Paraplegia, questions and sex: A tale of squirrels.

Since becoming paraplegic I’ve become very used to being asked questions about my health; friends asking how I’m getting on and if I’m in pain, strangers gently prying and trying to find out what’s wrong and how it happened. Nosey but innocuous questions that I generally don’t mind answering, providing that it’s not done insultingly and they understand I won’t answer if a line is crossed. I’ve been quite endeared over the years by the sensitivity that people have approached the subject with.

Well, most of the time.

There is one subject where it appears that all boundaries and sensitivity go out of the window in a heartbeat. Be it friend or stranger, it’s a subject which arouses such curiosity that no answer is simply not good enough, and there really is no way to tread carefully. Sex.

Can I still have sex? How does it work? Can I still have orgasms? Can I feel it? Can I enjoy it? Is it different to before? From people I have known for years to people I have known for 5 minutes in the pub, as soon as the word ‘paraplegia’ comes up you can almost see the cogs turning as they desperately try not to ask but simply can’t help themselves.

One day last year I’d had quite enough of people expecting to know about my sex life and why I didn’t want to answer. I decided I’d finally explain the difficulties that come with arousal and let alone sex.

It is impossible for me to have sex.

You see, with paraplegia comes a secondary issue surrounding arousal itself. It’s problematic, to say the least, and proves a challenging barrier in sexual relationships which I have yet to find a way around. My poor husband and I have yet to even consummate our marriage as a result of this horrendous symptom of spinal cord damage. I can’t even tell you whether I can feel it, enjoy it, or climax, because there is a vicious and furry problem… Squirrels. That’s right, squirrels.

As soon as the vaginal juices start to flow angry squirrels start flying out of my vagina. Normally grey squirrels, but at certain times of the months, well.. I’m sure you can figure that out.

They don’t just calmly crawl their way out, oh no, they fling themselves. Ricocheting off my thighs and attacking the nearest thing they see. Scratching and biting, looking for the nearest place to nest or some nuts to nibble on. We’ve tried setting a side a plate of food for the, hoping they’d be distracted, but they wouldn’t exactly be the first set of nuts their beady little eyes would see were we to take a leap into the relatively unknown.

Would you really want to go prodding at an infinite nest of angry squirrels with your most precious of appendages? Nope, didn’t think so.

There you have it, one of life’s questions answered for you. Next time you consider prying into the sex life of a disabled person, please remember that no matter how deep your curiosity, no matter how desperate you are to know how another person’s body works, they could well have a devastating affliction involving wildlife. To constantly be reminded of this is deeply upsetting. Please, remember the squirrels.

Alternatively don’t be a cocktrumpet who goes around asking people, unprompted, about their sex life.

Painting by my friend Saria,