Autistic Adults Have Sex!

Gasp and clutch your pearls, NTs, because I’m about to say something that may shock you. 

Autistic adults have sex. 

On purpose, and with consent.  And we enjoy it. 

Some of us have a lot of sex.  Some of us have more sex than you.  Some of us, being sensory seekers, are into some stuff you would even call kinky.  And all of that is ok. 

We are not ignorant of sex

Contrary to popular belief, we are not all intellectually disabled, nor are we all essentially children.  As we go through puberty, we get the same hormone rushes and the same urges as everyone else, and those of us without cognitive impairment understand exactly what sex is by the time we reach the age of consent.         

We come in all stripes

While pop culture prefers to show autistic people as asexual, the truth is that we come in all the colors of the rainbow flag.  Our ranks include asexuals, but also straight, gay, bisexual, and everything in between.  There’s even some evidence to suggest that we have a higher prevalence of non-hetero orientations than the NT population.  Personally, I think that has to do with the fact that we don’t see the world in the same divisions and categories as NTs do, so our attractions don’t always follow the same lines. 

Relationships are the hard part

Many people think autistics don’t have sex because we’re not good at social interactions, and therefore we have a hard time forming relationships.  Sure, that’s true, we do have trouble with relationships.  But let’s be honest – sex and relationships are two very different things, even for NTs.  If you can have a hookup or a booty call, why shouldn’t we? 

Finding a sexual partner is often easier than finding a romantic relationship, whether you’re on the spectrum or not.  So while we do struggle with the social aspect, getting laid really isn’t that hard.   

What about sensory issues?

Another reason people give for autistics not having sex is our sensory sensitivities.  It’s true that many of us don’t like to be touched, and those people may avoid sex for that reason.  But a lot of us only dislike certain kinds of touch – especially soft or light touch – and may actually seek out other forms.  The same people who can‘t stand the brush of a hand might love the intensity of a slap on the bum.  (This is not an invitation to slap the autistic people in your life on the butt.  That is still assault without consent.)   

We have a lot of variation in what sensory input we avoid or enjoy, and that can play into sex.  If we have to avoid eye contact to focus, we might enjoy blindfolds in the bedroom.  Those of us who prefer pressure or strong touch might go for corset training or something else in the BDSM realm.  Some might perseverate on the feeling of their partner’s skin, almost like we do with fuzzy blankets or other favorite textures.  Beyond that, the rhythmic nature of sex itself can act as a stim, giving us the neurological pleasure as well as the physical. 

How do autistic people view sex?

For many of us, sex is an act of love and commitment, just as it is for many NTs.  But some autistic people view sex as more of a pleasurable clinical exercise, exploring how many different ways we can excite and please our partners.  Because we don’t always understand cultural taboos, a lot of us are, shall we say, more open-minded than your average NT.  We’re not likely to freak out at the thought of using toys or other extras, because we’ve been enjoying unconventional forms of stimulation our whole lives – moving that into our sex lives is pretty natural.   

Consent is the real issue

The biggest problem for autistic people regarding sex is consent.  Through therapies such as ABA, we are sometimes taught that we don’t have the right to say no to people, or that adults or therapists have the right to touch our bodies whenever and however they like.  This is a dangerous idea for anyone, on the spectrum or not, as it makes children easy targets for abusers.  In adulthood, this can lead to abusive or manipulative relationships, especially since we may lack the skills needed to spot unhealthy behavior.  It’s very important that autistic kids be taught that they have control over their own bodies so that they can give or withhold consent as adults.  Likewise, they should be taught about other people’s boundaries, so that they understand when others are giving or withholding consent. 

So yeah – autistic people have sex!  And we like it!  While it’s really no more your business than your sex life is ours, I think it’s important for NTs to realize that being autistic does not make us robotic or infantile.  And no, you don’t have the right to ask your autistic friends or family about their sex lives – talk about not understanding inappropriate questions – unless you’re willing to volunteer all the same information about your own.  Just treat us like people. 

Autistic Adults Have Sex

Has anyone ever asked you “how” or “if” you have sex?  Has anyone tried to tell you that you shouldn’t have sex because you’re autistic?  Is there anything you’d want people to know on the subject? 

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  1. B

    November 30, 2020 at 10:38 am

    The BDSM community is great, because most people don’t care if you act a little differently, or prefer different types of stimuli. And indeed, I’ve found that the percentage of neuroatypical people is larger there than in the general community.

    I had trouble getting diagnosed, being female and ‘high-functioning’. I think telling the people trying to diagnose me about my sex life was pretty helpful for them because it’s one of the areas where differences in stimulus processing can become extremely clear.

    1. Grace

      November 30, 2020 at 11:05 am

      Another great thing about the BDSM community is that the rules are always spelled out and consent or non-consent is clear and unambiguous at all times! Nobody is expected to read or give the “right” unspoken cues, so miscommunication is a lot less likely. And boundaries are encouraged and respected, which many of us on the spectrum have not experienced in other aspects of our lives.

      1. B

        November 30, 2020 at 1:10 pm

        Definitely! The amount of unsolicited hugs is a lot lower in those circles, in my experience.

        Although I have to say the issues around consent are not always as clear as I’d like them to be, The BDSM community isn’t perfect by a long shot. But I do appreciate the awareness and ongoing conversation around the topic.

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