When you blow your lower back, everything changes: including the way you have sex.

I don’t really want to write this column. I want to write about rope, and leather, and batteries. But first I’ve gotta do something here. If I ever want to write about sex again, I have to write about what’s been the single biggest aspect of my sex life for the last two years: back injury. Fuck, right? Lame, aggravating and not sexy. In May 2010, I blew up my low back. Right as I was really getting confident with this sassy, poly, teasing vixen sexpot role that I could meet people with, play with, and write about. The universe is pretty twisted sometimes. I didn’t have a lot of sex in the last year and a half, and I didn’t really write about it much either.

When your extracurriculars involve more tears than orgasms, writing a flirty and tantalizing sex column becomes a pretty irritating endeavor. When I first started living with the injury, the pain was pretty constant, and pretty low-grade. Like being really tired all the time, or having a stomach ache. Something that you can ignore for short bursts while you’re distracted, but you kind of want to go home and rest as soon as you get the chance. I was moving towns at the time, and I’d left behind a guy I really cared about, so somehow I just laid off of intimacy for a summer— the longest I’d gone without sex since I first discovered it at sixteen. In the past I would have been insatiable after a couple weeks. But that summer it was different. I’ve always been one to arch my back when I get really turned on, so every time things started to get good I would give myself this jolt of pain and lose my orgasm. Oral, penetrative, whatever. Even masturbation. Sex was suddenly kind of a chore, and making out was just a tease.

I was still horny. I would even have enthusiastic, sloppy wet, pain-free sex dreams, only to awake too back-sore to masturbate. I started to change the channel during sex scenes on TV, look away from teasing billboards and magazines. I was aching, physically, emotionally, sexually.

I want to be very clear here. My injury was not that bad. My pain levels were usually pretty manageable, and I know there are a lot of people out there who deal with ten times this kind of trauma, and have their whole lives. Some of them are good friends of mine. But even as comparably mellow as my pain was, it was enough to throw a serious wrench in my sex life.

So the pain got worse, then better, then worse again. Then a lot worse. This was pretty much what the doctors told me to expect. By fall I reached a bit of a crisis point, and stopped working to try to heal. Physical therapy, steroid injections, medication. I couldn’t mountain bike, swim, run, or really use any of my usual coping mechanisms. Couldn’t find a comfortable position to read a book. I watched a lot of TV and cried a lot. Depression: also not great for the sex drive. When I finally snapped and started to rebuild, sex wasn’t even really on the menu. This thing which for most of my life had been a huge part of my personality, my daydreams, and my desires gradually dropped lower and lower down the list of Things I Give a Shit About.

A year passed. I got stronger. Started to heal. The pain was still there, but it was pretty manageable and I stopped feeling sorry for myself and started to live again. With this transition came the return of the horny.

I’m not sure which was worse, in terms of sex: losing the drive and entertaining only faded memories of this thing which used to be supremely important to me, or suddenly crackling with a year’s worth of pent up sexual desire and being unable to act on it. Now I was healed, right? When it came to my work life, I could fight through most of the pain and shrug the rest off. My back was doing so much better, but sex was different. This supremely enjoyable act, this very thing which is supposed to be about pleasure and sensation and delight—this? Really, universe?  The whole point of sex is to enjoy yourself, and to please your partner. So the waves of cramping rising through the experience were so much more offensive to me than those which came with work, so much more disgusting and infuriating. I couldn’t just ignore it and get the job done, because the whole point of the job was my own pleasure.

Sexual difficulty can be so fucking soul-crushing. What the hell do you when the act of pleasure becomes fraught with trouble? It sort of gets at the core of why sex is so fascinating to me. This thing which originally was a physical function akin to eating or pooping, the simple physiological mechanism by which we combine our genetic material; human culture has turned it into this kaleidoscope of conflicting interests and perspectives, colors and shapes and textures, art and music, inspiration, devotion, violence, passion, sweat. It’s an industry, it’s a language. It’s a dance.

The last time I tried to have sex was about two weeks ago. It had been awhile and I’ve been getting to know this adorable new guy. It… it went okay. We had to stop a few times, there was some pain and frustration and creative pillow stacking. The guy was incredibly sweet and we ended up having a great time, but I was hurting pretty bad for the next few days.

Right now I’m reminded of the first few years of my sex life. When I first started having sex, I had trouble with penetration. It was mildly entertaining at best, showstoppingly painful at worst.  Once I grew up a little and got to know myself better, learned about lube and vibrators and taking breaks and changing positions, learned how to take care of myself and be responsible for my own pleasure, things got a whole lot more fun. I also believe my body actually physically changed somewhat over time. These days that old standby–you know, the whole “penis –in-vagina” thing– is one of my favorite items on the menu. (Kinda twisted, right? Now that I finally love getting jack hammered, it’s the most painful thing again. Life; le sigh.)

This back thing isn’t going away anytime soon, and I think it’s maybe just the next adventure for me. Back pain is so common in North America, and who better to give it a test ride? A quick Google tells me that a huge number of people struggle with this. I’ve begun to learn which positions work, and for how long. I’ve picked up pamphlets, watched some online videos… they’ve been pretty dumb so far, but I’ll let you know if I find any good ones. I’m looking into buying one of those ridiculous, fancy shaped sex cushions. As my mom says (I guess I should have figured I’d quote her in this column sooner or later), “Remember, dear,  AFGO.”

It’s one of her little phrases that she would tell us kids too keep us trucking along when things got interesting. Another Fucking Growth Opportunity. I’m not sure she intended it quite so literally, but hey. Thanks, mom.

I’ll keep you guys posted.

~ Lana Louise 

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