Yes, Autistic People Have Sex
I am an Aspie girl — a proud woman with Asperger syndrome. It took a long time for people to accept this about me and for me to accept myself. It never affected my love life in any negative way. All the men and women I dated, spoke to or became involved with were wonderful and understanding, and honestly it rarely needed to get brought up. I lost some friends on the way, but it seemed that for the most part I had finally reached a place of understanding. But as I grew older I started to notice a strange trend, mostly among parents of young autistic children or older women in general, but also in peers my own age. Friends of friends and strangers are often far too forward and will ask, “But what about sex?”
“What about it?” At first I was confused. I thought they must be asking because I have a chronic pain condition which mostly resides in my pelvis, but more often than not, that wasn’t the reason. They persisted with the questions, and finally said, “Autistic individuals don’t have sex.” I had no idea what to say at all. These were what I thought to be well informed individuals, not the usual bigoted rude people who refused to accept me. These were people who presumably were on my side telling me I couldn’t have sex.
It was such a strange intimate thing that I was confused as to why others would even think about the existence of my sex life as an issue, or why they thought they should be allowed to debate me on it. I assumed there was just some misunderstanding the first few times, and I quickly explained,”Well actually, I do have sex.” My God, you could not imagine the shock and horror on some people’s faces. Others flat out told me I was wrong. Excuse me, but I think I know a little more about what I do in my own love life than you do. But still, people denied it, even made crude comments that the very idea I had a sex life was “Sick, wrong and inappropriate.”
I am a 21-year-old woman in a committed relationship. The idea that I have sex shouldn’t be shocking to anyone. I had no idea how to approach this topic, but the comments I heard eventually grew even more strange and concerning, with one woman even speculating that my boyfriend was like a pedophile for being intimate with me. We were both 20 at the time. I think this misunderstanding comes in part from willful ignorance, and also from honest misunderstandings based on stigma about autistic adults. So to avoid having this highly intrusive conversation again, I will put it out there and explain these things just once.
Not all autistics have younger mental ages or intellectual delays. We might have interests or behaviors society deems “childish,” but we are fully consenting adults. I have had a stranger demand to know my developmental delay in years, assuming I had one when I don’t. Many of us are fully able to give consent. We know what sex is, we know full well what it entails, and the people we chose to do it with are not taking advantage of us.
We aren’t all hyper-intelligent unsocial men who act like children. Autistic people are often presented in the media as cute, innocent and socially unaware children. You rarely see us portrayed as women, let alone sexually. When you see an autistic adult on TV they are often shown to be unaware of sex, and most often not interested in it at all. One classic example is Sheldon Cooper being oblivious to sex in “The Big Bang Theory.” This also isn’t the case for all of us. I think a lot of people with this belief would be shocked if they met some of the Aspie women I know. Many are very openly sexual and very attractive — far from the Sheldon Coopers of the world. It’s an unfair stereotype. Please don’t put us in that box.
Most of all I think the issue comes down to politeness. If you wouldn’t ask the question if I were neurotypical, then don’t ask me because I am autistic. Being on the spectrum doesn’t make me a novelty learning tool for you to question and prod about sexual health. You have Google for that. Just take a moment to remember you are asking me, “Hey, does your neurological difference impact how you use your genitalia in your spare time?” This is a weird and cringey thing to ask. Seriously.
All autistic adults are different, but many of us live average lives with happy intimate relationships. It can be different to navigate for those of us with sensory issues, or may be hard for some of us to read cues, but every single autistic person is unique. We all have different needs and struggles, and many of us face difficult social and sensory obstacles in this part of our lives. It can be stressful to talk about, and acting as though us engaging in sex and relationships is a rare novelty only makes us feel worse about the whole thing.
I have known many Aspie women who like myself have been very insecure sexually because of these stigmas, and there is no reason for anyone to feel this way. These stigmas are hurtful, inaccurate and I cannot emphasize enough how rude they are. So before you ask: yes we can have jobs, we can ride bikes, we can get married, we can have children and yes, we can have sex.