What’s Wrong with Advanced Directives

Do you want to cut health care costs in America?  It’s simple – you could save substantial money by doing one thing. You encourage people to create advance directives for what they would like to happen if they are unable to speak for themselves in the hospital.

For instance, someone might say they don’t want CPR, don’t want a ventilator, don’t want procedures that are painful and only prolong life by months, don’t want procedures that would save their life but leave them disabled.

In fact, they do. They say exactly these things when asked – at least a lot of people do. People want to “die with dignity.”

Here’s where I have the problem: If the decisions are made with informed consent and out of personal desire, I’m generally fine with this. But I don’t think most of these decisions are made with consent.

I was recently listening to a Planet Money podcast on this – listen to the actual story, as this isn’t in the article, if you want to hear what I’m concerned about.  Basically, this town has a remarkably high number of people who have completed advance directives, something I agree most people should do, but do carefully.

The problem comes with two things. First, as the show points out, this saves money, by not keeping people alive with expensive procedures who indicated they don’t want to stay alive in those situations. This can be ethically neutral, unless the person thinks, “I want to leave my life savings to my kids, so I don’t want the hospital using all of my money on me. In other words, I worry about people making a financial decision on whether they should live, and I have a huge objection to someone dying who might want to live on the basis of finances. Directives in favor of discontinuing care are scary when there is finances involved. This certainly could be solved through funding healthcare properly, so that it’s not a concern. In other words my heirs shouldn’t have less money because I told the doctors to do everything they can for me.

The second problem was when one man in the story was asked about situations and his choice – situations like whether he would want to have life saving surgery that would leave him blind or leave him unable to walk. In both cases, the man, likely sincerely, said, “No, I don’t want those surgeries.” Now, this is hypothetical and this probably wasn’t a real possibility for the man, but it is scary. What was he basing this decision on? I don’t know what he does and doesn’t know about disability, but if he’s like most people in the USA, disability is terrifying to him – there is probably few things worse than being “confined to a wheelchair” or being blind. To people with those disabilities, these disabilities need to keep anyone from leading a full and exciting life that they enjoy. But chances are he doesn’t know many people in a wheelchair or blind. Even more concerning was that the question wasn’t, “You’re going to die shortly and be blind if this surgery happens, and probably be in a lot of pain. Do you want to die painlessly in that situation?” That’s probably the question the guy thought he was answering (that said, I could be wrong, and hope I am).  He answered that he didn’t want those surgeries – even if he would live another 60 years without any other problem from the surgery) – because the question just asked if he wanted these types of procedures that could leave him with a disability for the sake of curing illness. In other words, this wasn’t exactly an end of life question, even though he probably thought it was.

And that’s where I have the problem. I don’t like people making decisions about their death on the basis of biases against disability. I hate it for a bunch of reasons. I hate it because I wonder whether or not this man would make this decision if his wife was disabled and he knew better what disability is like. Or if he was presented this information in another way. Equally, I’m scared about how disabled people are viewed by him, and if these prejudices are shared by other people – like people in hospitals. Do they see a disabled person and do a calculation, “This person is suffering more and would probably prefer death?” There’s evidence that this does happen. Routinely.

I do think people should fill out advance directives and let their families know what they want for medical treatment, if they are unable to speak. I believe very fully in this. But only with consent and without the financial motivation to choose death.
I have a good life. So do my blind friends, my wheelchair using friends, and, indeed, “even” my friends with chronic pain. Learn about us before you decide a life like ours isn’t worth living.

Perseverative Attraction

There’s a lot of stereotypes about autistic people, and, indeed, people who are not neurotypical in general. One of those stereotypes is that we are dangerous people that need to be kept away from others, particularly when it comes to sex and relationships. I’ve written about some of this before, such as Temple Grandin’s mother saying we’re more likely to be pedophiles (hint: we’re not). Or that autistic mate-selection should work like many assume neurotypical mate-selection works (through flirting at bars, for instance – which isn’t actually how neurotypical mate-selection works either).

One of the things that concerns me is that as we fight bad information, the tendency is to not want to talk about problems we do have.

Now, I’m not a researcher, and I don’t have any great data. I do have a survey I’ve done, which shows some interesting data. Among the most interesting, it showed (all results rounded to the nearest 5% to not imply precision that doesn’t exist in my survey):

Most people, autistic or not, have been pursued by someone that the person being pursued didn’t want a relationship with:

  • 65% of non-autistic people indicated they had unwanted pursuit (I didn’t break it into men/women due to small sample size)
  • 65% of autistic women indicated they had unwanted pursuit
  • 75% of autistic men indicated they had unwanted pursuit
  • 100% of non-binary autistic people indicated they had unwanted pursuit

When I asked if the pursuit continued without stopping, even after the object of affection indicated they weren’t interested:

  • 65% of non-autistic people said they’ve been pursued by someone that didn’t stop (thus, everyone that had unwanted pursuit also had unwanted pursuit that continued after the pursuer was informed the pursuit wasn’t wanted)
  • 45% of autistic women said they’ve been pursued by someone that didn’t stop
  • 60% of autistic men said they’ve been pursued by someone that didn’t stop
  • 85% of non-binary autistic people said they’ve been pursued by someone who didn’t stop

I found some of this interesting, although I’ll caution that drawing too many conclusions beyond order-of-magnitude-level conclusions – there are a lot of methodological issues and sampling bias in my survey. It’s also important to realize that the first category – someone pursuing you that you aren’t interested in – is not a problem in itself. For instance, if someone saw me, didn’t know I was married and monogamous, and thus indicated they are interested in a romantic relationship, I shouldn’t be angry about this if it’s done in a respectful and appropriate way. I wouldn’t want that relationship, thus it’s unwanted, but it’s not inappropriate pursuit at this point (assuming, again, the pursuit was respectful). Or, if someone is gay and an opposite sex person pursued them, that’s not inappropriate if done respectfully until the person doesn’t stop the pursuit when told it’s unwanted (hopefully most of us are respectful when doing this too). Hopefully one day if a same-sex person pursued a straight person, that too could be seen as acceptable, so long as it was respectful and the person pursuing accepted that not everyone is going to be interested in them. Likewise, you can be pursued by someone in a category you are interested in (such as a straight man being pursued by a woman), but still not be interested in that particular person – I’ve seen some people get this wrong and think, “I’m an attractive man, she is straight and interested in men, she should be interested in me.” But it doesn’t work this way – people can and should be free to choose their romantic partners for whatever reason they want – and that’s not wrong. Likewise, it’s not wrong to pursue up until the point where it becomes either disrespectful or the pursuit signals aren’t returned (it shouldn’t take an explicit “QUIT BUGGING ME! NO!” to get you to stop – simply not having reciprocation should be enough).

The first thing that struck my attention was that non-autistics, autistic men, and autistic women have roughly the same experience with unwanted pursuit. I’m not sure why less autistic women have had people not stop when they’ve asked them to stop, but in general, it looks like autistic experience is remarkably similar to non-autsitic experience. But what did stand out was non-binary people seem to deal with this stuff a lot more than the rest of us. I’m not sure what to make of that, but I do find it potentially interesting.

The other part of this is that it’s interesting is that there is a myth that autistic men are not pursued – clearly they are. Now I recognize that not everyone is, nor is the world fair. So some decent guys don’t have anyone express interest in them romantically. But it’s still not appropriate to respond to that “unfairness” with inappropriate behavior, and certainly not with violence or stalking or disregard for people’s boundaries.

All of this was to get to another point – people who do the pursuing. I asked a question about whether the person doing the survey pursued someone they knew wasn’t interested in them. In other words, did they do this behavior which may be inappropriate and unwanted:

  • 65% of non-autistic people said they pursued someone who they knew didn’t want to be pursued (FWIW, most of the non-autistic respondents were women, so this wasn’t a man-only thing).  100% of the non-autistic people indicated they’ve asked someone for a relationship (65% also indicate they’ve been turned down).
  • 15% of autistic women said they did this, while 55% of autistic women indicate they’ve asked someone for a relationship (75% of this 55% indicate they’ve been turned down) – so about 25% of autistic women who have asked someone out have also pursued someone they knew wasn’t interested.
  • 25% of autistic men said they did this, while 50% of autistic men indicate they’ve asked someone for a relationship (80% of this 50% indicate they’ve been turned down) – so about 50% of autistic men who have asked someone out have also pursued someone they knew wasn’t interested.
  • 0% of non-binary autistic people said they did this, but 85% of non-binary autistic people said they’ve asked someone for a relationship (100% of this 85% have indicated they’ve been turned down at some point)

I found the non-autistic number remarkable, and would love to investigate to see if that’s accurate or not. If it is, it seems that any given non-autistic person is more likely than any given autistic person to pursue someone they know isn’t interested. This may be the most remarkable thing I found in this survey. I have theories about this, but I think it would be premature to explain them.

I also point out that plenty of autistic women have asked someone out and been turned down – the majority of women who have asked at least one person out have been turned down at least once. Less women have faced rejection, but of course it’s likely they’ve asked less people out and thus had less chance of being rejected at least once.

All that is to say, basically, that autistic people aren’t all pursuing people with no respect for the other person’s feelings, at least not to a greater degree than non-autistic people, and I don’t want that point to be lost.

But some are. Just as some non-autistic people are.

And I want to talk about that in very brief terms. There’s different types of stalking and pursuit of uninterested people. None of it is particularly pleasant to the object of desire – if you’re not interested in someone, you’re not interested in them, and you wish you didn’t have to keep telling them no, for all sorts of reasons – you want to be respected, but you also probably don’t like rejecting someone (it’s not a fun thing to do to another person, if you have any empathy at all). There’s all sorts of extremes – and due to the way I asked the questions, the extremes could show up all sorts of ways in my survey. They guy that thinks shooting the president will get the girl (that link goes to a really chilling letter) likely would show up the same as the guy that asks a girl out once, waits 5 years, and then asks her one more time. John Hinkley Jr. was violent and willing to do great evil in his pursuit – I suspect Jodie Foster is glad that he was locked up. The guy who asks twice in 5 years (and doesn’t hang around someone’s dorm evesdroping on conversations or similarly creepy stuff) is something different, albeit still IMHO disrespectful at the least (no person should have to turn you down more than once – if you’ve been turned down, whether explicitly or through lack of reciprocation, you need to end hope for a relationship). Both guys are in the wrong, but there are difference between them.

There’s a form of autistic unwanted attraction that is somewhat unique, I believe. Now, I’m moving past anything I have anything even as decent as the soft data I described above – I’m going to talk about personal experience and some theories I have. So take this with a grain of salt.

Just as an autistic person might perseverate on trains, an autistic person can perseverate on a person. Of course we can’t always control our attractions, and it’s very possible to feel an attraction for someone who doesn’t reciprocate. It’s common enough to have thousands of movies, plays, literature, and other art (often which gives this idea that if a man sticks through it, they’ll eventually win the girl – which is dangerous if you actually believe life works this way). Having an attraction isn’t a problem. Not accepting a “no” (even in the form of non-reciprocation) is a problem. You can desire whoever you want, but you must call of both the pursuit of the relationship and the hope that you’ll have it when you hear “no” (or non-reciprocation). Seriously, I don’t care that your cousin-in-law or someone kept pestering someone until they got married. You need to stop. And if you can’t be around the person without wanting to make the relationship something more than it is (such as friendship), you’re being dishonest. It’s not ethical to do that to someone, and it causes real harm.

Not only does it cause harm (which is the reason you shouldn’t do it), but it also puts you at risk. I know a man, likely autistic, who perseverated on a girl who used him mightily. She did a pretty ugly thing back to him (she also may have been autistic, not that it matters, but I want to show that people of any neurology can take advantage of people of any neurology). The man asked and asked her to have a romantic relationship, and she bluntly, repeatedly, told him no. At the same time, she managed to lead him on just enough to where he thought she was getting interested, so he gave gifts, trips, meals, etc, to this woman over the course of more than a year – at thousands of dollars of expense. From where I could see, both people were violating the others’ boundaries, and both people were trying to manipulate the other (she was succeeding a bit more than him, however). I do not believe that she was innocent, but rather I believe she was intentionally manipulating. I’m not in any way saying this is the normal response of a victim of unwanted pursuit. Any sort of obsessive focus on someone, to the point where you stop respecting their “no” can equally be used against you by a clever manipulator.

But again the main reason to listen to a “no” (or non-reciprocation) isn’t to avoid being a victim – it’s to avoid being an ass, a creep, and a stalker. That should be enough reason.

All this said, I think it is important to recognize that this type of perseveration is something that can be somewhat different than other types of stalking behavior. That’s not a justification or acceptance or excuse for creepy behavior – nor is it a lack of recognition that even the guy that persists in trying to turn friendship into something more isn’t hurting the woman. They are hurting the woman. But the response is different. This is not necessarily a guy which will benefit from jail time (although I’m not saying autistic people can’t commit acts that should put them in jail). It could be a guy that needs a strong role model or mentor to make it clear, in no uncertain terms, that persisting on this path will have severe consequences, and is inappropriate, wrong, and harmful to the victim. People do have to learn to deal with perseveration properly, even when it involves a person.

I’ll also note that I’ve seen and heard about autistic women doing the same thing – this is not just an autistic guy thing, although more guys than women may be doing it.

In some cases a person can change. And when a person can change, they should be expected to do so. We should recognize that this is something that may be a somewhat unique problem in the autistic world. It may be that we’re actually less likely to refuse to call off our pursuit than a non-autistic person is, but we need to recognize some autistic traits can cause us to engage in dangerous, destructive behavior that harms a victim. We need to acknowledge that autistic excessive pursuit may look a bit different than non-autistic excessive pursuit.

And one more thing is certain: People need to learn, both autistic and non-autistic, that “no” and non-reciprocation means to STOP PURSUIT! How can we work in our community – autistic people – to present this message in a way that is best likely to be heard and followed?

Mass Murderers Might be Autistic – and Why the term “High Functioning” is Discriminatory

As most people probably know, a few days ago a man murdered 6 people and injured several more.  The murderer may have been autistic.

Before I go any further, I want to note that I recognize the horror of what happened in California and am very sad for what happened to the victims and their families. I do believe the entire autism community is united in this aspect and feels the same way.

One of the first reactions of any community, including the autistic community, when something like this happens is to want to distance themselves from the evil person. Some of this is in the form of, “We are not like that!” That’s valid, and true. Autistic people are less likely than average to commit violent crime (and more likely to be the victims – so we’re not the ones that someone needs to be protected from, we’re the ones that need to be protected from someone else).

But, there’s also a darker response: “He’s not autistic.” I can’t accept this knee-jerk response, as much as I do wish that the murderer is not autistic. Sure, we don’t know for sure that he was autistic, and that’s fine to point out in some limited contexts (but not as a way of saying, “So autistic people are okay”). Whether or not this murderer was autistic, the violence he displayed was something that isn’t part of autism, nor is it part of any number of other things (such as being a man, being a college student, being a gun owner, being a white sort-of-well-off kid). But it certainly isn’t part of his autism. That doesn’t mean he isn’t autistic, though.

We have good and bad people in our community.  Just like there are good and bad men, good and bad college students, good and bad gun owners, good and bad sort-of-well-off people. And I do believe we can and should judge individuals as individuals. And, yes, I recognize that there is typically a power – privilege if you like – differential between men and women, whites and people of color, sort-of-well-off people and poor people. But there’s a huge difference between being a member of a group that has social privilege and being a bad person. I’m not saying that privilege doesn’t exist or people shouldn’t be aware of it, but I am saying that it’s not a moral failing to be a member of such a group!

But, back to the autism, we can (and, in fact, should expect we have) bad people in our community. There’s a lot of myths that autistic people have perpetuated about how we’re beyond deceiving people, honest, trustworthy, kind, and any number of other positive things. But we’re not. I’m not saying we’re dishonest, untrustworthy, unkind, liars, either. We’re neither of these things, neither angels nor devils. We’re like everyone else: we have good things in each of us and also some ugly things in each of us. We’re not beyond jealousy, greed, or malice. We have good people and bad people in our community, and we need to recognize that. It’s a mistake to think a group I am part of is better than another group. It’s a mistake that the murderer in California made, one that fed into his evil acts – he felt he was better than the men and women he murdered. Obviously the rest of us have a different opinion. Autistic (or Aspie) supremacist stuff is bullshit.

But, when the “angel theory of autism” isn’t being used to try to discount the murder’s potential autism, another ugly belief pops up: that the murderer was too functional to be autistic. The logic is, essentially, “He was too high functioning to be anything like most autistics. He could talk normally, he could go to college, he drove a car.” Whether or not this leads to someone saying he wasn’t autistic, the point is the same: if you drive, go to school, and talk, then you’re not like real (phrased as most) autistics.

Two things lead to this: first, people have limited experience with autistic people. They may only know one or two, often children. And the person they know probably doesn’t go to college, drive, and may have obvious communication differences. Of course the person they know might only be 6 (how many 6 year olds go to college or drive?), but none-the-less when someone thinks of autism, they think of what they know. If the person they know is an adult that cannot do these these things, too often it is assumed that others are like this.

The other problem is that people think the world works as follows:

Two arrows, one pointing left, one pointing right. The left arrow says "Low functioning" and has, under it, "More Autistic."  The right arrow says "High Functioning" and under it says "Normal"In other words, there’s a line on which we can place autistic people.  There are middle-functioning people in the middle, still clearly autistic, but in the middle of autistic. There’s a few geniuses like Temple Grandin off to the right, approaching “normal” and definitely “high functioning”, and there is a bunch of people on the left who are more affected and thus “low functioning.”

But that’s all bullshit.

You might be able to draw a line like the above for one very narrowly defined skill. But it has to be really narrow. For instance, we all know there are good and bad car drivers. Some people are just plain better at it than others. But is it even that simple? For instance, someone might be great at driving on-road, but horrible driving a jeep on an off-road trail. Are they a low functioning driver?  Probably not. Or they might be fine driving during the day, but not at night. Or they might be great in a city, but easily fall asleep on a rural highway. Or they might be fine driving a little compact car, but totally lost if they are asked to back up a truck with a 35 foot long camper attached. They might be better at driving fast, but is someone that frequently exceed the speed limit a high functioning or a low functioning driver? Where would you be on the line (assuming you drive)? It probably depends on the situation and environment – I suspect I’d be pretty far to the left, near low functioning, if you put me in the cab of a tractor trailer, since I probably wouldn’t even know how to release the parking brake. But maybe I’m pretty far to the right when it comes to backing up a trailer (I can usually get into a tight spot on the first attempt easily). I’m probably somewhere in the middle for most tasks. So, am I a mid-functioning driver? Would you say the same thing if I said I am a professional tractor-trailer driver who can’t release the brakes (but is, on average, mid-functioning considering other skills)? Probably not – context matters. We probably need several lines, for different skills, like “Winter Driving”, “Trailer Backing”, “Tractor-Trailer Brake Operation”, “Night Driving”, “Rural Awareness Maintenance”, and “Speed Limit Obedience.”

Life is a whole lot more complex than driving a car. If we can’t just give one score on a continuum to a driver, imagine how much more complex life as a whole is!

I’ll use myself as an example. I have no problem driving a car most of the time (I can’t say I’m perfect, but I’m not a “low functioning” driver either). I attended college, even obtaining a degree. And I do talk.

Of course what this misses is that of these things, the only one I’ve done without significant difficulty is driving. For whatever reason, I’m comfortable operating pretty much any vehicle I’ve had a chance to operate, from bicycles to aircraft. I’m not sure why, considering how uncoordinated I am with most other things, but I can manage motor vehicles just fine. But the other stuff is definitely difficult.

Sure, I attended college. And it only took about 16 years for me to get my degree. I received a 4.0 average my first year. My second year saw me on academic probation. What happened? It wasn’t the material – I could and did understand the material. Trying to keep everything together for over a year was too much for me, and I was loosing the ability to handle all the daily activities of life. Sure, I could force myself through it – and did – for a while. But eventually that catches up. I don’t know many non-autistic college students that had grades decline as steeply (I do know several autistic students that have). I ended up dropping out, only returning a decade later when somehow I was willing to try to force myself through the process again. This is hardly “high functioning.”

I could talk about speech, but I won’t now, other than to say I had similar difficulties and still do – it’s why I still own and occasionally use speech generating devices.

But there were the other areas of my life too. I didn’t eat for a week when I started school, because I didn’t know where the cafeteria was. I was getting a 4.0 GPA at the time, but couldn’t find where the food was kept.  After a week, I was barely functional from hunger. Yet I couldn’t do the obvious thing: ask someone. Eventually, I ended up stalking another freshman for a few hours, figuring he’d eventually eat (fortunately, he did eat in the cafeteria). Food was a problem throughout my adult life, until I got married (my wonderful wife cooks for me – something that is a tremendous blessing after you’ve lived years of your life dangerously underweight because you lack the ability to manage this task yourself).

But I was high functioning. I went to college. I drove a car.

That’s the thing with autism (and, in fact, humanity). Having skill in area X doesn’t mean I have skill in area Y, even when it looks like X and Y should be reasonably related.

Sure, we like to be able to categorize people. We think there must be some difference between that kid we say is low functioning and the high-functioning examples of people like Temple Grandin. And certainly there is a difference – the obvious one is 50 years of age. But, beyond that, autism isn’t about being good or bad at any one thing. It’s about having a set of abilities that doesn’t follow the normal neurotypical model, and this goes both ways. I don’t have the research handy, but I know some researchers have found that autistics with low measured IQs, typically part of the group that is considered low functioning, share, with their higher measured IQ autistic peers, an ability to do certain types of intellectual processing that far surpasses that of neurotypicals. Of course neurotypicals far surpass both groups – the “high” and “low” functioning groups on other tasks. It’s not about better or worse, higher or lower, but rather different.

When people think of the California murderer, and think, “But he’s too high functioning to be autistic,” they are closing the doors to life-saving daily living services that some people need. They are deciding that autistic people can’t learn skills A, B, or C. They are ignoring decades of research. They’re also ignoring the tremendous variance between individuals, even when those individuals are all called autistic. We’re different, with vastly different skills. One autistic person might not just be able to drive a car, but could be a successful race car driver, while another would be a tremendous risk to traffic if they got behind the wheel. That doesn’t mean one is more autistic than the other. It means that one is a shit driver, while the other may be great. But still autistic. Yet others may have tremendous talents, but because they can’t do some random unrelated task, it’s assumed they wouldn’t be able to do whatever they are talented at doing. They’re “low functioning” after all. Well, that’s bullshit. Don’t dismiss us as non-autistic because we can do something, don’t assume we have other skills because we can do X, and don’t assume that we can’t do something because we can’t do X.

If you think you can put autistic people on a functioning line, from high to low functioning, you just don’t know autism.

More on the Link between Autism and Violence

I’ve blogged on this in the past, so I won’t go into too many details now. There is a link.

I’ve also recently put up a survey about intimacy that included some questions about abuse. The numbers show how often we face this type of mistreatment (yes, I’m aware of the limitations in my methodology; that said, the results match remarkably well with “real” research) – 80% of autistic respondents indicated that they have been abused.  FOUR OUT OF FIVE.

We die in bad confrontations with police (particularly if we don’t or can’t speak), where we did nothing wrong other than being unable to communicate with police.

Too often, we are murdered by caregivers, parents, and family (you know, the people who are supposed to have our best interests in mind) – but it doesn’t stop there. When it happens, juries and judges say they can understand why we were murdered and give a light (if any) sentence to the murderer. You see, it’s so horrible to raise us, that of course people would murder us. Or something like that. Other times, we’re told that murder of autistic people is a “mercy killing” because nobody would want to be like us. Of course we’re not asked. It would be wrong to try to link being a parent or family member to being a killer.

And there are plenty of us who kill ourselves. My first serious attempt was in 3rd grade. If every day of your life was filled with the abuse from schoolmates (I could say, “neurotypical school mates” but I don’t believe neurotypicals are a slave to neurology when it comes to violence, despite the fact that it was typically neurotypical students doing the abuse).

Like other minorities, when we’re killed, it’s often preceded by torture. Remember Steven Simpson, who was murdered by being doused in oil and set on fire during his own 18th birthday party. They changed the title of this article, but you can still see it in the URL: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2166327/Autistic-teenager-Steven-Simpson-dies-burn-injuries-tanning-oil-prank-went-wrong.html – “Dies from burn injuries during a tanning oil prank that went wrong.” Uh, no. Having anti-gay obscenities written on your body and then being doused in oil and then having your genitals set on fire is not a prank. Being doused in oil and set on fire is a torture. This is the very definition of a hate crime. What’s the punishment for lighting someone on fire, leaving the scene without calling emergency services, not trying to put the fire out? What is the punishment for hearing someone scream in total agony? In the first-world country where this happened, the penalty is nothing for most of the accomplices and 3 1/2 years for the worst of the accomplices. Yet, it is reported as a “prank” and this light sentence is handed out. Yes, there’s a link to autism and violence: you will walk free after just a bit more then 3 years in jail if you light us on fire in England (the USA is no better when it comes to sentences handed down). Lest you think that the UK is just light on sentencing, check out this robber, sentenced to 13 life sentences. Now, this robber is obviously a bad man who needs to go to jail, who did incredible harm to his victims. But it should be noted that he didn’t kill anyone.

Yet autistic people are the ones who are need to be prevented from owning guns, who are a risk to society, who are supposedly (without any evidence whatsoever backing this up) likely to kill you. Uh, no.

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.