Sexual Scripts: A New Conversation About Sex After Cancer

Published on: 02/2/15

After recovering from my own cancer treatment, I assumed my husband and I would resume our sexual relationship in the same way we had before cancer. I couldn’t have been more wrong! Intercourse was painful, extremely painful, and in fact, it was impossible. It felt like there was a wall physically keeping him from penetrating my vagina. The first attempt ended in tears, and so did every attempt thereafter.

Along with the pain, I noticed I had a difficult time getting aroused and staying that way. In the beginning, I blamed it on the pain of the previous failed episode, but soon realized that everything about me felt different… my desire for sex, my ability to be aroused, and definitely my ability to have intercourse. I was different. What worked before didn’t work for us anymore. We had to rethink our sexual relationship and what it consisted of. That became our SEXUAL SCRIPT.

Sexual scripts are the conversations we all have and use to express our love and intimacy with each other, that help us move from a non-sexual situation to a sexual one. You may have never thought about it before, but every couple has scripts unique to their relationship. Sexual scripts have a beginning, middle, and end.

Before cancer, our love making always started with a kiss on the lips, and if I lingered too long on that kiss, it signaled to him, that I was ready to take it to the next level. Kissing on the lips was a way to control the pace of that lovemaking event, like a speedometer. We felt more intimacy in kissing than any other act of our script. As part of the script, I wore sexy lingerie at night instead of pajamas and brushed my teeth in the morning before coming back in bed. We didn’t have to speak about it, as it was all understood as part of our sexual script.

What does your sexual script look like? How do you communicate to your partner that you are interested in more? Your sexual script could begin with a candle-light dinner or a movie. After months or years together, the script becomes understood and both partners know what to expect.

Your unique script often needs to be rethought after cancer. What felt good before may be uncomfortable or even painful now. After cancer, that script may need to change to accommodate the changes your body has experienced since cancer treatment. Cancer treatment may have affected your sexuality or your sexual functioning, and may have both physical and psychological consequences. If you are missing a breast or missing a testicle, you may want to change your script.

If you are struggling with sex after cancer and need to reevaluate your sexual script, consider these questions both personally and with your partner:

Answer these questions and spend time thinking about how you define intimacy for yourself, and how you want to create that intimacy in your life and relationship. A great first step in regaining an enjoyable sex life after cancer involves recreating a healthy sexual script. Every conversation about sex and sexual scripts with your partner is a step in the right direction. You can have the life you want!

Do you have questions about creating a new sexual script or complications with sex after cancer? Connect with me or email me directly at for guidance, support, or questions about your experiences with sex after cancer.

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