An Autistic Perspective: Sexuality And Responsibility
When I was a young girl, I got taught a ton of screwed-up stuff about sexuality. This is nearly universal in contemporary America, so I am not asking for pity. For whatever reason, I took those teachings even more seriously than the average woman. For further clarification, let me add that I have white privilege, educational privilege (I have a college degree), cis privilege, and am able-bodied. I do not have thin privilege, mental health privilege, or youth privilege.
Growing up fundamentalist has given me a bunch of social norms that handicap me to this day. I learned a code of conduct that the rest of America shrugged off during the 1960s. Adding Paganism to this mix only compensated for this partially.
Let’s unpack what I got taught. I welcome any comments here.
1. I am accountable for my sexuality.
When I was young, I thought this meant stuff like dressing not to tempt others into “sin,” or cause men to “stumble” (get turned on). Now, I interpret this to mean “use protection /birth control when having sex” and “communicate my desires clearly to my partner.”
2. If I am irresponsible with my sexuality, the consequences are severe, permanent, and deserved.
I still have trouble with this one. If I get pregnant by accident or contract an STD, I would be responsible for dealing with it ASAP. If I violate an agreement I make with my partner, I would have to deal with the emotional, moral, and karmic consequences of breaking a promise to a loved one. I also avoid having sex with anyone who is not a sane, sober, consenting adult. All of these are part of being a responsible adult.
As a young woman, I thought this teaching had another meaning. If I dressed too “slutty” or acted too “bitchy” and someone decided to rape me, it was my fault for acting in an unsanctioned fashion. This happened once at a party. I was not severely injured from the rape, but I told one of the other party guests that I understood why she had set up the rape and, further, that it was a natural consequence because I had committed adultery. Of course, the poor woman was horrified that I would think her capable of such a thing. She stopped speaking to me for a year because of my bizarre remark.
I also learned that women were accountable to everyone else (read: men) for their behavior. Dress and speech were included as part of behavior. I watched tons of movies and TV shows where women were literally backhanded, raped, or murdered for talking back. Being autistic, I took that to mean that if I or another woman was anything other than sweet, smiling, and passive, I deserved to be hit, raped, and killed. (Yay for taking toxic crapola to its bizarre, if logical, conclusion!) This has led to me having a reputation for self-hatred and misogyny in some quarters.
I also became incredibly fearful of asserting myself. Only in the last couple years, I have learned that not asserting myself has bad consequences. I have also lived long enough to learn that asserting myself does not mean I will get hurt. Nobody has ever hit me or raped me for disagreeing with them. Of course, I am aware this makes me far more privileged than victims of physical abuse. I am also blessed with supportive friends and family in my journey towards a sane sexuality.
I am now unlearning the toxic lessons. I now dress in a more modern and flattering fashion, thanks to my partner. I also am getting the good consequences of speaking up for myself and declaring what I want and need.
Another part of this journey was my conversion to Thelema. Although I converted at age twenty-one, it took me nearly twenty years to apply it fully in my own life. As a Thelemite, it is my religious duty to assert myself, particularly as a woman. The figures of Babalon and the Scarlet Woman are powerful role models for women in the OTO. In fact, not asserting myself is irresponsible and leads to bad karma! This has helped me have the courage to exit toxic relationships and embrace healthy, positive relationships. I am thankful for my partner and my friends and family for helping me in my journey to a sane and responsible sexuality.