This is going to be a post where I’m going to be talking about my experience with physical intimacy relating to my ASD. If you are family or a close friend and do not want to know more, I advise you read no further. Those of you who are interested, feel free to continue reading.
My understanding of what sex involved was limited starting at a young age. When I was about nine, my mom took me into her and my dad’s bedroom and read me a book she’d borrowed from another homeschooling parent. My understanding of sex after that conversation was it involved private parts touching. I didn’t understand how anyone could get pregnant from parts just bumping into each other. I also found the thought incredibly gross and the idea of having sex in the future filled me with anxiety and dread. I don’t recall when I learned how a person became pregnant, but I eventually learned. As I grew into adolescence, I attended a church that preached abstinence and layered any talk of sexual experiences outside of marriage with fear and shame. I took this to mean that feeling anything remotely sexual was a sin and I started ignoring anything that resembled sexual attraction. Ignoring my sexuality wasn’t healthy but I didn’t know another way to cope. I didn’t begin to heal and understand myself until college. The first man I fell in love with I met at college and we had the foundation of being good friends first. We didn’t experiment physically that much at all. What I found healing and helpful when it came to our relationship in the physical intimacy department as I had finally found someone to who I could ask questions and not feel awkward. I started understanding that finding someone attractive wasn’t wrong. Enjoying kissing was okay. I wasn’t ashamed that I had feelings and it was nice to have someone with who I could talk about my deepest insecurities.
I had and have a bad habit of thinking of complicated topics in black and white. I feel sometimes that thinking of the world in absolutes is easier than wrestling with the shades of grey. This translated into my love life and how I thought physical intimacy would be. I didn’t have my first kiss until I was nineteen. I remember thinking as it was happening “ I can’t see anything when my eyes are closed” and “ This is wetter than I thought, I don’t like it”. It took me a while to adjust to these new experiences and I wasn’t skilled at advocating for what I needed. When I did have penetrative sex five years later, the experience was so miserable and confusing that now I laugh at it. Neither of us knew what we were doing. I remember feeling so utterly incompetent and broken. After my first sexual experience, I was very disappointed. Anyone who’d ever told me about sex talked about how awesome it was and how it was one of the best experiences a human could have. It could be pleasant but I didn’t live up to the hype. I also didn’t have my diagnosis and if I’d had that information, I could’ve explained what I needed to have a good sexual experience.
As a woman on the spectrum, I can get overwhelmed easily and it also happens in the bedroom. It’s okay to ask to take a break and take a deep breath. I also have learned that knowing one’s preferences is very helpful. It’s important to be with a partner who prioritizes making you feel good and not just their gratification. I thought for a long time I was broken because I didn’t like certain things and I didn’t want to do others. It’s only recently that I’ve learned that sexual preferences are highly individualized. As long as everyone involved is consenting, it’s safe and okay. If the person you’re with continues to ask for things that you’ve said you’re not comfortable doing or touching you in ways you’ve asked them not to, they don’t care about you. They care about having the sexual experience they want, regardless of how they feel. If that’s the kind of partner you’re currently with, you might want to look elsewhere.
I want to take a moment and acknowledge that not everyone wants or needs to have sex. If you identify as asexual or somewhere along that spectrum, my experience won’t speak directly to yours. I hope you will share your experiences in whatever form you feel comfortable with. The more voices of those who are neurodivergent are amplified, the better understanding there will be in this world. I do hope that this post encourages everyone who reads it to advocate for what they need to feel physically safe and comfortable. Everyone deserves to feel safe and heard. Wishing everyone peace and joy.
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