Misogynistic Murder

As most people know, a misogynistic racist in California murdered six people and wounded many more.

When I saw the news, there were two thoughts that went through my head. The first was sadness for what the victims and their families must be feeling. Families and friends of some victims will never be able to share another day with their loved one. That’s horribly sad. Others will have a far different life than they should have had, due to the lifelong physical and mental injuries. This is incredibly sad.

The second thought that went through my head was, “the guy is going to be (rightly or wrongly) portrayed as autistic in the media.”

Let me make one thing clear here: Autistic people are not dangerous, are not a threat, and will not hurt you. Seriously. However, autistic people are far more likely than a non-autistic person to be a victim. Sadly, this will be lost on many, and will continue to leave autistic people in the closet, afraid that people will think they are a threat if they disclose their diagnosis (or, worse, will lead to segregation and further community resistance to autistic people living in their neighborhoods).

Now, this said, I can say I’ve seen things expressed from other autistic guys that are a bit too similar to the views expressed by this murderer for my liking. And this murder shows, yet again, why hate towards women and others (he was also quite hateful of non-whites) must not be tolerated in our community. I know plenty of us are decent people. But we can and should call out people who feel entitled to their anti-woman views. Whether you are autistic or not, here’s a few things you should know if you, in any way, understand or justify murder because you aren’t having sex:

First, there is an idea that by a certain age, we should have had sex. No, that’s not how it works. Some people have consensual sex young, while others have it for the first time when they are old, and yet others never have it. That’s okay – and it is possible to live a full life with or without sex.  If you have a hard time believing that, you probably should seek out what is needed to be able to enjoy the here-and-now. For some people, the right therapist can help (the wrong one will be useless – so if the first or second therapist you try doesn’t work, keep looking). For others, other methods might work – but it is important to know that someone obsessed with the emptiness they have without another person (either longing for emotional intimacy or longing for sex) will probably not find intimacy or sex. It’s a bit of a paradox, but it’s hard to find when you’re looking.

Second, there is this idea that sex is this magical, life-transforming thing. I blame TV and media for this. Sure, sex, particularly in an emotionally intimate relationship (hint: if you’re thinking “hot girl” you probably are not yet focusing on an emotionally intimate relationship) can be special, wonderful, and extremely joyful. But so can tons of other things in life. Sex – despite what guys might say to each other – is not the end-all of experiences. It’s good, but there’s lots of good things in life if you look for them. Ironically, finding some of those things makes you more sexually attractive to someone else. Someone who loves life will be attractive to people, regardless of their body type.

Third, I see a lot of people searching out supermodel-type women – and then wondering why they can’t seem to end up in bed with them. I’ll give you a hint: even the people who have the most beautiful bodies (according to social biases, anyhow) are almost certainly looking for someone who wants more than blond hair, perfect boobs, and shapely legs (or whatever else it is you’re looking for). Maybe there’s someone that isn’t looking for someone who cares about those things – but I’ll warn you: it’s hard to be judged by your own standards sometimes. I’ll also say this: if the only person you would be willing to sleep with is someone that could professionally model in a biased society (like our own), you are treating people like shit, which isn’t a good thing. Just as being a sincere racist doesn’t make racism less repugnant, being a sincere shallow asshole doesn’t make that less repugnant – and expecting women to fall all over you is probably not going to happen. Ironically, almost everyone I see on the internet whining about being a virgin at age 20-something is looking for supermodels. Uh, no wonder you’ve never found someone (that said, if you are in your 20s and are a virgin, there is nothing wrong or even unusual about that).

Some people think, “Good guys finish last.” For men, too often this belief is used to justify acting like a testosterone-crazed abusive asshole. That’s not cool, that’s not manly, and it’s not sexy. Plenty of abusive men find victims to have sex with. But that doesn’t make it a valid path to a relationship, and certainly not a formula for success in seducing people. Good guys do find relationships. Maybe they won’t attract a shallow woman looking for a testosterone-crazed monster, but I’m willing to guess that most women are not looking to be treated bad. If you think what I’m saying isn’t true, I’m going to suggest to you that you are probably in an echo chamber looking only at shallow examples of relationships, and not real life. And, related to this, if a woman turns down your advances, it’s not because she thinks you are a good guy. She might not be interested in you for any number of reasons (some are good reasons, others may be shallow and not-so-noble), but it’s not because you weren’t enough of an asshole. This false-victimhood, incidentally, is not sexy or attractive to other women when they see it in you. So deal with rejection gracefully – not in a judgmental way. Just as society lets a men decide who to approach, we (as men) should understand that not every woman will find me to be a someone they want to date (indeed, most won’t – and that’s even true if I’m the star quarterback and neurotypical).

There’s also this idea that other people have it easy. For instance, “Women can have anyone.” The idea is that if a woman is horny and wants sex, all she has to do is go to the bar, loudly announce, “I WANT SEX!” and ten men will be willing to have sex on the spot. But a man that did the same thing would probably be kicked out of the bar, and certainly wouldn’t get any sex. Just as the person whining about not getting sex probably wants only to sleep with certain people (albeit too often a very shallow set of criteria is used to determine the ‘right’ people), few women want to sleep with every man. Maybe the woman is shallow and doesn’t want to sleep with a 350 pound guy. Or maybe she’s not shallow and can see a 350 pound guy as sexy, but wants to know someone first. Maybe she is concerned about safety. Maybe she really likes a guy, but not sexually, and is in the really uncomfortable position of trying to nicely turn down a request for a date with someone she likes – but doesn’t seem to be getting the point that she’s not interested in that type of relationship. I’ll add that plenty of women haven’t found their Prince Charming yet, but desperately want him. Just because things are different doesn’t mean they are easier.

So here’s my advice: are you a horny guy that wants sex? I’m going to be a bit blunt in the next sentence:

You probably have a hand (if not, you can probably find a way). Deal with it. I don’t know why society has decided that somehow solo-sex isn’t wonderful, but that’s B.S. You can have a mind-blowing orgasm by yourself. And that’s okay, and should not have shame attached. If you feel dirty or like you’re missing something because you masturbate, that’s a problem. Most humans do this, including most people who say they are having sex with others. You shouldn’t feel shame for something that the very people projecting that shame upon you do themselves.

Now, I’m not saying that it’s wrong to want someone else in your life (although if you just want them for feelings you can give yourself, I’d say to save yourself – and the other person – a lot of hurt and difficulty, and deal with it yourself).

What you are not entitled to do is try to pity someone else into sleeping with you. If you feel that you are entitled to sex, I’ll give you a really big hint: you probably won’t get much sex.

Now, again, I don’t think this is a problem confined to autistics, anymore than racism is an autistic-only problem. It’s a society problem. But I do hope that we call out this type of behavior when we see it. And I hope that if some of the above applies to someone reading this, that they’ll reflect upon what kind of person they are being – and if that’s really the kind of person they want to be.

My AACC Presentation – And Some Survey Results

I’m not going to go into great detail about the survey I asked for help with (although if you’re willing to participate still – and you don’t have to be autistic – please do!), but I will give some general findings so far:

  • Most of us (autistics) have been abused. This aligns with research, and, as expected.
  • About half of us (autistics) who have had an intimate relationship have been abused by someone in an intimate relationship. I’m not yet aware of research on this.
  • Non-autistics also have seen a lot of abuse, although it’s not as common – their numbers are about half of that of the autistic population.  This aligns with research.
  • A substantial portion of us identify as having a non-binary gender identity. This aligns with research.
  • A substantial portion of women identify as bi, asexual, or other non-heterosexual.  Substantial enough that heterosexual is a minority among autistic women. This is a somewhat surprising finding, although it was expected that non-straight people were more common among autistics, particularly autistic women.  It’s a bit inconclusive for the men so far. There’s some research on this, but it’s also inconclusive (for both men and women).

I’ll put some more results out in a while – I’m still hoping for more responses to the survey.  I really appreciate people taking the time to take the survey and leave comments on it – the comments in particular have been helpful as I prepare the talk. The more people that comment, the more interesting the results will be for the entire community!

At AACC 2014, I’m going to be presenting, “Dont touch me there: Intimacy for Autistic Abuse Survivors.” This will talk about both sexual and non-sexual intimate relationships (obviously for people who want an intimate relationship – not everyone needs to want this), with a focus on techniques, tips, and ways of managing intimacy for people who have faced abuse that may make intimacy difficult. We’ll also talk about our rights in relationships – what things can we expect to have in a relationship with a non-abusive partner. I’m also going to talk about some partner issues for people with abuse – such as the common fear in partners that they’ll do something that reminds the survivor of past abuse, which is certainly not what any loving partner wants to do. I’m also going to include topics on autistic differences, as for autistic abuse survivors, both autism and abuse impact what makes an intimate relationship enjoyable to us. I hope to be respectful of differences people have in religious background, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

I’m really looking forward to this because I feel this is a topic that’s critical for us. We have a lot of hurt people who want to have intimacy (sexual or non-sexual) with other people, but find it difficult because of what has been done to them in the past.

I also recognize that this is only one piece of the puzzle – finding someone for a relationship is another key piece of the puzzle, but I’m not going to spend much time on that, since I don’t have many tips of things you can do (other than being yourself and finding completeness in yourself).

So, if you end up at AACC 2014, I’d love to see you at this presentation. And I certainly would love to know what types of things you’ve found helpful in intimate relationships if you’ve been abused (or even if you just have autism). What techniques or tips or advice do you have for others who might have difficulty in a relationship because of abuse or autism?

Can You Help Out? A Survey.

At the Association for Autistic Community Conference 2014, I will be giving a presentation on intimacy (in the general sense of relationships, not just the sexual sense) and autistic people, with a particular focus on how abuse survivors can honor themselves and enjoy sharing intimacy with someone else.

This is a huge issue in the autism community, and something I feel pretty passionate about – that we can have great relationships as autistic people, even as autistic survivors of abuse. Abuse is a huge issue for our community – if I meet an autistic person, the sad reality is that they’ve probably faced abuse.

If you’re willing and able to answer a survey about (in fairly general terms) your views towards and general experience with intimacy, I’d love you to help me out by answering the survey. You don’t need to be autistic to answer the survey (in fact, I’m hoping plenty of non-autistic people answer so I can compare experiences during my presentation).  Note that I do ask if you’ve faced abuse (but not the specifics), so please don’t go here if it’s going to be too much for you. The survey is anonymous and the results will be used as part of my presentation.  You can get to the survey by clicking here.

Thanks for your help!

Autistics Speaking Day

I want to say something. So here goes: FUCK.A bunch of text, including *(#! #W:# and similar text, to stylistically represent internet cuss word obfuscation

Seriously.

No, I’m not trying to make the blog unsafe for kids (that said, I’d love to meet the kid who hasn’t heard the word “fuck”).  But this is a huge part of what I want to say: we will say things people like.  And things they don’t.

We’ll cuss. We’ll insult people. We’ll talk dirty. We’ll lie. We’ll do all the things that the sanitized, nice, touchy-feely movies about escaping from autism or about how there are geniuses in the autistic population won’t say.

We say – if we’re allowed – these things even if we use speech devices. Too often, we’re silenced by being given devices that don’t speak these words. (hint to parents: if your child uses a speech device that uses a language system – not just spelling, but a word-based language system – and it doesn’t include some words you don’t ever want to hear said, the vocabulary is too small for your kid) Seriously, kids cuss. So should autistic kids. Just like neurotypical kids, we need to learn what is and isn’t appropriate in what context. Whether you like it or not, it is appropriate for two fifth graders to share lists of cuss words with each other. It’s not appropriate to do so in the hearing of an adult. That’s a pretty important social lesson to learn – that your communication needs to change based on audience. How do you learn that if you’re only options in language are always appropriate for the adults?

We say we’re horny. That we’re aroused. That we want to have sex. Maybe even that we want to fuck. Just like a neurotypical does. Sure, there are all types of sexualities among autistic people, including asexuality, but most of us aren’t asexual. So we want these things. And need to talk about it. Yes, there are more and less appropriate places. And, yes, we may or may not have our parents’ moral values. But we need the same rights that any other adult has – the ability to express our sexuality, including expressing it in ways that while legal may not be what our parents would like.

Too often, we live in group homes or institutions where the staff fears the complications that a sex life would bring into their own jobs. Or have religious views about what sex is or isn’t okay. That’s fine if we willingly agree to those rules and have real options and places to live that don’t include those rules. But most of the time, we don’t get that choice when placed into group homes or institutions – we have to take what we get, or run away. A neurotypical might choose to live in a monastery. An autistic shouldn’t be forced to. Yet, studies have shown that many – quite possibly most – group homes ban homosexual relationships while allowing limited (usually way too limited) heterosexual relationships. It’s another place where our desires don’t matter.

We also need to be able to say “NO.” As in, “No, I don’t want to go to work today.” Or “No, I don’t want to eat that slop.” Neurotypicals get to do this. Sure, there are consequences (although often we get away with some of this – how many people use a sick day when they aren’t sick?). Heck, sometimes a neurotypical might wake up in the morning and decide – for better or worse – that going to work sucks, that there is more in life than their job, and that they really don’t want to go to their job. Ever again. Yep, that causes unemployment sometimes, but it’s something many neurotypicals have done sometime in their life. They were allowed to. Sure, there are consequences. But they weren’t prevented from making the choice in the first place.

So I guess that’s my theme: if people want us to speak, you need to let us speak. Even when we say shit you don’t like. We’re not pets, we’re not puppets. We’re human. And that means you won’t like every moral choice we make. Just like I won’t like every moral choice you make. That’s life.

 

Emotional Age and Maturity

This week’s horrible article by Temple Grandin’s mother contained a lot of unfounded and unsupported assumptions.  I’ve written about the assumptions around connecting late sexual experience with child porn, but there’s another damaging assumption in the article that is worth talking about on it’s own – the concept of emotional age or emotional delay.

People who haven’t studied autistic emotions (either formally or informally) often come to the conclusion, “Autistic people’s emotional development is years behind the development of peers.”  Actually, they usually phrase it as “Children with autism develop emotionally at a slower rate than their peers,” but I’m not going to get into the autistic vs person with autism debate now (others have already explained it).

Essentially, the idea is that a 20 year old autistic might have the emotional development of a 10 year old (or a different age – most advocates of this theory are quick to point out there are differences among autistics) and mature much later than their peers emotionally.

There’s a problem, though: autism is not “persistent childhood syndrome.”  Autism isn’t about developing slower.  It’s about developing differently.  Not different in speed, but at a more base level – different in order of development, different in outcome of development, and different in distribution of strengths and weaknesses.

Before we can talk about those things, we need to talk about other parts of autism.  Autism also involves how we communicate with the world.  An autistic person might, for instance, have significant trouble explaining what they are feeling or what an emotion is like.  That doesn’t mean they have underdeveloped emotions, but simply that they can’t express it.  Emotional language is difficult for a lot of autistic people (myself included), although usually not in the ways people think.  That said, differences in nature, strengths, and weaknesses of communication make people think we have emotional differences that we don’t have.  For instance, how do you show love?  There’s a ton of ways to show someone you love them – anything from saying, “I love you,” to action, whether it’s a hug or whether it’s doing something inconvenient for yourself that you know the other person will enjoy.  It’s not all the same!  But if someone tends to use a form of love expression that differs from what another person might expect, it gets interpreted as “this person doesn’t love me.”  This is true for NTs (neurotypicals) as well as autistics (a lot of relationship counseling of NTs seems to revolve around how to show love for each other), so it only makes sense that autistics might express in ways that baffle or confuse a lot of NTs.  But there’s a difference between baffling expression and lack of the emotion.

That’s not the only difference – another difference is in how we perceive the environment and our base stress levels.  Being in some environments, or being in a situation where you’re under tremendous stress, changes how you interact with people.  For instance, see this presumably non-autistic politician calmly discussing pension reform:

Now maybe the politician in the video is emotionally immature.  But maybe he’s not.  Maybe he’s just stressed and frustrated and lost control of the moment.  This happens to us all (I’m not going to comment on the maturity of the woman behind him responding by laughing – she also is presumably non-autistic) in situations where we are sufficiently provoked or stressed.   Now, imagine that you’re in a lot of pain, under a lot of stress, maybe bullied at school constantly.  Might you not lose your temper and display emotional “immaturity” more often?  Is it really emotional immaturity?  Are you handling your emotions well (considering other things you might do, maybe you are – maybe this is what gave you an outlet for your emotions other than suicide).

But, if an autistic has a meltdown, or can’t handle the current situation, rarely is the focus on her situation.  No, she needs to “learn how to handle her emotions.”  She needs to mature.  Never mind that she might be in pain because of the light and sound around her, that she can’t explain something that’s bothering her due to communication differences, and that others are treating her poorly.  No, she’s at fault to many people.  She’s supposedly immature.

So, now that we know some things that don’t point to lack of emotional maturity, what do we know about autistic emotions?

First, we know that autistic people have trouble expressing emotions – as hinted to above – in ways that NTs find acceptable.  Certainly many people, NT and autistic, can improve how they express emotions.  But it’s not typically seen as lack of emotional development (except by armchair psychologists) in NTs when an NT has trouble with this.  It’s seen as someone who has trouble controlling their emotions, not as someone who is a decade younger inside.  There are studies on this (too often, when talking about something like this, you’ll hear “we need to study autistic people’s emotions.”  I hate to tell this to some people, but we do!).

One of our most common reactions to intense emotion is to basically “hold it in” or suppress our emotions to deal with stress, fear, or uncertainty.  I know people who have seen autistics seemingly “fly off the handle” with no real provocation (that they recognized – in other words, that they had empathy for) will disagree with me, but research says otherwise.  It says that we actually do this a lot, more than neurotypicals.  And that we use less of the neurotypical reappraisal, which can be seen as reanalyzing a situation – did the person try to hurt us, or is there another explanation?  Obviously both strategies have their place (and autistics do both), but autistic people tend to do the suppression more than neurotypicals do.  This isn’t something that leads people towards child porn or causes them to be like children when they are adults (these are both aspects of the horrible Daily Beast article).  Instead, this deals with how we respond to emotions, not what emotions and desires we have.

That gets to the second point – we have the same emotions, but may feel them more intensely.  That makes sense, since it’s well known that we feel other things (like sound or light, for instance) often in more intense ways.  This research has shown that autistic people do have empathy.  Not only do we have it, but we feel it deeper and stronger than neurotypicals in many cases.  Maybe that’s why so many autistic adults are involved in social causes that are largely ignored by the general population (I can name 10 autistic adults I know that are involved in immigration social causes, but I can’t even name one non-autistic adult I know that is – and I know more non-autistic adults than autistic adults).

High empathy doesn’t lead someone towards sex crimes or child porn, nor is high empathy associated with stunted or delayed development.  In fact, high empathy would give someone even more reason – assuming that they didn’t have enough in them already – to avoid child porn and other sex crime.  Couple that with the staggering statistics on sexual abuse of autistic children (in my experience, most of us have been abused as children, and research seems to back me up), and it’s easy to see that, combined with empathy, the vast majority of us would not be drawn to child porn.  We know what it’s like to be the abused child (I’ll also add, to bolster things I’ve already said, that we’ve already learned about children and sex through our abuse, and have no need to learn about sex that way as adults – we were the victims of that already – even if Temple’s mom disagrees).

We also have the other emotions and attractions.  Including sexual attraction.  One thing that is more common among autistic people is homosexuality and other non-heterosexual sexualities.  Research supports this.  However, what research doesn’t support is a link to child pornography.  There are anecdotes and some academic writings similar to the Daily Beast article, but they are generally case studies and hypothesis, and thus not able to be used to draw broad conclusions.  Nobody debates the existence of sexual predators and child porn viewers among autistic people – the question is whether or not there is a link to autism (just because an autistic person does something doesn’t mean autism was a contributing factor).  In the accounts I’ve read of autistic child porn viewers, all of them had one other element: either the person was in an adult relationship (in many cases, married) where presumably adult, age-appropriate sexual activity occurred, or the person had otherwise expressed a sexual interest in adults.  In addition, in most, the person also assaulted or harassed adults.  I say this to confront Temple’s mom’s unsupported hypothesis that autistics, being emotionally undeveloped and thus like children emotionally, seek out images of children.  Clearly even in the academic case studies of autistic adults who view child porn, there’s not a lack of interest in adults – those emotions and attractions are definitely there.  We’re not talking emotional development delay – we’re talking someone who places their self-gratification and unusual desires above society’s rules and other people’s welfare.  That’s not “being childlike.”  It’s being criminal, something autistics and non-autistics both manage to do (ironically we don’t blame a desire to be part of a group facilitating some criminal activity, like some gang activity, on the neurology of the person doing it unless they are non-neurotypical – even though the desire to fit in is important and common for people who have neurotypicality).

Another factor involved with autistic emotion is the social acceptability of expressing our emotions.  Here, I’ll stray a little from research recognizing that personal experience is not something we can draw firm conclusions from (so if you want to criticize something here, THIS is the personal experience part!).  One of the tactics of bullies in my childhood was to provoke me to “tattle” or have an “outburst.”  The bullies were skillful – they knew how to manipulate the situation so that the teacher or authority would see Joel seemingly overreacting, without seeing all the background for why Joel reacted the way he did.  So, for instance, they might tease me all day when the teacher isn’t looking or watching, but when I’ve finally had enough and blow up, the teacher just sees me yelling and screaming at the bullies.  When asked, “Why?” I likely can’t respond coherently or calmly, or I say, “He’s teasing me” to which the teacher thinks, “That reaction is WAY beyond how he should have reacted to being called a name once” (and it would be, if it was once).  So, now, I’m emotionally immature (ironically, the bullies who exploit this are not).

We do experience emotions differently and deeply.  Adults aren’t children, even if the adults have emotional differences.  It might sound good to think of an adult as a child as why the person would be sexually attracted to kids, but that’s not supported by studies of pedophiles (a group that has been extensively studied).  Yes, there are autistic criminals, pedophiles, and child porn viewers.  We’re not all saints, and there are some pretty horrible people among us – just as there is with the rest of the population.  We’re not unique and free from the sins of humanity.  But we’re also not more likely to sin, nor more likely to “act like children emotionally.”  We will act differently than neurotypical adults, that’s for sure.  And there’s a wide variety of difference, but none of that is like a neurotypical child.

Part of fixing the problem of poor sexual education among autistic people involves us treating people as they are, not as we think they are or want to see them.  That’s where this scares me the most – if you think a 20 year old is emotionally a 10 year old, what did you think of them as at 10 years old?  Certainly not a 10 year old.  So, if they were like a 5 year old then, you probably don’t need to think of them as soon-to-begin puberty.  So you get to put off that sex talk that you might give a neurotypical (although, unlike what Temple’s mom says, most people put off that talk for neurotypicals too – they just don’t have the justification; dads are not generally teaching kids about sex, nor are moms – so don’t blame the absent dad for this, as the present dad and the present mom don’t do it either).  But the reason for this talk isn’t to keep your child from becoming a predator as much as to keep him from becoming a victim and to help him as he grows develop the type of relationships that are positive and affirming of everyone involved.  That’s something everyone needs.