Autistic Survival Guide/Sexual and Romantic Relationships

Sexual and romantic relationships are the subject of much discussion amongst non-autistic people. In fact, much of the nonsensical discussion amongst non-autistic people is about this, and this implies that you can also often discuss sexuality with non-autistic people if you obey the social rules. There are plenty of high quality sex/relationship guides around, so this section is deliberately brief. Many of the guidelines and advice outlined here are rooted in the norms of specific cultures—in general, they should at least be applicable in at least the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada, but they are not guaranteed for other cultures.

The key to learning from these kinds of guides and discussions is knowing that they are nearly always written/spoken from the perspective of someone who has had personal success or who has had success in teaching non-autistic people, and who is trying to teach specific things from particular perspectives. This leads to many important things being glossed over or not mentioned, and many unimportant things being included or incorrectly emphasized. This in itself doesn't mean that they are useless. In fact, if they were, the reputations of the writers would suffer. Extracting useful information from them can be difficult though, but not impossible. One good way to achieve this is to read all the guides you can find and look for recurring themes.

Some of these regularly recurring themes include:

  • Self-respect and self-confidence
  • Respecting your partner and potential partners
  • Connecting with your partner (rapport); very important when meeting potential partners.
  • Communicating with your partner; this involves negotiation and is very important in ongoing relationships.
  • Developing trust with your partner
  • How to fake the important things; this is not always necessary or a good idea unless you have your heart set on one person you only want a short term relationship with.

General concepts edit

The key for understanding romantic relationships is that neurotypicals play subconsciously games to stimulate each other's feelings, wait for the others emotional reaction and then conclude whether they fit psychologically to him/her. A summary of those games can be found in Transaktionsanalyse für Dummies, a very good book explaining the process with clear language, unfortunately only available in German.

Communication and subtlety edit

Overt discussion of romance and sexuality can be considered socially taboo, so it is not always directly discussed in public, instead using slang, metaphor, and sexting.

These communications are nearly always played out when both partners are in plot mode and playing the social status game as best as they possibly can. Some guides refer to this as "turning the brain off", or "animal instinct", if they refer to it at all. Some autie to autie relationships have developed successfully almost entirely outside of plot mode, but these are usually clumsy events. Even so, they are often more rewarding relationships than autie to non-autie relationships.

Baseball metaphors edit

Neurotypical people often use baseball metaphors for sex. These are often defined as the following:

  • First base: Kissing on the mouth
  • Second base: Fondling erogenous zones above the waist, either above or below clothing
  • Third base: Fondling and touching erogenous zones in the pelvic region, either above or below
  • Fourth base: Penetrative sex

Gendered traits edit

Certain stereotypes exist about the behavior of men and women in relationships. The truth of these stereotypes varies from person to person, and they should not be regarded as absolute.

Men and women both enjoy sex and love, but one stereotype is that men tend to "fall in love" with the ones they sexualise, while women tend to sexualise the ones they fall in love with. In this logic, since men want sex from relationships, they often try to be, or appear to be more loving to attract sexier women. Similarly, since women want love from relationships, they often try to be or appear to be sexier to attract the most loving and supporting men. The idea in both cases is for each partner to give the other what they want in order to receive what they want.

Just as there are men who make a practice of one night stands for the purpose of acquiring sex from many women, there are women who make a practice of one night stands for the purpose of acquiring love from many men. These men and women can be destructive to the self esteem of non-autistic people in general and devastating to autistic spectrum people. This doesn't necessarily mean that they should be avoided or that all people who behave like them are like them. The trick to understanding these men and women is knowing that they go for "unattainable" people. Many of the rules regarding discretion and promiscuity are designed to weed such men and women out. In my personal experience, autistic spectrum people can be caught out by such rules when meeting people.

Initiating a relationship edit

There is no special protocol for initiating and developing relationships that nobody told you about and that everyone uses in secret. This doesn't mean that there aren't protocols—rather, the protocols involve using the same rules and communication methods used in the non-autistic world for non-romantic situations. These are "recurring themes" of social interaction. Additionally, the guidelines vary wildly depending on the partners and situations involved.

The purpose of many of these guidelines is to ensure that each partner meets the other's standards, as well as avoiding short-term relationships in which only one person benefits. A consequence of breaking these social rules when engaging with one potential partner is that other potential partners will see/hear about your damaging behavior and avoid you as a result. The courtship process is important in that it allows either party to slow the pace of the process or quit at any time, but communicating this can be difficult. On the other hand, not communicating this properly can be destructive to the relationship.

Flirting edit

Flirting is a behavior where a person engages with someone else they are attracted to, often in a playful manner, to indicate their attraction and build a rapport. It involves speech, body language, and sometimes physical touch. Flirting is often subtle in nature. This can be confusing, but it is often necessary to hide the proceedings from public scrutiny. Subtlety and care also shows respect for your partner, and being viewed by others as a respectful person lessens the chance that other potential partners will be put off. Making a move is when when person initiates flirting behavior towards another. A chatup begins when the other person flirts back.

Flirting can include a variety of behaviors. Smiling and good eye contact are key for some individuals, although this may be considered intense depending on the person. Excessive eye contact can appear creepy. Paying attention to the other person's face, they things they say, and the things they are interested in can all be considered flirtatious. Sometimes light touching (usually limited to the arms and shoulders) can be appropriately flirtatious, although it may be perceived as too forward. When a man is flirting with a woman, it is often best to let the woman initiate any physical contact. When flirting, avoid asking overly-personal and/or creepy questions, such as where a person is going/coming from.

Rejection edit

Rejection someone's romantic/sexual advances can be subtle or direct, and subtle rejections may not always be obvious. If someone doesn't respond after you've made a move, they may not have noticed/understood the move, or they may be subtly rejecting your move. If you have been rejected, it's best to graciously leave the other person alone. Do not insult or attack someone for rejecting you, especially if they have not behaved inappropriately toward you.

Maintaining a connection edit

If a conversation with a potential partner is going well and you are building a rapport, there are a few things you can do to maintain the connection when the conversation comes to an end. First, it is acceptable to ask for the other person's phone number (or other contact information). Once you have gotten someone's number, it is usually bad form to let them see you taking another person's number—doing so will make the initial partner feel that you're not really that interested in them.

If you don't want be too direct when getting someone's contact information, you can say something like "it would be nice to talk to you again" or ask "would you like to go out with me some time?" This will give the other person an opportunity to give you their phone number without you asking them directly. When asking someone on a date, avoid suggesting a time/date—this makes it too easy for them to knock you back indecisively by saying they're doing something then. Alternatively, if you have been asked to go out with someone at a time when you're unavailable, but you would still like to go out with them, you can say no and suggest another time instead.

Sexual encounters edit

Sometimes a conversation or meet-up can evolve into a sexual encounter. If someone asks "do you want to come back to my place?" it often means that they are inviting you to their home for a sexual or otherwise intimate encounter, although there are no guarantees that this is the case. If you want to do so, smile and give a definite positive answer such as "yes" or "sure". The actual act of inviting someone over for a sexual encounter is socially riskier than accepting the offer. Moreover, refusing the offer can make the offering individual feel bad. As such, don't feel embarrassed to accept—so long as the answer isn't over enthusiastic, they will probably be relieved and pleased if you do accept. Still, do not feel pressured into a sexual encounter if you do not want to engage in one. You are never obligated to sexually engage with someone if you don't want to.

Dating edit

The term going out usually refers to going on one or two dates with a given person. The term dating refers to going out regularly with a partner who is a bit closer. The definition of a romantic relationship differs depending on the person, but it tends to involve committed partners who communicate for at least an hour a day or several hours a week.

Exclusivity edit

Being "exclusive" means having a monogamous relationship with one person and not dating other people. This kind of relationship tends to be taken more seriously than others. Some say that the act of dating itself is exclusive, while some say that dating multiple partners is permissible until both partners communicate and agree that the relationship is exclusive. Figuring out whether a given relationship is exclusive or not can be difficult, especially since raising the subject can make some people uncomfortable. However, the best way to determine whether a relationship is exclusive is to have a conversation with your partner—if you don't want to become exclusive, this is probably the best time to explain why not, or to say that you "need more time" to decide.

Gifts edit

Gifts are best given during the good times, not the bad, and particularly not after fights.

Ending a relationship edit

The phrase "we need to talk" can be ambiguous. Sometimes it can be literally interpreted at face value, but it sometimes means "we should break up". Either way, you will need to engage in further communication to properly understand what's going on.

After a relationship has ended, it can sometimes be "resumed" if both partners agree that the reasons for ending it have changed or are no longer applicable.

Miscellaneous tips edit

  • It is always a bad idea to fool with someone's bag/purse or to investigate what's inside without permission.
  • Going for the less attractive potential partner is not a good way to improve your chances.
  • Everybody has quirks in their sexual preferences, and it is usually possible for lovers to negotiate the ones that cause no harm. This is even more true for stronger relationships.
  • The relationship between partners typically does not change in the bedroom. If it does, rapport either deepens or the relationship changes for the worse. In many ways, the social interactions between partners outside of the bedroom can be considered practice for inside. This may be why figuring out "what kind of a person" someone it is such a popular pastime.

Further resources edit

  • The Lovers Guide, Andrew Stanway, video and book series. Besides offering high quality advice on many subjects, it is a rather high quality piece of pornography. Suitable for males, females and couples.
  • Dial a Woman/Dial a Man, Rosalind Neville, books. Written by someone who runs a relationship agency and who listens to women talking about all the mistakes their men make.
  • Adam Perry, various magazine articles. A man who slept with 3000 women in 15 years and who now teaches sex education in UK schools.
  • Sex Tips for Geeks, Eric S Raymond, web page linked to in the "#References" section. Written by someone who has known autistic spectrum males and their problems for a long while. Even this guide has usability problems.
  • SIRC guide to flirting. Fairly self explanatory really. A little sparse on reasoning, but strong on basics.
  • Speed Seduction, Ross Jeffries. Written by someone who is in the w:seduction community. Probably a good example of a guide to avoid, but it's still possible to learn a lot from these things.
  • Wikipedia: w:Category:Human_sexuality; w:Human_sexual_behavior; Dating with Women.