Sex and Spinal Cord Injury: The Story of PULSE
21 July 2021
Sex and Spinal Cord Injury – We were catching up with Alix Fox’s brilliant ‘Close Encounters’ podcast recently when one story really stood out. Simon, one of Alix’s interviewees, talked about his experiences with spinal cord injury and how his injuries had affected his sex life.
It’s well worth a listen – check out the interview here, and other episodes here. The aim of the series is to highlight lots of different people’s sex lives, giving you a window into their desires and experiences. Simon’s story stood out to us because some of the sexual issues he’s facing are exactly those for which PULSE was invented. Shortly before his honeymoon to new wife Kate, Simon suffered a serious spinal injury that caused him to lose all sensation from the waist down, including in his penis and testicles. But a lack of sensation – or lack of ability to get an erection – doesn’t mean a lack of sexual drive.
In the podcast, Simon explains that no matter what their injuries, people often still want to have sexual contact. Simon talks about how his visits from his wife Kate helped to cheer him up during his long spell in hospital.
“When Kate would come and visit, we’d pull the curtain around the bed and Kate would have to keep quiet while we were at it.”
Simon’s story is similar to that of many of our customers – PULSE was invented when one of our founders, Adam Lewis, stumbled across an article in a medical journal about sex and spinal cord injuries. Usually sex toy origin stories start with something sexier than ‘semen retrieval’, but the article in question was titled: “Semen retrieval by penile vibratory stimulation in men with spinal cord injury.” It documented medical treatment designed to help people with serious spinal injuries take part in IVF – by using oscillating vibrations to stimulate the penis and help patients to ejaculate.
Orgasm with spinal cord injuries – from the lab to the bedroom
Naturally medical equipment isn’t always the sexiest looking stuff – nor is it always easy for patients to use themselves. But Adam saw potential in this technique, and wanted to bring it out of the medical lab and into people’s bedrooms.
So the idea for PULSE SOLO ESSENTIAL was born. It wasn’t quite as simple as just repackaging the technology, though: it took five years’ of development to turn this device from a medical tool into a compact, easy to use sex toy.
Response to PULSE by customers with spinal cord injuries
As well as being a hit with the general sex-toy-buying public, PULSE is having a profound effect on the lives of men who struggle with traditional methods of masturbation – and often their partners too. While the original medical device was designed to be used by those with spinal cord injuries like Simon’s, PULSE is also suited to men who suffer from erectile dysfunction – the toy can be used whether you’re flaccid or erect, and even allow you to orgasm without an erection.
Shortly after using PULSE, one customer got in touch to tell us:
“As a quadriplegic, this device has literally changed my life and given me back something I thought I had lost forever. You really do not know what that means to me.”
Another told us that the toy had a huge impact on their self-confidence as well as their pleasure:
“I just used the PULSE again (second time) and climaxed after one minute with an initially flaccid penis! This “instrument” is way too good to be labeled a “toy” and it has a really positive psychological impact in restoring my self-confidence that I can still climax (and quickly at that) … I am eternally grateful for this gift. I feel like a 20-year old again, full of hormones.”
One of the things that makes PULSE especially valuable to those with serious spinal injuries is the fact that it can be used hands-free. Speaking at the Sexual Health Expo in New York, Dr Ava Cavell told a story about a guy she met who struggled to use traditional manual toys.
“I was giving a class at the Institute for Advanced Sexuality and there was a gentleman in a wheelchair. I said to him ‘if you could invent any sex toy, what would it be?’ And he said ‘a hands-free male masturbator.’ And I whipped this out and he almost started crying. He said ‘oh my GOD they have one!’”
While many people with spinal cord injuries still have great movement in their upper body, the fact that PULSE can be used hands-free (it wraps around the penis and stays put once the button has been pressed) has proven to be pretty liberating for lots of our other customers too. Patricia Carney, who is an Independent Consultant in Sexuality Education and Human Rights, told us how PULSE empowers one of her clients to masturbate independently – something he wouldn’t be able to do at all without the help of the toy.
“PULSE has helped a client of mine who has a very involved degenerative muscular disorder. The only part of his body he can move independently is his head. He is able to breathe on his own, but has a tracheostomy tube, feeding tubes and catheters.
“I feel his ability to masturbate successfully is important to his dignity; one thing he can do that brings pleasure into his life and that he doesn’t require other people to do for him. A member of staff sets him up and then he is on his own. It is probably the most privacy he has in his day.”
We’re also proud to have been featured in Disability Horizons, and recommended by My Purple Compass – shops which specialise in products for people with disabilities.
Spinal cord injuries don’t stop you from having a sex life
As Simon’s interview neatly demonstrates, spinal cord injuries (and other mobility problems) don’t mean you suddenly stop desiring sex. Spending time that should have been his honeymoon in hospital, Simon and his wife Kate managed to sneak in a hell of a lot of raunch in between doctor’s visits – largely thanks to the curtains they could pull around his hospital bed.
But while sex drives remain in tact, it can often be difficult for people with limited mobility to use traditional sex toys. And PULSE is definitely a sex toy. We make no medical claims about the product – it’s designed for pleasure, with the aim that as many people can use it as possible – no matter what other physical barriers they may have. Male masturbators that require a lot of manual dexterity are pretty useless if you can’t manipulate them, and sex toys which require an erection are no good if you’re flaccid. But with PULSE, more and more people are discovering that they can get hard and orgasm where previously masturbation would have been difficult or impossible.
When it comes to sex and spinal cord injuries, there are plenty of social barriers to overcome. As mentioned at the beginning of the blog, there is a huge misconception around sex and disability: the idea that injuries come part and parcel with a lack of sex drive, for instance. While there’s still plenty of work to do in challenging these social barriers, PULSE is paving the way in breaking down physical barriers, and helping people with spinal cord injuries get off (and get it on).
The medical tech that inspired PULSE is just one of the ways that technology is improving health in the 21st century. Check out this link for more.