Content warning: reference to sexual abuse
There is a pervasive stereotype that all autistic people are asexual and single. In fact there is a pervasive view that all Disabled people are asexual and single. These assumptions come straight out of ableism and are really unhelpful.
The idea that we are all asexual seems to come from the view that we are eternal children. This is far from the truth. A huge number of autistic people have partners and their own children. Some autistic people are asexual just as some people in society more broadly are asexual but many autistic people have a sexual appetite and a partner or partners A lot of autistic people are gay, lesbian, bi, pansexual or polyamorous. People make assumptions that we might not be able to manage in a relationship or that autistic people don’t make good partners. I think that autistic people are just as likely to be a bad – or for that matter a good – partner as anyone else.
Some people think that any sexual relationship with an autistic person is exploitative and that our neurotypical partners must be abusing us as we are so innocent and childlike and incapable of ‘real’ relationships. Great big whopping UGH to that! Some people do exploit autistic people but it is certainly not that case that all relationships between a neurotypical and autistic person are exploitative.
Many autistic people choose a partner who is also neurodivergent. These relationships can be very strong and inclusive as each partner is likely to ‘get’ their partner. That being said we have our differences too and some autistic people can be predatory. Your neurotype does not determine whether you will be a good partner – or a good human being for that matter!
Sex itself can be different for autistics. Many of us have sensory issues around touch. This can make sex a bit challenging. The key to managing this rests upon being able to articulate what is and isn’t OK and to convey that to your partner. While it can be challenging talking about these things it is really important to do so to ensure you enjoy your sexual experiences. Everyone has the right to gratifying and enjoyable sex – if that is what they want of course! I should note that there is a difference between having sensory issues around intimate touch and being asexual Having sensory issues does not necessarily mean a person doesn’t want sex at all.
You have probably heard the term asexual which relates to someone who does not want sexual activity. There is another term which is ‘greysexual’. This is a bit like the gender identity of Demi boy or Demi girl. A Demi boy or Demi girl is a gender divergent person who feels a little bit masculine or a little bit feminine. Similarly a greysexual person is a little bit sexual. Greysexual people may have sensory issues around sexual contact – or they may not. I think it is wonderful that we have all these descriptors for sexuality and gender too. It makes it a lot easier to find others who share our experience.
Sometimes autistic people’s intentions are misinterpreted and we are seen as being predatory when that is not our intent. This is a huge issue. I know I used this example recently but I’ll use it again. I heard a story about an autistic young man who was on a bus. He leaned over and stroked a woman’s leg. He was not being a sexual predator at all. He was touching her silver stimmy stockings because he loved the look of them. Of course the woman didn’t know that and called the police. In her mind some creepy pervert had just assaulted her. In terms of predatory behaviour autistic people are sadly very likely to be on the receiving end. Teaching autistic kids and young adults about consent and body autonomy is really important because autistic people can be vulnerable to abuse. ‘Protecting’ kids form discussions around sex is not a good idea as ignorance can result in being less able to protect yourself. And in your discussions with autistic kids use clear specific language around body parts and activities, not vague discussions like ‘don’t let anyone touch you down there…’ Sometimes autistic people think that sf a person tells them something is going to happen then we think we have to go along with that. There are some books about consent and autism available.
Sexuality and romantic attraction can be different things. Actually gender identity, gender expression, sexuality and romantic attraction are all seperate, independent concepts. People often conflate these things but they are all different and often independent of one another. I myself an asexual but have romantic attention to androgynous folks – and police women for some reason! I am not looking for a relationship and have been single since 2004 but if the right person came along who was also asexual and who I found romantically attracted to I would probably have a relationship with them.