Blog for Autism Awareness Month - April 2020
It never fails to amaze me that every individual’s presentation of an autism spectrum condition (ASC) is different from one another - yet some of the challenges they face are very much a common experience.
As an example, take myself and my partner Mike, both Aspies. As teenagers, I was quite the flirt and in receipt of multiple presents and cards on Valentine’s Days. It was a different story for Mike however, he didn’t (and often still doesn’t) spot the signs that somebody fancies him.
Having an ASC and being able to talk about sex in a pragmatic and straightforward way without embarrassment, normalises those conversations for the people we meet at events and in everyday life. It is almost as though, by us talking openly about disability and sex - it makes it okay for them to talk about it too.
Fast forward to the 2015 Naidex exhibition in the NEC Birmingham, the largest disability-related exhibition there is in the UK. We had a very low-tech stand there; had our first visitor five minutes after opening on day one, and it didn’t stop for three days. People were literally queueing up to see us; and were so desperate to talk about the challenges they were facing in relation to disability and intimacy; that they were prepared to have very personal conversations in a public arena.
So, what on earth makes us think that we have the right to such public conversations on such an intimate subject? I believe that we are channelling some of the very positive aspects of having an ASC. A cornerstone of any ASC diagnosis is the existence of the “specialist subject/area of passion”. I have seen this portrayed many times in a negative light e.g. hyper focusing on the subject and ignoring everything but that area of interest; to the extent that everyday activities just don’t rate attention.
For me, the staying power that exists within me for my area of special interest (sex and disability) has carried me through many barriers that have appeared in my path. Yes, I may take a pause if my confidence is knocked. Yes, that pause may last for several days/weeks/months. Yet I keep coming back to it, the subject matter still excites me, and I still find it endlessly interesting. This resilience and “stick-ability”… some may say is stubbornness (!). I prefer to think of it as determination - and it continues to be a blessing rather than a curse.
By the way, honest communication about sex and intimacy has really helped both Mike and myself as well. It could be the type and duration of a caress. It could be particular noises or smells during passionate moments. It could even be a sensory overload from external circumstances that flattens the desire for “Rumpy Pumpy” in one of us. Saying it like it is, with reassurance that the love is still there, has significantly reduced the need for guesswork between us. (More on this in a future blog)