Salvaging One’s Sexuality

The Patient’s Viewpoint
  • J. Dahlberg
  • J. M. James


Throughout this book, the clinical effects of spinal-cord injury on sexuality have been competently addressed. Equally important are the personal concerns of the patients.* The issues often raised by newly injured individuals encompass such physical questions as, “Will I be able to achieve an erection?” or “Will I be able to conceive (or father) a child?” However, often overshadowing such easily answered concerns are the issues involving the psychological assault on a person’s sexuality. Not so readily answered, these concerns are raised by both males and females. Question, such as, “Who will want me now that I must use a wheelchair?” or “Will I be able to attract a partner?” seem simple, yet are significant because they affect all areas of an individual’s life. As helping professionals, we must educate ourselves regarding these issues, stay alert to what they mean to our patients, and exhaust the available resources to resolve them. Because it is often difficult to maintain a patient’s perspective, the following exercise, implemented by Dr. Ted Cole, may help you define what some of the basic concerns are from the patient’s viewpoint. Recall your most recent sexual experience in as much detail as possible. Recreate the time and the location. Try to remember everything about your partner—the warm sensations, your body’s reactions, how you responded to touch. What techniques did you use to make it particularly pleasurable? What positions? As you wander through your recollection, imagine yourself in that experience as a quadriplegic. You are deprived of any sensation lower than your chest area. Become aware that your breasts and genitals no longer respond spontaneously to stimulation. Parts of your hands and arms are numb to the touch and, moreover, fail to respond adequately to your commands to touch and explore. Recall how you needed assistance to undress and get in bed. As you lie there, pockets of worry form in your consciousness. You worry about whether your urinary catheter and leg bag might be a turn-off to your partner. Your worry that an involuntary bowel movement might mar an otherwise memorable experience. You also worry that your flaccid muscles or atrophied legs make you less attractive and less sexual.


Sexual Experience Warm Sensation Worry Form Recent Sexual Encounter Peer Counselor 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© The Humana Press Inc. 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Dahlberg
    • 1
  • J. M. James
    • 2
  1. 1.Rehabilitation ConsultantsDalhberg and AssociatesDenver
  2. 2.Berthoud

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