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Jennifer Sabih Headshot

Beyond The Battlefield... Into The Bedroom

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The best sex I've ever had is with a man who most people think can't have it. That's an extremely personal thing to blurt out in such a public forum -- and something until now, I've shared only with my sister and best girlfriends. Keeping the details of one's sex life private is, I believe, generally a good policy. But after learning American Servicemen are coming home with genital wounds that may seem to have destroyed their chances for ever again having fulfilling intimate relationships, I've come to feel an almost patriotic duty to unbolt the bedroom door and open up about my own relationship with an injured American war veteran.

When my boyfriend was in the VA hospital learning how to be a paraplegic, (he's unable to feel or move anything below the chest level after a bullet severed his spinal cord in Vietnam), he says he pretty much "wrote-off" ever having a satisfying sexual relationship with a woman again. Today he'll brag, he's having the kind of sex most able-bodied men would envy.

And it turns out we are not an anomaly... Because I've been asking around. I was inspired to do my own research into the so called "signature wound" of America's latest wars, after reading David Wood's deeply moving "Beyond the Battlefield" series in the Huffington Post a few months ago, with the latest installment today. What really got me, was the do-not-resuscitate pacts infantrymen were rumored making with medics -- asking their combat buddies not to save them if their sex organs were a casualty. They would rather be dead than castrated, Wood succinctly explained. (The loss of legs are apparently not considered important enough to include in these battlefield deals, only the penis is part of the pact).

Since I figured the attachment to this particular body part has a lot to do with a perceived inability to perform sexually, and since I know that to be faulty reasoning, I decided to do my own interviews with Servicemen who suffered genitourinary (GU) wounds in Iraq and Afghanistan. (As a television reporter for the CBS affiliate in Los Angeles for more than a decade, I'm accustomed to asking personal questions -- and this time I was willing to answer some of my own). And I've found Servicemen and their wives and girlfriends are forthcoming with private details about how war wounds have changed their love lives. They've been candid about what no longer works, and work-arounds to take its place; they've told me of adaptations discovered and enhancements found; they've expressed grief over what they've had to give up forever, and mirth about what they can do now that they wouldn't have dreamed of doing before. One double amputee for example smiled as he told how, without legs he's lost some leverage in the act of lovemaking, but gained some serious flair -- in the diversity of positions he can now maneuver his body into. Especially, his wife laughingly told me, if he removes his prosthetics.

They both spoke of the necessity of finding humor in their circumstances. But I'm not going to sugar coat the nature of what's required for recovery -- all the Servicemen I've spoken to admit, going from the battlefield into the bedroom with GU wounds (burned, shot, mangled, in some cases even amputated sex organs), is, at the beginning, anguishing. Separately, two married soldiers with genital injuries told me they refused to have sex with their wives for months: Even after doctors said it was okay. Even though their wives were trying hard to re-ignite passion. Even when the lack of sexual intimacy began threatening the health of their marriages.

One veteran's penis was part of the 60 percent of his body burned when a roadside bomb exploded under his Humvee in Baghdad. He felt disfigured and ugly, and assumed his wife must surely see him as "unattractive" as well. Besides, sexual contact "felt more painful than good," so he pushed his wife away when she tried to start something up. But luckily for their marriage, she refused to take 'no' for an answer. She also refused to accept the "I don't know" answer she says the VA doctor gave when she asked, "when will my husband want to have sex again?" With her new marriage in jeopardy, and her desire to have a child at risk, this brave young wife (just 20-years-old at the time) took their sexual recovery in her own hands -- the details of which are TMI (Too Much Information) for this short blog. But take my word, I was blown away with the imaginative and resourceful ways this couple found to overcome the challenges of a GU injury. They are a few years down the road now and agree their sex life is better than it ever was. And beyond the satisfying physical relationship, the emotional bond forged in a battle they weren't sure they'd win, (given the high military divorce rate), is particularly sweet. "There is nothing that could break us now," the veteran told me.

Because both the severity and the frequency of GU wounds is unprecedented, there is no road map yet to guide injured vets and their partners back to intimacy; no manual on the dos and don'ts of having sex when the sex organs no longer work the way they once did. Until the VA and military medicine catch up, these newly injured veterans may have to rely on the experiences of those who have come before them.

Perhaps my experience and experiments with a Vietnam veteran can be of value to a new generation of wounded warriors. Of course, there are manifest differences in the physical nature of paralysis (as a result of a bullet wound), and those of a Servicemen whose genitals have been disfigured or are missing completely (due to the blast of an IED), but the consequences in the sexual arena are comparable. And the questions, fears and worries the same: 'Will I be attractive to a woman again?', 'Will I be able to sexually satisfy my partner?', 'Heck, forget about my partner, will I ever feel sexual pleasure again?' Those are questions I can answer with some authority. Because I know from both my own experience, and now from hearing similar stories from other couples: Great sex is NOT out of reach just because the sex organs no longer work the way they once did. In fact, my boyfriend and I have learned that when it comes to having what we call transcendent sex -- the condition of the physical body is almost immaterial. And, not only is good sex still possible -- the best sex of your life can be still to come: I offer up my story as evidence that anyone -- ready, willing, able or disabled -- can experience exalted, ecstatic, knock-your-socks-off, sacred sex: All that's needed is a loving partner and a little knowledge.

For us that knowledge has come from reading modern scientific studies, as well as ancient esoteric texts. We keep up with cutting edge treatments from Western medicine as well as take advantage of more venerable healing modalities from the East (Acupuncture and Pranic Healing1). We bring into the bedroom the latest of what present day pharmacology has to offer to overcome the limitations of a paraplegics physical anatomy, (Hello Caverject2), and even more useful, we apply and experiment with what metaphysics has taught us about the energetic anatomy. (You might be surprised to find the value-added to lovemaking for example, when one learns about what is known as the Etheric Body3). Sprinkle in love, and it adds up to some mind-blowing sex with a man who once believed his combat injury had blown his chances for ever getting it the way he does now.

If this is awkward to read, I assure you, it's doubly awkward to write. And I haven't even given out the particulars! But the specifics -- the what and the how, the ins and the outs (pun intended) -- is again, Too Much Information for a forum as public as this. I'm working on what I guess you could call a Kiss & Tell: laying out what I've learned in my relationship with an injured veteran. At the same time gathering up the stories of what's working for other wounded warriors and their woman, (and same-sex partners, I hope). In the meantime, what is not TMI, in fact what is just the right amount of information for here and now is a message of hope meant for the thousands of young Servicemen in the prime of life now coming home from war with catastrophic wounds: Be assured: Great, Even Phenomenal Sex is NOT a Casualty of Service to Your Country.

More to come...

Jennifersabih@gmail.com

Notes:

1 - By applying techniques we've learned in a form of energy medicine known as Pranic Healing, my boyfriend has been able to experience what might be considered medical miracles: Most certainly they are miracles to him, as he spent years believing he'd never have some of these sexual experiences again. To learn more about Pranic Healing and particularly as applied to war trauma check out www.healthforveterans.com

2 - Caverject is a treatment for erectile dysfunction that my partner can eject into the penis to produce a long-lasting erection. Yes it seems painful to give yourself a shot in such a sensitive part of the body, but hey, he can't feel it.

3 - The Etheric Body also known as the Bio-Plasmic Body is an invisible field of energy closly following the mold or contour of the physical body. Even the sober scientists at National Institutes of Health recognize the existence of biofields--an assemblage of electromagnetic fields of energy surrounding and extending outward from each person's body,

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