Sex Ed(itorial): Is It Okay to Have Sex with Someone Who’s Autistic?

Autism, Sex, Autonomy and Me

Sex and autism, an unlikely duo. Graphic Nadine Abdellatif.

Three years ago, I was sitting in the doctor's office, getting my annual physical exam when my former doctor asked my mom if she’d ever considered testing me for autism.

I remember just one feeling washing over me: I was pissed.

Not because I was offended at the thought that anyone could assume I had autism, but because I was 15 and had just lost my virginity a few months prior. I was convinced that nobody would have sex with me ever again. 

Autistic people don’t have sex—or so I thought. 

My doctor was right, by the way. I am autistic and can now confirm that autistic people actually do have sex, even when the other person knows you’re autistic. Looking back on it now, it’s funny to think of a little 15-year-old me stressed out of my mind over the thought that no one would ever want to fuck me again. Of course, the thoughts and biases behind this assumption certainly are reflective of the disabled experience. My fear was without reason.

To be disabled is to have your autonomy constantly questioned. When some of your autonomy has already been taken from you by your own body or mind, society will often try to take the rest. Just because I function differently than you doesn't mean I shouldn't have the right to make my own informed choices over my life and body. While disabled people aren’t given their own autonomy, it’s no wonder why my 15-year-old self believed that nobody with autism fucks.

The desexualizing of disabled people doesn't just lead to annoying stereotypes and questions, it puts our lives and livelihoods at risk. Disabled children often receive less sex education in schools, and it continues as they get older.

Disabled people are almost seven times more likely to experience sexual violence in their lifetimes, and even less likely to receive help for it.

I don’t just think I was just scared of people not having sex with me. I think deep down, I was scared of a little more autonomy slipping away from me again. Or maybe I just had crazy teenage hormones and really just wanted to fuck. One or the two—they are not mutually exclusive.

What's it like to have sex with autism? Well, I don't really know. To me at least, it's just normal sex. Because I've been autistic for every encounter I've ever had, I could tell you exactly how it works but I don't really think you need to know that. 

In the interest of protecting my autonomy, I'll just say this: sex is full of sensations, emotions and touches that can be overwhelming. For me, that typically comes in even the simplest form of physical touch being way too much for me sometimes. Some things are gonna have to change in order for it to be comfortable for me. I need breaks at strange times. But that’s only me, and every autistic person is different with stuff like that. If you’re reading this looking for a way to be more understanding of your autistic/neurodivergent/disabled partner: ask them! Talk to them! I can’t tell you what they need. And if you ever feel strange about the boundaries you need in order to feel comfortable getting it on, just remember: everyone does it a little differently!

This article originally appeared in Volume 43, Issue 6, published November 8, 2022.