A word of warning: This post may cover adult topics - though really nothing "juicy" so it's probably safe. You may want to read it carefully before allowing minors to look at it.
In the last week, prompted by some "off the wall" questions, I have been reading a lot of discussions about autistic people (including "aspies") and sexuality. I am amazed at the opinions of otherwise respectable people in the medical profession. I have found a whole bunch of statements including;
- All autistic people are gay
- Most autistic people are asexual (derive no pleasure from sex).
- Autistic people are sex maniacs
Reading a lot further afield and having discussions with other aspies makes it clear to me that aspies come in all sizes shapes and forms. Their preferences vary just as much as neurotypicals. On Page 246 of "Asperger's Syndrome: Intervening in Schools, Clinics, and Communities" By Linda J. Baker, Lawrence A., they say;
The sexual profile of individuals with Asperger's syndrome indicates that they have sexual needs and drives comparable to those of the general population. Their attitude towards sexuality is positive. They have fantasies but lack experience, generally because interpersonal difficulties prevent easy progression into sexual relationships.
One study participant summarized the problem by saying, "situations with lover are very awkward. It seems as though my loneliness and lack of experience show on my face... Several people look at me and laugh. One can't help but feel inferior and unhappy.
In other words, their preferences vary as much as NTs but their difficulty with relationships complicates matters.
On the asexual side...
Aside: When I first started looking up asexuality I thought it meant having the ability to procreate with yourself (ie: snails are asexual).
In humans, it doesn't mean that. It means that one derives no pleasure from sexual acts - not that they don't do it - (particularly when their partner is pressuring them) simply that they get nothing out of it. One does not choose to be asexual, you're born that way.
People who don't have sex by choice are abstaining, not asexual. On Page 309 of "The Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome" By Tony Attwood, he states that;
Sexuality can become a special interest in terms of acquiring information and of interest in sexual diversity and activities. The desire for such relativities and sexual intimacy can be excessive, almost compulsive.
However, the partner of a man or woman with Asperger's syndrome is more likely to be concerned about the lack of sexual desire rather than an excess. The partner with Asperger's syndrome may become asexual once the or she has had children or once a couple of formally committed themselves to the relationship.
In other words, being a sex maniac may simply be because the aspie has picked up "sex" as a special interest, albeit probably a short-term one. Once the special interest has gone, the desire for sex may disappear too. Tony makes the mistake of suggesting that someone can "become asexual" but I think it's obvious what he means. There are lots of statistics on asexuality and these give rise to the idea that aspies are asexual.
Certainly asexuality is reported in higher numbers in aspies than in the general population. These statistics can be read in two ways;
A high number of asexuals are aspies but not a high number of aspies are asexual.
The Problems of Touch
I also want cover the sensory issues associated with touch. I've spoken to many autistic people who find light touching, fingertips etc, to be irritating. I am certainly that way myself. Many aspies who have no problems with tight hugs etc, will tend to pull away if they are patted or stroked. Often itching or rubbing the place where they have been touched. This will frequently send the wrong message to their loved ones.
It certainly seems that the sexuality of people on the spectrum doesn't differ a great deal from the general populace with a few minor exceptions;
- Sexual activity is, as always, hampered by their lack of social skills
- People with sensory issues may have problems with touch
- Sexually active autistic people may be a little more experimental than the general public and have less understanding of boundaries.
- There is a higher number of asexual people in the autism community than in the general community but they are still very much a minority.