Autism and sexual desire

I wondered wether there’s something in being on the autism spectrum and having reduced sexual desire-not come across anything in my reading yet so wondered what people’s experiences are? Oh and asking as a woman too. Thanks

Parents
  • There is conflicting research in this area. Some studies suggest autistic men are more likely to experience enhanced sexual desire compared to neurotypical men (using frequency of masterbation as a proxy for libido) and that for women sexual desire is about the same as neurotypicals but less often translates into a desire for sex. 10.31887/DCNS.2017.19.4/dschoettle Other studies suggest autistic people have on average less sexual desire but are more likely to experience the extremes of high or low sexual desire than neurotypicals. 10.1371/journal.pone.0087961

    One study in particular suggests autistic men experience above neurotypical sexual desire and autistic women experience below neurotypical sexual desire 10.1007/s10803-019-04204-9 (behind a pay wall) However this study also reports that 44% of the autistic women in the study self identified as lesbian (much higher than the 1st study and higher than their neurotypical control). The mean age of participants was in the early 20s and recruitment was by internet adverts and ‘word of mouth.’ In short I’m not convinced their sample was representative.

    More generally I’m really wary of past attempts to characterise autistic people as asexual. It’s been used to infantilise autistic people before. It also creates problems for autistic people who are highly sexual. People may erroneously assert ‘well you’re too sexual to be autistic.’ Or say ’you can’t be autistic people you have a girlfriend / boyfriend or because you go around having casual sex.’ etc. Autistic people are hugely diverse and the one thing I think I can assert is we often tend to gravitate to extremes. So I find the 2nd studies finding that autistic people are more likely to be much more or much less interested in sex to be the one that rings truest to me and my personal experience.

Reply
  • There is conflicting research in this area. Some studies suggest autistic men are more likely to experience enhanced sexual desire compared to neurotypical men (using frequency of masterbation as a proxy for libido) and that for women sexual desire is about the same as neurotypicals but less often translates into a desire for sex. 10.31887/DCNS.2017.19.4/dschoettle Other studies suggest autistic people have on average less sexual desire but are more likely to experience the extremes of high or low sexual desire than neurotypicals. 10.1371/journal.pone.0087961

    One study in particular suggests autistic men experience above neurotypical sexual desire and autistic women experience below neurotypical sexual desire 10.1007/s10803-019-04204-9 (behind a pay wall) However this study also reports that 44% of the autistic women in the study self identified as lesbian (much higher than the 1st study and higher than their neurotypical control). The mean age of participants was in the early 20s and recruitment was by internet adverts and ‘word of mouth.’ In short I’m not convinced their sample was representative.

    More generally I’m really wary of past attempts to characterise autistic people as asexual. It’s been used to infantilise autistic people before. It also creates problems for autistic people who are highly sexual. People may erroneously assert ‘well you’re too sexual to be autistic.’ Or say ’you can’t be autistic people you have a girlfriend / boyfriend or because you go around having casual sex.’ etc. Autistic people are hugely diverse and the one thing I think I can assert is we often tend to gravitate to extremes. So I find the 2nd studies finding that autistic people are more likely to be much more or much less interested in sex to be the one that rings truest to me and my personal experience.

Children
  • I think woman are generally less open about masturbation so I don't trust any research about it personally. Even with NT friendship groups it isn't a topic that we often engage in. It is more taboo than talking about sex more generally, and even topics such as miscarriages and abortion I would say from my personal experience. 

    Masturbation isn't something that I find easy to talk aloud about and I'm pretty rubbish at holding back opinions on most topics! 

  • I used to edit a magazine for alternative lifestyles - the thing I noticed with high-functioning auties and aspies is 'there are no limits'.    If you can think of it, and it's fun, and everyone enjoys the experience, then why not?    Lots of 'exploring the limits of sensation' stuff.

  • Autistic people are hugely diverse and the one thing I think I can assert is we often tend to gravitate to extremes. So I find the 2nd studies finding that autistic people are more likely to be much more or much less interested in sex to be the one that rings truest to me and my personal experience.

    Yes, making it even harder to make generalisations about autistic people.  If you look at Figure 2 in your second link (Bejerot and Eriksson 2014), there's a peak in the middle for NTs, but if you added autistic men and women together you would see a clear tendency to extremes of arousal.

    Mostly we're not completely asexual, just more complicated.