People with Asperger's syndrome (AS) have sexual urges just like other people do. However, there are several factors that must be considered when people with Aspergers begin to explore their sexuality and the social interactions that go along with it. Because people with high functioning autism may be hypersensitive to touch and may struggle with nonverbal communication, it's important for them and for their relationship partners to understand how to navigate the world of sexual interaction with intimacy and compassion.
Eight Challenges With Sexual Behavior and Asperger's
Navigating the sensual social world is challenging for people across the board, but people on the autism spectrum may struggle with additional challenges in communication and social interaction. Understanding these challenges and how to overcome them can lead to a much better sexual or romantic relationship.
Aspies May Struggle to Read Body Language
A great deal of sexual interaction relies on the ability to read body language, such as stance, eye gaze, and facial expression. This type of non-verbal communication is a challenge for many on the autism spectrum, even people on the high functioning end of the spectrum. It may seem a bit socially awkward, but using plenty of verbal communication can help people with Asperger's and their potential partners ensure they are on the same page.
Aspies May Have Trouble With Perspective-Taking
A person on the autism spectrum may struggle with "mind blindness" or difficulty taking other perspectives. Those with Asperger's may feel empathy and care very much about the feelings of others, but they may have a hard time noticing the other person's feelings or understanding them. Sexual interactions rely heavily on perspective-taking; however, good verbal communication can help both partners understand one another's feelings.
Physical Touch Can Be Different on the Spectrum
People with high functioning autism report that some types of touch can be very intense and unpleasant, and many are hypersensitive to touch. Because touch is a large part of sexual and social interaction, this can present a major challenge. It can help to communicate verbally about touch preferences and avoid surprise or unexpected touch (a good idea anyway when it comes to sexual contact).
Impulse Control Can Be a Challenge for Some
In some cases, teens and adults with high functioning autism may also struggle with impulse control - especially if they have an additional diagnosis of ADHD. Impulse control can be a challenge in the area of sexuality if it interferes with social interactions and overall functioning, and some choose to work with a doctor to find a medication to help. Others can modify their behavior with therapy and general awareness.
Aspies May Develop at a Different Pace
While those with Asperger's Syndrome have the same physical development as their peers, they may take longer to mature emotionally. This different developmental pace can show itself in sexual interactions, where those with high functioning ASD may appear naive to others. If you or someone you love has Asperger's, reassure yourself that the emotional part of sexual development may take some time.
Talking About Sexual Subjects May Prove Difficult
People with Asperger's Syndrome may get fixated on one particular topic or person, and this can lead to some miscommunications or socially awkward moments in sexual interactions. The special interest may get in the way of sexual interaction if it is too all-consuming. If the special interest is a possible partner, the partner may find the intensity off-putting. In both cases, the person with Asperger's must make a conscious effort to keep boundaries in mind; working with a therapist can help as well.
Those With Asperger's May Be Sexually Vulnerable
Children and adults with ASD are at an increased risk for sexual abuse and victimization. Those with Asperger's need to make sure they have a clear understanding of the social and physical interactions involved in sex, as well as where their personal boundaries lie.
Aspies May Struggle With Self Confidence
After a lifetime of challenging social interactions and potentially negative experiences with peers, some with high functioning autism may struggle with self confidence and self esteem. Even in neurotypical sexual relationship, miscommunications and mistakes happen. Those with Asperger's must remember to treat themselves with compassion. Confidence is attractive to potential sexual partners, and it's important for a healthy sexual relationship.
Clearing Up Destructive Myths About Aspies' Sexuality
Even though Asperger's and autism in general are becoming common, there are still a few destructive myths that people may believe about ASD and sexuality. Knowing what these are and understanding the truth behind them can help you have better social and sexual interactions.
Touching Self Inappropriately in Public
Some incorrectly believe Aspies may be more likely to expose themselves in public. Although impulse control can be a challenge for some on the spectrum, there are no studies to indicate public exposure or inappropriate touching of genitals is in any way common in those with an Asperger's diagnosis.
Touching Others Inappropriately
The myth that Aspies are more likely to engage in inappropriate touching of others is also incorrect. Although this could happen in rare instances, just as it does in the neurotypical population, there is no evidence that those with high functioning autism spectrum are more likely to engage in inappropriate touch.
Asperger's and Sexual Orientation
New research indicates that people on the autism spectrum may be more likely to be asexual, bi-sexual, or homosexual than their neurotypical peers. Almost 70% of the ASD population may be non-heterosexual to some degree, compared to about 30% of the general population. This is important information for those with Asperger's and their potential partners, as it may lead to a period of sexuality confusion and exploration during and after development.
Be Open and Communicate
If you're dating a man with Asperger's or exploring a sexual relationship with a woman on the high functioning end of the spectrum, it's important to understand how the condition affects sexual interaction. Similarly, if you have this form of ASD, knowing how it impacts your sexuality can help you form physically and emotionally fulfilling relationships. In both cases, it's important to communicate and be open to learning about your partner's perspective.