Let’s Talk About Sex and Chronic Illness, Baby
Save the Date: Feb. 11, 2021, at 7 p.m. ET. Join @pulmonaryhypertensionnews on Instagram Live for a live Q&A about sex with chronic illness and PH. The event is called “Sex on PHire – Sex Talk with Britt Foster.” Join Britt Foster and host Ally Macgregor as we discuss topics related to sex that many are curious about but haven’t yet discussed.
“Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It,” “Get Down Tonight,” “Let’s Talk About Sex,” “What’s Your Fantasy,” “Get Ur Freak On.” All of these songs have one thing in common: sex. It feels so natural to sing along with Missy Elliot as she raps about being “the best around” and “lasting 20 rounds.”
Listening to popular songs about sex makes me wonder where these musicians get their confidence from. What gives Ludacris the sexual security to rap about all the ways he would like to fulfill a woman’s fantasy? Where can I find this level of confidence, and where does it come from? Does it come from experience? From having great sex? Listening to popular songs and watching sex scenes in movies like “Love & Other Drugs” makes me question what I’m missing.
For much of my adult life, I have felt uncomfortable talking about my sex life and sexual needs. Living with chronic illness has complicated these feelings. I didn’t trust or feel connected to my body, which made it impossible to even think about sex for many years. Unlike many of my friends in college, I didn’t have my first sexual experience until age 21. Worrying about the physical consequences and the possibility of being hurt or disrespected made me fear the human connection I craved deep down.
I am now comfortable using my voice to share some of my struggles related to sex, sexual pleasure, and intimacy. Learning to speak up and talk about sex didn’t happen overnight. To gain sexual confidence, I had to first learn more about my health conditions and the ways that my body works. I was taught to listen to my body and needs, and eventually I gained experience and learned what felt pleasurable through self-exploration. I remained true to my physical and emotional needs, sexuality, sexual preferences, and identity. I have been voicing my desires and trusting that the right person will meet them.
Throughout college, my friends were “hooking up” and returning to the dorm room at 5 a.m. after a “wild night” in the same clothes and makeup as the night before, but I never was. Instead, I was masking my body’s physical needs and physical pain with what seemed like a genuine smile. Hiding the impact that my health conditions had on my body for years only heightened the disconnect between my body and mind.
When I started having sex, I was frustrated by this emotional disconnect from my own body because I wasn’t experiencing pleasure and reaching orgasm. This frustration caused me to shift my focus from my needs to my partner’s. Sex became one-sided, although I knew it shouldn’t be. My physical conditions and limitations made this dynamic seem OK and even necessary.
After gaining more knowledge about my health conditions, learning how to work around my limits, and developing a better treatment plan, I began feeling better, and therefore wanted to experience sexual pleasure. The first time I was able to orgasm (with my long-term partner at the time) felt freeing. Not only because of the physical feeling, but because it was emotional to know what my body was capable of feeling.
Although I don’t have much control over my physical health and chronic illness, I do have control over how I experience sex, one of the simple pleasures in life that I am entitled to. This feeling of control over my body drives me to enjoy sex and fuels my passion for speaking up about it, both for myself and others that may feel silenced or ashamed.
I would love for the sex dialogue to be more open in the chronic illness community. It should feel as natural to talk about as it is to sing along with Ludacris as he raps, “… back seat windows up/ That’s the way I like to …” OK, you get the picture. Let’s talk about sex, baby!
Make sure to join me for that Instagram Live!
Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.