How Does My Colostomy Affect Sex and My Sexuality?

Whilst recently visiting Edinburgh Fringe Festival, I went to see a particularly eye opening play entitled, ‘Ejaculation – Discussions on Female Sexuality’. The show explored female sexuality through interviews and stories told by Essi Rossi. Watching the show I felt inspired; for me personally my sexuality and my spirituality are very much intertwined, and this message of taking autonomy over ones sexuality is something I felt I could really get behind. But, almost as I felt this performance’s message lifting me out of my seat, I felt the sharp tug of reality pulling me back. How could I possibly even attempt to put into action the compulsion I was experiencing when I had so many obstacles in front of me? This got me thinking about my own sexuality and how it has developed, as well as how it has been limited since my colostomy operation. 

How does having a colostomy bag affect sex? 

It doesn’t. Having a bag does not affect the physical act of fucking whatsoever. In fact I’ve probably had more and better quality sex since my operation than I ever did in the months leading up to it – not having pelvic sepsis surprisingly boosts your libido.

Since my operation I’ve actually found myself becoming more comfortable in my own skin. I’m less self-conscious, and certainly less obsessed with my diet and weight than I have been in previous years. To put it quite bluntly, with my health a constant see-saw of uncertainty, I’ve got bigger things to worry about than the cellulite on my bum. I’m not even self-conscious of my bag, I whip it out with pride – whether that’s at the spa, beach, or even to a new pal I’m explaining it all to in the pub – and I’m certainly not self conscious of it in bed. When empty, it folds up to a square not much bigger than my palm and really, I just completely forget it’s even there.

So how does it affect sex then? 

Anyone that knows me is already well aware of my loud mouthed, filthy sense of humour and my complete and utter dedication to being the most outspoken, sex positive version of myself I can be. Power dynamics in sex is something that fascinates me, and the power dynamic needed for casual sex, or a one-night stand is pretty black and white. It must be equal. You must never give more than you’re willing to lose. If you’re both on the same page, with no secret hope of romance, no exploring of vulnerabilities, and no advantage taking, then you’re in for a success – but this is something I’m beginning to realise is not really a viable possibility for me.

When I say that having a bag does not affect sex, or that I am not self-conscious about it, I’m referring to the physicality of it. On the other hand, what its very existence reveals about me is something I have realised I’m conscious of. This unease becomes more apparent with the nature of casual sex. 

For me to enter into any kind of casual sex, I am firstly required to pause the passionate courting often witnessed in your local spoons smoking area, and explain my situation. This is far from ideal because it makes the fact I have a bag into something I have to admit, and the act of admission, in turn, incites shame. Normally, in any blossoming romance that is aiming for any kind of longevity, this just comes up naturally in conversation, or, the more likely scenario – they already follow my instagram. 

But this isn’t even the crux of the issue. Colostomies are obviously very unusual, particularly in young people, and therefore most people don’t tend to have a great deal of knowledge about them. This means that whenever I do explain my situation to someone new it has to be coupled with some kind of explanation of what it is that is wrong with me, the struggles I have faced, and how I ended up the person I am today.

Laying my vulnerabilities open like this to a new person is a wonderful way to create connection and compassion. We all have these stories that make us who we are, and sharing them is a powerful act that creates connection with the people we care about. But guess what? I don’t want a connection with this person. I want to get laid, wake up with a banging headache and Uber home to my friends house for a debrief.

I realise I’m trying to put quite an esoteric thing into words here but it’s like hooking up with someone new, but before you jump into bed you have to tell them that you’re:

a.) Not over your ex. 

b.) Haunted by the death of your mother. 

or

c.) That despite years of trying, you still have a strained relationship with food. 

Take that one deep dark insecurity, that one story about that time when you were 10.  The thing that often keeps you awake at night. Then imagine telling it to a stranger. A stranger who isn’t going to share their story back. 

The average person has the luxury of choosing to share this tale 2 or 3 months into a new relationship, with a bottle of wine at 4 in the morning and dear God, it’s magical. You share your secrets and it brings you together in a new way. It solidifies your new relationship. You also have the luxury of keeping it a secret from the guy you fancied hooking up with in a vain attempt to get over your ex. I don’t have that luxury. My story, my vulnerabilities, have to be laid bare to anyone I want to interact with sexually, and what does that do? Shift the power dynamic. 

In laying bare the vulnerability that is not the bag itself, but the story behind it, leaves the imaginary set of scales unbalanced. I have to share something far more intimate about myself and what I’ve been through than this person has to share with me. In doing so I no longer feel equal, I am now in fact giving more than I am willing to lose.

I’ve been through a lot and showing those scars, physical or otherwise, is something that I realise should be done with someone who is worthy of it, someone who I trust to reciprocate the act of admitting their vulnerabilities. I want to find a way around this, but at this moment it seems that navigating the one-night stand isn’t something I know how to do. It’s not that this is the end of the world, it was never really my thing anyway, but it’s the lack of autonomy to choose that frustrates me the most. Sure, it might not be my style, but I’d like the option. 

As I said, the silver lining here is that I do naturally gravitate towards relationships anyway. I love being with someone, supporting them and have a huge capacity to love. I thrive on the consistency and stability of a relationship, perhaps because I lack so much of it in my own life – but that’s probably a story for another blog post, and rather large contribution to my therapists retirement fund. So yes, building a strong loving relationship is something I enjoy and it is also the easiest way to navigate intimacy – and really this is probably true for everyone. But I am also a women that isn’t afraid to say she loves sex and craves to explore her sexuality at a point in her life where there just isn’t room for a relationship. While this opportunity is not completely denied, it is certainly harder to navigate and I am yet to find a way in which I can achieve what I want : just a meaningless shag. 

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