Q: I have C4/5 quadriplegia. My arms are very weak and I don’t feel much below my shoulders. I have a partner that wants to please me, and I want to please her too, but I can’t do the things I used to. What can we do?
A: Anything you can! Use what you’ve got.
I realize that might sound simplistic, but it really is the heart of building a repertoire of erotic options that you can truly enjoy. So let’s consider the specific possibilities.
Presumably your mouth is working just fine. Get into some serious kissing (see “The Art of Kissing” Rolling Inspiration Summer 2005), and practice, practice, practice. Find every nook and cranny where you have sensation, and see what feels the best. Ask your partner to touch, kiss, lick or rub her toes on every square inch of your body you can feel. Give your partner feedback as you go–a certain kind of low moan says, “Yes! Do that!” Remember the good spots and make sure you go back to them often.
Explore different materials–silk and flannel and satin–to see how they feel on your skin, and the different ways they stimulate you. You can even extend this to anything else you could think of–a soft toothbrush, a sponge, or anything at all you imagine might offer you a sensual experience.
You know that it is difficult to be physically comfortable with quadriplegia. Sitting all day is stressful, and with limited upper body balance, the muscles you have control of get overworked. So rather than thinking of sex as physical exertion, adopt a different model of sex as deep, sensual relaxation. It will provide sexy relief to the stressful nature of your disability.
But kissing can lead to some pretty serious arousal that wants for more serious fare, so explore ways that your partner can get your mouth in productive relationship to parts of her body that you or she would like to stimulate. Or you get comfortable and let her put her body in the right places. It might involve experimenting for a while until you find positions where you can lay comfortably while she places her breasts or genitals or whatever body part you/she prefers.
Of course you can try having her crouch over you (she might need to go use those leg exercise machines at the gym), but take care not to fulfill the John Callahan cartoon of the quadriplegic who gets smothered to death by face-sitting!
Your hands may be extremely limited, but she could use your hand for her own pleasure–either on her terms or at your direction. Even if you don’t feel it, see if you can put your attention on the erotic nature of it rather than thinking about not being able to feel it. You are nonetheless being the source of her pleasure.
Make sure you have a good view of things, and enjoy watching her arousal and excitement. You might find yourself being drawn along–if you approach it as a shared, sensual experience rather than her simply using your hand selfishly.
Take turns sharing control. Just because you’re not able to be as physical during sex, doesn’t mean that you can’t play an equal role in what’s happening. If you have an agreement that you at times, at least–get to call the shots, then it might add to your satisfaction with your sexual options. After all, the experience of quadriplegia is marked by a considerable loss of control, so your lover offering you some of that power back can be very gratifying, sexy, and loving.
Play with toys–dildos and vibrators and the like–which you could adapt with straps to accommodate your limited grip.
Consider the many options beyond physical activities. Ask your partner to do a striptease for you. If she is selfconscious or inhibited about the idea, that’s an opportunity to let her know that you fi nd her beautiful, a chance for her to gain a more secure sense of her own sexuality, a way to her experiencing the way you truly love her. Perhaps you could even get to a place where she could masturbate for your pleasure, in just the position you would want for the best view.
Be a sexy storyteller. Invent scenarios and whisper them in your lover’s ear as you get your bodies close together.
Allow yourself to indulge images and activities that you can’t do–you’ll find that you can have the vicarious experience through your imagination.
So, I hope you’re seeing that there are always options, and it’s worth the effort to get creative and experiment. No degree of disability erases your innate need for intimacy and sensual experience, especially when you are blessed with a willing partner.