions that are part of sexual intimacy. Unless you’re a pornographic “actor”, many of whom would tell you, I’m sure, that sex is not so much fun anymore, and that being an athlete in bed has nothing whatsoever to do with the quality of real committed relationships. Porn star sex never lasts forever, so does that mean relationships can’t? Think about it.

Seek answers for the specific questions and concerns you have regarding the impact on your sexuality of your injury. If you’re connected to a rehabilitation setting, then they are likely to have someone who is knowledgeable on this topic. It might be the rehab nurse, a psychologist, or social worker. While an in-patient in a hospital or rehab unit, the most trusting relationship you form could be with anyone on the staff, including physical or occupational therapists. Start by raising the issue with the person you feel most comfortable with, and they will guide you.

Consider asking a family member you trust to do some research for you. There is a good deal of information on the Internet, or through an organisation that deals specially in your particular condition.

Know that, as with your current recovery and adjustment process, you just can’t yet know how your own intimate life will be affected. First you have to get medically stable, and then you need to allow for whatever adjustment process you are wired to go through (we all do it in our own particular ways), and then you will start to discover for yourself how your body works, what you are capable of, and what gives you the greatest pleasure.

No one can tell you what you can or cannot do or feel. You must find out for yourself. Do not allow yourself to fall prey to anyone who conveys doubt, whether verbally or not, that you are still a full human being, able to express yourself intimately with someone you are attracted to, someone you love who loves you.

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