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ALERT THE PRESS: Autistic People Have Sex Too

If you’ve seen Atypical or The Good Doctor or Temple Grandin, you may think you know what an autistic person is like. But despite what 90 percent of the painfully small subset of movies and TV shows featuring autistic characters would have you believe, they aren’t just the academic geniuses or the socially awkward kids you have in class growing up. Many of them are well-rounded individuals with varied interests, including adult activities like drinking, smoking, and *gasp* even gambling. 

I want to let you in on another little secret, something that may shock you: Autistic people have sex, too. Not only do they have sex, but they enjoy it. (Hold all dramatic gasps until the end, please.) While many members of the autistic community identify as asexual, which is the lack of sexual attraction to others of any gender, many of them do not identify this way. I would know, because I happen to be one of them. 

Growing up, sex education was already very limited. Like most kids, I heard about it through my classmates, who learned it from their older siblings, friends, and even porn. I was never given a handbook on how sex worked. Autistic people like me already struggle with growing up and picking up social cues as it is. Going through puberty on top of that can open up a whole other can of worms.

GAY COUIPLE IN BED
Image Credit: Shutterstock

In turn, I spent my whole childhood retreating from my sexuality. I felt as if I didn’t deserve to explore it, because I was conditioned to believe autistic people don’t have sex. Pair that with growing up as a gay kid in a conservative town, and it was like sex was an abstract concept. It wasn’t until college that I let myself dabble. 

Looking back, I realize now I may have come  on too strong with dating in the beginning. Due to my autism, I was always told I was too direct in my delivery of things. Simply asking someone out on a date was too forward. I had to learn the art of subtlety. 

Over the last year, I started exploring all the ways my autism manifests through my actions and behaviors. I was engaging in hookup culture, and it ultimately left me jaded. I felt like my body wanted things my heart didn’t. As I began focusing on my career, I knew I had to shift gears. So, I started exploring all the ways I can make sex beneficial to who I am as an autistic person. 

The first step was picking up on sexual social cues. I learned I enjoy being flexible (verse, if you want to call it that). When I wanted to be dominant, I had to learn how to make the first move, which meant carrying on conversations and doing anything I could to make a partner feel comfortable. This, in return, led to honest conversations about what he liked, what I liked, and how we can compromise. Everyone knows the key to having great sex is open communication. I like to think my autism played a role in that.

gay couple holding hands
Image Credit: Shutterstock

The more I leaned into these lessons, the more I learned about what I like and don’t like in a sexual partner. For instance, one of the most prominent aspects of being autistic for me, and others, is dealing with sensorial stimulation. There are some days when my senses are more raw and drain my energy. So, I learned how to work with that in sex. And when I feel like I can let my guard down and trust the other person, I go all in, 100 percent committed to making sure my partner and I are enjoying each other. After sex, it feels like someone turned off a switch and my body loses any willpower to function. It’s like getting shocked, but in a good way. I don’t like a partner to be too demanding, nor do I like him to be solely focused on my needs without communicating his. I like a little push and pull. Plus, a lot of autistic people, like me, have great memories, so we’ll keep inventory as to what you like and don’t like, making it more pleasurable for you. 

As I continue to explore my autism through sex, I implore other autistic people who do have an interest in sex to not let their insecurities of being autistic hinder their journeys. Let every stereotype or limiting belief society has instilled in you go in one ear and out the other. No one should feel discouraged from doing what makes them feel happy. To non-autistic people, let us show you what we’re made of. Let us introduce you to a new way of sexual chemistry.

Ian Donley
Ian Donley
Ian Donley is a writer based in Southern California who specializes in sexuality and identity. His work can be seen in BuzzFeed, Insider, and Parents. Follow him on Instagram: @ian_s_donley and Twitter: @ian_s_donley98