***content warning*** contains sexual references
Sex and Âûtism. A Reality Check. – By Elinor Broadbent
One of the most common questions I am asked when people find out I am autistic AND I have kids is “but how do you have sex if you don’t like touch?!” Followed closely by the statement “I thought you people didn’t like sex”.
Well dears just like everyone else, some people like sex, some love it and others have no need for it. Yep, we are just like your average Joe. We all have different sexual preferences, different likes and dislikes and some have pretty interesting fetishes too. I personally like sex. In fact I love it! I love the intimacy and the connection, the exhilaration that comes with it and the feeling of contentment afterwards.
So let me address some issues speaking from my own personal experiences of sex and the building up to intimacy with someone.
While it is true I do not like light touch because it causes sensory overload and feels like a thousand needles pricking at my skin or like that awful ache you get when you have the flu I actually love heavy touch. I find it quite soothing and can’t get enough of it. So when it comes to sexual encounters where intensity builds and you want to be with that person touch quickly becomes a stimulant not a deterrent.
If I know its coming, I can handle light touch as well up to a point. My children know not to touch my face because I react badly to it and they know to ask me first. They also know that as soon I say “that’s enough” that means to stop right away. I have trained them to be responsive to my physical reactions as well as to listen to what I am saying.
Sex is not that different really. Its about learning boundaries between both partners and listening. Good communication is key and we will address that a little later…
When it comes to sex I actually love light touch and in speaking to others I have discovered I am not alone. Strange isn’t it? In reflecting on this we come to the age old issue of attitudes towards Âûtism. How we experience the world is greatly influenced by how we perceive ourselves. If we think we are broken and deficient then the world becomes a dark place where everything is working against us. And if we see ourselves as unique and an asset to the world around us we search for opportunities to rise to and find the positive in the challenges that face us. That’s not to say we don’t struggle. Everyone does but perspective can make a big difference.
It may sound silly, but in the case of sex Âûtism and your sensory sensitivities can be your super power. It means that light touch can lead to quicker and more intense arousal as your partner caresses your face or any other part of your body which will equally excite your partner.
If you are sensitive to receiving light touch then it likely means that you are also sensitive to the touch you give. This is a brilliant asset when it comes to foreplay because you can feel your partners physical responses to you as you discover their various erogenous zones. The way they move when you brush your hand against their chest or stomach, a slight shudder of pleasure or even an increase in their heart rate. This is a great way to work out what arouses them and what calms them down depending on what you want to achieve.
All our senses can be used to heighten the experience, listening to the way their breathing changes, noticing the way their lips move or a slight arching of their neck and back…there is so much to discover about each other and the journey can be an exhilarating experience.
In any relationship communication is a big key. We often talk about the problems we face communicating with others and this is another frequent question people ask me. “How do you know what they like or they know what you like”?
It can be an awkward experience trying to be intimate and feeling like you are fumbling around in the dark with no clue that what you are doing is working or not. It is quite okay to talk during sex, actually I would go so far as to say it enhances the experience. Asking your partner if they like what you are doing and vice versa takes away the guess work and the anxiety you may feel, especially if this level of relationship is new and you are just learning about each other. And lets face it…âûtistics are notorious when it comes to second guessing and feeling anxious so communication is very important. Communication is not always verbal either. It can be something as simple as moving a hand away from or towards your body, a change in breathing, or as stated earlier a movement that indicates pleasure.
And finally stay safe! We all have limits and boundaries. Things we do not feel comfortable doing or we have simply had enough. For example, an orgasm is a very intense experience and for those who have sensory sensitivities there may be a need to stop once you have climaxed because it may become uncomfortable or unpleasurable. That does not mean that we should avoid sex for fear of reaching that point or doing something we don’t like but instead find a way to say that you have had enough. Use a safe word that your partner and you know means its time to slow down. It can be as simple as saying “enough” or “stop” or if you feel that is too blunt use a colour or object. Anything will work as long as you both know.
Respecting each other in this journey of discovery is key for a successful sexual relationship. It is quite okay to go slow if that suits you. It is also quite okay to say no if you don’t want to and to take things at your pace. Don’t give into the pressure to be just like everyone else but do what is right for you and your partner. After all, this is a personal journey and everyone is different.
I hope you find this helpful and encourage you to share any insights you may have that I have missed.
Shine Bright Everyone,