“He might be on the spectrum.” But what about me?

This is a guest post by Sheelzebub.

It’s like the sun rising in the east: Whenever the subject of harassment or stalking comes up, you invariably get a bunch of dudes barging in, insisting that the guy who followed you and screamed at you for not paying attention to him, the guy who groped you, the guy who tried to follow you home, the guy who kept looking you up and down when you were wearing a turtleneck at brunch with your friend, the guy who refused to accept the “no” and the “I’m not interested,” the guy who waited for you outside of your place, the guy who told you how the way you look gave him a boner, might have had Asperger’s or was somehow autistic. He just had problems understanding social cues/rules.

And to a certain extent, I have sympathy, because I have trouble with that. I have non-verbal learning disorder and ADHD. It went undiagnosed until adulthood (and I’m not really “out” to anyone in meatspace yet, and I’m not sure if I ever will be). The ADHD diagnosis wasn’t a surprise, but I didn’t even know that NLD was a thing. But it definitely fit—one of the characteristics of the disorder is trouble reading social/non-verbal cues, which meant that my childhood and preteen years were hell on earth. It wasn’t so pronounced that they caught it when I was younger, and I didn’t need an advocate in school (well, actually, that might have helped things when I was a kid). I could coast by academically because I’m good with words. But I wish I was diagnosed when I was a kid, even if it’s not as severe as other cases. My life would have been a lot easier. (To be fair, it wasn’t really well-known back then.)

My teen years were okayish thanks to workarounds I developed, but when it came to dealing with the opposite sex, it was fraught. I didn’t know social cues. I didn’t know if a guy was a friend or foe, if he was on the up-and-up or not. Guys would hit on me and I’d have no clue, or (depending on how they did it) it would freak me right out. And when I finally started to figure this out/develop workarounds, I got a whole boatload of shaming for setting up boundaries, or not setting up good enough boundaries.

How could you be so mean, he’s just awkward?
He’s really a nice guy underneath it all.
He’s not so bad once you get to know him.
You know, Sheelz, if you didn’t dress/act in a certain way, he wouldn’t have done that.
You led him on.
It means he likes you, you should be flattered!
He’s just hitting on you, so what if it’s a little clumsy, stop acting like you’re too good for everyone.
Well you’re pretty, what do you expect?
You’re not that pretty, you should be happy anyone’s paying attention to you.
He’s only a teenager (so was I).
You should have been more assertive.
You should have been nicer.

And now: He might be on the spectrum! (Really? Every single one? Really. Let me tell you something: None of the guys who harassed or assaulted me were non-NT. None.)

Unlike the dudes, I was not cut any slack. It’s unforgivable for a girl or woman to not be socially adept. That’s our role—not to mention the fact that a lot of people believe the BS about women’s intuition, so the fact that we’re not already mind-readers is already a big strike against all women, anyway. So it was somehow a gross character flaw for me to not be good with these things. And while like awkward guys, I too had a hard time socially and with people I was attracted to, I also had to deal with guys who thought it would be fun to harass me. Or guys who thought it would be cool to grope me. Or guys who refused to hear the no. Or guys who decided that I owed them my time, or my space, or my body, and me having the nerve to say that I didn’t was somehow a violation of the First Amendment (here’s a ticket to the clue train; it isn’t).

There’s a lovely myth out there that these things are taken seriously. I’m pretty sure the sky is pink in that world. Oh, I mention an instance of harassment or assault and you get “Well of course that was harassment/assault! Who would tell you differently?” Well, um, actually, a lot of people. Have you met the cops these days? Have you met your average bro? Have you met people who are friends with the harasser? Have you read the freaking comments section of any blog post of a woman who talks about this? Have you actually walked in our shoes? Then shut up. We still have 12-year-old girls being called sluts and blamed for their gang-rapes. Kindly stop being so obtuse. This is hardly a world where the needs and safety of girls and women are taken seriously. Misogyny is an actual thing. Your personal feelings about how of course harassment is wrong don’t actually come into play when we’re talking about how this entire culture treats and regards women and girls who are harassed and/or assaulted. And that goes double for girls and women of color, who are disabled or non-NT or mentally ill, who are poor, who are trans*, who are lesbian or bisexual, or who are somehow out of what we’ve decided the norm is here.

For all of the fear-mongering about schools that overreact to boys who act inappropriately, about women who are mean to men who are just trying to be friendly, for poor schlubs who are misunderstood as dangerous, the reality tells a different story. Many schools have made very careful efforts to not see harassment or assault of girls or women, and in some cases have tried to cover it up. It’s easy to tell us to just call the cops, but try getting them to take you seriously. That doesn’t always happen. Oh yes, you can bark at someone to leave you alone, but hello! For many of us that ended up escalating into a downright dangerous situation (and then we were lectured about how we should have been nicer). It’s not like the majority of us surrounded by a supportive community (some don’t even find support in their families), especially if the guy in question is a mutual friend, a relative, or someone who’s known in the community. And for all of the hand-wringing about so-called “creep-shaming,” I don’t see these same dudes decry the slut shaming that goes hand-in-hand with the rationalizations people engage in when a girl or woman is harassed or assaulted. It might be a given to these folks that of course such shaming is bad, but it doesn’t negate the fact that slut-shaming is a huge thing we have to deal with, that these things are not equal, that this is a society that is actually quite misogynist. (Hence, their erasing of women with disabilities who are harassed and assaulted.)

I am so tired of trying to talk about what has happened to us only to have the shaming and erasure begin. These people who cry crocodile tears over abelism don’t fool me. If you decry the fact that a woman is so unfriendly, unwelcoming, or cold and you’re not considering that this might be her workaround to keep herself safe due to a disability, don’t ever go on about how a guy may be socially awkward. And you know? It isn’t just NLD and autism spectrum disorders that we have to remember. What if the woman who has set up mile-high boundaries, who comes off as hostile, has PTSD and this is tripping her triggers? What if she’s got serious social anxiety or another mental illness that affects how she interacts with people? I mean, if we’re going to insist on compassion and empathy, can we have some extended to women and girls? Can we not disappear girls and women when we talk about abelism? Can you maybe, just maybe, acknowledge that this is not a world where the safety of women and girls is not taken seriously in the best of circumstances, let alone girls and women who don’t fit into the acceptable mold of the “right” race/class/age/body/health, and stop acting like all we have to do is educate the poor menz, or do X, Y, or Z?

All these people who come out of the woodwork, quite suddenly worried about abelism, are nowhere to be found when it comes to girls and women who have to deal with this crap. If a girl or woman is trusting of a boy or man and gets assaulted, these self-declared defenders of the non-NT are nowhere to be found—I never see any of these scamps saying, “Hey, maybe she had a neurological issue and didn’t get the cues that this was a bad situation.” It never occurs to any of these folks that we also have to deal with the business end of harassment and assault and misogyny. We’re basically disappeared by the very folks who insist they are our allies.

Yeah. I’m not feeling like these folks have my back.


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132 Responses to “He might be on the spectrum.” But what about me?

  1. Dante says:

    This is where I return to Jay Smooth’s advice:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0Ti-gkJiXc

    He’s talking about racism in the video, but his observations apply to many topics. The conversation I want to have is the “what you did” conversation; the conversation the culprit wants to have is the “what you are” conversation, which is easily derailed.

    Understanding this has changed my life (and I don’t mean that as hyperbole). When a dude tries to excuse another dude’s behavior by appealing to his (hypothetical or known) inner nature, the subject of conversation is being entirely changed. I used to let it change because I didn’t realize it was happening, but now it’s easier for me to catch.

  2. SarahW says:

    One friend at college got yelled at for “being hostile” when she reacted badly to being groped by a guy in our social circle.

    It was years later that she told me she had been raped two days previously, and was still bleeding.

  3. GallingGalla says:

    Thanks for writing about this, Sheelzebub. I’m a queer trans woman with Aspergers, and I’ve had to put up those mile-high boundaries, especially with men, because I cannot tell who is safe. And I’m sick of men using Aspergers, etc as an excuse for aggressive, creepy behavior.

    • Sheelzebub says:

      Thanks! I’m glad you like it. And seriously? No one with Asperger’s ever harassed me. It’s not Asperger’s that drives that shit, it’s a whopping sense of entitlement and misogyny, full stop!

      • LMM says:

        And seriously? No one with Asperger’s ever harassed me. It’s not Asperger’s that drives that shit, it’s a whopping sense of entitlement and misogyny, full stop!

        See below, but I have all sorts of issues with this narrative as well. Attributing sexual harassment to ASD-related social awkwardness is ableist — but presenting things as though people with ASDs *can’t* have a sense of entitlement and *can’t* harass people is almost equally bad.

        It’s ableism to assume that people with ASDs can’t be shitheads, after all.

        That being said, the vast majority of people don’t have ASDs — which also means that the vast majority of people who engage in sexual harassment don’t have ASDs, either.

      • Sheelzebub says:

        I’m not saying you can’t be an entitled misogynist if you aren’t NT, I’m saying that feeling entitled to a woman’s time or space or body or attention isn’t a function of being NT. It’s a function of being an entitled assbucket.

      • anna says:

        It’s ableism to assume that people with ASDs can’t be shitheads, after all.

        True, but I don’t think it’s fair to say people with ASD are more likely to be harassers. Saying, “Oh maybe he has ASD” as if that means he can’t help it is insulting to decent people with ASD who don’t harass.

  4. Pingback: ?He might be on the spectrum.? But what about me?

  5. Darth Conans says:

    I’ve had diagnosed Asperger’s (autism now, Asperger’s no longer exists) for about 10 years, and been going to twice weekly group counseling sections for the last 9. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone on the spectrum actually complain about Ableism or whatever (certain peculiarities of the syndrome make generalizing individual’s behavior into a perceived societal trend pretty much impossible for us). The first lesson they taught us in group was that, although our syndrome was sort of an explanation for why we might have trouble, it wasn’t an excuse for making people uncomfortable. It just meant we had to be better about it.
    I suspect most of the people who are babbling about Ableism or moaning about how the fact that they creep women out is proof that women are prejudiced are mostly assholes who self-diagnosed using online tests. It certainly doesn’t sound like anyone I know on the spectrum, and seems to rely on things like Theory of Mind that people with autism don’t really have.

    • GallingGalla says:

      … is proof that women are prejudiced are mostly assholes who self-diagnosed using online tests.

      Wow. I hope I’m misunderstanding this statement. Are you saying that we non-NT women are self-diagnosed and that we’re just a bunch of assholes? Oh, my g-d. If you’re not, you need to clarify.

      For the record, I’m not self-diagnosed.

      • I think Darth Conans meant something more like “I suspect most of the people who are babbling about Ableism, or moaning about how the fact that they creep women out is proof that women are prejudiced, are mostly assholes who self-diagnosed using online tests. ” So, a statement on the assholes self-diagnosing themselves, and not the non-NT women who are being harrassed.

      • GallingGalla says:

        Ah, ok, gotcha.

      • Bagelsan says:

        It’s confusing wording, but he means the people talking shit about women are self-diagnosed assholes, not the women themselves.

      • GallingGalla says:

        Ok, yeah, I was confused by the wording.

    • Sheelzebub says:

      Yes. And I want to make clear, the vast majority of people who go on about how mean the wimminfolk are (with one or two exceptions) are NT, able-bodied men who rush to defend men and boys from the grave injustice of having to actually consider the humanity of women and girls. Most guys who are on the spectrum have gotten very shitty about this display of crocodile tears and don’t seem to appreciate it.

      • littlem says:

        Then, quite frankly, I wish they’d speak to their NT-asshat bros about perpetuating it, if it is in fact bothering them that much.

        (In other news, thank Jeebus somebody — that would be you — finally said it. Thank you. )

    • Darth Conans says:

      No, of course not. I’m talking about men who are using the cries of ableism to try to get around the creepy label. If anyone on the spectrum wants to talk about ableism, they obviously have the right. If anyone off the spectrum wants to talk about ableism in an intelligent way, I’d welcome that. Teaching people the very specific signs of high-functioning autism and how to deal with someone who displays those would be lovely. Talk about how society is sort of subtly structured towards the NT would be nice. Discussions of how any of the other mental disorders a person can have might affect their lives and what could be done to make it easier for them to integrate would be positively delightful.
      I’m sorry if I gave offense. I’m very very angry at men with my condition (who mostly just want to be left alone until we can figure out how to act normal) being roped into a weird argument about how women shouldn’t be allowed to be creeped out by men.

      • Sheelzebub says:

        I don’t think you gave any offense, I think there was a misunderstanding that was quickly cleared up. :)

      • Darth Conans says:

        There are lots and lots of things society could do to make itself better for the mentally ill. I’d say “convince women to ignore outrageous and totally unacceptable behavior on the off-chance that the guy is autistic” isn’t in the top thousand. I’m not sure if it’s even on the list. From my experience and that of other guys in my group, accidentally creeping out a woman and getting called on it is a sort of right of passage for men with autism. If your disorder wasn’t caught when you were little, it tends to be what gets you into therapy, and it also provides the first clear indication that your strangeness might have been funny and acceptable when you were little, but you’re older now, and it’s time to grow up and learn to seem normal.

      • matlun says:

        Also: In the end, getting explicitly called on your behavior can be very valuable. If you can not catch subtle hints, more explicit communication may be the only way you can learn and improve.

        So if someone is on the spectrum, that might actually be more of a reason to call them on their unacceptable behavior.

      • GallingGalla says:

        Sorry for misunderstanding you, Darth, and I totally agree with what you’re saying now that I got it through my thick skull.

      • Darth Conans says:

        Galling, it was entirely my fault for getting passionate and not proofreading properly. Never edit angry, as they always told us in English class.

    • matlun says:

      That is my experience also.

      People can often complain that it is hard to interact with people and even feel terrible about it, but the response is more often self-blame. While this can also be a problem, it is a very different type of reaction.

      To complain about the rest of society and demand that no one should criticize your behavior just shows that you are a self entitled douche bag. Regardless of diagnosis.

      As you said: It may be an explanation, but should not be used as an excuse.

  6. rain says:

    Yay, Sheelzebub. I know you’ve written about this in the comments whenever there’s a harassment or creeper post, but it’s good to see it get the prominence it deserves.

  7. Sheelzebub, thanks for this post, seriously. It’s fucking awesomely detailed, too. Makes for good linkage.

  8. moviemaedchen says:

    *applause*

    THIS. All of this. Thank you.

  9. Jennifer says:

    Great post–thank you

  10. Sheelzebub says:

    I’m glad you like it!

  11. Up front, let me say that I’m not defending men who violate boundaries and trust, especially with violence. It’s inexcusable behavior.

    I’ve known men and women both who have been so wounded in the past that they build the mile-high boundaries you’ve mentioned. Two sensitive people with similar life experiences are not always a good combination. In my own life, I sought partners who also had mental illness or bipolar disorder. These relationships were rarely stable and usually short-lived.

    In my own life, I’ve been hurt by women who abused my good nature and my trust. I had to learn for myself how to differentiate between healthy partners and unhealthy partners. But being used does make a person resentful, even angry over time. And it can lead to attitudes that “no one is ever going to treat me like that again”.

    Each of us has to make the same discovery I did. It took me finding the strength and regard for myself to know I didn’t have to settle for relationship partners whose primary focus was themselves. And I’ve had to keep my own anger at bay the times I’ve encountered women whose own history of abuse makes them hyper-vigilant and afraid of something like that happening again.

    It’s easy to see enemies everywhere following trauma. But sometimes we build our defenses so tall that it shuts down dialogue and renders everyone a potential enemy.

    • Dante says:

      It’s easy to see enemies everywhere following trauma. But sometimes we build our defenses so tall that it shuts down dialogue and renders everyone a potential enemy.

      But everyone has a right to do exactly that. And nobody has a right to tell someone who has done that otherwise. Not even in a sanctimonious, pitying way (especially not in that way).

    • GallingGalla says:

      Man, do I feel spoken down to.

    • Katniss says:

      So essentially you’re replacing “feel sorry for guys who refuse to respect boundaries because they might not be NT” with “feel sorry for guys who refuse to respect boundaries because you’re probably overreacting due to trauma anyway?”

      Why is it always on women’s shoulders to reconsider and question their initial feelings about a person? Is it possible that sometimes we’re “hyper-vigilant” because society has given us EVERY REASON to be hyper-vigilant?

    • You know, you’re a sanctimonious little turd-nibbler.

      What if I just don’t want to “open up” to you, O Random Guy? What if I just want to fucking be alone, for today or the next month or ten years, what if I’m just fucking happy being solo, what if what if?

      Nobody has any obligation to deal with their trauma insofar as they’re not actually harming anybody else. (Newsflash: rejecting a guy isn’t harming him, or your douchebreed would have died out in a Darwinian sigh of relief from women across the globe.) Nobody OWES IT TO YOU or to anyone else to get over FUCK-ALL in order to be Suitably Available to Men Passing By.

      So how about you drink a steaming cup of STFU, and go scramble your small intestines on toast.

      • Alyson says:

        …yum, intestines.

        But in all seriousness: that list that Sheelzebub made of all the pressure she got to be nice to guys? Yeah, I got the same thing, because at age 15 I didn’t yet realize that men’s (boys’) feelings were apparently more important than mine, and no matter how creepy someone seemed, they “deserved a chance,” and that it was my DUTY to accept the first one who was interested. And then if he ended up being a lying rapist, well THAT was my fault too. And now, after dealing with all of that, I am “too paranoid” when people do things like ask me to dance/have a drink/go home with them/for my e-mail address. I’m “too paranoid” if I recoil when people touch me from behind. Sorry, I’m allowed boundaries. I don’t want to go through rape again. If I have considered what I will do if some creeper tries something when I’m walking to my car at night (smack them over the head with my metal water bottle), I’m allowed.

      • :( Hugs if you want ’em. So sorry you went through that.

      • Dominique says:

        “at age 15 I didn’t yet realize that men’s (boys’) feelings were apparently more important than mine”

        THIS. Except also at age 20, 25, 35, 40, and even more so at age 45, because after all, now that I’m no longer pretty, who the hell do I think I am, and my feelings matter even less than ever, etc…

      • Donna L says:

        Nobody OWES IT TO YOU or to anyone else to get over FUCK-ALL

        But Mac, don’t you know that forgiveness is the Christian thing to do? And that anger is bad for you?

      • Donna, I know you were being sarcastic, and that comment STILL made me grind my teeth! Lol.

      • What if I just don’t want to “open up” to you, O Random Guy? What if I just want to fucking be alone, for today or the next month or ten years, what if I’m just fucking happy being solo, what if what if?

        THIS. While I read Sheelzebub’s excellent article, I was also thinking, “What if the woman isn’t on the spectrum, hasn’t been traumatised, but just wants to be FUCKINGWELL LEFT ALONE? Why should she need any excuses, any reasons, to be able to tell a man pushing his unwanted attention onto her to piss off?”

      • You HAVE to have reasons for not doing something a Man Wants. You don’t get to just not want to. FFS, it’s like you’re new here. :P

      • Ain’t that the truth!

        Takes me back to my childhood, when a kid would just say “Because” if they didn’t want to do something and were asked why not. Those were the days.

        Maybe we should all go a bit Bartleby the Scrivener – “I would prefer not to.” :P

    • GallingGalla says:

      I mean, really. As a survivor of seven years of bullying, including physical beatings, in school for being trans* and aspie, and a survivor of rape, I think I and I alone get to decide when my barriers come down, and I’m not going to sit here and be shamed into it by some guy coming in here with a holier-than-thou attitude.

    • Angel H. says:

      It’s easy to see enemies everywhere following trauma. But sometimes we build our defenses so tall that it shuts down dialogue and renders everyone a potential enemy.

      ….

      …So what?

      No, really. So what if a person becomes distrustful of everyone around them. What business is that of anybody else’s? Why would you be so intent on befriending somebody that wants nothing to do with you? You are not entitled to anybody’s attention.

      Let’s get that clear first and foremost because what you suppose is, in my belief (I could be wrong), an extreme case. What Sheelzebub is talking about is self-protection. Just because you look both ways before crossing the street doesn’t mean that you believe every single driver is aiming to run you over.

    • Darth Conans says:

      Basic problem with this: It reads like something a teenager wrote in a 90s YA novel (man, young adult novels got so much better when they started adding death games). We don’t live in one of those. Most people hate it when you try to get through their barriers, and trying to get “through to them” is an act of overweening arrogance, implying that you know how to manage their relationships better than they do.

      Side note: ” And I’ve had to keep my own anger at bay the times I’ve encountered women whose own history of abuse makes them hyper-vigilant and afraid of something like that happening again.” Perhaps this means something different in the context of your life, but it reads to a stranger like “Man, these traumatized bitches don’t even know how great I am. Pisses me off.” Not a great thing to post on a feminist blog.

      • Alyson says:

        Yep. Reminds me of a story that my ex-best friend (ex because she was TOTALLY FINE with rape) wrote in high school: Damaged Girl starts at New School and is totally Mean And Bitchy to Everyone, and Really Nice Guy wants to Get To Know Her (/Get In Her Pants), so steals her diary and finds out about All Her Problems. (Capitaliation addedfor extra ridiculousness.) It doesn’t (/shouldn’t) work in real life; the one time some guy’s gone pawing through my personal stuff it was because he was angry and jealous and it only resulted in me leaving him, not realizing how much he “cared.”

      • Alyson says:

        Shorter: If you’re not someone’s therapist, it’s not your job to “fix” their “damages” to make them sleep with you.

      • scrumby says:

        Thinking back I seem to remember a lot of those lectures on “opening up to love will heal you” coming from the patronizing male love interest…often after the female protagonist finally got up the nerve to have sex with him, but he nobly turns her down because “she’s not ready yet.”

        And people wonder why Harry Potter was such a game-changer.

    • roro80 says:

      Wow. Rejecting random dudes’ harassment on the street is not the same as being closed off to all possible relationships; nor is it the same as being closed off in the context of a relationship. Even if you had a point about being closed off within relationships due to trauma (which you don’t — people are allowed to deal with their past traumas without heeding concern trolls telling them to open up if that’s what they want to do), the situation here is entirely different from that scenario. There are plenty of people who haven’t been traumatized who nonetheless don’t go home with and open up to every dude who compliments their ass as they’re walking past them on the street.

    • EG says:

      Up front, let me say that I’m not defending men who violate boundaries and trust, especially with violence.

      Am I the only one who read this and knew, just knew that whatever came next was going to be about how we need to be nicer to men? It’s like the phrase “I’m not racist, but…” Nothing that starts that way is going to be any good.

      • gratuitous_violet says:

        Nope, you’re not the only one! I’ve heard this one so many times the song fills my head when I just hear the opening bars. But I feel like I don’t remember this commenter being such a clueless wad. Whatever makes you think this constant refrain of “Ladies, have we considered that it may be your fault?” is either productive, or something we haven’t hear before?

      • Donna L says:

        But I feel like I don’t remember this commenter being such a clueless wad.

        I don’t know anything about him other than the fact that he’s commented about four times in the the last few weeks, and he’s hit a negative home run every time.

      • PrettyAmiable says:

        He has a history of showing up, saying something clueless, getting called out, and never ever returning to defend his offensive bullshit. All of it tends to be in line with some basic concern-trolling bullshit.

        He just cares about your heeeealing (despite having exactly zero experience as a therapist).

    • Sheelzebub says:

      Kevin, your experiences with women who done you wrong isn’t the same as a woman who isn’t NT or who may be coping with PTSD or other mental health issues. Seriously, you’re coming off as a world class mansplainer and ablespaliner right here.

      • Not to mention that it’s a fair bet Kevin doesn’t get shouted at in the street, groped, or generally harassed by random women, and then be told to be nice to them because they may be on the spectrum.

    • Esti says:

      I’ve had to keep my own anger at bay the times I’ve encountered women whose own history of abuse makes them hyper-vigilant and afraid of something like that happening again.

      I hope you understand why this is a HUGELY ASSHOLE thing to say. You have to fight back anger when a woman who has lived through abuse is hyper-vigilant and afraid of being abused again? What the everloving fuck.

      Newsflash: other people’s trauma is not about you. Even if you have your own trauma.

      • gratuitous_violet says:

        How did I miss this charming bit of sympathy? That statement just gave me the shivers. How fucking magnanimous of you, to not get angry at rape victims for not being nice to you!

      • SDB says:

        If a man were to say this to my face, I would recognize it for the threat that it is.

    • And I’ve had to keep my own anger at bay the times I’ve encountered women whose own history of abuse makes them hyper-vigilant and afraid of something like that happening again.

      So despite your unhappy experiences you are incapable of empathy toward someone else who has been abused, is that it? It’s all about you?

    • Bagelsan says:

      But sometimes we build our defenses so tall that it shuts down dialogue and renders everyone a potential enemy.

      Ooh, missing out on dialogue with you? What a loss.

    • trees says:

      This sounds like some shit my abusive ex-husband would say. He was also a self proclaimed Nice Guy, and Ally.

      You do realize that predators sense vulnerability and seek out victims who already have an abuse history. I have PTSD and solid boundaries sometimes make me feel safer, since I’m not always so good at recognizing a threat.

    • Annaleigh says:

      Oh fuck you, Kevin.

      When someone pushed his way into my life, I was told that I was just being mean to a guy who liked me, I was without words made to feel like my PTSD as a result of rape and CSA made me unable to figure out for myself when something was wrong. After 5+ years of stalking, nightmares, and literal nausea every time my home phone rang, I know that the “nice” guys who spoke out in defense of the “nice” guy who made my life hell for years are assholes. Just like you.

      If you have to fight against anger at a rape survivor because she is traumatized, there is something wrong with YOU, not her.

    • Kate says:

      Women are entitled to sit by themselves on public transport, out in the world, wherever – and if we don’t want to interact with people, that is FINE. We have no ‘duty’ to respond to someone who is chatting us up.
      I hate feeling like I have to justify not wanting to be approached by strangers. I hate that I have to bring up my ‘issues’ (OCD, anxiety, and past emotional/physical abuse and date rape) for someone to understand and go ‘oh, she doesn’t want attention because she’s all traumatised’.

  12. TomSims says:

    Nice post. IMO there is no excuse for any man to harass any woman period! No doubt there are many men who use a variety of medical excuses to forgive their boorish behavior, but there is no excuse. If a man makes a mistake, he must be a man and take full responsibility for anything he has done wrong. There is no other recourse.

    • Darth Conans says:

      “If a man makes a mistake, he must be a man and take full responsibility for anything he has done wrong. ” Admitting a mistake and trying to fix it isn’t really a man thing. It’s more of a “human being”
      thing.

      • TomSims says:

        “Admitting a mistake and trying to fix it isn’t really a man thing. It’s more of a “human being”
        thing.”

        What I said was he should take responsibility for his mistake/s NOT try to fix it. Fix it implies cover up. Does Watergate ring a bell? And we all know how that “fix it” went.

        And yes the last I checked men were still considered “human beings” But that depends on who you ask.

      • moviemaedchen says:

        Way to totally miss the point of Darth Conans’ comment.

      • Colin Day says:

        How was Watergate an attempt to restitute victims? Or correct Nixon’s paranoia?

      • Rubbish. “Fix” as in “put it right” doesn’t mean that at all. You’ve taken a particular political/corporate idea of cover-up and spin and applied it to everyday interactions.

  13. EG says:

    Awesome post, Sheelzebub. I’ve missed your voice around here, and it’s awesome to see you writing something so excellent.

  14. Wonderfully said. A causative explanation for awkward, seemingly clueless behaviour should not used as an excuse for harassment and assault.

    I’ve mentioned in the past that I’m probably on the spectrum (never properly diagnosed, but damn does it explain a lot about my behaviour and childhood experiences), exacerbated by an actual inability to see nonverbal cues. If I’m doing something that is causing unease, discomfort, fear, etc., I want to know so I can stop doing whatever it is I’m doing, at that moment and in the future. No one has any right to subject others to unwanted behaviour and contact, regardless of neurological state and capability.

    In short, there is no excuse for harassment or assault, ever, and asserting otherwise by yelling “but ASD!!!” is a form of bigotry of low expectations, one that seems to be mostly propagated by MRAs and predators as cover for their own atrocious behaviour.

  15. Clytemnestra's Sister says:

    The ONLY time in my life (which is now at the statistical halfway point) that I have been unwantedly touched by a non-neurotypical man was at the Perth Zoo in 2005. One of the patrons, who was obviously and visibly at the mental development level of a very young child (I think he may have had severe Downs) walked up and gave me a hug. He had a carer who extracted him, apologised, and we went on our separate ways. Later when our paths crossed again, the carer made sure to keep him away from the “pretty lady.” Was it threatening? Hell yes it was, he was taller than me and from the hug, physically strong. Did he intend to hug me? Hell yes he did, I could see him coming from 20 feet away with his arms open and there was no way to get away from him. Had he not had his care worker with him, I don’t think I would have been able to get away from him.

    News flash: the man didn’t go out in public without a carer for that very reason. He didn’t know how to behave, and the people around him found him somebody to help him behave acceptably in public.

    Contrast that to the many, many, many neurotypical men who have groped me, assaulted me, harassed me, yelled at me, holla’d me, made comments about how I was dressing to drive people crazy, etc. These are people who have demonstrated elsewhere in life that they know how to behave in public, and are being given a pass by others around them. Telling me that I have to modify my behaviour to possibly deal with the fact that somebody is being threatening/rude/pushy/dangerous is insulting, and they need to get off my foot.

  16. LMM says:

    Thank you, Sheelzebub — this is a point I’ve been trying to make pretty much every time the subject of harassment comes up. (For me, one issue is, I can’t read body language or facial expressions that well — so you know what would protect *me* as an Aspie? Less tolerance of harassment, not more.)

    That being said, one pushback against a narrative that comes up time after time again —

    Many times, in the aftermath of a discussion where the people claim there’s a link between people with ASDs and sexual harassment, we get the subsequent posts, about how people with ASDs don’t harass women and can’t harass women. They’re usually not written by people with ASDs (for good reason: that would be kind of weird) but rather by concerned parents or the like who point to their child’s innocuous behavior. And this is followed up by a litany of agreement: harassment requires theory of mind, so therefore people with ASDs aren’t capable of harassing others. People with ASDs are likely to hide in corners, not to behave in sexually threatening ways. Those who argue otherwise are not *actually* Aspies — they’re people who diagnosed themselves on the Internet.

    This, too, is ableism. Not being ableist means accepting that everyone — disability or no — is capable of being an asshole. Not being ableist means realizing that people with Downs Syndrome can be manipulative, intellectual disability or no. Not being ableist means accepting that people with ADHD are entirely capable of being lazy. And not being ableist means accepting that people with ASDs are fully capable of feeling entitled to sex and fully capable of being misogynistic and fully capable of sexually harassing women. It doesn’t take much theory of mind to grab a passing woman’s ass or feel her up on a subway or to yell at her out of a car window. It doesn’t take much theory of mind to see those things as behaviors you are entitled to do.

    Claiming that it does — claiming that having an ASD somehow removes your ability to exhibit certain types of behavior — is pretty damn insulting, no matter in what context you’re trying to make it.

    (Emphasis here: This didn’t come up in your post, but it’s coming up in the comment threads, so I’d like to point this out.)

  17. karak says:

    I had a friend in junior high who was male, and incredibly awkward. I now firmly believe that he had/has some emotional/cognitive issues going on–I don’t know if he was on the spectrum, or it was a layover of childhood abuse, or simply just a little atypical, but he was terrible at understanding cues, catching sarcasm and entendre, and when he did, he completely lacked any script to reply to them (this is a HUGE PART I think people ignore about NT people–even if they pick up the cue, they may have no idea what they’re supposed to do next. “This person is bored, do I… keep talking? Ask them to talk? Ask why they’re bored? Walk away?”)

    This friend was also incredibly thoughtful, kind, sweet, and generous. He did not harass women, he did not act entitled, he didn’t demand others constantly cater to him–in fact, I often worried about how much he was willing to accept others being cruel or neglectful.

    He recently posted a comment on my facebook that was really, really creepery. My boyfriend saw it and told me about it; he was upset. And my response was this, “This friend doesn’t understand why this has implications. I seriously doubt he intended the double entrendre that is suggested.” And I deleted the post.

    So! ALL THE MRAS: I know someone non-neurotypical, who did something creepery, and I cut him some slack because I know he is not that kind of person. I am fully capable of knowing the difference between a gentle awkward penguin and a raving asshole.

    • Darth Conans says:

      Not to tell you how to live your life, but if you’re willing to put the time in and you really do want to help, a brief (private) explanation to him about why you deleted his post, what it could have meant, and how it has affected your friendship with him would probably be appreciated. Not knowing what exactly we did wrong and being plagued by constant doubts about it is one of the worst things about being on the spectrum.

    • but he was terrible at understanding cues, catching sarcasm and entendre, and when he did, he completely lacked any script to reply to them (this is a HUGE PART I think people ignore about NT people–even if they pick up the cue, they may have no idea what they’re supposed to do next. “This person is bored, do I… keep talking? Ask them to talk? Ask why they’re bored? Walk away?”)

      OH GOODNESS THIS. It’s scary not knowing how to respond sometimes, because all I want to do is whatever will make the other person feel happy or at least better, but aside from past trial & error I often don’t know what to say or do. Even when I’m reasonably sure someone needs a cue, or a particular form of acknowledgement, or is being sarcastic, I simply can’t be sure what the correct response is unless I double-check that my understanding of the situation is correct.

  18. Marni says:

    Really. Let me tell you something: None of the guys who harassed or assaulted me were non-NT. None.

    Thanks, Sheelzebub. I’ll second every word of that. In my generation, ASD (and other relevant disorders) were not diagnosed, and I grew up in a relatively ‘safe’ place some decades ago. That is, I grew up being insanely polite to drunken misogynists on the street who wanted to slobber all over me and pinch me, until I was of course too rude all of a sudden, and so on. All very confusing. Never occurred to me at the time that I was facing such atypical difficulties, because the whole society was so deeply misogynist (all women were idiots who belonged in the kitchen) that everyone just kept telling me that women had to be ‘nice’ no matter what.

    But looking back on it, yes, I’m pretty sure that the most entitled ones were NT through and through. That degree of entitlement usually only comes with social success. Now I certainly have met some misogynist ASD men, but their hatred manifests itself more in the world of ideas than on the street.

    I consider myself very lucky not to be young today, even though many ‘mild’ kinds of harassment have since become illegal, and are less prevalent.

  19. Insularform says:

    Thank you so much for this post, it is like reading a superior articulation of my thoughts from a recent argument.

  20. mh says:

    OK, so let me ask this – considering all the givens of having legitimately heightened personal boundaries – how would you feel about a blind person reaching out for, say their coat, and accidentally groping you instead?

    I think there are a lot of blanket statements being made here, and while I do agree there are many creepy men who hide behind this label to excuse misogyny, and I’m certain that there are real situations that are frightening for the women who post here for very real reasons, I don’t think it is fair to say that it is the case every time.

    • GallingGalla says:

      I think I can tell the difference, ffs. Not to mention that the blind man would be brushing against me, not groping me. Plus, this is a red herring. We’re not talking about blind men. We’re talking about men crying “ASD!!!” whenever they are challenged on their intrusive behavior.

    • Darth Conans says:

      In my experience, blind people are pretty good at figuring out where people around them are, so they don’t grope people on accident very often.
      It’s like this: If a blind person does that once, that’s unfortunate, maybe excuse them (depending how they responded once they realized what was happening), everyone’s embarassed, and everyone works to make sure it doesn’t happen again (in this case, unlike in cases of creepy men, the gropee is genuinely partly responsible, since they were apparently standing between a blind person and their coat, which is an odd thing to do).
      If the blind person keeps accidentally groping people over and over, and doesn’t take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen, that’s a problem. And if a bunch of men who enjoy groping women start arguing that “Hey, you can’t object to being groped. Maybe the guy who’s touching you is blind,” that’s fucked up.

      • KittySnide says:

        since they were apparently standing between a blind person and their coat, which is an odd thing to do

        seriously, this! in what situation is someone just standing around a closet or a coat tree while a person who can’t see is trying to get their coat?
        also, my experience with blind people is limited, but the blind people I’ve met haven’t ever really done the “feel EVERYTHING around them until they happen upon what they’re looking for” thing, that’s kind of a cruel stereotype. In familiar environments blind people are capable of knowing and interpreting a space and knowing where things are, just like sighted people. and in unfamiliar spaces hopefully have a kind guide with them, or at least not a jerk who stands in front of them to screw with them.

    • KittySnide says:

      Well, the blind person in question, assuming they are a polite/kind sort, would follow up the accidental “grope” with an apology and you, being a polite/kind sort would probably help them find their coat.
      Maybe I’ve only interacted with a small subset of blind people or maybe you’re not a very nice person, because I’m drawing a blank on what situation you’d be in where a blind person was trying to feel for their coat and you were standing there just watching them instead of offering to assist.

    • OK, so let me ask this – considering all the givens of men randomly turning up on feminist websites to “just ask questions” and propose random scenarios that have fuck-all to do with the topic discussed – how would you feel if Marxism spinach on the moon?

    • EG says:

      You know what? A blind man once put his hands all over me while I was supposed to be helping guide him somewhere. He was extremely handsy. He carried on being handsy even after we sat down. It was really fucking creepy. I avoid him to this day. When I told this story to my stepfather, he said that he used to be friends with a musician who was blind who deliberately used that as an excuse to put his hands all over women.

      So, nope, I’m not inclined to give the benefit of the doubt there, either. Whether or not the dude in my experience was doing it by accident, it was creepy and awful and deeply unpleasant, and my first priority in these kinds of situations is to take care of myself.

      • That’s horrible, EG – it’s also a good illustration of the difference between “blind person bumps/brushes accidentally, apologises and doesn’t repeat” and “creep, whether blind or not, gropes”. Mh’s question seems to imply they are identical.

      • EG says:

        Right? I talked to a mutual male friend later, and surprise, surprise, he said the dude never did that to him, that the touch should have only been very light, and on one place on my arm.

      • Yuck. Definitely an example of disability and creepiness not being mutually exclusive.

    • A non-creepy blind person would remove their hand and apologize. I should know, being one.

      There is no excuse for unwanted contact. Stop trying to find a corner case that makes unwanted interaction or contact permissible by constructing straw arguments out of PWD.

    • Oh for pity’s sake. Apart from all the points everyone else has made, there’s a hell of a difference between someone accidentally brushing you and someone groping you. The first sees an instant withdrawal of the hand because decent people aren’t trying to touch up strangers – even less so when they are themselves more vulnerable because they can’t see! The first involves deliberate and sexualised touching done to somene without consent. I dislike being touched or brushed by strangers, but I don’t mistake it for groping.

    • Sheelzebub says:

      It is pretty freaking abelist to assume that blind people don’t know how to maneuver a space and that if they accidentally touch you, they’re going to grope you. And FFS, most people get an accidental bump and someone trying to grope them. As someone said upthread, the idea of a blind person groping everything in sight is a cruel stereotype. I have relatives who are legally blind, and they manage to reach for things without grabbing someone’s tit. Weird, I know.

  21. A4 says:

    Super excellent and most highly appreciated. This is the best space. You people are so cool.

  22. Dominique says:

    I really appreciate this post. It encapsulates so many things I’ve been thinking and feeling. Thank you.

  23. Wordwizard says:

    “Can you maybe, just maybe, acknowledge that this is not a world where the safety of women and girls is not taken seriously in the best of circumstances,”

    You included one too many “not”s for what you meant.

  24. Some troll on Man Boobz just came out with the claim that autistic women should side with autistic men against … I’m not sure who, but following his claims to have more in common with men from totally different cultures (presumably because PENIS) than with any woman, it seems to boil down to “I am a creepy white dude who’ll use autism as an excuse and y’all are totally oppressing me!”

    • EG says:

      If he has more in common with men of other cultures than with any women, and is generalizing that experience, how would it make sense for non-NT women to side with non-NT men, who aren’t even the ones doing the harrassing, for the most part?

      Jeez. My mind hurts trying to follow the non-logic.

      • Turns out he was a banned troll trying a comeback under another name. Real creep who had this “autistic people are oppressed” schitck going last time, apparently (it was before my time) and just got his arse booted again for making some really grotesque claims about how “autistics are the new blacks”. Real brain bleach stuff.

      • Lolagirl says:

        Real creep who had this “autistic people are oppressed” schitck going last time

        Not to be pedantic, and obviously I don’t know the back story here, but ableism and prejudice against those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (including Aspergers) is still alive and well here in the U.S. The issue at hand in this post is the way that jerky men try to get away with jerky behavior by claiming Autism/Aspyness. I’m oppressed or on the receiving end of ableism because ASD does not equal I can be a jerk because ASD.

      • Lolagirl – nobody was arguing against the fact that non-NT people have far too much shit (institutional and social) to deal with; I’d hate to have it thought we were. No, the thing with this creep (who was bad enough with rape apologism and other things to get banned from Man Boobz, which takes some doing) was that he was saying outright that “autistics are the new blacks” and appropriating that whole history of slavery and lynching and Jim Crow and all the rest of it as if the identical things are happening to non-NT people now.

        This bloke is definitely of the “creep regardless of whether he’s NT or not” variety.

  25. gratuitous_violet says:

    You know, the more I think about this situation the angrier I get. I’ve grown up with a wonderful friend with mild Asperger’s (sarcasm and intonation are ok for him but anything else goes by him). In our young adulthood, he has been sexually assaulted twice due to others taking advantage of his lack of guile and his problem with reading hostility cues. I wonder if any of the assholes referred to in the article give a fuck about the increased chances of victimization a place on the spectrum can contribute to. Somehow I’m sure they’d find a way to blame him for his assaults anyway.

  26. Rozy says:

    I have NLD too!

  27. Bonn says:

    A few years ago something weird happened to me when I was walking home. I was crossing the street when I realized that someone kept bumping into me. There were a lot of people at the crosswalk, so I thought it was just the result of the crowd, but as the crowd dissipated there was still someone walking right up next to me and bumping into me.

    Of course I was scared. I glanced over and there was a guy, probably 18-25 or so, and who appeared to have Down’s (I can’t diagnose on sight, but he had the typical kind of facial features you see in Down’s). I tried walking faster (so did he), tried hiding in a store for several minutes (he waited for me) and tried crossing the street. He followed.

    I didn’t know what to do since I was overseas and my vocabulary set didn’t include the words I needed to express what was going on when I was in the shop. And it was another few blocks til the police station. And after three blocks this guy was still following me and we were the only ones on the street. So I pulled out my phone and tried to call a friend just to let SOMEONE know what was going on.

    After dialing it was a few more seconds before I became aware that this guy wasn’t in my peripheral vision anymore. I turned around and … the guy was gone. Just vanished. And all I could think was that he saw the phone and thought I would call the cops. Because that’s a pretty big coincidence.

    So I think about that, about a guy who obviously has some kind of issue and if HE could suddenly vanish into thin air when he saw my phone … these “maybe he’s autistic” guys have no excuse. None at all.

    (I was told it was my fault for being pretty. What the hell kind of victim blaming bs is that?)

  28. Kaz says:

    Oh my god thank you thank you thank you I swear I have come across the “what about the autistic menz?!” concern-trolling at least four times in the last two weeks and have left at least two long comments trying to explain why it’s so horribly wrong. I do not appreciate NT people appropriating my disability for these shenanigans!

    I have stories involving me being autistic and men wanting things from me where I look back and go “thank fuck I managed to get out of that one okay because that could have gone so so badly wrong”. The time a guy started touching my hair and calling me beautiful on a train, and so many of my cognitive resources were devoted to trying to figure out what the hell was happening and faking NT that I couldn’t consciously realise I didn’t like this and wanted him to stop until after he’d gotten off. (Thank god his stop wasn’t mine.) The time someone harrassed me in the street when I was already stressed out and the added panic made my auditory processing fritz out to the point where I could no longer understand spoken language. (Thank god he left after I kept repeating “I can’t understand you”. Thank god it came back pretty quickly, and nothing more happened before it did.) The time I really truly absolutely did not realise inviting a guy I’d been noticeably crushing on to my bedroom at midnight would be seen as an invitation for other stuff than just hanging out. (…actually, I didn’t get out of that one okay. But it could have been so much worse.)

    I find it indescribably horrific that the way autism is brought into sexual harrassment conversations is as a rhetorical tool for apologists and not as part of a dialogue about things victims may be dealing with. When I am in public, when I am in an unfamiliar place, I am achingly aware of how vulnerable I am, how being autistic leaves me defenseless to certain behaviours and compounds the effects of others. The rate of rape and sexual assault among disabled women is frighteningly high. And yet this is never the issue! It’s always “but what if the harrasser is autistic? we can’t judge him too harshly! stop complaining!” over and over and fucking over again and I can’t stand it, I really can’t.

  29. Meowser says:

    Spot on. I’ve never ever ever in the history of ever seen autistic women (of which I’m one) being let off the hook for asshole behavior towards men (or for that matter, any other living being) because of their neurotype. Heck, autistic women don’t even actually have to be assholes for people to accuse us of it. All we have to do is fail to decode other people’s unspoken desires without having to be told what they are, which men are almost never expected to do.

    • Darth Conans says:

      I’m very sorry you’ve been given such a difficult lot in life, and if I could think of a practical way of helping others in your situation, I would do it. Obviously, basic human decency demands this response.
      That said, I’m sort of torn on how to process this. On the one hand, I believe very strongly that letting high functioning autistic men (low functioning autistics have so many difficulties that holding them to anything like a “normal” standard of behavior is cruel and monstrously unfair) get away with “creepy” behavior is a mistake, since it creates more creeps and also stunts them and limits them in unnecessary ways (how many unreconstructed high-functioing autistic men are ever going to find a girlfriend or boyfriend, make friends who do anything but laugh at them, etc.). They should be held to the same standard as everyone else (i.e. “If you want to interact with people, it’s on you to make reasonable efforts to ensure you don’t make them uncomfortable”). I’ve built my life and my interpersonal strategy on the idea that it’s up to me to conform to societal norms and stop my behavior from making people uncomfortable, not up to societal norms to conform to me and people to make themselves ok with any autistic urge I care to act out. It seems that fairness dictates that I ought to hold a high-functioning autistic woman to the same standard. On the other hand, a man on the spectrum is given so many slots that he can fit himself into without incredible amounts of difficulty (the lovable nerd, the asexual geek, the sensitive but awkward guy, the slobby genius, etc.) and there don’t seem to be any for women (aside from the Amy Farrah Fowler, which is new and untested and involves solitude, or the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, which is so other-focused that asking anyone to adopt it is like asking them to kill their own personality). In fact, most of the ways a woman can act without attracting negative attention are based around empathizing with and helping a man, both of which are problematic for someone on the spectrum.
      Obviously, you’re not primarily concerned (if the issue has even crossed your mind) with “How does the way society mistreats me influence an autistic man’s behavioral code?” and I apologize if my bringing it up offends you in any way. I am genuinely interested in how you think this paradox ought to be resolved. Which would be better, holding everyone to the same “act as you’re expected to act, don’t freak people out” standard, or adopting different standards for men and women?

      • ch says:

        Um, what? Nobody asked for advice (most of us autistic women have had to learn how to deal), and there is definitely not anyone here advocating that autistic women be treated with more leniency than autistic men.

        Also, this:

        how many unreconstructed high-functioing autistic men are ever going to find a girlfriend or boyfriend, make friends who do anything but laugh at them, etc.

        None of these things are on the same level as not being creepy/not encroaching on other people’s boundaries. Having a romantic partner is something that nobody is entitled to, and having asshole friends is the fault of assholes, not autistic people. Also, I’ve never heard the term “reconstructed” used in this context– could you explain what it means/where it comes from? I must admit, it sounds pretty creepy and sinister to me…

      • Darth Conans says:

        Difficult to parse the subtext here. All of the stuff about how hard autistic women have it (which obviously they do) seemed to be an argument for a different standard. Calls for “autistic men must suck it up and learn to interact with people properly” were generally well received, but there weren’t any symetric calls for autistic women to figure out how to behave “normally” (which is fine, since blog comments aren’t about symetry or achieving a balance that accurately represents a group’s views. They’re about giving free expression to anyone who happens on the blog and feels like commenting). Further, all the talk about how difficult it is to be an autistic woman and how much slack autistic men get SEEMED TO ME (heavy emphasis, double underline, lots and lots of talk about how easy it is for one person to be wrong) to suggest a desire for a more achievable standard for autistic women (which, again, I’m quite sympathetic to, aside from the potential for charges of paternalistic sexism if anyone ever takes the time to thoroughly analyze my worldview, which no one probably ever will).
        As far as the “unreconstructed” thing goes, the dictionary definition is as follows: Not reconciled to social, political, or economic change; maintaining outdated attitudes, beliefs, and practices. I mean it in the following way: if I (or anyone else on the spectrum, I suppose, but I’m going to use myself as an example, because I know me best) ignore all the socialization, training, etc. I’ve put time into mastering and just act on “what feels right” or “what comes naturally.” I’m going to come across as creepy and wrong on just about every conceivable level. My body language will be off, I’ll start expounding at great and tiresome length about topics that are at best trivial (Mass Effect) and at worst actively frightening (my theories of transcendance and free will). If I behave in that manner, obviously I’m not going to be able to have a relationship with a woman (who wants to date Mr. Spock’s creepy cousin) and, unless I get exceptionally lucky and find another person on the spectrum whose interests intersect with my own, the only people who are likely to want to hang out with me are mostly going to be in it for the chance to laugh at me behind me back. Neither of these responses is wrong or unnatural, obviously (act like a freak and people will treat you like a freak). Obviously, no one is entitled to a romantic partner, but acting on the worst impulses you get with autism preclude you from ever attracting one, regardless of your other qualities (normalizing yourself is a necessary, but not sufficient step if you ever want a normal relationship.) I’m curious what seemed sinister about it? Any feedback to help me improve my phrasing and presentation is quite appreciated.

      • ch says:

        I can see there being an apparent double standard here, but the thing is, autistic women are ALREADY forced to suck it up and interact with people more to a greater extent than autistic men are– sometimes by virtue of plain old sexism, sometimes because our weirdness is not recognized as autism (since that’s seen as a “male condition”) until we ourselves figure it out as adults. Autistic men can get these pressures, but the pressures are different depending on gender. So we are trying to rectify the double standard, not create a new one.

        As for the “reconstructed” thing, what I found sinister was that to reconstruct something you first have to deconstruct it. I think I get a bit more of what you meant now.

      • Darth Conans says:

        Ch, of course the underdiagnosis of autism in women, together with the assumption that women are supposed to be empathetic and kind to men (without regard to the quality of the man involved) is incredibly problematic. The option I was proposing (in imperfect phrasing and badly thought-out grammar, with lots of unnecessary linguistic frippery) was that, in a perfect world, women on the spectrum ought to be granted far more leeway for “eccentric” and “anti-social” behavior than men on the spectrum are, because we’ve got roles that are easier to slot ourselves into, and therefore less of a steep learning curve (how on earth I managed to type like, 3 paragraphs and not get that out is both a mystery and a disgrace). The current standard of “act normal (or at least a normal kind of weird) or else people will think you’re wrong” is both helpful to and necessary for men on the spectrum (makes us learn to act normal, show us why it’s necessary, gives us guidance on how not to make people uncomfortable), but it’s also terribly unhelpful to women (how can a woman on the spectrum be expected to “act normal” when every way of being normal is dependent on an ability she definitionally lacks?) The more I think about it, the more I think a double-standard (with women on the spectrum being granted far more slack about not conforming to appointed roles) is almost mandated, since the tasks society sets the two genders are so different and interact with the disorder in such different ways. Obviously, a better solution would be to redefine gender roles so that less expectations are placed on either sex, but that’s so far away that saying “let’s not enact a double standard now because maybe, in several decades time, it won’t be necessary” seems positively Pollyannaish.
        As far as the “reconstruction implies deconstruction” point goes, that’s obviously entirely valid, and I hadn’t thought of it. I still think it’s a good phrase (so much of social training involves learning to not listen to your instincts) but I think I’ll instead start using variants on “socialized.” Less weird, cultish overtones with that.

      • Darth Conans says:

        Also, obviously, I would never presume to give anyone else advice (aside from maybe a nerdy autistic male teenager, or maybe someone who wanted to know what movie to watch). I’ve barely got my own life together. I’m very sorry if anything in my post seemed to be offering unsolicited advice. It was entirely meant as a question (poorly and possibly insultingly phrased) about whether autistic women would prefer to be granted more slack about their social interactions or held to the same standard I hold myself to (with most of the rest of the post being an explanation of that standard, and an obvious cognitive blind spot about why the hell any woman would care about what standard one insular autistic judged her behavior by). If anything in it appeared to be offering advice, that was terrible phrasing and word choice on my part, and I apologize profusely. I possess many character flaws, but I hope to god the misogyny and arrogance required to tell a woman how to run her life are not among them.

      • Meowser says:

        It may be true that people will need to be more explicit about spelling out what they want from us (autistics) than they are used to doing with most people, in a format we will understand (which will differ from one autistic person to another), if they want us to really get it. “You’re supposed to know that, everybody knows that” is not a phrase I will have much truck with, generally.

        However, if you (general you, not you specifically) HAVE been told, over and over again, straight out, in multiple formats, by multiple different people, that your behavior is harmful to others, and you don’t make it a priority to try to change that, nobody should be forced to suck it up and deal with you continuing to wipe your ass on them. Everyone needs to be held accountable for how they treat other people.

        But that’s just it; autistic women are held accountable, even when we haven’t been told what the problem is; we’re supposed to guess, and guess correctly, always. Nobody but nobody defends us when we fuck up, even innocuously. It would be nice to have the scales balanced out a little better, so that everyone gets accommodated for being who they are, but no one gets a pass for abuse.

      • Darth Conans says:

        Doubt it matters, but I vow to adopt the following standard:
        When a mature human male (that is, out of high school, has had a chance to put his shit together) screws up and makes a woman uncomfortable (women chosen in this case because they, in my experience, have a lower threshold), I will pounce on him mercilessly, and refuse to accept any excuse for his behavior below the “he clearly has a severe developmental disorder, and doesn’t understand what he is doing” level (and if creepy men start trying to argue that “don’t call him creepy, because he might be literally retarded” I will reexamine this standard). If a woman behaves in a way that makes me or someone else uncomfortable, I will extend her the benefit of the doubt, sound out if she is on the spectrum, and if she is, offer my support and guidance (in a way where she is completely free to tell me to fuck off, and I will totally listen). It isn’t “right” by feminist standards, but goddamnit, if everyone else is mistreating someone, you owe it to them to offer them help, if they want it.

    • littlem says:

      Not only fail to decode them, but also fail to accommodate them.

  30. Kate says:

    I was actually just reading a post on another site where a woman had mentioned unwanted comments and physical contact from a man on the bus. A few comments used that exact excuse – ‘he might have been on the spectrum!’. Even if someone does have autism, it doesn’t minimise the woman’s feelings of harassment under these circumstances.

    I’ve been harassed on public transport a number of times, from unwanted creepy comments to physical contact (some guy once felt up my thigh and trapped me in the seat when I tried to move). I’ve had friends try to downplay it by going ‘they might have had a mental illness!’. I have a mental illness too, one which makes it very difficult for me to even use public transport much less interact with others, so I’m not really buying that argument.

  31. Saul says:

    A quick story: Early in College, I asked someone if they’d like to study language homework with me, she said yes, and we did so. In study sessions, I found her to be increasingly guarded and distant in communication. I had no reason to think I’d had anything to do with it. Eventually, I suggested we stop studying together, that it would be easier to practice separately.

    Flash forward two years, and a new (cis-male) suite-mate sat down to dinner and said “Oh, Christie sends her apologies.” “Who? Oh! For what?” “Well, she’d assumed you were a stalker and told her friends, but she figured after nothing happened in a year, she must have been wrong.”

    What an odd moment for me.
    As a hetero-cis-male, I have been pretty well trained that I am assumed to be a stalker or otherwise dangerous unless either A) I have friend references which actually get delivered somehow, or B) the female is attracted to me. If it’s B and I decline the (often un-made offer, because that’s what’s often assumed the cis-male needs to provide) then the scenario flips on its head and now I’m counceling a “what’s wrong with me? I have a heartbeat and you’re male – why don’t guys want to be physical with me?” crisis.

    All this to say that we have a circular, very much self-perpetuating problem. In places where I know I won’t be assumed to be [insert your preferred hetero-cis-male generalization here] I feel safe enough to ask for what I would like, and she (or he) feels safe enough to decline the request. Let me rephrase that.

    BECAUSE she (or he) feels safe enough to make or decline a request, I feel safe enough to ask for what I would like from/with them, or to honestly decline a request.

    And for most people, with or without spectra or other “..D’s”, that would solve the problem. Situations like speed-dating and online dating, parties with wristbands that indicate “please approach” or “please don’t ask” allow for much more stable communication which I believe may result in less stalking or perceived stalking. If she’d asked me if I wanted something from her, it would have given me a chance to say no, rather than spending a year thinking she had a stalker.

    This may not do away with stereotypes and trends, but it allows people to receive an ACTUAL yes or no, rather than requiring all the subtle cue-reading and misinterpreting that folks on or off the spectrum often misread or don’t know how to send.

    • EG says:

      If she’d asked me if I wanted something from her, it would have given me a chance to say no, rather than spending a year thinking she had a stalker.

      Because a stalker would say “Why yes, I do intend to hound you every time you set foot outside your home or turn on your phone or computer”?

      Do you even hear yourself?

  32. SunlessNick says:

    Great post, Sheelzebub.

  33. Pingback: Jezabel « The Armchair Feminist

  34. mxe354 says:

    Awesome post, Sheelzebub. Please contribute here more often!

  35. dawn says:

    “and I’m not really “out” to anyone in meatspace yet, and I’m not sure if I ever will be”

    I doubt I will ever disclose again. To anyone. Ever. Only negative experiences through doing so thus far.

    The flip-side to ‘he might be on the spectrum’? Your being on it becoming the scapegoat for Everything That Ever Happened.

  36. Anastasia Bright says:

    So, this is fascinating to me as a mom because I’m dealing with it from a slightly different perspective. My daughter (6) has a male friend (also 6) who is on the spectrum. And he’s got boundary issues.

    He loves to run up to M. (my daughter) and say “I really really like you!” and then he hugs her. For a long time. He does this too often and for too long. He’s been known to be just so excited about M that he runs up and hugs ME, too.

    Clearly, kid needs to work on his sense of boundaries. His mom is good at trying to help, but he’s not with her all the time. Add in the fact that he’s six and six year olds are just not socially OK sometimes cause…. six! and this is a complicated thing.

    Then I have to add to THAT the fact that my daughter is the epitome of social beauty — tall, slim, long blonde hair, blue eyes, etc. etc. And her whole life people have been consistently violating her boundaries. I have to stop total strangers from touching her hair, pulling on her braids. A waitress once came over to me in a restaurant and started to pick her up (she was an infant) and said “I just want to show how pretty she is to my friend.” Seriously.

    I am BIG LOUD PUSHY FEMINIST MOM. So I’ve been backing her up, helping her with enforcing her boundaries, telling her to enforce her boundaries. But…. the amount of shit that I get from people for doing that is astounding! I can’t imagine how a girl who has been socialized not to upset people, who is constantly being told “oh, he likes you!” and other BS they tell kids, a girl without BIG LOUD MOM, would be dealing with this.

    So she’s in a unique position of being pretty good at enforcing boundaries (for a six year old) and having experience with people on the spectrum (my father in law). And I STILL spend a lot of time wrestling with questions about this. He’s six. He’s still learning. She’s still learning. Is it her job to help him learn these things? Is it *my* job? Should I be working with his mom more closely?

    They like each other a lot — they both love reptiles and science — and so I don’t want to suspend this friendship. That said, I worry about the fact that she’s getting thrust into the role of “fixer” and “teacher” and “social arbiter/smoother for dorky kid”. And what about him? Some of the stuff he does right now is OK because he’s six. It won’t be OK in ten years. When does that line get drawn? But if she’s been friends with him for ten years and is used to this crap, will she notice when he crosses that line? Will she, in high school, be one of those people who says “Oh, that’s just how he is.”?

    I’m a mom. I think too much.

    • dawn says:

      Hi Anastasia.

      Have you tried posting these thoughts/questions on one of the autism forums online? I’m sure some of the parents on those would be able to suggest some strategies for talking to the boys mom or give advice re him/M. I’m sure you know(?) that some autistic kids need things reinforced all the time. There’s also the very literal interpretation of things e.g. ‘mum said hugging is good, I will hug everyone to show them I like them’. It’s not your or M’s responsibility to re-parent the boy though :-/

      If I did not have a clear idea what to do yet, I think I’d continue to focus on making sure M is aware that she can (and should?) enforce her boundaries whenever she feels uncomfortable with something. And reasons boundaries are important (e.g. remind M that ignoring our own boundaries in order to not hurt others feelings or because we worry they might not like us anymore etc, are generally not healthy reasons to forsake them. Likewise ditching boundaries because someone is completely oblivious or forgets?)

      I like that link in the first comment about how to tell someone they’re racist by focusing on what they did rather than what they are. (I don’t have enough information to know, nor do I wish to suggest you aren’t already doing this) I wonder whether it’s a good idea to focus on the specifics, explain to M how the boy is ignoring her boundaries? And why what he’s doing is not/might not be OK.

      Also keep suggesting ways M can keep her boundaries intact – perhaps by reinforcing existing ideas and/or coming up with new ones, M will become more comfortable asserting herself or find a way/style of doing so that suits her?

      I cringe at the fixer/teacher role you mention – it reminds me of my ex. He’s very much an “Oh, that’s just how he is” kind of person. Because basically everyone caretakes him. There are other things about him that contribute to the overall package, however the caretaking by others is a huge thing. It meant that any boundaries were considered unreasonable or invalid because “no one else was like that”. The concepts of boundaries and caretaking were unfathomable because no one else thought in those terms. I had to get out before I was gaslighted or FOGged into oblivion.

      The only time I witnessed anyone else in my ex’s life come close to suggesting something he did was questionable (it wasn’t that person’s boundary and it was still delivered ala caretaking to remove any responsibility from my ex for his actions) – was when my ex described how a very young boy at a park wandered quite a way out of view of his parents and wanted to hang out with him. The boy wouldn’t leave and wanted to play forever, go home with him. My ex noted how he encouraging the boy to play and make up stories. At no point did my ex think to take the boy back to where he had wandered off from to try to find the boys carers. Completely oblivious to the implications of the situation outside his frame of reference (then later on, too stubborn/unwilling to consider it because in his mind he is a good person – he’d do the same thing again).

  37. Sillyme says:

    So what? If he has authism or asbergers and is a threat to the public he needs to be locked up, no?

  38. You know, I’ve been thinking about this whole “on the spectrum omg!” thing, and I have an analogous situation. I have a friend. Let’s call her Leia. Leia is a sweetheart and fun and outgoing, but she also has a particular MI that causes her to occasionally have tics that are really weird and obvious. A while ago, we met up, and she opened the conversation by saying, “So X told me I did this weird thing, and I realised I totally do. I can’t seem able to stop the weird thing, but I do recognise it’s weird, and can make people uncomfortable or upset, so if you see me doing the weird thing, please know that it’s not for lack of trying to fix it.” And Valoniel and I went, with perfect sincerity, “Okay! No worries, dude, you know we love ya.”

    And sure, she had a bit of weird during that visit, but you know, it was a bit of weird that we a) knew wasn’t about us, b) knew she wasn’t under the impression it was okay to be, c) were aware that she was trying to fix, and d) were aware she couldn’t help and was sorry about. So it turned out it wasn’t actually even that weird at all, just a silly little thing we mutually ignored, and we had a lovely visit.

    That, people, is what a genuinely non-creepy non-NT person with good intent does when they have creepy behaviours pointed out to them. That, right there.

    And it is nothing, NOTHING, like what these asshole “what about the non-NTs” harassers are talking about.

    • Darth Conans says:

      Frankly, if I could get everyone to adhere to the “if I do something wrong, point it out” standard you talk about here, I’d be in heaven (if someone wants to point out that I’m a bit self-centered and dickish for making a lovely post about me, guilty as charged). The thing that causes most of my social anxiety at this point is the worry that I’m making people uncomfortable or anxious or bored and not knowing it. I understand why the taboo against telling someone they’re boring or annoying you exists (rude, if the creepy guy you call creepy is an enormous creep, it’ll lead to trouble, etc.), but I really wish people would listen when I told them “If I’m being creepy/boring you/rambling, please point it out.” I don’t think people listen to this, because I’ve never had creepiness/boringness/ramblingness pointed out to me, and I’m not that good. I wish people would listen, though. It would let me know when I’m doing something wrong in a way I have difficulty with otherwise.
      And again, I have absolutely nothing but contempt for people who have the ability to read body language, ignore it to try to get with a woman, then hide behind autism as an excuse when they get called out. They have so much that I don’t and can do so much that I cannot, but choose to waste it on idiocy and selfishness. It’s sickening and maddening.

  39. Catie says:

    Oh my god I can’t believe that I found this. I have NLD and PTSD too. I’m so glad you posted this. The last two paragraphs had me in tears. I wish that there was some way to talk to you. I’ve encountered major abelism in therapy because no one can comprehend that my having NLD means I need some information processing things and some communication things to be different. I really thought that no one else like me existed. Thank you for writing this. I’ve been feeling so invisible lately. I can’t even express what it means to have read this, and thought these same thoughts. Just overwhelmingly thank you!

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