In popular culture, women are presented in two distinct ways. They are presented as sexual objects and we condemn the women who embrace their sexuality as sluts. We also tell women they should remain chaste and modest or else they will get pregnant and their lives will be over. For women on the Autism spectrum, these juxtaposed stereotypes pose even more problems.
I’ve mentioned the concept of schemas before, or the way we organize ideas into different categories. People on the Autism Spectrum function well by placing things into schemas, even when things are way more complicated than just slapping a label on something to figure it out. The concept of what a woman should be is something many females struggle with and even more so women on the spectrum. We get concerned with choosing the “right” option and this creates a lot of anxiety. In the world of glossy magazine covers, we are bombarded with how we ‘should’ look and how we ‘should’ behave.
In my opinion, one of the most personal choices anyone can make is in relation to the expression of their sexuality. Some women choose to wear revealing clothing or make-out with their partner in the street, that is how they choose to embrace their sexuality. Others keep their expression behind closed doors with the lights off. Some people are raised with religious guidelines or have family values instilled in them as to how they should behave in regards to sexuality.
A problem I’ve seen in my professional and personal life is when parents or guardians don’t want a person to explore their sexuality for a number of reasons. This may be a personal reason or because they don’t want their children to explore what many consider to be ‘intimate relationships’. I’m very much in favor of having open communication and educating people on what healthy relationships should look like. There are situations where a person may not have the ability to consent to intimate relationships with another person, but they should not be left in the dark about their own sexuality.
It’s a difficult talk to have with anyone, but it is a conversation that needs to happen also to protect the individual from being taken advantage of. It is a scary reality, but there are predators out there who do take advantage of others. Education on ‘good touch’ or ‘bad touch’ is important to help people know they should tolerate and when they need to let someone know something wrong is happening.
More that 90% of people diagnosed with a developmental disability, this includes Autism, will experience some form of sexual abuse in their life. 49% will experience 10 or more incidents of sexual abuse.
– Valenti-Heim, D.; Schwartz, L. The Sexual Abuse Interview for Those with Developmental Disabilities.
This being said, there are people with all types of ability levels who are in healthy relationships. These may be not be the conventional hetero-normative one man and one woman, but the relationship may make the person happy. There may be people who have intimate relationships we don’t understand or that may go against our beliefs in relation to age, gender, or any number of other variables.
That’s not our business.
To voice our opinions of what a person does with their sexuality it to slut-shame them. I’ve seen it happen very recently to a young woman was told she should not have a boyfriend until she has resolved all her mental health issues and she should break up with him because there are stressers in her life. There will always be stressful things happening in our lives. I’m currently experiencing some seasonal stressers, but I do my best to deal with things in a healthy manner for my overall mental health. I’m sure some of the people reading this right now are experiencing stress. Sexuality is not a reward to being a good person or not having a stressful life; sexuality is part of the human experience.
I can’t judge someone for how they choose to express their express their sexuality because I’m not them. There are so many mixed and contradictory messages out there, all we can do is help educate people on what healthy relationships should look like and not judge people for how they choose to express their sexuality. As long as a person is in a healthy and happy relationship, why should anyone else be affected by it? Sexuality is not a one size fits all box, it’s custom made.