(Beginning note: This post gets very personal, for obvious reasons. I wrote this because I’m aware that gender identity, awareness of that identity, sexual orientation, and sexual/intimate activities can be challenging for people on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum because we differ from the vast majority of the population. Intimate activities such as foreplay and intercourse can amplify those differences, due to the amount, type, and intensity of sensory stimulation, which might overwhelm our nervous systems. Since I can only speak for myself, that’s what I’ll describe. But I know that others will probably be able to identify. I’m writing this because it’s traditionally a “taboo” subject (thanks to Puritan and similar influences), and so a lot of us out there may feel “weird”, alone, or somehow “wrong”, and have few avenues through which to talk about what we’re experiencing, and hopefully, this might help someone.) 🙂
I identify as a non-binary biological female. I have what I surmise is the male phenotype of Asperger “Syndrome”. That might sound like a mouthful. That’s okay; it took me quite a while (almost 40 years) to figure all of that out and wrap my head around it.
I’m also married, having been with the same (male) partner for over 17 years.
How do I swing that?
As one might guess, it’s complicated–kind of. It isn’t, really. I’ll explain (deep breath)…
Yes, I do have a mild sex drive. No, I don’t become aroused visually (i.e., by looking at anyone), AKA a “physical attraction”. I never knew what the phrase “physical attraction” meant until last year (I’m 39). I never even realized people could get “turned on” just by looking at someone.
My libido is usually completely dormant; my mind usually busies itself with (what I perceive as) “more important” things to do and think about. Therefore, I very rarely act on that libido, in the rare instance that it might consider becoming active. It’s usually a non-issue.
What about my partner? I’m pretty sure he would like to be intimate more often. I would like to be able to give that to him more often, too.
But my neurology simply doesn’t cooperate. I don’t operate the same way as most people. Like I mentioned, my brain is usually occupied with other thoughts, things to accomplish, and many other activities that I can’t put into words.
My sensory issues get in the way, too. The reproductive system contains enormous bundles of nerve endings, which makes it incredibly sensitive. I was born with the same amount of nerve endings as anyone else, but my nervous system doesn’t know how to process the incoming stimuli. Definite drawback.
Although I’m familiar with my partner as a person, the thought of having sex is a little…intimidating. Another person can’t be controlled like a video game joystick; they’re an independent being. This brings unpredictability. He also doesn’t know exactly what I would want, or exactly how I would want it. And I’m very…exact. Except that most of the time, even I don’t know what I want. I’m can’t even express any preferences in vague generality. So I can’t even begin to tell him.
The entire concept of sex is foreign to me–so much so, that it’s almost humorous to think about. Imagine, two people, vigorously bumping specific areas against each other, getting sweaty.
Sweaty…yes, more sensory issues enter the picture. The sounds. The smells. The feeling of being damp, or even downright wet. The feeling of air drafts moving across bare, vulnerable skin (that is accustomed to being fully covered). Yikes.
Um…no. That seems repulsive to me, and the logic-driven machine that is my brain simply can’t come up with any instance in which the benefit might overshadow–even for a moment–the repulsion. When I mentally add up the two columns (Column #1 consists of the brain-balancing benefit, the pleasure of climax, etc; Column #2 consists of the sensory issues, the difficulty and awkwardness, the intense level of interaction, the duration of the encounter, the effort involved, etc), the drawbacks clearly outnumber any potential benefits.
Sex hardly ever happens for another important reason: foreplay. As a biological female, I (biologically) need a little warm-up; attempting to do the deed without proper warm-up is only a surefire route to a painful experience. And I’m sensitive to pain.
The problem is, foreplay is like the “small talk” of sex. And I’m really inept and awkward with All Things Small Talk–and that includes physical intimacy.
When one adds all of these (significant) factors up, it’s easy to see why the idea of sexual contact (on the off-chance that it even crosses my mind) hardly ever becomes reality.
This is probably something I’ll approach with my specialist (the one doing my evaluation), because he specializes in people on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum (including adults of both/all genders), and he offers ongoing support to increase the quality of life for people on the spectrum.
Until then, life will go on, just as it always has. I’m fortunate that my partner doesn’t pressure me in any way. He’s very respectful, to the point of being passive. He doesn’t become irritable or vengeful, even if it’s been a long time since we’ve been intimate.
And although I don’t desire sex, that lack of desire has absolutely nothing to do with him, and everything to do with me. I know that I’m not weird or defective; nothing’s wrong with me, and nothing’s wrong with being asexual. I also know that I’m not alone. A lot of us are asexual, and that’s perfectly fine. Asexuality, like the Asperger’s/autism spectrum itself, is a neurological variant/orientation.
My opinion is that not everyone needs to have sex. I don’t believe that it’s a biological necessity, a viewpoint that tends to run directly contrary to the prevailing conventional wisdom. (Who made them the supreme authority, anyway? Who says we’re somehow strange?) Humans die without sleep, water, or food (in that order); I haven’t had sex, even for my partner’s sake, in several years. And yet, here I am, still alive and well.
My biology indeed works. I do indeed have all of the same sensory nerve cells. I can indeed reach a climax (ha–you can guess how often that happens. But biologically, I am able).
But who cares about climax or sex, when you simply don’t feel a need to have it?
I usually don’t care, because I’ve never needed to care. But I think I want to try, even if only for my partner’s benefit. At least, sometimes 🙂