sexual function.You can have sex in a wheelchair, while suffering from arthritis, or after heart sur-gery. Although there may be difficulties due to physical limitations, the individual’s ad-justment to the disability, or the availability of partners, individuals with disabilities havethe same sexual needs and feelings as anyone else. In any person, able or disabled, ahealthy attitude is the most important factor in achieving a healthy sex life.If a disability occurs early in life it may affect socialization; a smaller social circlelimits the opportunity for sexual learning and the availability of sexual partners. A con-dition can cause direct or indirect effects on sexual functioning. A direct effect is anydifference in function of your genitals or another body system that specifically affectssexual response. For example, erectile dysfunction can be a direct effect of prostatecancer. An indirect effect can be symptoms such as pain or fatigue caused by the condi-Despite his spinal cord injury,Christopher Reeve and his wife Dana maintain a sexual relationship.
CHAPTER 3Sexual Arousal and Response98tion that diminishes your ability for and/or interest in sexual activities. For example,those suffering from severe arthritis may have such extreme discomfort that sexual ac-tivity becomes undesirable.Medical treatments can interfere with sexual responses, as can the psychologicaleffects of being sick, injured, or disabled. A belief that you are less attractive or lesssexually desirable because of your condition can reduce your willingness to pursuesexual relationships. Your partners’ reactions also have an impact. For example, a sex-ual partner may be afraid that sexual activity will hurt you or worsen your condition.As indicated above, a positive attitude on the part of the disabled person and his or herpartner can make all of the difference in the expression of their sexuality.Most female primates undergo an 1______________cycle that includes a period of sexual receptivity followedby ovulation. However, human females are capable ofbeing continuously receptive to and available for sexualactivity independent of ovulation. While the physical re-sponses to sexual arousal vary with the individual, themost obvious physical signs of sexual arousal are vaginal2______________ for females and penile3______________ for males. The brain may be the most important human sexualorgan since it processes emotions, thoughts, fantasies,and desires. Some typical correlates of sexual excitementare increases in heartbeat, blood to the genitals,4______________ (or breathing), and skin sensitivity. In addition, the body may experience 5______________(or muscle tension) and engorgement of blood in thegenitals.All five human senses may contribute to sexualarousal. For example, touch or tactile stimulation andsmell or olfactory stimulation can increase sexual arousal.