Sexuality Among Autistic Adults

Published research on the sexuality of persons on the autism spectrum is limited and typically based on caregiver perspectives, and studies that have collected data from autistic individuals are usually quantitative. The December 2015 issue of Perspectives, however, included a qualitative examination of sexual experiences and exposure to sex education among autistic adults. In this analysis, the authors reported that individuals’ most common concerns were courtship and communication difficulties, sensory issues, and inadequate and inappropriate sex education experiences. Study participants, the majority of whom were gender-nonconforming and in a romantic relationship, had received little or no parental or school-based sex education and virtually no information on nonheterosexual behaviors or identities.

The authors believe that persons on the autism spectrum would benefit from sex education that normalizes differences in sexual identity and experience, is offered throughout young adulthood, and addresses disability-relevant sensory and communication needs. This study demonstrates the need for additional research on the sexual and sex education experiences of autistic individuals, particularly from their own perspectives.

Cover illustrations of Margaret Sanger © Matthew and Eve Levine