Autism and sex.
[Possible TW for rape and consent issues]
So, let’s talk about autism and sex. Yes, autistic people can have sex. We can enjoy sex. And we can consent to sex. Yes, even ‘low functioning’ people (and functioning labels are shitty anyway).
I wanna talk about consent. Because I see people talking about getting ‘clear, verbal consent’ and while that’s a good idea in a lot of ways for a lot of people, it doesn’t always work that way with autistic folk. Let me explain. If someone asks me ‘do you like this?’ there’s a good chance I won’t know the answer to that. Because for me, that’s vague. Are they referring to the whole atmosphere in general, the act of sex, the way they’re touching me, the place they’re touching me? It’s too vague for me. And sometimes, I can’t even verbalize what I’m feeling anyway.
If I’m experiencing a particularly strong sensation (and strong for autistics can mean something different to allistic folk) I am likely to go pretty non-verbal. So verbal consent isn’t always gonna work because not everyone can BE verbal.
Another issue with consent and autism is the idea of body language. See, I can’t read body language very well, and I display body language in a different way to allistic people. I need my husband to verbalize his consent and his enjoyment because I can’t tell. It doesn’t need to be words, it can be general sex noises that I already know are ‘good’ noises from him.
And as for myself, I fucking hate wearing clothing for too long because of the texture on my skin. So my husband has had to learn that me being nude isn’t a sign that I want sex.
A lot of autistic folk have issues with textures and sensations. So the people we have sex with need to learn the difference between sex acts we don’t enjoy just because, and sex acts that freak us out because of the senstations. In my case, I cannot stand massage oils and basically anything slick on my skin. Guaranteed meltdown time.
Now, when something triggers me in an autistic way during sex, I am likely to shut down. So, if someone I’m having sex with does something that makes me feel wrong, I’ll probably just lay there and accept it because my brain has sort of gone somewhere else and I don’t have the ability to respond physically or verbally. So this is something the people who have sex with me need to know the signs of, so they can stop completely if I am accidentally triggered. This has happened a few times to me, when someone has touched my nipples or the time I found out how much massage oils bother me.
One thing I do during sex is that I don’t always seem to realize it’s probably inappropriate to have a conversation that’s not about sex. But my brain is doing many things at once so if I’m having sex, no matter how fun it is, my brain probably also really wants to talk about Star Trek or what we’re having for dinner or that cat I saw yesterday or whatever else. My allistic husband has had to get used to this.
So yeah, this is basically everything I wanted to say about autism and sex. A lot of it is basically from my own experience so it doesn’t necessarily apply to ALL autistic folk, but from what I’ve heard a lot of other autistic folk say, I think my experiences are fairly common.
I haven’t had a sex life since before I was diagnosed, and truthfully: I don’t even know whether it was any good at all. I seriously just don’t know. It’s only during the past couple of years that I’ve started even figuring out how my sensory system works, because before my diagnosis I thought everything was normal and it never even occurred to me to wonder whether sex felt like that to everybody else, and whether that was everybody else’s definition of “feels good”.
And I just don’t know, and the more I think about it, the more insecure I feel about ever having sex again. Previously sex was always just a kind of “sure, okay”-thing for me, because it usually felt nothing other than “meh” to me. I’ve had a lot of sex with the few partners I’ve had, because it was never really a problem for me, but I also never really saw what the big deal was, because I don’t remember it actually feeling good. It was always just “meh”.
And now, thinking about it, I keep wondering. Did it feel “meh” because I unconsciously ran systems shutdowns on the senses that were overloaded and overwhelmed? Or did it feel “meh” because none of my partners have managed to figure out how to do a single thing that felt awesome? I honestly don’t know! And on one hand I really, really, REALLY wanna experiment and figure out what (if anything) I do like, but on the other hand I’m terrified of what I might find out now that I’m conscious of what’s going on with my sensory perceptions. Is it all just so wonky that systems shutdowns would be preferable, ‘cause if so I don’t even know whether I want to know.
Goddess, thank you, Tumblr, for providing a space where I can have embarrassng conversations about myself with thin air. If I talked to a person in meatspace about this I might actually manage to literally tie myself in a knot what with all of the weird stuff I’m feeling about this subject. (and feeling weird makes me twist my limbs at odd angles - so there… Also: ouch)
Anyway, I enjoy reading other people’s perspectives on this, because maybe I’ll come across something that’ll resonate with me, or seem somehow familiar, and that way I can maybe draw some conclusions based on what I remember, rather than having to do that whole experimentin’ thing.