The Irresistible Autistic Draw to Child Porn and Numbers Games

Apparently, autistic men are drawn to child porn due to our emotional ages being the same as those of a child.

Uh, no.

First of all, the minute you start talking “emotional age” (or variants of mental age, intellectual age, etc), you’re going down the wrong path.  Someone who has trouble with emotions but has lived with that trouble for two decades is not like a 10 year old.  Period.  The same goes for intellect.  I’m not going to go into that argument now – other than to say these emotional age theories are bogus.  I do have reasons for saying it.

Second, the assumption is that people become pedophiles because people with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are emotionally immature:

Though now equipped with a full-grown body and full-grown sexual drive, many ASD males are stuck emotionally at a prepubescent age. They look like grown men, but inside they’re only 10 years old. They don’t want adults to show them how sex is done; they want 10-year-olds to show them.

I can assure you, as an autistic adult man, that I didn’t find 10 year olds sexually interesting.  Not at age 10 and certainly not as an adult.  I don’t think I’m in the minority, either.  Developing in a different way, such as learning about sexuality at a later age, does not imply that one is “inside” like one that learned earlier.  And, if I remember my grade school days, the boys wanted to see adult woman boobs just as much as 10 year old boobs, if not more.

In addition, if this theory is true – there is a connection between delayed sexual development and child pornography, we should see that in the demographics when people who view child porn are analyzed.  After all, autistic people aren’t the only ones who might develop differently.  One site on child pornography says this about who child porn users are:

[Child porn users] may come from all walks of life and show few warning signs. In fact, users of child pornography on the Internet are more than likely to be in a relationship, to be employed, to have an above average IQ, to be college educated, and to not have a criminal record.[25]Those arrested for online child pornography crimes have included judges, dentists, teachers, academics, rock stars, soldiers, and police officers.[26] Among the few distinguishing features of offenders are that they are likely to be white, male, and between the ages of 26 and 40, and may be heavy Internet users to the extent that it interferes with other aspects of their lives.[27]

While some of these traits are shared by some autistic men, none are exclusive to autistic men – and some are most definitely not associated with autistic men who are still trying to figure out “how sex is done.”  Note that “lack of sexual experience” isn’t listed.  In fact, presumably, most child pornography viewers aren’t trying to learn about sex since they are already in relationships.

Now I realize this doesn’t prove that child pornography viewing isn’t more common among autistic men.  But I would suggest that the editor and source for the article in Daily Beast should probably confirm their theory rather than wildly speculating on it – particularly since a surface level examination of child pornography shows that it is not a problem linked directly to underdeveloped sexuality.

There are tons of other problems in the article too, such as a badly explained theory on lack of generalization in autistic people causing relationship issues.

That brings us to the second problematic article of the week – Dating on the Autistic Spectrum, on The Atlantic’s website.  This article talks about the difficulties autistic people have dating – but it perpetuates some dating myths in the process.  For instance, the article talks about flirting with random strangers as a part of the dating process.  For some people, it may be – and certainly it may be what someone interested in a partner for a night might do, but it is not what people interested in long-term relationships generally did to meet their spouse.

Most people don’t meet their spouse at bars or other casual encounters with random strangers.  The meet through friends, work, school, or church primarily (not internet sites, either, although that’s probably more effective than bars).  They see and get to know someone in an environment where dating isn’t the primary (or at least only) goal.  Autistic people are no different – it’s not about knowing how to flirt.  It’s about meeting people and finding out that there is a mutual attraction.

Yes, autistic people have trouble with this.  Most of the autistic people I know who are in relationships certainly started dating much later than non-autistic people generally do.  And I find we don’t generally do well with quick flings – most of us want a deeper relationship.  You don’t find that trying to pick up random women you know nothing about!

Part of the problem I’ve seen with autistic dating advice in general is that it’s focused on how to make the other person be attracted to you.  While initial attraction may have a role to play, successful relationships move past that stage pretty quickly.  There has to be something deeper than just “she’s pretty” to base a relationship on.  But rather than talk about this element of relationships, what gets talked about is “How can I show I’m confident to get this pretty girl?”

Certainly, I do think in both sexuality and dating, autistic people get very little useful education.  Sexual education is poor for just about everyone, but for autistic people it’s even worse – too many educators and parents don’t see us as sexual beings (or, if we are, it’s only an urge that needs to be controlled, not something beautiful and wonderful that connects us with others).  And we do need to know not only the mechanics (something that I think would help many men – they generally don’t know what makes a woman enjoy sex), as well as things like contraception, boundaries, and consequences.  Oh, it probably shouldn’t be heterosexual-only focused.

We also need to know about relationships.  But it needs to start with the premise that we’re not all that different from neurotypicals.  If neurotypicals don’t meet each other at bars, why should we?  Where there is differences (we may have fewer relationships, for instance), it’s important to maximize the good things that come along with these differences – a deeper, close relationship is a good thing compared to tons of shallow relationships (note that I’m not saying neurotypicals have shallow relationships and lack deep ones).

I think, too, a huge part of being an attractive person to someone else is to have a full life without the other person – too much relationship education is focused on the goal of partnering.  It needs to be focused on the broader goal of a full life, with romance possibly being one part of it.  While someone is waiting for the right person, they can be enjoying and exploring life – but too often the focus becomes only the relationship, and thus the person is trying to find something to complete them, rather than finding someone to share what they (and the other person) have in life.

We should be teaching people that just having a relationship won’t complete you, won’t make you feel better, and won’t improve your life.  You need to find these things yourself – sure, a partner may provide insight and light and growth in these areas, but ultimately it’s not their job to fill a gap to make you whole.  We need to be teaching what kinds of relationships are beneficial and satisfying, and what ones are not.  We need to focus on things other than “numbers games” to get a partner.  Of course people are probably going to respond to this and say, “Joel, that’s easy for you to say.  You’re married.”  I recognize that, and I recognize the pain of loneliness (which is not only due to lack of a partner).  All I can say is that it is possible to enjoy life – I enjoyed my life before I met my wife.  I know that other people may have different desires (and, again, it needs to be okay for people with no desire to be accepted fully too).  I hope people find ways to be happy and enjoy life.  But I’d start with a focus not on how to seduce women (it’s typically men that are taught seduction), but rather on what constitutes successful relationships.

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