Monday, 9 April 2012

Sex: A Sick Mans Perspective

 Guest Blog by Mr O

Thank you to Mr O for being my first ever guest blogger, the second blog in what is rapidly turning into a series. I hope you find it as interesting as I have – it raises questions about how we see sexuality by that I mean as a man the notion of masculinity and how that is impacted when chronically sick or disabled.

First things first, I need to clarify two issues here. First, the title. Every time I read it, the thought of a sexual deviant, a dirty perv springs to mind. "A Sick Man" doesn't mean I like wearing washing up gloves, it means I am sick, as in poorly.

Secondly, like Fibrogirl I have an "Invisible Illness" but where she has her Fibromyalgia, I have ME, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (because I can never spell the ACTUAL name without Google)

 "Lets Talk About Sex" got me thinking that, from a sick woman’s perspective, things are not too dissimilar to that of a mans. However, things are different enough to warrant a post of its own.

A little about me: I am a 30-something man that has only recently been diagnosed with ME, but I have been ill for 12 years. The last two years have seen a marked decline in my health, and that in itself has had a knock-on affect in all aspects of my life.
My partner and I started dating four years ago, and she was aware of my medical issues then, even before we started dating. I have always been open and honest about my illness.

Sexually, we have always been quite active, but it has always been on the whim of my body (and I am talking pain levels and energy levels, nothing else!) and, being a man, there are certain things that are almost "expected", if even in a gender-specific role, determined by society.

Like Fgirl, the questions are, How do you manage to have a fun sex life when you:

A: Feel like shit most of the time,
B: Have lost your confidence,
C: Feel like no one will ever fancy you again,
D: Feel depressed, fed up, angry, ugly, and/or unattractive

While I can't speak for ALL men, these things apply to me. If walking up and down stairs is a mission, how can I expect to perform in the bedroom?
How can I expect to ACT in an alluring manner, when I look at myself and think "Ugh, really?"

Us men have confidence issues too, and can feel unattractive and ugly. And if I don't feel "sexy" then how can I be expected to get my partner in the mood, let alone enjoy myself. Now compound this will an illness that leaves you in agony, or unable to move properly, or incapable of summing up the energy to stand up..

Like every Agony Aunt in the world has ever said, the main things you need for a fulfilling sex life is time, compassion, understanding, and trust. While this is true for ANY loving relationship, I believe it is more important for those of us with medical issues.

My partner is hugely understanding, very compassionate, and does everything she can to help me out. If we are both in the mood, but I am in too much pain, we will still make love, but it is more her taking control, reading me and my body to pleasure the pair of us. If my pain levels are bearable, then it becomes a case of dealing with the energy levels... Sure, it'd be GREAT to be able to go constantly, all night long, but I know that is not the case with me.

From the "Social" aspect - and I will add now, a view I whole-heartedly think is crap - the man is supposed to be the dominate one in the bedroom, the man is supposed to take the lead, do things his way, and eventually brag to his mates in the pub the following evening.

When you struggle to wash yourself some days, clearly most of that goes out the window. When I am feeling good, I CAN be dominant, I CAN take the lead in the bedroom, and generally when I am feeling semi-normal, that is the case - but if my partner wants to do so, then so be it. However, when my body is not playing fair, she HAS to take over, she HAS to lead and do what she wants to do to me. Pain can take over your sex life, and the act of thrusting in and out - slowly or quickly - can soon get to the point of being too painful to carry on. Energy levels play a similar role, and while I would love to be able to have multi-hour-sex-marathons, the sad reality is my body gives up before getting to the half-marathon point.

I've never been a "Jump On, Have My Way, Jump Off" sort of man, and am actually more than happy for my partner to be satisfied, and be too exhausted to do anything else. Job Well Done, I would say! But as Beth said, the rush of endorphins that come with climax do something to the chemistry of the body that make you feel so good - better than any medication ever can... But there's no way I'd just have sex to reach that point.

We can't "plan" to have sex, not ever. If I am in TOO much pain, or am falling asleep trying to get up the stairs, then generally, we don't do anything. If my body is playing in ANY form though, then it's a case of doing it as per my body.

But, it is difficult, especially if the four points up there are not taken into account... Confidence is the key to everything, and if I feel like a crap lover, am miserable because I've had a hard day, or am feeling very Anti-Me and Angry at how my body is (or is not) functioning, then it does ruin the experience. And of course, a lot of men have issues *ahem* rising to the occasion if they are having any problems with their self-confidence, and this in turn can snowball out of control if they have medical issues.

I am lucky in that I have a very understanding partner, that is willing to take control when I can't.

There is little, if any, useful advice on the internet about people with invisible illnesses enjoying a full sex life, and it's something that needs to change. I am sure there are other men in the same boat as me, and if I can help or offer advice, then so be it.

There will be more posts, I am sure of it :)

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Lets talk about sex

Many years ago I went to a story telling event, the adults only evening was packed..the story teller came on and said Sex Sells  in a chocolaty velvety voice that made me a puddle of desire (I'm a sucker for a sexy voice) we all laughed a little embarrassed like we had been caught doing something naughty.

I'm often surprised that the notion of sex is still a subject we talk about in whispers, its better than it was when i was growing up, but given some of the comments made on twitter a couple of weeks ago when the This Morning programme looked at sex for the over 70's we haven't moved that far still seems to be the territory for the slim young things able to partake in the most energetic of sexploits. We can think taboos have been broken. Have they?

How do you think people would react if the same programme did a piece with two disabled people dressed in PJ's on a bed showing the top 5 sex positions?

Talk about disabled people having sex and suddenly we are in a whole different ball game, the very idea that all of us even the most profoundly disabled, have sexual desire and are able to be aroused is almost no go territory. I'm not as well versed nor able to write as eloquently as other people about this, although i would love to.

 I have always believed good quality non judgemental information is a must for everyone who wants it. That doest wax lyrical about a loving relationship but actually discusses the how not the just the what. I can only talk from my perspective - getting sick in your adult life takes some getting used to. the kind of sex i had before i was ill, is different to how i have it now.

I looked all over the Internet for advice, i even bought a book, to be honest it was rubbish it didn't tell me anything other than be open, talk and laugh together. gee thanks! !!

 I have been intending to write this blog for weeks, in particular in the light of the Channel 4 series UnDateables. It raised many observations for me and questions

Dating or being in a relationship is hard enough but how to do it when you are no longer "fit"?
How to balance having a healthy sexual relationship and be cared for?
What is the best position?
How do you manage to have a fun sex life when you feel:
A: like shit most of the time
B: Have lost your confidence
C: Like no one will ever fancy you again
D: depressed, fed up, angry, ugly, unattractive (delete or tick the ones that apply)

I'm not sure i have the answers myself but I'm at least willing to blog about it, I will write in more detail and take each of the questions in turn.  However as my mum might read this and my poor LM will die of embarrassment heck my best friends read this I wont be giving you a blow by blow account of my sexploits sorry sex might sell but I want to inform not write porn..(well not in this blog anyway)

To be blunt there is very little decent information out there about the practicalities, what sex toys are good when your hands don't work very well, position of the week or how to find sexy underwear when you cant pull your own knickers up.

Sex starts with you, our minds are the biggest and best sex organs we have. If you don't feel sexy and desirable then how on earth can you hope anyone else does. I can almost hear you saying but that's easy to say hard to do. Of course it is.

Fact I'm over weight, short, grey, I have hairy legs and a bush that birds could nest in (I not safe with a fruit knife so razor near my vagina is not an option) I have stretch marks on top of stretch marks, I'm chronically sick, often too knackered to even think about it and i have a hip prone to giving out at the point of shouting hell quite frankly I'm not exactly the in the Samantha Brick School of Beauty..

However I like sex, hell i adore sex..on my own or with LM its great - post coital endorphins are wonderful (even if an hour later i feel like crap my body doesn't distinguish between good adrenalin and bad)

So how did i manage to get myself LM when i was poor, fat, almost 40, single parent and sick - im not sure other than I was Me - funny, sweet, nice, flirty (lost on him) in others words he fell for me..I didn't sit there bemoaning my fate I met him with honestly and a kick ass cleavage.

I cant do this topic justice today in one blog - but i will over the next few weeks attempt to write about having a sex life and even if your single how to think about dating if you want or at least how to find a good sex toy if you have never bought or used one before.

I am willing to go where others may not have been brave or foolhardy enough to go before...look away now mum :)