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 :)