Finding space for sex and pleasure in a caregiver’s life
sensuality for caregivers

Hello dear, wonderful caregiver!

I’m giving you big pats on the back for your heroic efforts. I’ve been a caregiver too. I know how challenging it can be. These days I’m caregiving my 87-year-old blind mother. It can get heavy, depressing, and can feel like life isn’t as sexy and sensuous anymore. Thankfully my forty years of life experience working in sexuality, love and pleasure have come in handy to lift my spirits and make me feel better. Here’s a useful tip that works for me, and I hope it works for you.

When we are caregiving, we can put other people’s needs far above our own. It’s not at all uncommon for caregivers to find their sex drives change, they can feel disconnected from their partners, and sexual habits can change radically. If one’s partner is ill, or in treatment, the partner’s sexual energy can be limited or utilized for healing. But we don’t have to wait for partner sex, or a “hot moment,” to feel really delicious and to enjoy our sensuality, our bodies, and our passions. My motto is “let there be pleasure on Earth, and let it begin with me!”

First, expand your idea of what “sex” is to include all kinds of your favorite pleasures. Think of these pleasures as part of your sexuality and sensuality too. Stimulating your senses, sparking your intellect, doing things that give your body delicious sensations, can all be deeply yummy and satisfying– if let yourself and you throw yourself into them.

Take a break from your caregiving responsibilities for just a moment and figure out what exactly brings you the most pleasure. Write up a list of the top ten most pleasurable things you like to do (other than partner sex.) Today is not yesterday. Keep it real. What do you enjoy NOW– these days? This list likely will change month-to-month, year-to-year, and decade-to-decade. I try to make a list myself at least once every year.

I’ll do my own list right now as an example:

  • Getting a hot oil massage
  • Naked cuddling
  • Walking my dog in the redwood forest
  • A hot bath with scented bath salts, candles and incense
  • Spending time by big bodies of water
  • Going to an uplifting movie– 3D is a plus!
  • Attending an interesting conference, schmoozing and learning new things
  • Reading the Sunday NY Times
  • Eating a bowl of ice cream
  • Listening to Indian music

Review your list, then put it up on your bathroom mirror where you read it regularly, like while you brush your teeth.

Then, simply do the things on your list as often as possible, and you will be insured lots of pleasure. Treat yourself to something that feels good a.s.a.p. Take yourself on a date by doing something on your list! Be real good to yourself and love yourself up. You’ll avoid the dreaded caregiver burnout and perhaps you’ll even discover YOU yourself are the awesome lover you need right now. You deserve lots of pleasure and ‘sexy’ fun.


Written by Annie Sprinkle
Annie Sprinkle, Ph.D., has been an artist, activist, and a sexualities educator for forty years. She has passionately explored sexuality, sharing her experiences through making her own unique brand of feminist sex films, writing books and articles, visual art making, creating theater performances, and teaching. Annie has consistently championed sex worker rights and health care and was one of the pivotal players of the Sex Positive Movement of the 1980’s. She got her BFA at School of Visual Arts in NYC was the first porn star to earn a Ph.D.. She’s a popular lecturer whose work is studied in many colleges and Universities. For the past 12 years she has been collaborating on art projects with her partner, an artist and UCSC professor, Elizabeth Stephens. They are movers and shakers in the new “ecosex movement,” committed to making environmentalism more sexy, fun and diverse. In 2013, Sprinkle proudly received the Artist/Activist/Scholar Award from Performance Studies International at Stanford, and was awarded the Acker Award for Excellence in the Avant Garde.

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  1. Here’s my list: watching romantic movies and reading romantic novels, a long shower, getting dressed up once a week for no reason at all, diffusing essential oils, kundalini and tantric meditation, listening to sexy and romantic music, crystal work, proper mood lighting in my bedroom/ sitting room, sipping a glass of wine… and more but I’ll keep that to myself. Caregivers must get creative in all aspects of their life in order to survive and thrive in our own human development. Thanks for this interesting article.

  2. I find the above article more than a bit ridiculous. Maybe walking the dog, listening to music, and eating serve as adequate substitutes for lost intimacy for others, but they don’t for me. I miss human female contact, reciprocal affection and all that goes with it. Most of us caregivers are caught in a moral dilemma: accept forced celibacy or break our marriage (and moral) vows. Tough place to be. Any advice (other than walking my dog, etc.!)?

  3. I’m afraid to post anything. I’m afraid the wrong person (s) will see it and not understand what I’m trying to say. So I keep it in all balled up like colored yarn not knowing which piece to spit out first.

    • That’s why we have anonymous posting on our site and have private chats.

  4. When your ill spouse doesn’t get it, sits on the couch, how does he expect me to feel loving and sexual?

  5. I love your list Annie!

    Here’s mine:

    – putting lotion on right after the shower
    – lighting at least 5 delicious smelling candles to fill my whole apartment
    – the feeling I have AFTER bikram yoga (during is not as fun!!)
    – Drumming song by Florence + the Machine
    – breakfasting on an apple turnover and coffee, rather than my usual healthy breakfast of oatmeal and raisins


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