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Multiple Sclerosis and climax - the silent O nobody wants to acknowledge.

By Scarlett Ward | 24 June 2024

Scarlett Ward looking over her shoulder at the camera. She is wearing a black tank top which shows off her tattooed arm and she is pursing her lips provocatively.
Scarlett Ward looking over her shoulder at the camera. She is wearing a black tank top which shows off her tattooed arm and she is pursing her lips provocatively.

Scarlett Ward

Scarlett Ward works as a writer, poet, and publisher, as well as working in the sexual wellness industry with Little Leaf Agency. She is a chronically-online Insta-obsessed Millennial who lives with Multiple Sclerosis.

When I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at 28, I did what any social media-obsessed Millennial would do - I turned to Instagram for support.

#ThisisMS

#MSstrong

#MSfighter

These hashtags held a treasure trove of insights and advice from the amazing community about numb legs, brain damage, bladder issues and speech problems that could arise when my immune system decided that attacking my brain was totally a good idea, and although I felt reassured and less isolated, there is one topic that I still to this day rarely see posted about - where the hell did my orgasms go?

Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune disease where the myelin is attacked by the immune system, causing problems in the transmission of information through the central nervous system. Think about when your old iPhone charger is bitten through and the electricity can’t get from the wall socket to your phone because of the dodgy wire coating.

Due to this, it can cause difficulty in walking, limb weakness, and in my case, total loss of speech, cognitive function and use of my legs. I have relapsing-remitting MS, which means after an attack, I will recover these abilities, but even when I was up walking and talking again, my relationship with sex was altered forever.

Imagine your favourite songs come on shuffle, and the intro gets you all excited, but just when the chorus is about to drop, after all that anticipation and excitement and build up and expectation and expectancy and suspense... the intro starts again. This is the closest I could get to describing it. Sometimes, the intro doesn’t even start again, and Spotify crashes. Wtf is going on with my body?

I have always been experimental with my sexuality and open with my sexual practices, so to have that taken away felt like daylight robbery. Again, I’ll refer you back to my broken phone charger comparison. The signals just aren’t always able to get through from my body to my brain. Bummer.

MS can come with all kinds of symptoms I personally found embarrassing, from bladder and bowel issues to distorted speech, so why didn’t my doctor tell me that my orgasms might make an exit from the chat? And why doesn’t anyone want to talk about it online? Perhaps Meta censorship is the culprit here, but it’s essential we guide and reassure people who are also having this symptom, not only because it can be common within the MS community but also because it can be something that people from all walks of life encounter at some point. Some medications for depression and anxiety can also suppress orgasms, and people later in life can often experience erectile dysfunction or delayed orgasm. It happens.

Although frustrating, I have found that my missing O led me to make some pretty insightful revelations about my relationship with sex. First and foremost was radical honesty with any new partners I had. It was always a tad awkward to tell them “I might not get there but I promise I’m enjoying myself and no it’s not your fault.” Being honest and vulnerable with your partner can only bring you closer (and if they have a problem with it then it’s a great way to weed out the weak. Thank you, next).

This issue also encouraged me to try lots of different things when it came to sex such as BDSM play and exploring new sensations, toys and practices. I went from being quite vanilla to enjoying my sub/dom relationship, sensation play and masturbation techniques. I extended my toy selection and have my favourites that help on a day when my sensation is reduced, and I would encourage anyone to do this, whether they have a disability or not!

Finally, the biggest thing I learned from this process is to value the journey and not the destination. Yes, orgasms are fabulous; who doesn’t love a toe-curling climax? However, when your relationship to orgasms gets a little complicated, it’s very easy to put pressure on achieving one every time you have sex or masturbate, blame your partner or worse, yourself. I personally found that when I’m not looking for my O, it finds me.

Orgasms don't have to be the great finishing line to intimacy. That’s a very heteronormative ideal anyway that is not only outdated, it’s boring. So slow down, breathe, and enjoy the moment. You’re not on your own.

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