In light of my previous post on the internet and autistic women, which all started with an online survey on the sexual orientations and identities of autistic people, I think it’s time we had a discussion about how neurodiversity can tie into being sex-positive.
As I mentioned in my other post, non-mainstream sexual identities and orientations appear to be more common among autistics compared to neurotypicals. You don’t have to tell this queer femme autistic dating a trans lesbian autistic that twice. Disability and sex, however, has traditionally been an under-discussed topic. In the case of autism, the topic of sex is almost always lumped into several categories: We’re either depraved creeps who don’t know how to properly express our sexuality or grasp a proper understanding of boundaries and are rapists waiting to happen, promiscuous because we don’t know just how “damaging” random sex is and have no self-esteem, concept of consent, or impulse control. Alternatively, we’re naive children incapable of having a mature grasp on our sexuality, or lack thereof.
This is a continuation of the dichotomy between the “Good autie” who is sweet, harmless, obedient and pliant, and the “Bad autie”, ever defiant, demanding, and never knowing what’s best for them like the neurotypicals know. Neurotypicals confine our sexuality because they wish to continue to build a wall between “us” and “them”, because even though they seem to wish to turn us into the spitting image of themselves, they’ll never be fully comfortable with seeing us as equals. They fear our sexuality because they fear us demanding recognition as equal players. We’re no threat when we’re caricatured.
So what can neurodiversity movements do to promote healthy sex positivity among autistic adults and teenagers? Well, a good start would be acknowledging the full spectrum of sexual orientation and sexual preferences. Some may never desire partners, and prefer masturbation. Why not make make sex toys as normal a part of our dialogue on autism as we do stim toys? Why not make sure that every autistic child learns about bodily autonomy, consent, and expressing desire? That’s good in general, not just for sex.
We also need to cut down the idea that there are “right” and “wrong” fetishes. As long as a fetish doesn’t harm children, animals, or non-consenting individuals, there’s really nothing wrong with whatever an autistic (or NT) person finds arousing. I used to have a fixation on drawing nudes when I was a teenage budding artist, and for it, my parents punished me severely and took away my drawing utensils. All that did was make me bitter and sad, and sexually frustrated. It’s the same with sexual fetishes, we shouldn’t be punished for expressing them healthfully. And finally, I think neurodiversity movements could benefit if relationship advice for autistics/non neurotypicals didn’t always depend on the assumption that a relationship should only be defined as serious and monogamous with the intention of leading to marriage or long-term domestic partnership. Many autistics don’t want to get married or have long-term relationships, but why should that mean their sexual/relationship desires are taken less seriously?
Leave more advice in the comments, autistic readers. What do you think could be done in terms of neurodiverse sex positivity?