Solo and Partnered Sexual Behavior Among an International Sample of Adults With Spina Bifida

J Sex Med. 2022 Dec;19(12):1766-1777. doi: 10.1016/j.jsxm.2022.08.201. Epub 2022 Oct 8.


Background: Spina bifida (SB) may differentially impact adults' participation in solo and partnered sexual behaviors, but little research investigates this topic.

Aim: Describe solo and partnered sexual behaviors among an international sample of adult men and women with SB.

Main outcome measures: Ever participated (no/yes) and recent participation (>1 year ago/within last year) in solo masturbation, cuddled with a partner, held hands with a partner, kissed a partner, touched a partner's genital, had genitals touched by a partner, gave a partner oral sex, received oral sex from a partner, vaginal sex, anal sex, and sex toy use.

Methods: Data were drawn from a larger cross-sectional, internet-based survey assessing the sexual behaviors of an international sample of men and women with SB. We used logistic regression to examine the impact of background (gender, age, independent living, and relationship status) and health (shunt status, ambulation, and genital sensation) factors on each outcome.

Results: The sample consisted of 345 respondents aged 18-73 years from 26 nations. Very few (<3%) had no lifetime experience with any solo or partnered behaviors; 25.0% reported participating in all behaviors at some point in their lives. The median number of past year sexual behaviors (of 16 total) was 7. Lifetime and recent participation were associated with demographic and health factors.

Clinical implications: Despite impairment, adults with spina bifida do participate in solo and partnered sexual behaviors. Medical personnel who work with this population should include discussions about sexuality as part of routine care.

Strengths & limitations: Although this research measured solo and partnered sexual behavior in large international sample of adults with spina bifida, it is limited by its cross-sectional retrospective design and non-clinical convenience sample.

Conclusion: Despite disability, many adults with SB participate in solo and partnered sexual behavior. Medical and psychosocial supports are needed to help adults in this population enjoy sexuality in a healthy and safe manner. Hensel DJ, Misseri R, Wiener JS, et al. Solo and Partnered Sexual Behavior Among an International Sample of Adults With Spina Bifida. J Sex Med 2022;19:1766-1777.

Keywords: Anal Sex; Oral Sex; Partnered Sexual Behavior; Sex Toys; Solo Masturbation; Spina Bifida; Vaginal Sex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Masturbation / psychology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sexual Behavior* / psychology
  • Sexual Partners
  • Spinal Dysraphism* / psychology