Scars and sexuality (1)

This post deals with one of the issues related to infant surgery which is deeply personal, very sensitive, and could be dismissed by some as weird and perverted.  It could be offensive to other readers.

If you decide to read on, please do so with kindness, wise discernment, and remembering how beautifully complex our bodies and emotions are, how different we all are, and how robust many of us are even in our brokenness.

Chicks dig scars2It is often remarked that “Chicks dig scars”.  But guys do too: the fact is that on many more sensitive and personal subjects many women express themselves more readily and openly than males.

Having had pyloric stenosis (“PS”) and its surgery very early in life, followed by life-long issues resulting from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), I have researched this area as a special interest for many years.  One thing that I have found significant is that although PS is about 4 times more common among baby boys than girls, those who write about it in forums and blogs are almost all women of all ages.

The link between (infant) surgery and sexuality is, however, very rarely mentioned (let alone discussed) at all.  Yet what is mentioned online I have found to be factual and validated in various ways by those few with whom I have been able to interact about this.

It is difficult to know how commonly a scar, disability and sexual feelings are connected.  I have not found any research on it although I imagine there would be some to be found in a professional journal somewhere.  Most people with a disability or PTSD after infant surgery choose not to dwell on it more than absolutely necessary, let alone discuss it in relation to their most private and personal emotions.

Chicks dig scars1As one who has struggled long and until recently alone in this area, and discovered that I am far from alone in this, I want to open up the subject and see where this goes.  This entire blog is devoted to sharing both personal experiences and professional information about the effects of infant surgery, and I am repeatedly thanked for shedding light where it is sorely needed but rarely found!

Once again, let me simply and briefly list the main things I have myself have experienced and/or learnt from my reading.  I will avoid unhelpful detail which could be more individual and may offend.  My purpose is to inform and validate those who have agonized in the fearfulness, self-doubt and silence of isolation, so certainly at this early stage it would not be good to focus too much on personal details.

  • Finding something sexy or attractive about touching somebody’s scar or disability or having them touched is not in itself a sign of abnormality.  Many couples experience this in courting and love-making.  Physical petting and stroking are an expression of comforting and love: they release endorphins, a powerful hormone produced by exercise, excitement, pain, spicy food, love and orgasm – a rich variety of triggers!  Enjoying the exploration, massage and stroking of a scar or disability in intimacy conveys acceptance, comfort and love.
  • Enjoying the touching and caressing of a disability or scar (one’s own or another’s) is not related to our gender.  Nor is it part of what all women and men enjoy.  But it is common and normal both ways in heterosexual and (male) homosexual relationships, and I presume lesbian relationships.  People will interpret and react to it from their own perspective.  Our responses are important as they add richness to the various dimensions of our relationships.
  • Both outside and within intimacy, enjoying touch is a personal and varied thing: some of us are huggers, others not.  Expressing and enjoying attention given to our scars and disabilities within and without sexual intimacy is similar.  Something I found  may clarify this:
    Angus has noticed that when girls rub the scar on the back of his neck their eyes light up.  “Chicks dig scars!” he says.
    Guys do too.  Chipper wrote that her husband really likes her strong arms and the scars on her back from all the spine surgery she has had.  “I find that he traces the scars on my back when he is tense and when he is aroused.”
    Erica was quite excited about the scar thing also: “Actually a lot of the guys I dated LOVED this scar I have on my belly right above my belly button from where they opened me up to check for any internal bleeding. … They thought the scar was sexy as hell. … I used to be so self-conscious about my scars and now I like them.”
  • Masturbation has at various times been regarded by the “authorities” and whole communities in general as sinful, deviant, and even criminal behaviour.  Today we regard it as normal conduct in appropriate contexts: this is a subject in itself.  Wikipedia tells us that no causal relationship is known between masturbation and any form of mental or physical disorder.  However, because sexual stimulation and scar caressing both involve the release of endorphins, there can be a link between masturbation and a scar, particularly when PTSD triggers this.
  • Self injury seems to be increasingly common, especially among young women who are affected by trauma or other stress.  Because self-injuring also releases pain-removing and emotion-comforting endorphins, it also can become a support mechanism for people struggling with issues they may not understand (like the causes and symptoms of PTSD), be able to share with a supportive person, or be able to resolve.  Thus self-harming can easily become deeply entrenched.  In view of this, a chain can be sometimes become established between infant surgery, PTSD, self-injury and self-sexual stimulation.
    My evaluation?
    Provided no harm is done to others and there is no lasting damage to oneself, self-harming is a personal and private matter that cries out for suitable support and a good resolution – outcomes that are not always easily obtainable.  Self-harming must be recognized as a symptom of trauma or stress which can be dealt with and sometimes fades with time (even without treatment) as life moves on.

If anybody reading this has a question or has more light to shed on a fairly closeted subject, please feel free to continue this discussion in a Comment, or even to email me with something that I can post.

4 thoughts on “Scars and sexuality (1)

  1. Wendy

    What a brave post! New territory indeed. I was extremely ashamed of my pyloric stenosis scar, and so I had to really trust a sexual partner. I had to go slowly and take time. I had to make sure that this person liked and accepted me. This need may have taken the fun out of the experience to some degree. Maybe I would have experimented more or had more partners had I not felt as I did because of my scar. I like the comment above about a lover tracing the scars on her back. How lovely! Regarding masturbation, would you please clarify what you meant when you said, “there can be a link between a masturbation and a scar, particularly when PTSD triggers this.” Many thanks and kudos to you for taking on this gutsy topic!

  2. Fred Vanderbom Post author

    Thank you for your response to what did indeed take some courage to post, Wendy.
    To answer your question I must build on what I have learnt in the past decade or so, and on my own reflection and the conclusions I have reached about my personal journey.
    Several of the symptoms with which I have done battle for so long are very much those mentioned by Dr Louis Tinnin as those of PTSD caused by the infant trauma which remained in my body after my pyloric stenosis episode despite not being recorded by my brain: in brief, times of anxiety, self-consciousness and hyper-sensitivity, shame and self-hatred, and hostility towards and difficulty trusting those in positions of authority over me. I was not helped by my parents’ struggle to understand and help me in this vulnerable part of my life that had also impacted them.
    I also believe that the strong interest I had in the scar from my early surgery led to the discovery that stroking and injuring it was comforting – it released endorphins. I have read that others also find their scars from infant surgery “interesting” and sensitive. Come adolescence and this “self-comforting” conduct became linked with masturbation (and its feast of endorphins), something that may well happen more easily and often in teenage boys than girls. The mystery and grip of these several factors were such that I have only been able to manage them in recent years.
    As I wrote in this post, I would LOVE others to respond and/or research this subject to shed more light on the many uncertainties that remain for me – and I am sure for many.

  3. Wendy

    I do hope you get some more comments, Fred. In any case, it may take several posts before one of your readers feels comfortable to respond. Don’t give up. This new territory is important territory. Thank you for taking it on.
    With regard to your response, I do not recall liking the feel of my scar. I am going to do some inner searching on this. I remember it being bumpy, but the emotions I recall are disgust and anger. Maybe there are other feelings I experienced as well. Certainly curiosity as in how exactly did this monstrosity get formed. Yes, the word “monstrosity” rose up from my subconscious. There you have it. But perhaps there are earlier experiences, and therefore memories, when negative judgment was unformed. I’ll keep you posted.

  4. Fred Vanderbom Post author

    Thank you Wendy.
    People’s reactions to the several areas of ongoing effects of infant surgery vary greatly, and it does seem that what I’ve at long last decided to write about here applies to a minority only. But that minority has probably found their road as hard as I have. I know you will continue reflecting on this, but you should not feel that your experience will mirror mine in every way.
    The important thing is that your and my blogs allow everyone concerned to realize that we are all different but never alone, mad or bad!


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