Discover what makes you tick

Feeling sexy can be a challenge after an injury, but discovering the new ways Iin which you are “turned on” can assist, as Danie Breedt explains

It’s true that sex is a very different after a spinal cord injury (SCI). Some people get so frustrated that they stop having sex altogether. But, the vast majority opt not to give up on their sexuality. It’s such a vital aspect of being human that we can’t just ignore it. Sex is about much more than nerve endings; it’s about intimacy, closeness and a connection with another person.

Despite what some people may think, sex doesn’t have to be one-sided after a SCI. Many people with new SCIs quickly discover that there’s still a lot of enjoyment to be had in the sex department. They find new ways to make things fun and exciting. They become better at different things in bed.

The first tip is to continue incorporating the aspects of sex that you enjoyed before (that you can still do) into the experience as your body will likely respond to it well. Take your time during foreplay to enhance the sensations of the SCI partner.

Reaching orgasm is always a combination of the physical and psychological experience of sexual activities. With certain physical aspects of sex being affected by a SCI, orgasms become much more psychological. This means that emphasising intimacy and the build-up to sex more than the physical act will pay off greatly in your enjoyment of the sexual encounter.

On a physical level, communicating about what feels good and discovering where your new erogenous zones are (scars, the face, neck, the line on body where injury stops or begins), could help achieve physical orgasms from new areas.

People who are comfortable with themselves and their disability are sexy and a massive turn-on for partners (or potential partners). Humour and confidence are helpful ways to learn how to feel sexy again. Don’t take yourself too seriously, when you are comfortable within yourself, it shows and makes others feel comfortable when they are with you.

To achieve great sex after a SCI, you will absolutely need a lot of communication with your partner. Try to communicate your needs and wants, especially if you are the paralysed counterpart. It’s up to you to let your partner know what you like. So, experimentation is key.

If you were a couple before the injury, continue hugging and touching like before. It can be easy for sex and intimacy to be side-lined, but this can be problematic long-term. If you have a partner and your injury is new, don’t worry about having sex right away, but remember that trial and error will be the most important thing when you decide to start having sex again.

If you weren’t in a relationship before your injury, finding a person who sees past your wheelchair and get to know you for who you really are, somebody who is open-minded, is important. Try to combat shyness by being the person who approaches people first.

Sometimes people may find you attractive, but your disability might make them unsure of what to do. Making the first move is a good rule of thumb. Also, while struggling to find a good partner may be hard, it helps to remove the close-minded people to make the search a little easier.

Sex is different for everyone, and the loss you’re feeling can be profound. Just remember, while your injury has taken a lot of from you, you can limit how much it affects your sex life with a positive and proactive attitude.


Dr Danie Breedt is a passionate scholar-practitioner in the field of psychology. He divides his time between training, research and clinical practice. Danie works from an integrative interactional approach in psychotherapy, dealing with a wide range of emotional difficulties and sexual rehabilitation for patients with disabilities. He is the co-owner of Charis Psychological Services, a psychology practice that specialises in physical rehabilitation across South Africa.

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