November 8, 2019

Opening Up To Pleasure After Becoming A Paraplegic

After thirteen years of sexual abstinence, I am ready for orgasms.
Written by
Camile Flosi Araujo
Published on
November 8, 2019
Updated on
What's changed?
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After thirteen years of sexual abstinence, I am ready for orgasms.

Thirteen years ago, I hit a palm tree on my way home from work in my police cruiser and became a paraplegic. I lost all movement and feeling below my chest.

My identity as a cop, as an athletic, sexual woman died along with the tree I hit. I watched my muscular legs atrophy into skin, bones and scars. Seeing the decay of my body when I looked in the mirror hurt more than my prognosis — I would never run, dance or enjoy sex again.

After the accident, I no longer felt beautiful. I had to get used to being examined and seen by medical staff and other patients. When the physical therapist pulled up my shirt to show the doctor in charge of my case my spinal curvature, I held the right edge of my shirt down to prevent everyone from seeing my body. The doctor said, “You don’t need to worry. Your dignity was lost long ago.”

She was right. My body felt alien. It was no longer under my command. It served no purpose to me any longer. My body was simply a machine. A machine of consumption and excretion.

But for years, before the accident had even happened, I’d treated my body no differently. 

“After trauma, the world is experienced with a different nervous system. The survivor’s energy now becomes focused on suppressing inner chaos, at the expense of spontaneous involvement in their life.” 
— Bessel Van Der Kolk, The Body Keeps Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing Trauma

I was 16 when I experienced my first intimate orgasm by someone else’s hand – well, tongue. I was too young to grasp the importance of the moment, but old enough to feel self-conscious about my shaking body as the heat wave of pleasure flooded me. Ten years later, after a divorce from another man who’d failed miserably at pleasing me in bed, I bought myself my first toy, The Rabbit. I read sex self-help books for hours in the aisles of Barnes & Noble. I practiced the breathing techniques and rhythmic hip movements the books spoke of. I also discovered the importance of surrendering to another when accepting pleasure.

Six months after the divorce was finalized, I met a man who not only worshiped my figure, but also attended to my emotional needs. We slept together almost one month after meeting each other. It was unplanned.

As he undressed me in my apartment, I said, “I haven’t shaved my legs. Skipped my Brazilian wax too because I have my period.”

He said, “If I’m in love with you already this way, imagine how much deeper I’ll fall when you look that way.”

Orgasms for the sake of orgasms were no longer a choice. This man had shown me that something deeper happened during mutual, respectful intimacy. I was 27 then. Old enough to know to let go and receive, and too young to recognize that it was too good to be true. He broke up with me 10 days later.

When he said it was over between us, my body felt numb. I let him go without a fight. Every cell of my body yelled for him to stay.

After, I ran longer on the beach. I worked more. I kept myself busy so I wouldn’t think about him too much, and worried that perhaps I was not the type of woman that men stayed around for.

At night, I escaped the pain with The Rabbit. I perfected the art of masturbation. Soon, I, alone, completed me.

I transformed my body with excessive exercise, meticulous diet and midday suntans to achieve the perfect golden hue on my skin. I never missed a waxing or hair dying appointment. I couldn’t resist staring at my reflection in the bathroom mirror, or in store windows and photographs. My picture-perfect body guarded me from my internal imperfections, invisible to the unwilling, naked eye.

By the time I was 28, I was having plenty of orgasms with unattached men. Unattached sex empowered me. It was addictive. I set the rules of sexual engagement. I knew what I wanted and what to expect. There was no bad day that a few orgasms a night could not reset.

I lived a sexually free life void of emotion.

Now, I am a 43-year-old paraplegic and I yearn for sex — but for the kind that comes with emotional intimacy.  

My therapist suggested alternative ways to reconnect myself with the part of me that broke long before the accident – the emotional part that was paralyzed before I was. So, three weeks ago, I attended an online webinar called Tantra and Conscious Sex 101.

“Tantra is the way to overcome obstacles in the fastest way possible. At the heart of it, Tantra is the skillful use of energy. It gives us the tools to explore our inner energetic landscape and make meaningful transitions.”
— Tantra yoga teacher, Tracey Stanley, as quoted in a Yoga Journal by Jessie Lucier, May 22, 2017

With over 30 other people attending the virtual lesson, I followed the Tantra instructor’s directions to lie down and put a pillow under my upper back. The soles of my feet touched each other as my legs fell to the side. The instructor told us to place our left arms over our heads and use the right hand to caress our bellies up to our breasts. I touched my neck with the fingertips of my right hand and let them run all the way down to my pubic bone. I felt a small hot flash in my heart.

“Breathe in three times quickly. One-Two-Three. Out with a long sigh,” she’d say in the middle of a touching exercise.

I followed the breathing more intently when I touched the parts I could not feel. I spent more time on my stomach, on a vertical scar from my belly button to the pubic line and the stomach to its side. The more time I spent caressing the scars and deformed areas of my body, the more I felt like my body had purpose. That it wasn’t just a vehicle to process and pass nourishment.

To my surprise, I wasn’t the only woman on the call who had never touched her own G-Spot. The instructor guided us. I muted my phone. My breathing got faster and my sighs louder. My index finger found its way inside my vagina and massaged the peach-pit like ball inside of it behind the clitoris. There was no way to tell if I was touching the right place. I let the thought go. Breathe in quick, one-two-three. Loud sigh out. I recalled that I had never experienced orgasms during penetration.

I circulated the hardened muscle-like ball counterclockwise, then clockwise. Breathe in, one-two-three. Exhale. My legs spasmed, both of my bent knees shot upwards. I lost track of the one-two-three breathing. I can’t recall whether I imagined it or if I actually felt my hips moving to the beat of my diaphragm.

I felt wetness exuding from within me. My entire hand was wet. I recognized the moistness between my fingers. Tiny shivers ran up and down my spine as my chest opened up towards the ceiling.

Reviewed for Medical Accuracy

Camile Flosi Araujo is a Brazilian born writer. South Florida has been her home since 1989. After her retirement from Miami Dade PD, Camile contributed as a columnist — “Just For Women” — for PN Magazine for two years. In 2017 she graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Tampa. She’s currently revising a novel; curating an essay collection, Exhumations; and single-mothering her wonderful daughter and their rescued 21 month-old Yorkie, Chipper — all from her wheelchair. In May, 2019, she read for Lip Service: True Stories Out Loud. Some of her essays can be found online and on WritingClassRadio.com podcast.

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