As you may know, I have MS. As you also may know, I am writing a book about MS and relationships, particularly intimate relationships. Why? Well, they say, them as can’t do , teach…
Seriously, though, I started this project (to my children’s everlasting squeamishness) when I was first diagnosed with MS. I am single, and dating, and I wondered. So many of my friends with MS have given up sex, or have such difficulty with it. Their relationships suffer from these difficulties, or other problems with communication and touch.
I asked my neurologist about it and got inappropriate giggling. I asked the MS Society, and got the advice, “Talk to your partner”. My MS nurse said “Well, some people use a bag of frozen peas.” Giggling was demeaning, I didn’t have a partner, and I like to eat frozen peas, but not after using them for, ahem, other things.
It wasn’t enough information for me, and I wondered what others felt. We held an information session in Ottawa on sexuality and MS and it was a packed room, with people staying on to ask many questions. I did an online survey and over 100 participants had challenges and questions about sex and MS. They wanted information.
So in I plunged, as it were. I’m a public health nurse by background, so a bit middle class and vanilla and of course have no experience in the darker arts of intimacy, so suffice to say it has been an education for me (and my long-suffering friends).
I’ve investigated all sorts of equipment, I’ve spoken to experts, I’ve looked at the scanty research. My borrowing history from the library is slightly embarrassing. For the most part, it has been fascinating – new information to me, some things I would never have known. Things like how people with MS may have difficulty interpreting facial expressions, or how we can lose concentration right in the middle of things through no fault of our own or our partners. All about sensory overload or underload and the challenges of incontinence and muscle spasms and the glories of sex furniture…(I’m saving up for a Liberator lounge, but primarily because it looks like a perfect place to curl up with a good book).
I’ve been to sex shops, played with the toys, found much to inappropriately giggle at. Investigated safe and unsafe nipple clamps and binding equipment, lifts and DIY vibrators. Wandered the aisles of Dollar and hardware stores with a titillated eye, looking for ticklers and sensation increasers.
But what about porn? Some people find it arousing, so I figured it was something I should include for those who need a bit of visual help. Most porn is, to my mind, degrading and boring, but perhaps that’s just me. I asked at the sex shop – I didn’t want the icky stuff you can find online, I wanted the stuff that was deemed “female friendly”, the stuff that didn’t feature brutality and that maybe had a plot. My counsellor there was unenthusiastic. But she was a girl, and I honestly think it’s unusual for girls to enjoy porn – women seem to need more context, prefer a storyline, like Diana Gabaldon’s fantasy series. So I asked some guys of my acquaintance.
They sweetly, and shyly, shared their DVDs with me.
And nope. Still gruesome, still blah, still all too frantic and yet uninteresting for me. Three thoughts occurred to me – first, honestly, why do people watch this stuff? Secondly, do people actually think sex is like this? And third, I can see immediately the urge to escalate.
Bethany: What’s he like?
Metatron: God? Lonely. But funny. He’s got a great sense of humor. Take sex for example. There’s nothing funnier than the ridiculous faces you people make mid-coitus.
Bethany: Sex is a joke in heaven?
Metatron: The way I understand it, it’s mostly a joke down here, too.
So what I got to wondering is, for the people who use porn as a stimulant, wouldn’t you get bored? Wouldn’t you want to up the ante, as it were? Wouldn’t you want to seek the more challenging sites? The ones with force or whatever? And how does this fit into our rape culture? What does constant exposure to porn do to our minds, our hearts, our sense of ourselves and others? What does it do to the image of loving connection?
I’ve got a list, from an expert, of possible okay movies and links to include in my book as a reference. I’m glad I had an expert to consult because I don’t want to take my brain there.
My dad once told me about how you have to be careful what you put into your mind. (He was right – I can still see the opening sequence of Friday the 13th Part 2, which I saw when I was in university back in the 80’s. To this day I look around before I open my fridge at night.) I don’t want to have images of women and men faking sexual enjoyment fill my head.
Right now I still think of sex as fun.
And funny. Where is the Metatron when I need him?