Thursday, March 22, 2012

Beyond The Battlefield... Into The Bedroom


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 battlefielddeals, 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. 


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