Being someone with a pretty strong libido, I got to thinking that even if I couldn’t move my arms and legs, I’d probably still have a pretty strong libido. The problem is, if I couldn’t move, I couldn’t do anything to ah, relieve that sexual tension.
So what do people who are paralyzed/bedridden do? I know this is probably the product of some ‘doctor’ fantasies, but I’m asking as a legitimate question here- I’m sure parlyzed people get horny too, it would such a drag if they couldn’t do anything but lay there (no pun intended)
The short answer, is, unfortunately, not much. Most people who are para/quadrapelegic have spinal cord injuries that result in transection or destruction of the cord at the level of the injury. All sensory and motor function below the level of the injury is lost (with the exception of a few para/sympathetic fibers here and there). Since the genitalia are supplied by the sacral nerves, the lowest level of the spinal canal, there isn’t usually any function left and everything is numb. As far as any activity left to the intact regions, well, I have no idea if anyone has been able to find “release” via other erogenous zones like the mouth, nipples, earlobes, etc. My WAG is you could probably find a case or two, but for the most part parapelegics lose sexual release.
The longer answer starts with a disclaimer of “we don’t really understand sexual function that well.” The enervation of the genitals hasn’t really been an important focus of neuroanatomy, since the really sexy work (so to speak) has been on the central nervous system. And even there, it’s nearly impossible to completely map all of the dendritic extends because they are vast.
A single cell can extend a dendrite from the brain stem all the way down the spine. Others go from the ganglia at the spine all the way down the leg. Some go from the brain down the trunk via the vagus nerve. And while the gross nerve bundles can be easily traced via dissection, it takes a full body PET scan to trace individual nerve cells… and the success rate is low, even with that.
Now, there is some evidence that the vagus nerve, responsible for a lot of involuntary function in the gut, also supplies the genitals, and that paraplegics still exhibit some sexual response. The evidence is spotty and mostly clinical.
There is a good summary of how this is understood to work here and a less rigorous treatment here.
But you can bet your cojones that it ain’t like it was before the spinal cord injury.
In my junior year in college my neighbor got pregnent by a guy in a wheelchair. I had never heard or imagined it was possible but they did IT. She also informed me that he was quite “orally” simulating. :wally
Okay, I guess the more specific question was, if someone was able to feel pleasurable sensations, but couldn’t move, how would they relieve sexual tension? Sure it would be easy if they are in a relationship/have a spouse, but what if they don’t? Even single people can masturbate, but if you can’t move, what then?
An neighbor of mine had her spinal cord severed in a shooting, and was a paraplegic. I do know she was sexually active, but despite her advances, I do not have first-hand knowledge of the intricacies of her specific case. Perhaps it is tied to emotion?
I can get myself off by just thinking about it. I read about it somewhere and I tried it and eventually was able to train myself into it. It is much better with a steady pressure against that area, but I can still orgasm laying completely still and not touching myself. I am a female, if that makes a difference.
I remember a Scientific American article in the last ten years discussing this. I believe it may have opened with a reference to the John Updike’s “The World According to Garp” in which Garp’s mother is impregnated by a paralyzed soldier who maintains an erection until he climaxes inside of her (I haven’t seen the film since it open so I could be wrong in this description). The assumption was that this of course was fictional event.
I’m going on memory fumes, but this what I remember: the article describes that about a quarter to one/third of male quadriplegics are able to have spontaneous erections (and in some cases have fathered children!). The difference compared to normal males was that occurred much more quickly; this had something to with some autonomy with respect to the nerves responsible for sexual response (a la the response that occurs when you hit the area below your knee and get the jerk). The article said that analysis of this unexpected behavior was that the brain actually was wired to slow things down and went on to explain why this was significant (any woman care to comment on this? ).
I do remember from human physiology that erection and ejaculations are functions managed by the autonomous nervous system (erection being sympathetic, ejaculation being parasympathetic). Thus, spinal damage wouldn’t affect these functions. The penis would still “work as advertised” but the poor chap wouldn’t be able to feel much sensation if any at all.
As to what they do to relieve the tension… I have no idea. I have to imagine that there’s something of a a black market on home-care workers who are willing to take some cash under the table to provide extra services “under the table.”