Autistic people experience sex very differently.
Sex can be really complicated, even when you don’t have a sensory disorder. When you do have one, things are even more complicated.
I’m on the autism spectrum, but I don’t technically have autism. I have something called PDD-NOS, which means that I hit a lot of the qualifications of certain autism spectrum disorders, like Asperger's or just garden variety, but I don’t hit enough of those to actually qualify as having either of those disorders.
Basically, I fall under the umbrella but I’m not actually hanging on to the handle or anything. If I had been diagnosed today, I’d probably be diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome but since I’m a child of the early nineties, I ended up getting diagnosed with PDD-NOS, a diagnosis which really doesn’t exist anymore.
A lot of people seem to think that autistic adults don’t exist. Many people see it as a kid’s disorder, or worse, a disorder that only young boys get. While girls with autism is something that isn’t talked about as often, it’s definitely something that happens.
More importantly, all of those kids with autism eventually grow up to become autistic adults, and sadly, people don’t really acknowledge that.
As a woman with autism, there are a lot of cues that just fly over my head. A really good friend of mine once told me that I see things that everyone would miss but miss literally everything else, and I’m inclined to agree. That isn’t everyone’s experience, but it's definitely mine.
While my lack of social cues can be really inconvenient and annoying for me and those around me, it’s something that serves me well. I often miss when things are starting to go left, so I end up looking like I’m unflappable under pressure simply because I don't realize I’m dealing with a tense situation.
Autism is a sensory disorder, so it comes as no surprise that most autistic people have to deal with sensory aversions. I'm no exception. I’m probably the pickiest eater you'll ever meet in your life and there are certain clothing textures that would make me rather literally scrape my skin off than wear them. Yes, that sounds extreme, but it’s something I still have to work around even as an adult.
While I can go on about all of that for a really long time, one thing that really stands out when I talk about my experience as an autistic woman is sex. Having sex with a woman with autism can actually be really difficult at times.
For example, my autism gives me a pretty small attention span at times. While I’m really good at staying on topic, once a new topic catches my interest, my brain is on that until the conversation moves on. You might not think that this might make sex a little complicated, but it does.
When I first got intimate with the guy I eventually lost my virginity to, I knew almost nothing about sex besides how it was done and why people did it. It just wasn’t on my radar. I had better things to think about than sex, which seemed inconsequential at the time. That changed once I started having sex, but there were moments where things got dicey.
One time, I was in the middle of sex when I suddenly remembered something that had nothing to do with sex. I don’t remember what it was, which just goes to show how random the thought actually was.
Since I was on top, it was easy for me to stop what I was doing, get up and race around the room, my mind on something totally different. It took me a couple of minutes to realize I hadn’t just changed the subject of a conversation without finishing the current one, but that I’d literally interrupted sex because my brain got distracted. It was mortifying.
The relationship got to the point where he snapped at me and said, point blank, that because of my autism, he didn't think I'd ever be capable of a normal relationship. Even though I knew it wasn't true, it was something that really shook my confidence in dating, and when that relationship finally ended, I ended up not dating for years because of that insecurity. His words also shook my confidence when it came to sex: if I was potentially incapable of having a real relationship, could I ever be capable of having a healthy sex life?
Thankfully, it's been years since I was plagued with those feelings, and today, I'm in a relationship with a man who's on the spectrum himself, so I've come very far since my self-esteem took that major hit.
I can’t really compare sex as an autistic person to sex as a non-autistic person because it’s not like I can turn off my brain and have sex as a non-autistic person. My experience, apart from a few hiccups, is a lot like how I’ve heard other women describe sex for them. It's an experience that leaves you vulnerable and can be a little scary at times, but it's ultimately a rewarding one.
Autistic people, in general, tend to experience sex very differently. Some people simply can’t be bothered with it (Isaac Newton is a good example of this type of person, believe it or not), while others are pretty much insatiable.
I've grown as a person in a lot of ways, and my sex and dating life is no exception. If you're a woman on the autism spectrum who's afraid you're not capable of having a "normal relationship," I can tell you: your fears are totally unfounded. There's no such thing as a "normal" relationship to begin with — even for non-autistic people!
Everyone is different in the way that they have sex, and the same is true of autistic people. There’s no one way that a woman with autism has sex because there’s no one way that people can have autism.