Sexuality and Sex: Another Hard Conversation

by Noah Seback

Nonspeakers and sexuality. Nonspeakers and sex. Can these be mentioned in the same sentence?  Is this an oxymoron?  Did I read that correctly?  Yes!  I’m a nonspeaking autistic broaching the subject of sex and sexuality as it relates to our population. This topic is too rarely mentioned, considered, let alone addressed.  It is a frontier opened up by communication and presuming competence.  So let’s drag it out of the dark corners of passed-over and ignored issues into the light.  Nonspeakers are living, breathing, feeling, and thinking human beings.  And guess what?  We are sexual beings too!  I’ll give you a moment to collect yourself…

It’s not a foreign concept that we nonspeakers want to have friends, to have romance, to have relationships, to love.  But I’m talking about us desiring physical affection, stimulation, and intimacy.  Are you still with me?  Nothing will be solved in this blog, but I hope to stimulate (no pun intended) some awareness and impetus to explore the issue further.

The first hurdle: discussing sexuality.  Period.  This can be a squeamish awkward topic in general, without the layers of complication that being a nonspeaker brings.  Spellers already find it difficult to have certain conversations with parents because of the interdependent nature of their relationship.  Your parent is your CRP, the sharer of your transcribed thoughts, your access to communication, and the world at large, the purveyor of necessary support.  It can be incredibly difficult to risk an ask, an opinion, a priority, or a criticism. 

And if we are trying to talk about a potentially confounding topic like sexuality, how much harder might it be for us to have the courage?  An adolescent male spelling primarily with their mom: less than ideal. Discussing masturbation with parents, again maybe with a mom, who might have certain religious views or longstanding influence from their childhood against such practices: less than ideal.  And less than ideal for any young person, but this might be the ONLY person a speller can communicate this through. 

We know it’s a big leap thinking of us as sexual beings.  After all, we were seen as toddlers for years.  We still may script Barney songs and fidget with preschool ‘toys’. You are perhaps still supporting our bodies with personal hygiene that otherwise would have dropped off long long ago. 

It’s also difficult to broach the subject because there are no easy answers. We have bodies that don’t respond the way we want them to and do respond the way we don’t want them to on a regular basis.  Bodies that need support: prompting or physical assist to lock in purposeful movement as a motor pathway.  How exactly will this be accomplished for masturbation, arousal, erection, orgasm, intercourse, and oral sex?  And who will help? What of our privacy?

What are we to do with the fact that our bodies often do respond to family members,  teachers, and therapists who we are not attracted to?  Live in humiliation and shame and often in dysregulation-especially at puberty?  Not so easy to chat with mom about that.

When there are already so many battlefronts for spellers and their families, it’s easy for this one to not be prioritized.  I can only speak from a male perspective, but it wreaks havoc (literally with dysregulation) in adolescence when hormones are raging, and bodies are changing.  We are coming of age yet cut off from the dating practices others enjoy.  As young adults, we look into an asexual future.  What about marriage and children if that is our desire? 

While communication is nirvana and it has opened multiple horizons for spellers, our sexual horizon is still uncharted territory.  Now that we can communicate, more of us every day, thanks to organizations like I-ASC, we want to have access to the same opportunities as everyone else.  This isn’t news for the Spellerverse; that this includes SEXUAL opportunity, sadly, probably is. 

 

S2C, Spelling to Communicate, nonspeaking, nonspeakers, Autism, I-ASC, Speller, nonverbal, S2C, NLCNoah Seback is a nonspeaking autistic, self-advocate, and lived experience expert. He serves the nonspeaking community from his home but seeks to reach the world with his message of hope for nonspeakers living with unnoticed and untapped potential, no communication access, and runaway emotions and bodies. Through his mentoring business, qUirk, he offers his services as a Peer Support Specialist to come alongside peers, family members, and support personnel.

 

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