the hidden secret of autistic dating that no one is telling you

In case you’re new to the party, this is my response to Emma’s recent post kicking off our back-and-forth on autism and sex/gender stuff.  Because nothing says “critical analysis” like some good old fashioned therapeutic rantation.  Anyway, read that post before you read this one, because I reference Emma a bunch of times with minimal context.  AS RANTATIONS DO.

So the first thing that hits me, looking at this lineup of “dating guides for straight white dudes with asperger’s,” is that they’re not really about Asperger’s per se.  They’re about ensuring that any Asperger’s diagnosis said straight white dudes have obtained does not interfere with one of the Cornerstone Straight White Dude Life Successes to which they are entitled: that of obtaining a woman.  And that’s not about Asperger’s at all; that is about some hella deeply-embedded cultural attitudes about entitlement, and the things we automatically expect are the natural lot/due/right/inheritance of straight white affluent males.

…But really, isn’t just about all of mainstream autism discourse about ensuring that straight, white, reasonably affluent males get their due, despite Teh Dread Autismz?  Despite anything?

Consider:

– Those dating guides.  Men, here’s how to prevent your diagnosis getting in the way of obtaining your lady-shaped life merit badge.  Women, here’s how to get properly obtained BECAUSE NOT TO BE WON BY A DUDE IS WORSE THAN DEATH.

– Autism Speaks: That anthropomorphic blue puzzle piece they like to coat the world with every April?  Is blue SPECIFICALLY AND EXPLICITLY TO REPRESENT BOYS.  No, I didn’t infer that.  Autism Speaks SAID IT.

– Autism Speaks, redux: Autism, we’re told, costs the average American family-with-an-autistic-member $60,000 per year.  Okay.  But since the average American family doesn’t even MAKE $60,000 per year, what this means is that families with disposable income and/or health insurance are spending a lot MORE than $60,000 per year, while families without disposable income and/or health insurance are spending a lot LESS – perhaps $0.

Know who is less likely to have either disposable income or health insurance that covers autism services?  Poor families, that’s who.  Families who are disproportionately of color, or who have gay/lesbian/trans* members.  Know who all of Autism Speaks’ lobbying for insurance coverage of autism services doesn’t help?  Families who don’t have disposable income or health insurance.  You see where this is going.

– Baron-Cohen’s “the extreme male brain.”  Do I even need to explain this crap?

– Google “women with autism.”  No, seriously.  Once you get past a page and a half of results about Temple Grandin and, like, two posts about Carly Fleischmann, Google offers you TWO hits – both from international news wires.  (One is about an autistic woman who was raped and murdered in Peru in 2008, which I could rant about for a whole separate post.)

We’ll ignore for a second that autistic women prefer the term “autistic women,” and that Googling THAT gets you a massive subculture of, well, autistic women.  In the mainstream media, “women with autism” is the going term.  Or it would be, except NOBODY IS TALKING ABOUT US.

And there’s also a nasty little trope that I blogged about a year or so ago, in which autism is sufficient to explain away a guy’s entitled attitude toward a woman’s attention, but is never a sufficient excuse for a woman not to provide that attention.   That’s because “autism” (or Asperger’s, in the case of the dating guides, which cannot EVEN deal with the idea of people with severe developmental disabilities having pantsfeelings) isn’t the issue.  Autism is never the issue.  Straight white affluent male fucking entitlement is the issue.

Read that last sentence in every way it is intended.

Straight white affluent male fucking entitlement, of course, fucks people up.  It even fucks up the men to whom it ostensibly applies.  Because although we deeply believe culturally that dudes of this demographic have a panoply of Good Things as their birthright, the material world does not give a crap what we believe culturally.  Female attention is not guaranteed.  Neither is a good job, a fast car, or a sexy retirement locale.  And when men who are promised these things culturally discover that they’re not in fact givens, it fucks them up just as bad as it fucks the rest of us over.  So I’m not blaming dudes for this particular trope.  (I am blaming certain of them when, having realized it is a trope, these individuals choose to get misogynistically violent instead of deciding, “well, then, I’ll guess I’ll try to be a decent human being instead.”  But that’s the post I linked above.)

The “Hidden Secret” of Autistic Dating That Will Knock Your Socks Off (If You’re Into That Sort of Thing)

Of course, autism’s most closely-kept secret isn’t the “real boy” struggling to get out of the mechanical suit.  It’s not even that the fortress really is empty or that the fairies ate your human baby instead of raising it as their own.  It’s that, on the whole, autistic people are queer as fuck.

Read THAT last sentence in every way it is intended.

Autistic people are disproportionately NOT HERE FOR YOUR STRAIGHT WHITE DUDE NARRATIVE, because we are disproportionately neither straight white dudes nor particularly interested in straight white dudes.  Which makes these dating guides even more fucked up, and their purpose as training manuals for the dominant straitjacket entitlement narrative even more clear.  Not only are these dating guides ultimately unhelpful even for the audience they DO have, the size of that audience is way, WAY smaller than you’d think.

Thing is, a lot of us don’t get to find that out for decades.  If ever.

You think pressure to be cishet is tough for non-autistic queer kids?  Well, you’re right.  It is.  It’s tough as hell, and too many don’t survive it.

But mix all that shit it really needs to get “better” from posthaste into a lifetime narrative about how everything you do is wrong, out of sync, “crazy,” inhuman.  Trust me: those manuals promising to tell you the hidden rules for protecting yourself in dating relationships or for obtaining a human female partner (the only relationship you’ll ever have, since nobody wants to be friends with a freak) start to sound real good real fast, no matter how ambivalent you feel about women, or partners, or sex, or all of the above.

And even if the inner voice tells you the manuals are lying or that you’re not really into this sort of relationship at all, by the time you’re old enough to date, you’re really good at ignoring or suppressing that voice.  You’ve had to be, since the moment you were born.  After all, that voice was the “crazy” one, the one that didn’t match everyone else’s perceptions of the world and so it couldn’t possibly be “real” or “true.”  Nope.  Just learn the rules, everyone else’s rules, the rules you weren’t born programmed with like everyone else was, and you’ll be fine.  You’ll get what’s coming to you, autistics of the world.

And yes, you can read that in every way it is intended, too.

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5 thoughts on “the hidden secret of autistic dating that no one is telling you

  1. Tangentially to everything I love about this post….

    I tried googling “autistic women,” and I found something ELSE rather frustrating.

    The results *actually* containing the phrase “autistic women” were overwhelmingly links to publications and communities run by autistic women….

    But most of the results were still “women with autism” results. Like “nope, you couldn’t have meant that search the way you actually typed it.”

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