Barriers to Relationships, Part 4

This is a forth (and final!) post in a series of four posts on barriers to relationships. Check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. This series has been focusing on difficulties forming and maintaining romantic relationships imposed on autistic people not because of their autism, but rather because of abuse, financial policy, transportation, and other support services.

This article talks about sex and similar topics.  Personally, I don’t see any stigma with using the word masturbate or intercourse or whatever else.  Sex isn’t dirty.  It’s something most of the population does or wants to do (yes, I know there are completely asexual people too, and that’s fine too – that doesn’t make sex dirty though).  I also mix talking about sex and marriage below, but what I say applies to other aspects of romantic relationships.  It just so happens that these are the areas of biggest hangups in the eyes of non-disabled people when discussing romance and people with disabilities. Continue reading

Barriers to Relationships, Part 1

It amazes me how little time and research has been spent by professionals on autistic people’s desire for relationships and the barriers that exist to keep us from relationships.  Oh, there’s “research” on how awful we are for people who are close to us, but not a lot on what makes a good romantic relationship where one or both partners are autistic.  There’s little training or education for autistic people (other than “appropriate vs. inappropriate” touch, and, sadly, even that’s lacking too often) on relationships, sexuality,  avoiding abuse, marriage, child raising, and similar topics.

Yet if you ask autistic people what things would make their lives better, “a partner” or “a spouse” is pretty high on the list, as are things like raising a child.  These are often above things like employment and independent living skills, yet we see the focus primarily on employment and independent living skills: things others want us to do.  By extension, I’m guessing relationships, sex, marriage, and child-rearing are not things others want us to do.

When barriers to relationships are brought up, it’s almost always in the context of how autism makes it difficult or impossible to be in a true partnership with another person.  In other words, the focus is usually on the autistic person’s autism – typically with a whole lot of false assumptions about autism.  But those aren’t the only things that give us trouble in relationships.  I’m going to write about three things that have nothing to do with autism itself, but rather deal with the society we live in, that make it hard for many of us to have successful relationships: sexual abuse, money, transportation, and misconceptions about autism.  Today, I want to talk about sexual abuse.  I’ll talk money, transportation, and misconceptions later. Continue reading

Please, don’t be that guy!

Some of this blog deals with advocacy.  Other parts, like this one, are my observations of the autistic community.  We’re certainly not immune when it comes to human evil.

I’m writing to some autistic guys here.  “Desperate Aspie Males” or DAMs to be exact.  I don’t know why it always seems to be guys, and I haven’t noticed any DAWs, but I haven’t.  I’m sure they exist, but compared to DAMs, the DAWs are an endangered species, or at least can hide from sight easier.

What do I mean by a DAM?  The DAM is the creepy guy that goes to the autism support group, sees a woman, and immediately sees her as a sex object.  Her might be one specific woman, or it might be every woman there.  Not only does he see her as a sex object, but he makes it clear to everyone within a 2 mile radius that he sees her as a sex object.

If I was looking for a man, this way of getting a woman would definitely turn me off.  It’s not sexy, it’s not attractive, and it certainly isn’t going to end in someone having sex (unless there is a rape involved).  It’s also why so many autistic women avoid support groups and similar – it’s almost a given they’ll encounter a DAM.

Here’s some signs for guys that you might be a DAM (note I’m assuming that you, the reader, are heterosexual. If you’re gay, then substitute “man” for “woman”, as DAMs know all orientations):

  • If a girl hints that she’s not looking for a relationship, if you don’t immediately give up any deep hopes that she really is looking for a relationship with you, you might be a DAM.  Hint: she’s giving you one.  Save your dignity and quit pursuing her, even if you would have liked to have a relationship!
  • Do you tell women about how you’ve never had relationships, hoping to inspire pity and get attention from her?  You might be a DAM.  Hint: objects of pity are not seen by 99.9999% of womankind as desirable mates.  Not even autistic women.  Your mother doesn’t want to have sex with you (hopefully) – and neither will women you try to make feel like your mother!
  • Why are you talking to the woman?  Is it because you’re thinking about how you need a girlfriend or want to have sex, or is it because you genuinely enjoy spending time with her?  If you wouldn’t be happy without adding anything physical or romantic to the mix at this point, you might be a DAM.  Hint: even autistic women can pick up on whether a guy really is interested in her as a person or just her as a sex object.  So it’s really not worth the effort to lie.
  • Would you be better served by a prostitute (or your own hand), but are seeking a non-prostitute?  You might be a DAM.  Hint: most women don’t want to be your prostitute.  Having a relationship with you is not a basic exchange of “You give me X, I give you Y.”  It’s instead about truly wanting to give to the other partner.  I’m not suggesting prostitution, but I’ve seen guys that would be better off seeking that option rather than treating every new woman who shows up at a support group as a prostitute (maybe not for money, but a prostitute nonetheless).
  • Do you have expectations for a partner that differ from expectations you expect them to have for you?  For instance, do you expect the woman to be stereo-typically beautiful, while you yourself are a 300 lb man with a poorly kept beard and a very asymmetric face?  If so, you might be a DAM.  Hint: sure, beauty comes in all body shapes and types, and true beauty is on the soul.  And plenty of relationships have one partner that society judges to be more attractive than the other, sometimes a lot so.  But most of these relationships didn’t start by the less stereo-typically attractive person excluding everyone like themselves, but somehow expecting the stereo-typically beautiful women to find them attractive!  You need to be willing to be judged by the standards you are judging them.  So be careful expecting stereotypical beauty – in my experience most men who do this really should look in the mirror first and ask if they want women to do the same to them.
  • Do you initiate a bunch of unanswered communication with her?  If so, you might be a DAM.  Hint: if the woman is interested in you, she’ll let you know and she’ll remember you exist.  You don’t need to keep reminding her.  If she doesn’t…well, be patient and see who else might be in your life down the road.
  • Do you think any woman should be thrilled to have you as a mate?  If so, you might be a DAM.  You’re even more likely to be one if you’re angry about this.  Hint: no man is attractive to all – or even most – women as a serious partner (or even one-night-stand, if she’s really interested in that thing – see below).
  • Do you think most women in society want one-night-stands?  If so, you may be a DAM.  Hint: Most women don’t want one-night-stands. They want a relationship!  Really.  And they want a guy that wants a relationship.  Sure, they might want sex too!  But most women don’t want sex without being pretty sure that the man actually wants other parts of them too, and not just casually or for one night.
  • Do you tell a DAM who you see pestering women to knock it off?  If not, you’re encouraging the behavior and just as bad as the DAM.  Show you have some moral strength.

Now of course there are autistic characteristics that would make someone come off like a DAM.  We often miss social cues, for instance.  But there’s a difference between a missed social cue and using our autism as cover when questioned to give ourselves latitude that other men wouldn’t get.  If you’re chasing after a woman (metaphorically) and you find out she’s been giving you cues that she’s not interested in you, and you just say, “I’m autistic” rather than “I’m so sorry” and then cease to chase her, you’re using your autism as a cover.  That’s BS.  Don’t make the rest of us autistic guys look like a creep – knock it off.

I’ve seen autistics also try to cover their sexist attitudes with bogosity about autism – such as claiming “autism is ultramasuclinity”.  Others talk about how women and feminists have ruined their chances in life but then expect these same women to sleep with them while telling the women that they are essentially horrible for wanting things like a chance to earn a living (uh, “Women, you caused me all this suffering and ruined my life.  Want to sleep with me?”).  No, feminism didn’t ruin your life.  Neither did women.  And if you’re thinking men’s rights (essentially anti-feminism) are an important cause, expect to be lonely.  For a long time.  Women – imagine this – like to be treated like full human beings, even if they do hold to the theory that there are men’s and women’s roles in society (and don’t expect most to hold to that).

I’ve seen other autistics that try to leverage their autism into pity.  Some even seemingly regress into infanthood in a misguided attempt to bring out motherly instincts in their (they hope) sex partners.  But as I mentioned above, mom doesn’t want to have a romantic relationship with her kid, and this is just plain creepy behavior.  Others are trying for some sort of “pity sex.”  There’s not much pity sex out there, DAMs!  Sure, pity might get attention, but – and this is important DAMs – attention is not attraction.  Just because a woman is paying attention to you doesn’t mean she’s interested in you romantically.

Sure, there are always exceptions.  There are women who willingly submit to sexist pigs in relationships.  Some women probably do want casual, one-night-stands and would detest a deep relationship.  The nice guy sometimes is single.  No doubt some women would love a 30 year old baby.  But these are exceptions, and if you choose to play the exceptions, please do it in a way that doesn’t pester, annoy, and harras women that aren’t one of these exceptions.  And don’t expect to find a lot of interest if you try going after the exceptions.

Do you want a relationship?  I’ll suggest a few things that do work:

  • Stop looking for a relationship.  Seriously, stop looking.  When you stop looking at women as sex objects or relationship targets, you’ll find more women around you are interested in you.
  • Become interesting.  Find a hobby, ideally something you can share with others. It can be a solo hobby, but it helps if it’s a hobby that you can do with someone as well.
  • Enjoy life.  Misery doesn’t love company, at least not romantically!  If you can’t be happy without a partner, how does a partner know you can be happy with them?  Happiness can be shared – someone who loves you will get happiness from seeing you happy.  If you’re looking for love, some enjoyment in life will help people who have an attraction get something from you that makes them feel good too.  People like to feel good!
  • Take care of your own needs.  Don’t make a potential partner take care of you.  Sure, part of a relationship is helping each other – and that flows very naturally.  But when someone is just getting to know you, they probably don’t want to be your caregiver, shrink, transportation, etc.  This isn’t about being non-disabled or having needs, even needs that can be met by a partner!
  • Leave some mystery.  It’s actually attractive to get to know someone, but not as attractive to have these details dumped in your lap!  Share a bit, but then wait for her to share a bit before you share tons more.  Email her, but wait for her to email back once in a while before sending another email!  If she’s taking a day or two to email back, you probably should generally too.  You don’t have to rush things.
  • Be patient.  It might take you years, even decades to find a partner.  If you find someone you can have a relationship with, it’s worth the wait.  My wife and I waited quite a bit longer than most people wait – it was worth the wait and I’d do it again knowing what I know now.  But see above – it’s easier to be patient if you enjoy life.

There’s no formula to finding a partner.  The people I know who have found someone all found them at a time they weren’t looking, and even a bit by surprise.   Most of us didn’t find someone in our early 20s or late teens – autistic people take longer on this, often.  That’s how it works.  Frustrating, true.  But I don’t know any guy who found it being a DAM.