Let's Talk about Sex and AS
I'm not one to come out and easily talk about my sex life, or my sex life with Keegan. But part of being human is having romantic relationships and enjoying sex. Sex is a wonderful moment of intimacy to share the physical pleasure that's beneficial for both parties involved. Especially for Keegan who is in constant pain, having a moment of sensual pleasure is a much-needed break. As he once told me, "Imagine if all day someone is causing you pain. Then for just a moment, you feel relief. You feel something good. That's why sex can be so nice."
What I'll share are tips from a cis-gendered heterosexual couple. I want to acknowledge that upfront so that folks know that it's sometimes necessary to discuss this further with other genders and sexual identities. I also want to acknowledge that talking about sex can easily skew ableist. Each and every person with AS has their own limitations. It's critical to be open and honest with your partner about what that day, hour, or moment brings. Sex is inherently vulnerable and having a chronic illness ups that vulnerability significantly.
So here are my sex tips for those with AS and chronic pain.
Discuss what the goal of sex is and make it about intimacy and connection
We all grow up with the expectation that having sex should always result in an orgasm. Or else we've failed. But what I've found helpful with Keegan is to establish what success out of sex looks like. And this needs to happen before any act of intimacy starts. Monthly we talk about how we feel in our relationship with one another. Some of the questions we answer are, "How is our sex life? Are we connecting?"
For us, we agreed that intimacy and physical connection are most important. If we can make each other feel good and have fun, then high five. We did it. That means discussing what brings pleasure for each person, as it can be very different. For example, having a massage is a great way to lead into sex because it helps him relax and reduces pain.
Be open about any areas of pain or immobility, especially if things are getting adventurous
Let's be honest, part of a great sex life is exploration. And there's nothing worse than trying something new other than your body to say, "Nope! Not today!" The best way to explore but not kill the mood is to say something like, "Hey, this isn't feeling great for my body right now. I'd love to try again some other time. Can we try [another thing] instead?" This way, it acknowledges how the partner may be feeling and offers an alternative.
This also means being very, very clear about what each person is and isn't willing to try. We found the app, Spicer really helpful with this. It offers ideas for sex and intimacy and each partner responds with whether they're okay or not with that idea. Then the app shows matches based on how each partner answered.
Get yourself some props and toys
Yep, I'm going there. Get pillows to support hips and back. Get some fun sex toys in case some positions aren't physically possible. (This also goes back to point #2 about what each partner is comfortable with, so be careful here.) After having a baby and Keegan going through 2 hip replacement surgeries in 6 months, we ended up discussing whether to use toys more during sex. We found a great website, Spectrum Boutique, that sells sex toys.
Just because you have AS doesn't mean you can't have a great sex life. It takes open communication, getting creative, and being a little bit more adventurous at times to find a way to physically connect with your partner. Go have some fun!
How often do you experience flare ups?