Sex With Steph: Medical Issues Are Affecting My Love Life

I am a 21-year-old young woman, not dating anyone at the moment. I also happen to have a plethora of medical issues, Even though I’ve worked hard my whole life not to let my medical issues get in the way of living my life, there are some situations where it’s unavoidable. Due to a medical misjudgment when I was 5, I am unable to have “conventional sex.”

I knew I was a sexual person, and I found a way to get what I needed despite not being able to conventionally do it. But the thing is, since this is something that directly deals with a partner, I cannot just not say anything. Or avoid it for long. I’m also covered in many scars, and my whole stomach is covered in scars and a hole to catheterize myself. (Currently, I have to have a stoma bag since, due to my recent kidney transplant, my bladder is not used to holding pee yet.) So I am pretty self-conscience about that part.

This is also hard, because I do consider myself a very sexual person, who also happens to have kinks, and I enjoy the unconventional things at times. But my body does not connect to my mind. I want to be this sex kitten, the girl who CAN hook up, with little explanation, and not have to hand any guy I’m into a summary of my medical history. How can I work through this? How do I tell someone I can’t have “normal” sex? Or know whether I am being rejected not as a “person” but because of my medical stuff being too much?

While I’ve never had to debrief sexual partners with a laundry list of severe physical ailments, I have had to explain away other things: I’ve cried mid-coitus (due to issues stemming from a past sexually and emotionally abusive relationship), I’ve struggled with low libido levels, and I’ve spent way too much time going into contortions in order to work around the pain I often experience during intercourse. So I can only imagine that the difficulty you’re experiencing with your own medical issues is way more challenging.

Still, many sexual relationships require a serious unpacking of both physical and emotional baggage, and I don’t want you to give up on partner sex (or romance, for that matter), because your medical history requires that you provide more of an explanation up front. You mention scars and a stoma bag. Being self-conscious about such things is as unproductive as insisting he turn the lights off or leave your skirt on because you’re self-conscious about your stomach pooch or your thunder thighs. Once you begin considering these things unimportant incidentals when it comes to your sexuality, the self-confidence you gain should go a long way toward making your sexual conquests consider them incidentals as well. Do I really need to repeat that old adage about nothing being sexier than self-confidence?

Feel free to play the sex kitten. Rather than being on the defensive about your medical issues (which is something you may be doing unintentionally as a direct result of past disappointments), be unapologetic when it comes to your sexuality. Flirt outrageously. Touch your lust object playfully. If you want to go back to his place, do so. Explain to him (without necessarily giving an hour-long discourse) that it takes something different for you to have a good time in bed. Use dirty talk to guide him on the best ways to give you pleasure. Show him how willing and able you are to reciprocate. Because—as this terrific Scarleteen piece so eloquently says—”you have to focus on what actually feels best for you and your partner, instead of getting hung-up about what’s ‘normal’ or how you’re ‘supposed’ to have sex.”

Rejection may still happen, and there’s no way to know whether you’re being rejected because of your medical issues or because of something else. The reasons shouldn’t matter. Rather than focusing on past rejections, focus instead on finding a partner (or partners) who has absolutely no problem enjoying a feel-good romp with you. Do you really want to waste time worrying about someone who turned down sex!? Also, pick up a copy of The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability. Written for those with disabilities, chronic pain, and/or illness, it contains information on sex positions, sexual health, and—most importantly, in your case—self-esteem and communication. It has a great resource section, too!

Good luck, chica.

Got a question for “Sex with Steph” sex adviser Steph Auteri? Send her an email with your pressing sex questions!