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More on Sex and Social Skills

When I'm asked to speak or answer email questions about sex, my first question is: "What about relationships? Friendship? Dating?" I don't understand the interest in "sex" without exploring the social skills that (typically) lead to sexual encounters.

My personal opinion, however old-fashioned, is that we should encourage relationships and the skills necessary to maintain those relationships. The challenge is that sexual activity has always and will always occur outside relationships, so we need to balance the need to educate students with the need to encourage more healthy interpersonal connections.

I've had autistic young people and adults tell me, "I want sex." What about relationships? "I don't know. Maybe. But I want sex."

It's hard to explain to a college student aware of "hook-ups" among peers that those casual sexual adventures are still complex social interactions. I hear my students talk about "friends with benefits" and "cuddle nights" with acquaintances. Certainly students with autism spectrum disorders see and hear the same conversations, and they see depictions of casual sex in the media.

I tried to explain to an autistic student that her friends having sex with their friends were still starting at the "friend" stage (to various degrees). The social skills of meeting, attracting, charming, and so on, are still necessary for most of these connections.

Yes, there are purely sexual encounters, but those are 1) risky and 2) still based on being attractive to someone.

Learning social skills, especially dating and attraction cues, is not easy. But, it seldom works that you can walk up to people and declare you want sex. People are taken aback by such a statement. (Studies do suggest that's more likely to work for women asking men for sex… because a high percentage of men will agree to sex with a stranger. But, these might not be the men you should approach.)

Too often "casual sex" leads to real, intense bonds for the students and adults I meet. They thought it would be a simple, physical act. Instead, the physical interaction triggered a bonding impulse. What seemed like a basic urge turns into a complex emotional event.

Develop friendships. Develop other social connections. Making the pursuit of sex a goal seldom ends well for anyone.


  1. Over the years I have seen my eldest go from mild non-verbal to a "Sheldon Cooper" - TBBT personality. Not joking, he's that narcissistic. That narcissism is common (but not only) in that "passing for normal" ASD group. I think it's the problem that exists. Sex is the prize but getting there isn't understood. Friendships are shallow and hard to maintain or just having lunch with a group is considered BFF's even if you never talk to them at any other time.

    Mine is in Gr 9 and doing very well (getting A's without studying except in English - Univ level) but we had to pull Business for next semester to put in Resource. He needs study, social, survival skills. So, his program will be modified to add more of the social components with the help of the ASD Teacher (she goes school to school to help with those children that don't need supports).

    I appreciate that parents don't understand the social issue when they are children. That they believe they will be "changing" their children some how. But, ignoring socialization does them more harm than good in the long term.

  2. I am a 41 year old woman diagnosed with Aspergers finally diagnosed last year. I want sex. And I want friendship and social skills and people who care about me to hang out with.

    But I ask about sex because it gets people's attention. And it seems age appropriate. Unfortunately, it doesn't get me help any more than my asking for help making friends did in grade 3.

    Frankly, I want someone to touch me. To want to want to touch me. Who I want to touch.

    Often reading about "friendship skills" seems like someone is trying to distract me. I don't know when I have friendship . But I will know when I have sex.

    And if getting to sex is a 399 step process, please PLEASE please outline all 399 steps for me. Because I will do the work. But I can't see how friendship is connected to sex except in the vaguest way. Because I can check off sex but I have yet to figure out how to check off friendship. And I would really like someone to touch me.

    Or at least understand that my goal is to get someone to touch me.


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