Those of us who have adapted to a wheel-based life due to injury, illness, or other circumstances are overwhelmingly peddled the narrative that when it comes to sex and relationships our experience is somehow going to be “less than.” In movies, TV shows, magazines, books and pornography we are shown what sex and relationships are “supposed” to look like: normative bodies strolling hand-in-hand down an inaccessible hiking path with the sun shining through the trees. It’s flawless skin brushing up against rock hard abs with meticulously groomed eyebrows and genitals, and no hemorrhoidal skin tags. Phooey.
Occasionally, we get limited snapshots of what the experience as a wheeler is “supposed” to look like. The problem is, these narratives are usually written by people who don’t write from experience, but rather from conjecture. The stories are often stereotypical and limited, and rarely venture into the realities of intimate spaces. Where is the hot sex scene with the couple on a bed pad and a Hoyer lift hanging over their heads? If we never see it, then we don’t think it’s possible. But it is.
If you are a wheeling person who wants sex, or wants a relationship, it’s available to you. It might look different, but it’s there. Experiencing paralysis or using a wheelchair doesn’t diminish who we are as intimate or sexual humans. In fact, if we allow it, sex and relationships after a physical transformation can be “more than.” It can mean increased exploration, adaptation, and vulnerability. We have the potential to achieve deep and expansive intimacy in ways some non-paralyzed, non-wheeling folks will never experience.
Four couples with four very different experiences. But all four are creating their own versions of relationship, sexuality, and intimacy that are robust, adventurous, and deeply connected. No matter who you are or how your body functions, sex, love, and relationships are a wide frontier waiting to be explored.
Can it be challenging, especially when you’re facing the flesh-and-blood embodiment of survivorship after some of our most intense traumas and griefs? Yes.
But the first step is knowing that your love life post-injury can be extraordinary. As Gina emphasizes, “I’ve had much more intense sexual experiences after being disabled than before.”
Our traumatic experiences are assets that make us more genuine, complex, and lovable humans. They teach us to adapt, to grow, to be open and vulnerable.
• Jessika Kattah’s blog, www.jessikakattah.com
• Don Lively’s new novel, “The Social Event,” www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00KY5GW4O
• Gina’s Facebook, GinaIsOnARoll, and check out her writing with PushLiving.com.