It is something of a cliche to write about sex on Valentine’s Day. But I didn’t spend nearly 30 years in the newspaper trade without learning that the important thing about cliches is that they are often true.
And sex and disability do belong in the same sentence, you know. Stroke-survivors do still want sex, although the libido can rocket or collapse completely, depending on which part of the brain has been affected, while stroke-survivors have been known to take an interest in areas of sexuality which previously they ignored. I know of one lady in her 30’s who became an avid user of sex-clubs after a massive stroke, having previously been in a stable and somewhat ‘vanilla’ relationship.
One of the stroke-survivor charities I support, Different Strokes (differentstrokes.co.uk) is running a campaign throughout February to raise awareness of the issues surrounding sex and stroke-survivors. It’s an important issue - a depressing 42% of stroke-survivors report a negative change in their relationship with their partner after a stroke.
Often, this can be because of the personality changes or the financial stresses which follow a stroke; sometimes it can be because the stroke-survivor is no longer capable of having the kind of sex life that their partner is used to. Not only can libido change drastically, but limbs may no longer manoeuvre themselves into positions that had once been straightforward.
Maybe the man is no longer able to maintain an adequate erection for penetration, either as a direct result of the stroke or because of the effects of medication. Maybe the woman suffers from dryness, or maybe that scourge of the stroke-survivor, fatigue, makes it all too tiring and too much like hard work. If the couple were used to ‘bouncing off the walls’ for hours, the fact that they can no longer do so can be devastating. If the able-bodied partner is not willing to be sympathetic or get creative, it’s all too easy to walk away.
So what to do? Well, communication between a couple is crucial in these circumstances. But sex isn’t easy to talk about, especially if something ‘out of the ordinary’ might be involved. But finding things that do work in changed circumstances and things that you are willing to try is important. And what’s the alternative? Giving up? With more and more ‘younger’ people having strokes, they may not see that as a viable option. Some things might work, some probably won’t. But you won’t find out until you try and life as a strokie is all about experiencing things while you can.
Sexual experiences are just as important, if not more so, than any other.