Sex and Autism: a gender-queer perspective.
I am a late identified autistic individual who was born biologically female and remains so, but identifies as genderqueer. My sexuality and, following on from this, relationships, have been diverse exciting and often challenging because of the path less trodden that I have chosen, but also because the difference of autistic experience I that have can create confusion and conflict. Often I have not understood why I do and enjoy the things I do. I have only that they felt right.
Most recently I have found the words and language to express more coherently just what I am sexually and in relationships; genderqueer and polyamorous. This is my own language. I cannot claim to speak for everyone who is autistic. Merely I hope to offer some suggestions for those seeking their own sexual and relationship fulfilment who are also on the spectrum.
Therefore my first thought is, seek your own truth.
Like all things every autistic individual is unique and our profiles are all different. What I love, you might detest. What I choose to engage in with partners, you may prefer to do on your own. Things, like genital contact, which I cannot cope with much of the time you might revel in. I believe though, that this individuality must be balanced with broader traits that we all share to a greater or lesser degree than can also cause difficulties.
Challenges around body language and social interaction can make meeting
new people and introducing ourselves extremely hard. Sensory situations means that the places often picked for first dates can be overwhelming.
Most importantly, is acknowledging that autistic individuals can be more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation as I myself have been at a number of times in my life. This has included surviving rape and domestic abuse and other highly risky situations when I was simply, at the time, not able to understand the potential danger to me.
So my second thought is, seek out people and spaces that you can trust and receive wisdom and education from them. Support groups for individuals (both in real-life and online, on Facebook) with similar challenges may offer a place to meet and seek support and advice from those who have lived experiences to your own.
The autistic brain can be analytical and detail-oriented, so use this to your advantage. Think about the kind of person you would like to meet. Reflect upon encounters that went well and not so well to analyse what you think caused the direction the interaction took. Explore risky situations you may encounter and how you might deal with these assertively and safely.
Practice saying no, but practice saying yes too, within the parameters of your own comfort zone.
The act of sex itself can be deeply satisfying or deeply challenging from a visceral sensory perspective. It is also important to note that a person’s perspective on this can change and fluctuate depending on many other factors such as how stressed they already are at any time, whether the proposal to make love or be intimate (if a partner is involved) was made at a time and place in which it can be processed or even if verbal notice was given of the first touch. I myself respond very badly to unsolicited touch and my partners have struggled against natural instincts to hug me spontaneously, especially if they have seen me in distress or aroused.
Touch at the wrong time can cause a very bad reaction and spoil the whole mood, so this particular aspect of my own sexuality always takes negotiation.
My third thought therefore is about taking the time, which may be a long period, to explore your own body and understand how your need for sexual
satisfaction and intimate touch manifests itself.
Masturbation is a wonderful activity as you are in control, a vital characteristic (I have found anyway) for an autistic person to explore something safely and develop their confidence. It is a solitary practice. Many people find that this is enough.
Some discover they are in fact asexual and can take some time to process this and become comfortable with it.
I have chosen and experienced a diverse range of sexual relationships and partners. From those considerably older than myself to living in a polyamorous triad for nearly a year I have been blessed to experience a huge variety in my sex life and relationships, having my life and body touched in many different ways. Sex can serve many purposes for autistic individuals, as I figured out when I received my sensory integration assessment which suggested, amongst other things, wearing tight clothing (latex?) and swinging (rope suspension) as well as deep tissue massage. I remember clearly walking out of a message appointment, stretching and thinking, “wow, that was just like a full body beating!”. (I have also tried kink too!). Obviously both massage and a beating activated my proprioceptive system in a beneficial and positive way.
My fourth and last thought is therefore about being true to yourself.
Autistic individuals are can be less constrained by social norms than our non-autistic peers. This in itself is a blessing and curse, as both a source of freedom and stigma. If you can reach a place where you can be truly happy with yourself, your sexual and gender identity whatever they might be, (and the fact that it might well change over the course of a lifetime), then I think you will have taken the first step towards enjoying a satisfying and safe sexual experience with whomever might be the right companion[s] for you.
I would like to finish by offering my hope for you as an autistic person, whoever you are and whatever your experience, to enjoy a safe, healthy and suitable sex life for you and your individual needs and differences.
As a community we are just beginning to find one another and ourselves. Each sex or relationship positive experience we have is a move closer to neutralising the stigma and marginalisation we can so often be subject to.