Spinal cord injury influences psychogenic as well as physical components of female sexual ability

K. D. Anderson, J. F. Borisoff, R. D. Johnson, S. A. Stiens, S. L. Elliott

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Study design: Secure, web-based survey. Objectives: Elicit specific information about sexual function from women with spinal cord injuries (SCI). Setting: World-wide web. Methods: Individuals 18 years or older living with SCI obtained a pass code to enter a secure website and then answered survey questions. Results: Bladder and/or bowel incontinence during sexual activity and/or sexual intercourse were significant concerns and prevented some women from seeking sexual activity. Autonomic dysreflexia (AD) during sexual activity was interpreted negatively by many and was found to interfere with sexual activity. Most subjects reported difficulty becoming psychologically aroused as well as physically aroused, which were both correlated with feeling that their SCI had altered their sexual sense of self. An inverse relationship existed between developing new areas of arousal above the level of lesion and not having sensation or movement below the lesion. The most commonly reported sexual stimulation leading to the best arousal involved stimulation of the head/neck and torso areas. The majority of subjects reported having experienced intercourse postinjury. Most participants reported difficulty with positioning during foreplay and intercourse, vaginal lubrication, and spasticity during intercourse. Almost half reported experiencing orgasm postinjury and this was positively associated with the presence of genital sensation. Conclusion: SCI significantly impairs psychological and physical aspects of female sexual arousal. In addition, bladder and bowel incontinence as well as AD negatively impact sexual activity and intercourse. Sponsorship: Christopher Reeve Foundation (#36708, KDA); Reeve-Irvine Research Center.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)349-359
Number of pages11
JournalSpinal Cord
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Arousal
  • Intercourse
  • Orgasm
  • Quality of life
  • Sexual function
  • Sexual stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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