What it’s like to have sex with someone with Asperger’s

You think it would be really fun to have sex with me. Because, I think you can tell from my posts, I'll do anything. But maybe you can also tell from my posts that it's a little bit weird. Because you know that I'll say anything, too, but sometimes, I make you cringe.

I think I'm that way in bed, too.

This post is about work. And sex, which are two of the essential areas of life one needs to be able to function in before you can feel like a normal adult. And both sex and work are governed by a set of rules that many people are able to learn just by being in the world.

Asperger Syndrome compromises one's ability to read nonverbal social cues. A simple example of this deficit is answering the question, “How are you?” It is loaded with so many nonverbal issues that I simply freeze. Even if you tell me, “Just say fine,” sometimes the situation looks special to me, and I can't figure out why it's special, so I can't talk.

So I’ve spent my life teaching myself the rules for what to do in each social situation. I study people, make notes for myself, and then test the notes to see what other situations my notes apply to. To get a sense of how awkward this looks, here's a video that is supposed to be a parody of people with Asperger's interacting with each other. But my family has such a high proportion of people with Asperger's that this video, honestly, is not far from what our life is like.

In my experience, the places with the most rules are work and sex. So, you can teach yourself the process of becoming better at work by applying the process of learning the rules about dating and sex. And vice versa. I, for example, am great at work rules and terrible at sex rules. So I teach myself using the reverse mechanism.

1. You can tell you need help if you are not having fun.
When I think about my sexual history, I think it is me basically not understanding that there are rules.

In college, where most people are experimenting with the rules of sex, I was missing them. Maybe because I was raised by my grandma, I honestly believed that if you had sex, it meant you were getting married. So I lost my virginity to a guy who said he'd marry me.

And on that day, I had no idea how sex worked. I don't know why I had not bothered to find out.

He was propped up on his arms when he couldn't find my vagina with his penis, so he said, “Put me inside.”

I said, “What?”

“Inside you. Use your hand.”

“I don't know where the hole is.”

“What? Are you kidding me?”

“There are a lot of holes down there. I don't know which one is for sex.”

“You are so stupid.”

He eventually put his penis in. He said, “Am I in?”

I said, “I don't know.”

Then he came. And I returned to doing homework.

2. If you can start by pretending it feels right, eventually it will feel right.
After college I posed nude to make money. A guy who paid a lot of money for a shoot looked at me for one second and said that I'm too uptight to be good. Another guy did soft-focus for Penthouse. I signed a release. He told me to undress, showed me a dressing room, and gave me a robe. I said, “I don't need this,” and I undressed right in front of him.

“What should I do?”

“Lay down, and enjoy yourself.”

“Enjoy myself? Do you have a book I could read?”

“No, I'm going to take pictures now. I mean you should masturbate.”

I didn't know what to do. I only need one finger to move one inch back and forth to masturbate. He wouldn't see it. I told him I thought all the other women were faking it for him because masturbation is not visual.

“Okay. Can you fake it for me?” he said.

I tried, and then we both agreed that I couldn't. So I left.

3. Surround yourself with people who can effectively guide you through rules.
I tried having lesbian sex. I answered an ad. Picture her: The professional ballet dancer who had just quit, and to celebrate, she got breast implants. And me, the aspiring professional beach volleyball player.

She spent the whole evening talking about how smart I am and how many books I've read and how strong I am.

I spent the whole evening talking about how hot she is.

I did not realize that this exchange meant that I had to be the aggressor in bed.

I said, “Are we going to kiss now? We can't do this whole date and not kiss.”

She said, “I need you to seduce me.”

I said, “What? Are you kidding? Just take your clothes off. How are we going to have sex if we keep putting it off?”

She said, “It's not like that. There has to be a game or something.”

I said, “Okay. You do the game. What should we do?”

She pouted. I did not realize it was part of the game.

I told her that we were really ineffective together and I thought we needed some guy there with us to run the show. We never did that. We never did anything.

4. If you don't learn the rules for navigating, life gets boring and repetitive.
I am fast-forwarding through things that are largely repetitive of the above situations. For example, there was the guy who asked me out while I was an arbitrage clerk at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. He was on the phones, picking up orders, and I'd stand in the British Pound pit, flashing hand signals to him to tell him what was bid and offer. He'd flash back a hand signal like, buy ten at twenty. Then he started using other sorts of hand signals (open-outcry hand-signals are way more than just market indicators, believe me.) He flashed the sign for do you want to have lunch (spooning food into mouth for “eat” coupled with pretending to break something between your hands, for “break”). I went.

We dated. To get rid of him, I told him I was a lesbian and I only wanted to date him if there could be another woman there, too. That didn't just make him pursue me with more fervor. It made the whole trading floor pursue me. And I had no idea why.

Notice how there's one theme here: I have no idea how other people think about sex.

5. Do not get obsessively sidetracked by things that do not require social interaction.
So then I get married. The first time. We both have Asperger's. We both like reading about sex, but having it is more traumatic. He would not go down on me, so I started writing obsessively about his not going down on me. Like the time he told me he couldn't do it because he had a toothache.

We had sex, but he didn't like that it was messy, and I liked writing about it better than doing it.

We had sex two times in six years after we had a kid. And I got pregnant both times because I have studied my ovulation since I was 24, and I'm an ace at sticking my finger up my vagina and 1) gauging how open my cervix is and 2) pulling out some mucus on my finger and checking to see how elastic it is.

Even now I can't help getting excited about ovulation. Go to the bathroom right now and check your cervical mucus. It's fascinating. If it's elastic you are ovulating. I can peg my ovulation to the hour if I check every half-hour, which I can do because I can stick my hand in my vagina anywhere—even in a job interview, if the person leaves the room to get some water. So that's why I was able to have a kid (and a miscarriage) only having sex two times.

6. Rules never stop coming at you, they just get infinitely more nuanced.
And now, here I am with the farmer.

At this point, sex should be low pressure for me. I am one of the one percent of women who can have an orgasm just by thinking about having an orgasm. I'm not sure why this is. Maybe because my mom taught me to do Kegel exercises before I even got my first period. I can orgasm ten times before the guy has one.

But the nonverbal cues you do to get to the sex really stress me out. It seems like a dance. When you date, there's the official dance date you do, which I can handle. I've been dating enough to know you do dinner, talk, go to someone's house, move close, kiss, lay down, get close to sex, go to bed. That's the dance. I know where we are and what's coming next.

But if you're married, there's no dance. You are just there, in bed. So the dance becomes a micro dance. There are little cues you give the other person, a careful touch in a spot you don't usually touch, a kiss that is a kiss that means this-is-not-a-goodnight-kiss, a pointed question like, did the kids fall asleep? These are tiny cues that have to come with other, tiny cues.

I tell the farmer, “I can't take it. The subtle stuff. It’s too much. Just tell me you want to have sex.”

So a day went by, and he did that. He said, “I want to have sex.”

I said, “Okay.”

Then I said, “Hold it. This isn’t fun. There needs to be something else.”

So we went back to the dance. And I tried to pay close attention to nonverbal cues and then respond with the appropriate nonverbal cue.

Sometimes I can do that. Like if I take a Xanax. But a lot of times, he gives one nonverbal cue, like breathing warm and wet next to my ear. And I curl up in a ball.

I curl up in a ball and tell him I'm too anxious to have sex. Even after we have had sex hundreds of times. I still do it. At first he couldn't believe it. But then he saw that I don't know left and right, really, and my math skills end, largely, at third grade, and I am an idiot savant when it comes to memorizing statistics about Gen Y tendencies at work. So now he's learned to believe anything. And he has learned that the only way to get me uncurled is to talk to me.

He does facts. He says what he's doing with his hands, what he is feeling, what we will do, what I have done, he tries to stick to facts. And he narrates his movements as he goes. And he does not expect me to move or speak, until I've heard enough verbal cues to get back in the game.

Sometimes, when the farmer was dumping me, and people were saying, how can you stick with him? I would say, “He's so good in bed.” And now you know what I mean.

Posted in No image, Self-management
225 comments on “What it’s like to have sex with someone with Asperger’s
  1. jim says:

    I always thought the “rules” of sex were whatever you and your partner decide they need to be so you can both make it work and be happy about it.

    • jim says:

      Which, by the way, is what you and the farmer appear to be figuring out for yourselves.

    • Ken says:

      Penolope,
      I also have asperger’s so forgive me if I offend you. This post is hilariou’s, your dead pan delivery of checking your vagina in public and describeing the mucus is aspi gold. Your absolutely right to take notes and memorize social cues, it’s the only way i’ve ever found to survive. As far as sex If you still find there’s things you need to experience I really do suggest a proffesional call girl. They test them and make them show their clean bill of health before intercourse. They deal with so many schism’s and fetishes asperger’s is no big deal to them. It’s been better for me to just try what ever I want sexually with out regret. Make alist of want you want her for and do as many thing’s as possible in one go if you can. You’ll save money. Goodbye.

      • Scott says:

        why? she has her farmer who listens to her and believes her and talks to her. You’d have her replace that with a call girl. I think you miss the point.

  2. Lisa says:

    Um, this is not that different than from non-Asperger married people.

    • Erika says:

      This.
      But the fact that he’s willing to be flexible w/ his version of the rules, so that it works for you? Win. There aren’t many guys who will do that. When the other stuff (“X”) is getting you down, remember this.

    • april boughton says:

      i want to have sex but i am scary men i love you

      Love april nicole boughton

  3. Shannon says:

    There is no real “normal” way to handle sex. Every woman (and probably man, too, but I can’t speak about that from experience) has her own personal sex education story, complete with resulting habits and preferences. Consider that one in three women has been molested in some way by a family member – that’s enough women to make it almost seem normal. And then those women might end up responding in different ways. Some might have a lot of anxiety about sex, or become frigid, or decide only to have sex with other women, while some can maybe only have an orgasm while fantasizing about incest. We’ve all received messages about our bodies and levels of attractiveness and we all interpret them in our own ways. The important lesson to take away is that the fuzzy-focus Penthouse fantasy of a woman enjoying herself is just that: a fantasy. And a male fantasy. I hope all the women who read this remember that it’s not useful for us to compare ourselves to one image of what is normal when it comes to sex. And I hope that both women and men read this and remember that porn stars are *actors*. Real life sex is much more complicated.

    • Yeah, right says:

      “Consider that one in three women has been molested in some way by a family member ”

      God, I hate bullshit, fantastical feminist rape “statistics”

      • Dani says:

        Raging against “fanatical feminist” whatever is an ad hominem argument. Name-calling doesn’t prove anything, except that you’re not willing to do any actual research to prove or disprove the argument that you dislike so much.

      • Evy says:

        As a person who indeed was molested as a child and is still in therapy because of it (Shut up! if you are thinking of sneering or saying something cruel or invalidating.); I can tell you of my experiences speaking out. I decided that one thing I could do with my anger was speak publicly about what happened to me.

        I did and I do. Have done so for years. When I do, many, many women of all ages would eventually come to me to tell me their story, their children’s stories, their friends stories, their sibling’s stories, and on and on.

        The nasty fellow who sneered about feminist statistics doesn’t know it, but many of the women he knows probably including relatives, friends, dates, etc. have been molested as children and are too smart to tell an insensitive jerk like him. He is probably surrounded and will never know it because women will not make themselves vulnerable to someone as vicious as he is.

        Just saying.

      • jackie says:

        I was molested, I have aspergers, my mind repressed the memories in order to protect itself. My aunt was molested. My step sister. My grandma. My old best friend. My boyfriends sister. My aunt lee.

        It makes me very sad, and I really wish you were right but unfortunately that statistic might not be as much bs as you think.

        I am happy for you, though. I am happy that you remain so ignorant to this topic, and I hope for your sake you remain that way. I wish I could sit along with you and laugh at crazy feminist statistics

        • Ganondox says:

          Um, memories don’t work like that, people don’t actually repress memories. Most likely you were scammed.

          • C says:

            Are you fucking SERIOUS?! People repress and black out trauma ALL THE TIME, you test.

          • Christina Trepagnier says:

            R u phucken seriously attempting to say some off the wall matter fact lame-o shyt like um excuse me memories dont wk like that and b for real? IS THAT IN YOUR PROFESSIONAL OPINION SIR/MADAM? Well as a aspie and molestation survivor who arrived at the knowledge of the true events some 20 yrs later while attending the mans funeral……..as a processional of children who belonged to the same church as the now decon had “served” placed candy in his coffin I began to cry, they thought I was mourning the passing of a long time family friend, but I was crying for the children of that processional that I had allowed to be victimized because I didn’t speak up. Even when I was asked so many years ago.

    • William says:

      yeah. . . because that is the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you god

  4. Alison May says:

    You never, ever fail to amuse, inspire and delight me with your breathtaking honesty. Thank-you.x

  5. Mylinda says:

    Interesting post. I wonder what it’s like for my girls. Although alot of what you said resonated with myself as well. Lot’s of rules that are hard to navigate.

    At some point both my girls and myself have had conversations about birth control. I take them personally to get a shot. I just don’t know what else to do. It’s so hard for them to take care of themselves let alone a baby.

  6. Nancy says:

    The rest of the world ain’t all that different from you, Penelope. Life isn’t as pretty as the books make it out to be.

    What’s different is that you can put into words what the rest of us struggle with but don’t know why.

  7. jypsy says:

    Asperger’s is not a “disease”.

    • Penelope Trunk says:

      It isn’t? Is this a controversial topic? I’m not even sure. But I changed the sentence, anyway. Just in case. Although there is something ironic about trying to be politically correct about Asperger’s.

      Penelope

      • Camels With Hammers says:

        Why is that ironic? Is it because people with Asperger’s are less inclined to be sensitive about themselves or that they are less likely to know how to be politically correct themselves or some combination of those two things or something else?

        • jackie says:

          Because people with Aspergers don’t understand the idea of “politically correct” because the just say what they feel, and see nothing wrong with it. I think being politically correct is silly, what is the point of beading around the bush like that when just saying it is so much more direct and uncomplicated?

          but that’s probably because I have aspergers.

      • Christina Trepagnier says:

        Omg, I love ur soul chic. .. so kewl to see some one who had similar thought process and and exasperations as I do not With nonverbal communications. Politicaly correct labelingof aspergers, funny shyt ijs touche

    • Susan says:

      Asperger’s is a set of symptoms. a “disorder” related to, but NOT autism (which you cannot miss). Despite that doctors put in on the very very highest end of the autism spectrum, it’s just such a different level of functioning they should not be compared. But I will anyway. Like autism, Asperger’s interests become so obsessive they can interfere with the ability to learn other things (social cues) that come easily to “normal” people. It explains a lot about your blog and why your interest in writing would supersede your interest in your (first) husband’s feelings, desires, opinions, observations.
      You’re endearing in your ability to share, but kinda shocking, also fascinating. If you have Asperger’s that explains a lot. Stay away from mercury, gluten, dairy. It makes it worse (hopefully you know that already and have turned your attn focus to that for your son’s sake if not your own. you seem pretty happy w/ who you are and what you do and what you share. you’re lucky you area(s) of interest is ones you can make a living at. fascinating reading (but not autism)

      • Savannah says:

        I would have to agree… environment can play a role in how your brain makes good with what it has got… there’s lots of research out there about what the body absorbs… metals and such.

      • Colleen says:

        Whether you like it or not Aspeger’s Syndrome is on the Autism Spectrum. So, yes it is Autism but a very mild form of it. I am a woman with Asperger’s Syndrome so I know it is a form of Autism whether I like it or not. I don’t know where you are getting your information from because it is a form of Autism.

      • jackie says:

        Make it worse? Make what worse? What is already bad that can be turned worse?

        And how does dairy or gluten affect the chemistry of your brain?

        And why are you saying that autism and aspergers are not the same? They are the exact same, just on far different ends of the spectrum! I have aspergers, and I have grown up around those with autism (my dad used to work in the homes for older people with disabilities) and I know that they are just like me but they are trapped. Having Aspergers can already make you feel slightly trapped inside yourself, but Autism takes that to a whole new level. Those with autism are often times completely functional people – inside their head. It’s taking that information and expressing it to others where their difficulties lie. Do not speak of things which you know nothing about. It makes you look foolish

  8. Taryn says:

    Your honesty is so sincere, yet so amusing (like always)! Nice post!

  9. Michael John Carley says:

    Penelope,

    Thank you. I run GRASP (also have AS), which is the largest organization in the world of “folks like us” (just passed 6,000 REAL members). Your brave piece is a wonderful contribution to the sorely-lacking sexuality aspect of our world. And were it not for the many teens (and subsequent legal issues) who also subscribe to us, I’d be asking your permission to forward this. But this is just wonderful content, and wonderful writing, and I hope you’ll allow me to pass it on to appropriate pros who deal with spectrum sexuality issues.

    Yours in thanks,

    mjc

    • Colleen says:

      Just remember that is not necessarily how it is for every woman with Asperger’s. I know because I have Asperger’s. Granted I have never had sex but I have done sexual things with a few guys. I have not had difficulties with the sexual area with guys. My issues with guys would be more of a social nature not sexual. Also, I am in my forties and have known for a long time where my vagina is and I don’t do weird and inappropriate things such as putting my finger in my vagina in public to check my cervical mucous. Anyhow, maybe I am not as severe an Aspie as Penelope. I don’t know. My point is that no one should assume that Penelope’s experience is the same for every woman with Asperger’s.

  10. PamN says:

    I realize that video was a parody. Was it supposed to be funny? I didn’t think it was funny at all. In fact, I found it very insulting. By the way, I do not have Aspergers, but my 21-year-old son does.

    Other than that, good post, Penelope.

  11. Izzy says:

    Thank you again for a great post. As mentioned, your frankness about life is refreshing and always leaves me with “hmmm” moments. I watched the video clip with interest as I have a 16 yr old Asperger son and while it was a parody, it wasn’t too far off the mark with some of the behaviours I’ve seen with my son both in groups and interacting with me. We can be having a conversation and all of a sudden he’s talking about something totally unrelated (to me anyway) quite often. I attending a workshop for parents and kids with intellectual disabilities and we were comparing notes about sexuality and behaviours esp with the boys (i.e. when do you hug someone, can I buy her a gift, kiss her etc.). It is a tough one for sure and it is great to have your open and honest view. Thanks again once more for your insights and sharing.

  12. Dani says:

    Oh, man, though, I can’t wait until you learn which of these things are actually from the sexual abuse. It’s not ALL because you have Asperger’s, you know! Like:
    - Getting instantly triggered and curling into a ball and not knowing why: symptom of sexual abuse.
    - No knowledge of social cues around sex: symptom of Asperger’s.
    - Intense anxiety around sex: sexual abuse.
    - Difficulty recognizing when people want to have sex or what they are trying to communicate about it: Asperger’s.
    - Willingness to stick your fingers inside yourself during a break in conducting a job interview: sexual abuse.
    - Lack of awareness of how that stuff connects to sexual abuse: both sexual abuse and Asperger’s.

    It can be tricky because Asperger’s is often caused by abuse (yes yes I’m sure there is a genetic component, as with alcoholism for example, but those genetic switches both still get “switched on” by abuse) so there is a lot of overlap between the symptoms. But some things still just stand alone.

    • Kathleen says:

      Good grief Dani, autism is not caused by abuse. Why would you say something like this? Yes it’s genetic but it’s not akin to the genetics of alcoholism. Were one genetically predisposed to be alcoholic, one could abstain from alcohol (however difficult) and have a typical life free from the ravages of the disorder.

      The same can’t be said for autism. The only way one who inherits it could be neurologically typical is if they ceased to exist once autism became evident. There is no choice involved to which one could exercise their control to not be neurologically atypical.

      • Lisa says:

        I dunno. An inability to read social skills, well, there are little kids who begin school and are abused due to neglect. They have these problems! Seems possible to me! What we know about AS and alcoholism is evolving. Not all alcoholism is genetic. Some is situational. There goes your theory!

      • Dani says:

        This is probably way too complicated a discussion to have in comments, but let’s have it anyway!

        It’s not actually true that abstaining from alcohol would give an alcoholic a typical life free from the ravages of the disorder. As people in AA like to say, they don’t have an alcohol problem, they have a living problem – that is, the compulsion to drink is only one symptom of a complicated disease that also includes obsession, anger issues, control issues, isolation, codependency, lying, perfectionism, etc.

        That’s why they call it “white-knuckling it” or “dry drunks” when people stop drinking without dealing with the underlying reasons that they drank. Generally when people are successful in not drinking that way, it’s because they’ve switched addictions, like my friend’s mom who quit drinking without AA but now is stoned most of the time and frequently drives and emails stoned.

        Those other symptoms are common to all addictions, and they come from abuse. I used to work as a drug and alcohol counselor for teens, and elsewhere in the field before that, and the organization I worked for had regular in-service trainings in which, no matter which professional was giving it, the link between abuse and addiction was very clear and accepted. It kind of surprised me, actually, because it’s so NOT clear and accepted in the mainstream world.

        So I’m not saying that there’s a choice involved in autism. There’s no choice involved in addiction; it’s a disease with genetic and psychological components. There are therapies that can relieve an increasing number of the symptoms over time if you continue using them, is all, mainly in the form of twelve-step programs.

        And yeah – what Lisa said is one reason! Everyone I have ever met who has Asperger’s had serious abuse symptoms and most of them had serious and well-known abuse histories. (As opposed to the many people out there who are in denial about their abuse or are still repressing it, I mean.)

        A lot of the information about Asperger’s – like what Penelope shares – includes a lot of the clearest and most common symptoms of abuse, seemingly with no awareness of the fact. That is: people aren’t taking the possibility of different kinds of abuse into their research on Asperger’s or their writing about it, for the most part.

        (Some people are, especially those who study “institutional autism”. I found this hilarious comment on one blog:

        “Autism can definitely be caused by abuse. It can be caused by any trauma in early infancy. It’s rude to mention this, though, because mothers of autistic children are always on guilt trips, so the researchers always say that victims of infantile abuse have ‘autistic-like symptoms.’ This is a pointless distinction, especially since there are no neurological tests or genetic tests for autism, so there is no way to distinguish so-called institutional autism from any other form of autism.”)

        Which means that they can’t separate out the effects of abuse that may be getting lumped in with the symptoms of Asperger’s. So sure, it could be that everyone they’re studying has also been abused and these things are just co-existing and getting lumped together. In fact, one study found that at least 95% of children with Asperger’s were being physically or emotionally abused at home in varying ways. (“Screaming and yelling, cursing, threatening to hit or spank, threatening to kick out or send away, calling the child dumb or lazy… slaps on the hand, arm, and leg; hitting on the buttocks with a belt or brush; spanking on the buttocks with a hand; pinching and shaking”. http://journals.lww.com/mcnjournal/Abstract/2002/11000/Maternal_Discipline_of_Children_with_Asperger.10.aspx) Much as our society wants to downplay these things, they are harmful to the child and if, as in that study, that’s the parent’s regular method of “discipline”, it’s going to cause a lot of the symptoms I’m talking about.

        (I’m NOT just talking about sexual abuse – just to clarify, since the context here was the confusion in Penelope’s post between sexual abuse symptoms and Asperger’s symptoms, and many people conflate “abuse” with “sexual abuse”.)

        • td says:

          Dani
          I read the study~ The Gathered Evidence does not prove The Correlation, if that were the case most of black America youth who happen to be from broken homes(dad is gone in prison dead gone 30% between ages 17-45 etc etc) would be in this predicament, that this study pigeon holes them into…my wife as a social worker has not found this to be true.
          The Associations are Vague or…
          more scary~ if you take the study seriously… IF your right and the ship is sinking because as each generation carries on they reinforce the brokenness in their own daily trudge creating more broken humans to keep passing on the same Dis-ease from genes and setting… seems the final solution then is either A Chemical Fix~ Prison ~Institution and eventually Death…
          So do they round us all up because we do not play nicely with others or are incapable of playing right with society?
          are we just taking up space and contaminating the healthy gene pool?
          when I read these studies there seems to be no logical conclusion on what to do besides a Neurotransmitter Chemical Fix or Banishment
          hide ones malady and cope whichever way you can
          Behave and maybe be accepted or just disappear from the earth…?
          to label it all stemming from Abuse seems a bit broad and puts heaps of Guilt on the Parents of Aspie’s!

          BUT
          If it Truly all stems from ABUSE though…there is almost too much work to be undone and God help us all…

      • mcbm says:

        Dani,

        Your comment that you “can’t wait” until Penelope recognizes signs of her sexual abuse? How cruel and dishonoring of her life and her past.

        The symptoms of childhood trauma can present similarly to Aspergers. It is not that simple to distinguish which are reactions to sexual abuse or Aspergers. Early trauma heightens a person’s anxiety in a way that can cause them to misread social cues, similarly to a nonverbal learning disability.

      • Dani says:

        mcbm: It’s not cruel and dishonoring of her life and her past. I’m not saying “Ha ha, it’s going to be so great when you realize you were abused”; I’m acknowledging the fact that Penelope has written here, EXTENSIVELY, about her sexual abuse history. If you read what I wrote more carefully, you’ll see that what I said was that I couldn’t wait until she was able to recognize which of the things she describes here are signs of the Asperger’s she’s talked about even more extensively, and which are signs of the abuse history that she has shared about so bravely and honestly at length in this blog.

    • Rishona says:

      Wow Dani; I can see right away that you do not actually know someone in real life that has Asperger’s!

      • Lisa Z says:

        No kidding! I’ve never seen anything like what Dani is saying. WTH???!!! My 14-year old son has Aspergers and if he has ever been abused, I would like to know how, when and where. That is the most ridiculous piece of crap I’ve ever seen. Where did she get this?! Autism is likely genetic with an environmental trigger. My son did have a somewhat traumatic c-section birth, and I did have pre-eclampsia at the end of my pregnancy with him. But abuse? That is an accusation and clearly does not fit any of the kids I know with autism. Good grief.

  13. AutieZombieGirl says:

    I get it, Penelope. I get tired if my partner tries to play too many games and then I get bored and grouchy. I never understand when he isn’t “in the mood”. I didn’t know there needed to be a mood. I always want to know if they make a pill for that. I guess that’s why there is alcohol. To create the mood. I don’t understand dressing up or role playing. It’s really a functional thing that can be good or bad and if there is too much crap surrounding it, then it becomes bad.

  14. Chris Yeh says:

    This is the most quintessentially “Penelope” post I’ve read in a while. Truly a masterpiece.

  15. Chuck Rylant says:

    Outstanding writting. What a great example of entertaining, information. As a begining writer, I’m in awe. I love your opening sentence!

  16. Will says:

    Wow!!! You never fail to be totally you. Refreshing as always.

  17. Srini Venkataramani says:

    This post is insane. I read all your posts and this one is my favorite so far. I couldn’t talk about my sex life on a blog at all and the fact that you just did that and were actually totally honest and no-frills about it, is too much. I’ve been smiling all day after I’ve read this post.

    I don’t have Asperger’s and I still have a lot of similarities to what you say.

    YOU ROCK!

  18. Kathleen says:

    Ditto jypsy (hiya!), Asperger’s is not a disease. Please correct this Penelope.

  19. ella says:

    Actually the rules of sex are really hard for a lot of people who don’t have autism spectrum disorders as well.

    May I refer to you to the wonderful scarleteen.com .

  20. Carol Saha says:

    Loved the post. You are one of the most fascinating people I read.
    Carol

  21. Mark W. says:

    “But then he saw that I don't know left and right, really, and my math skills end, largely, at third grade, and I am an idiot savant when it comes to memorizing statistics about Gen Y tendencies at work.”
    Change the idiot savant to autistic savant – many,many years ago, they used to kill or chase out of town the village idiots from whence idiot savant was derived.

  22. Virgil Starkwell says:

    I often wonder why I continue to read this blog until a post like this one comes along. Then I realize I read it for the same reasons that I stop at car accidents or watch “Cops” or “Intervention.” It makes me feel more normal or that things in my life and career are going to work out. Whenever I think that I’m too neurotic to be successful, I pull up at this trainwreck and take heart.

    Thanks for being you.

  23. Harriet May says:

    I think I’ve learned more from your blog than I have from boarding school and college and doing a Masters (and you learn a lot from boarding school). I never knew anything about cervical mucus before. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as cervical mucus. But then again, I am one month off of 24 so maybe it’s just time I find out and start studying my ovulation.

  24. Robbin says:

    Always such a delightful, honest, shocking and overall sincere read. Thank you for lightening up an otherwise stressful day for me! It’s always so nice to take a break with my latte and read over your latest post.
    ~Robbin :)

  25. Kevin Burke says:

    Hi Penelope,
    Thanks for the post, this is great. It would be interesting to get a guy with Asperger’s to talk about the same topic.

  26. Aspie Guy says:

    I never had the problems with sex which you describe here because I discovered in my childhood that there were these quaint things called books, which could be gotten for FREE from any library. It had all kinds of information in them, includng information about sex.

    Also, I went to this thing called a school, which had these old people which taught you things, and one of the things they taught was sex.

    And I had these things called parents, who also taught me about sex.

    And I watched this thing called a TV, which had programs on a channel called PBS about sex.

    So I seemed to know all sorts of things about sex ever since I was little.

    Also, I went to this place called a bath, where I washed myself and discovered what portions of my body exist below my eyeballs, and, as if I needed to be reminded of what my body was like, there were these people who, from time to time would give me this thing called a physical exam which reaffirmed where all my holes are, as if common sense didn’t put me in the know.

    Another thing I discovered early on was that I had this thing called a mouth, and so I could ask questions when I did not understand something. It helped with relationships.

    So I did not have the problems you had, but then, maybe I have a higher IQ than you do.

    Certainly AS did not interfere in the sexua and vocational aspects of my life (or of any of the Aspies I know).

    • Harriet May says:

      In that case, I, personally, am shocked that you are here and not having tea with Stephen Hawking to discuss your high IQ.

    • justamouse says:

      Maybe you should have taken out the books on how not be be so self aggrandinzing? They have those books, too, you know.

    • Mark says:

      You don’t sound anything like an Aspie. Were you just kidding? How do you know you have Asperger? Or could you elaborate more? Because there are many people with Asperger that could benefit from knowing how you and others you know with Asperger have managed this. And no, I am not kidding. Please elaborate.

    • Dana says:

      To the High IQ guy: Yes, I think You have Aspergers.
      Due to: missing empathy.
      You are learning from books and movies – thus acting our scripts.
      I am not Asp. I am married to a male that is. Thus I belong to a forum where woman discuss a lot of sexual problems they have with Asp men. So, yes, be careful: there are problems. Make sure you listen closely to what a woman is telling you then.
      Can you do two things at once in bed? Play with 2 parts of her, or one at a time?
      Just helping you out with info…

      • Marti says:

        Dana, I would love to know of any support groups/forums for women married to men with Aspergers… would be a tremendous help as I try to navigate living with this.

      • Kerrie says:

        Hi Dana,
        Your observation shows you know what it’s like to be a partner of an aspie. I’m just learning after more than 2 years of wondering what am I constantly doing wrong? I’m convinced my on again off again partner is an aspie. Could you please tell me how I can join this forum you mentioned?

    • Paul Palmville says:

      I cringed when I read your reply. Aspergers is such a broad spectrum condition that no matter what some might read or watch or be told, no matter how much information one might absorb that we still have difficulties when it comes to having sex or more generally how to even cope with relationships.

      I have an IQ of 145 but I have always found things difficult. Whilst my brother and friends found matter easy, to me it was sometimes so much of a chore I didn’t bother.

      Still I have at 42 managed to have 3 long term relationships. One of Ten years, one of 6 and my current girlfriend of 3 1/2 years. I got married to the second but I still don’t know why; I just thought I would goshould along with it and let her arrange everything. I thought I must love her because I wanted to spend so much time with her but I grew very bored  and needless to say I got divorced after just 2 1/2 years.

      I remember sitting in a room with a beautiful girl in my early twenties. I went round for a coffee. I thought things might progress and it was obvious that we liked each other but she spent so much time waiting for me to make a move and I felt so awkward that I just made my excuses and went.

      My current girlfriend is much different to anyone else I’ve met before and has no qualms about telling me when she wants sex and what she would like me to do.She  She is so frank and blunt that I don’t need to feel bewildered and awkward wondering when is the right time to make a move. I still lie in bed now analysing how long I should kiss for and if she likes what i’m doing but she’ll tell me when things are good and compliments me; so I know what works well and what doesn’t.

      I have always had difficulty understanding my feelings and I’m always being criticised for not smiling much or showing emotion. If someone attractive walks by me and smiles, I will look straight ahead. I’ve tried smiling back but it seems inappropriate. I’m not going to sleep with them so why do I need to smile at them. I find myself looking out the corner of my eye to see how they react to me because I want to know what drives peoples emotions and what is appropriate in what context.

      My current girlfriend thought I was gay/Bi for a long time because she said I looked uninterested and it didn’t seem like I enjoyed sex.

      The point i’m getting at is no matter what, it’s bl**dy hard to know how to behave in any situation involving other people but when it comes to sex it’s still like a maze.
      .

       

    • Paul Palmville says:

      I cringed when I read your reply. Aspergers is such a broad spectrum condition that no matter what some might read or watch or be told, no matter how much information one might absorb that we still have difficulties when it comes to having sex or more generally how to even cope with relationships.

      I have an IQ of 145 but I have always found things difficult. Whilst my brother and friends found matter easy, to me it was sometimes so much of a chore I didn’t bother.

      Still I have at 42 managed to have 3 long term relationships. One of Ten years, one of 6 and my current girlfriend of 3 1/2 years. I got married to the second but I still don’t know why; I just thought I would goshould along with it and let her arrange everything. I thought I must love her because I wanted to spend so much time with her but I grew very bored  and needless to say I got divorced after just 2 1/2 years.

      I remember sitting in a room with a beautiful girl in my early twenties. I went round for a coffee. I thought things might progress and it was obvious that we liked each other but she spent so much time waiting for me to make a move and I felt so awkward that I just made my excuses and went.

      My current girlfriend is much different to anyone else I’ve met before and has no qualms about telling me when she wants sex and what she would like me to do.She  She is so frank and blunt that I don’t need to feel bewildered and awkward wondering when is the right time to make a move. I still lie in bed now analysing how long I should kiss for and if she likes what i’m doing but she’ll tell me when things are good and compliments me; so I know what works well and what doesn’t.

      I have always had difficulty understanding my feelings and I’m always being criticised for not smiling much or showing emotion. If someone attractive walks by me and smiles, I will look straight ahead. I’ve tried smiling back but it seems inappropriate. I’m not going to sleep with them so why do I need to smile at them. I find myself looking out the corner of my eye to see how they react to me because I want to know what drives peoples emotions and what is appropriate in what context.

      My current girlfriend thought I was gay/Bi for a long time because she said I looked uninterested and it didn’t seem like I enjoyed sex.

      The point i’m getting at is no matter what, it’s bl**dy hard to know how to behave in any situation involving other people but when it comes to sex it’s still like a maze.
      .

       

    • Anonymous says:

      I think your reply re-inforces the fact that your Aspergers makes you blind to the layers of nuances involved in the sexual “dance” Ms Trunk struggles with. Everyone has access to the education sources you mention, yet sexuality confounds many people, NT and ASD alike. If you go to a sex discussion forum or listen to a phone-in sex show, you will see endless questions from people who are in their late teens and still totally confused, desperate for guidance, agonizing over the most minute details…if such and such feeling is “normal”, if it is okay to pretend to do this or that, control issues, plus thousands of kids still don’t know how you get pregnant or diseases even late in their teens.

    • Anonymous says:

      I think your reply re-inforces the fact that your Aspergers makes you blind to the layers of nuances involved in the sexual “dance” Ms Trunk struggles with. Everyone has access to the education sources you mention, yet sexuality confounds many people, NT and ASD alike. If you go to a sex discussion forum or listen to a phone-in sex show, you will see endless questions from people who are in their late teens and still totally confused, desperate for guidance, agonizing over the most minute details…if such and such feeling is “normal”, if it is okay to pretend to do this or that, control issues, plus thousands of kids still don’t know how you get pregnant or diseases even late in their teens.

  27. cig67 says:

    Excellent and helpful post, Penelope.

    Excellent and helpful comment about which parts are Asperger’s-related and which parts are sexual-abuse-related. Very useful.

    I remember hearing Dr. Phil explain, in one of his earliest shows,that women will not be willing to have sex in the evening if they were dissed or if there was a fight (or whatever) earlier in the day. Long memories, women have. This does seem to be entirely true. The dance starts early in the day, and can get ruined. Take a lesson, guys.

    This post reminds of the beginnings of actual frank explanation and discussion, years ago, by Dear Abby. People were totally astounded that she could actually DISCUSS masturbation (and other topics) in a PUBLIC newspaper column with all SORTS of sensitive readers. (You get the idea, I hope.)

    The farmer sounds like an amazing guy.

    • inthemiddle says:

      This isn’t just true for women. Why should I want to make love to a bitchy nag? Women who treat men like they don’t have emotions get what they deserve: a cold bed at night.

  28. Jamie says:

    Wow… heck of a way to come across you on the internet.

    Thanks for your brave and brutally honest writing. You’re inspiring me to start a blog about my life and relationships… ;)

  29. Mike says:

    A post that lends credence to numerous negative sterotypes about people with Asperger Syndrome, and which clearly ranks up there with anything that the Autism Women’s Network puts out. I’m sure they’d love to have you.

  30. Becca says:

    Here’s something I would love to read about (and maybe someone here can point me toward sources): How to have a successful relationship with someone with Asperger’s.

    My fiance has Asperger’s and while for the most part I think our relationship is awesome, we do fairly often find ourselves in scenarios where neither of us can understand what the other is thinking or saying. He’s pretty good at talking things out (unusual for an Aspie, maybe) until he comes up against something he just cannot compute. And no matter what I do I can’t make it make sense to him, so he’ll act like whatever it is does not exist. (Perhaps to him it doesn’t, but it seems awfully dismissive from my perspective.)

    Anyway, that’s a poor attempt at describing my own Aspie relationship foibles, but maybe somebody else out there is better at putting it into words. And, you know, dealing with it.

    • Sabrina says:

      I’d love to see that too. I’m an Aspie and a sex worker, and my partner is fairly neurotypical. It drives me nuts when he reads weird subtexts into things I say – I’ve told him for years just to take me literally, but he won’t, or can’t, or doesn’t get it. I don’t do subtle cues, and I’m sure I miss some of his, honestly.

      I became a sex worker because I’d spent so much time studying sex and being a sexuality geek that it was the one part of human interaction that I just “got.” I knew if I did x, I would get y, and so on. I could talk to strangers about sex but I had no idea how to make small talk. I actually learned people reading, boundary negotiations, the dreaded small talk and other “soft” social skills through sex work, because as I moved up in my work over the years, my job started to depend on it.

      • Becca says:

        Interesting. I think one of the reasons our relationship works as well as it does is because I am pretty blunt and straightforward. I have an easier time than he does understanding subtle cues, but I tend to think direct is the way to go. And if I have a problem, I’ll say so. Luckily for me, he appreciates that quality more than most people would.

      • Inspired2Bme says:

        Hi Sabrina, I’m fascinated by your story. I watched a documentary about the daughter of a high profile judge, who worked in the adult industry as a dancer. The documentary was about the daughter’s struggle in unionising the adult industry. I came to appreciate that highly intelligent people, from well-to-do families, worked in highly exploitative industries. May I ask, as we both share Asperger’s Disorder (I’m long-term unemployed,) if working in the world’s oldest profession is necessity or opportunity?

        I do know we are at risk in dealing with Narcissists/Psychopaths; where we fail to understand social cues and may easily be manipulated. This would concern me in this line of work. Is this something you’ve had to overcome?

    • Krista says:

      Sorry to comment late in the game, but a schoolmate of mine and his later wife, both on the Autism spectrum (Asperger’s specifically) penned a book called “Autistics’ Guide to Dating” – can be found on Amazon.

      Might be worth a read?

    • Inspired2Bme says:

      Hi Becca, I’m fascinated by your story. I watched a documentary about the daughter of a high profile judge, who worked in the adult industry as a dancer. The documentary was about the daughter’s struggle in unionising the adult industry. I came to appreciate that highly intelligent people, from well-to-do families, worked in highly exploitative industries. May I ask, as we both share Asperger’s Disorder (I’m long-term unemployed,) if working in the world’s oldest profession is necessity or opportunity?

      I do know we are at risk in dealing with Narcissists/Psychopaths; where we fail to understand social cues and may easily be manipulated. This would concern me in this line of work. Is this something you’ve had to overcome?

  31. Alison says:

    A more accurate title might be “What it is like to have sex with Penelope Trunk.”

  32. Irving Podolsky says:

    Dear Penelope,

    Your description of your early sex romps reminds me of some of mine. When I was thirteen I discovered two things: masturbation and my father’s stag movie collection. Yeah, stag movies… This was before 1970, before pornography flicks in Pussy Cat Theaters, before the sexual revolution. This was a time in the early sixties when parents, or at least mine, checked blue covered medical books out of the library and told me to read them. They were all about biology, with drawings of penises and vaginas. Nothing about blow jobs and felling up, which I learned from Bruce Saidel in the attic of our house. And Ronny Silverman, he showed me materbation techniques on the toilet. (To this day I wonder if he was, or is, gay.) Still I’m glad he demonstrated the hand part because my pillow ritual was chaffing my skin.

    It’s so much easier today for kids, don’t ya think? The internet is full of free training videos. Some call it porn. Whatever it is, it’s graphic enough to show anybody how to do it – ALL OF IT…and more than that. (So they tell me. I’ve never watched porn. Only directed it.)

    Your farmer…I’m so impressed with him. He knows you write this stuff. He knows some of his life is exposed to the world. And yet he allows you to express your naked self in this way. Sure, he knew what you were about before you guys hooked up. But in a marriage arrangement, many times the liberties draw in once the wedding rings go on. Doesn’t seem the case here. He must really, really love you.

    Irv

  33. Kim Anami says:

    I’m so glad you mention the cervical mucus method for birth control. It’s as easy as you describe and 99.9% effective (actually, it’s 100% but I’m told that statistically you just can’t say that). I try to get all my clients and all the women I know off The Pill and into plunging a finger into their vulvas. I’ve been using the method successfully for over 15 years.

    Even the World Health Organization (stunner!!) acknowledges that the birth control pill is carcinogenic: http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2005/aug/05080803.html

    I once had a lover who considered himself ADD. He told me right from the start that the only way he could stay present during sex was to talk. Constantly. It was a challenge at first (what to say?!?), but I found that it was easiest to do as the farmer does: narrate everything. Before, during and after, just keep the flow going. Using my voice even more during sex and hearing his made the whole thing hotter–our voices became additional instruments of penetration. It got to the point where I could come from hearing the sound of his voice.

    You aren’t the only one who can have orgasms from thought!! ::))

    ~ Kim

  34. John says:

    Oh boy, another one of THESE posts. Funny how your so clueless about social norms, but you always know how to shock and titillate.

  35. Elizabeth Harper says:

    You say the most shocking things! I had to read this one out loud to my husband who thought it was very honest(he’s English and not easily shocked) to which I asked if he minded if I told my readers what he does in bed. He said to say that he sleeps mostly. I am curious as to what The Farmer thinks about you telling all his trade secrets.

  36. Dean says:

    Long time reader – this is TMI

  37. Davy Hamburgers says:

    Your writing is beautiful. I love how it wastes no space.

  38. Gloria says:

    My friend forwarded this to me. What a great essay. Thorough and interesting and really good natured. I enjoyed this a lot.

  39. Caryn says:

    Good advice for the workplace social rules. Thank you.

    Also:
    Irv, you’re a dinosaur. “…yet he allows you to express your naked self in this way.” ALLOW? She’s an adult; she doesn’t need permission.

    People raised in a barrel with little social interaction can feel as if they have Aspergers, but barrel-folk can learn the skills whereas Aspergers have trouble seeing when/how/where the skills get applied.

    • Irving Podolsky says:

      Actually Caryn, I was referring to Penelope’s naked self in bed with the farmer. Her posts are not just about her own sexual life, but her husband’s as well. Does he have an opinion about this? I’m sure he does. Either he feels comfortable with his personal life being exposed, or he doesn’t.

      Of course, no husband or wife should try to stifle the behavior of the other. Hopefully before marriage, or any other type of intimate partnership, both people would come to an agreement as to what is acceptable within the relationship and and what is not. What should be “allowed,” and what should not. This allowance is a state of mind and heart, an attitude of acceptance and compromise, the decision to put your partner’s needs before your own, even if you don’t agree with that behavior, even if you it bothers you. Yet, if it bothers (or hurts) you too much, this “allowance” on the outside but not on the inside could lead to someone getting hurt.

      No Caryn, there’s no getting around this “allowance” thing, because we all have opinions about behavior, and we make value judgments based on that philosophy.

      So when I commented on the farmer allowing Penelope to expose her life (and his), I was praising him. Because whether he accepts it or not, he knows she needs to do it, even if it means giving up his privacy.

      Irv

  40. Daniel says:

    I was thinking about how you check your cervical mucus today at work and realized if you check it during a job interview you probably eat it afterward, unless you carry a tissue in your purse.

    I’m not sure how I feel about it, but Asperger’s is going to end up like Tourette syndrome, where most people assume “Oh, you have Tourette’s? That must mean you yell bad words all the time”, but in the case of Asperger’s the things they’ll assume is rambling on about the same subject all the time and not being able to read facial expressions. I’ve been diagnosed with Asperger’s a couple times and that doesn’t describe me at all. Everything about me is pretty much normal except for one Stereotypic movement that I do to relieve anxiety, and it isn’t that noticeable.

  41. starkravingmadmommy says:

    This is beautifully written. Also, I’m a little freaked out about realizing that sex ed. should probably be included in my son’s IEP at some point.

    Thanks for the link!

    – stark. raving. mad. mommy.

  42. oldfashioned says:

    > before you can feel like a normal adult

    This comment irked me. You have Asperger’s! You’ll never be “normal” in general and if you were, you’d throw away what makes you special and awesome. I’d pretty much lose all respect for you.

  43. Aspie says:

    I’m an Aspie and most women say I’m the best lay they’ve every had.

    • Dana says:

      Dear Aspi male – who says he is the best lay..
      That is wonderful.
      However, do you have long-term relationships? Or short stints. A few months of sex – and then it’s over and on to the next babe.
      Emotion – empathy – helps keep the relationships going over the long term.
      Knowing a person. What they want in bed. Not the same thing . Growing together.
      Just giving you some thoughts.

    • Dana says:

      - who says he is the best lay..Aspi male

      That is wonderful.
      However, do you have long-term relationships? Or short stints. A few months of sex – and then it’s over and on to the next babe.
      Emotion – empathy – helps keep the relationships going over the long term.
      Knowing a person. What they want in bed. Not the same thing . Growing together.
      Just giving you some thoughts.

  44. Joe Marfice says:

    Thank you for this wonderful article. I have long wondered what it’s like from your side of the “divide”.

  45. Lesley says:

    Terrific post, as always quite memorable and a great read. I’m a big fan of the blog and was really excited that you liked the video. Thanks for the link!

  46. JuiceMan_V says:

    P{short for your name…i’m sure you know it)…ur weird. Now I get the whole “let a person guide you the right way thing” but after that the training wheels are off,often you have to know just like the next person knows,what you’re doing honestly sex to me is like how you have sex but,honestly I get the clue way before we get naked to know whats gonna happen.Honestly if I was like you in sex like i was in bussiness I’d long get screwed(no pun intended)

  47. MT says:

    This was brilliantly written. I’m not sure if you’ve delved into such personal topics at other times, but I think the clarity, humor, and insight of this piece do a great service to people with Aspergers and to people more generally. Writing’s ability to allow us to experience another’s situation is one of its highest purposes — it can foster understanding and acceptance, and change the way people treat one another.

    I generally read blogs for more analytical content, but this post made me understand why it is so valuable that people choose to share their personal stories in this way. The more that great content like this appears on the internet, the better we will understand one another, and slowly life will improve for everyone. The internet is like a compassion machine, helping us connect to the minds and experiences of one another.

    Great job.

  48. Mylinda says:

    Sure are alot of snarky comments on here.

    • Mark says:

      Yeah, what’s up with that? I asked her in a post why she doesn’t put Asperger up front as “THE” problem and start from there, because I’m selfishly trying to solve the Asperger part for myself, and she was reluctant, and her reasoning was kind of weak I thought – but now I see why. Are there really people who have Asperger, but are otherwise just fine? How? I need their help.

  49. DL says:

    This sounds a lot like sex- with a healthy dose of honesty. A rare thing indeed. Love the post.

  50. David says:

    Elastic cervical mucus? Wow. Just when I thought I knew all there was to know about vaginas, I stand corrected.

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