Sex, Relationships, and Asperger's
Dear Patrick: I am dating this really cute androgynous girl-type person, and we have a lot in common. We LOVE the same music, we have gone dancing together and had so much fun! Last time we went out I told her, “I could really fall for you,” and I tried to kiss her, but she stopped me and said, “There is something you need to know.” Then she told me that she has Asperger’s, and that sex was not very important to her. She said in the past this has meant she cannot be in a romantic relationship. But then she said that she has strong feelings about me and does not want to lose me. We both started crying, and I went home in a cab, and now I don’t know how I feel. Is this a disease or a mental illness or what? And how can anything stand in the way of equality-based, queer love? Not to mention the volcano-erupting, red-hot power of woman-to-woman lust!
—Neo-Gothic Punk Romantic Chick
Dear NGPRC: Asperger’s is a psychiatric diagnosis given to people who have neurological issues that make them process emotions and close relationships differently than some of the rest of us. Asperger’s may also signal the possibility of autism. People with this condition tend to be introverted and view themselves as loners. However, they are very loyal to anyone who becomes a friend. Their interest in sex may be minor, but that isn’t always true. Often, however, a person with Asperger’s may have other priorities in order to feel that a relationship is really good and worthy of making a commitment. They often have above-average IQs and may have extensive, specialized knowledge in a narrow field of human endeavor.
People with Asperger’s are usually not able to learn how to have social interactions by using their intuition. They don’t pick up on how other people are doing emotionally unless they are told, specifically, what’s going on. Since they are living in a world where other people are often inexplicable, they learn how to behave socially by studying others’ behavior and trying to duplicate it. This means that they sometimes seem “off” or a bit odd. Common social errors include laughing when no one else is laughing, or laughing too loudly, standing too close, talking about topics that do not interest the other person, not being able to tell when it is time to change the subject or move on to another person at a party, not being able to tell social lies (spitting out the vegetables instead of pretending they are delicious), etc.
They do best when they are with people they know and trust, and these people are able to be quietly specific about what they should do. (“It’s time to go into the dining room and eat, so put down your magazine and come sit by me.” “I don’t like it when you lean on me so hard. Please sit up, and I will hold your hand instead.”) While they often seem eccentric, I have never met a person with Asperger’s who was malicious or intentionally unkind. I would never reject a new friend just because they told me they were on this spectrum. I also would not assume that sex was out of the question unless they told me they didn’t like it.
My advice is to find out more about Asperger’s by asking your friend about how she was diagnosed, what kind of treatment she was given (she may have been forced to receive hurtful types of therapy that did not help her), when she feels the most happy, and what attracted her to you. Share the same types of information about yourself, so you are not turning your new crush into a circus exhibit or an entry in Wikipedia. There are many support groups and informational sites on the Internet. Just don’t trust any information that is not based on kindness and respect for the dignity of all human beings. The fact is, some of us are different. Our species comes packaged with lots of variation. We need to appreciate it, not try to eliminate it.