The Autistic Writer: Sex

Asexuality, (defined as the persistent lack of sexual interest in or attraction to other people) exists on a spectrum, just as Autism does. Just as there is no monolithic definition that applies to everyone that is Autistic, asexuality cannot be condensed into a consistent list of characteristics.

Recent broad research suggests those with ASD are more likely than the general population to identify as sitting somewhere on the Asexuality Spectrum. I am one of these individuals. In my case, I am not void of sexual attraction or activity, but both transpire only under specific, (and hence less frequent) circumstances with specific types of people.

Furthermore, the pursuit and appreciation of sexual activity is not, and has in essence never been a top tier motivation, or even a temptation in my daily life. It never dictates my decisions.

What could any of this possibly have to do with writing fiction? Quite a bit, in fact, if you consider trends and expectations in Western Culture: sexual attraction is one of the most used, (and most expected) tropes to move dramatic tension along in a story in all of human storytelling.

I do not have a literary agent. I produce my own work for the time being. But not so long ago, agents would advise authors in most genres to add a sex scene into their narrative at least once before agreeing to represent the work. Further down the line of the traditional publishing route, if an agent failed to suggest this, the publishing company would.

A scene depicting characters in a sexual encounter was to many considered a required selling point for a fully formed novel.

This trend has faded to some degree over the years, though I couldn’t guarantee it has vanished. And I have read more than one novel wherein the sexual scene was so poorly placed, and unconnected to the rest of the story I felt certain it was the result of this commandment.

“Spoiler” alert: as of this writing, none of my novels contain a sex scene. They touch on romance, friendship, the afterlife, violence, murder, the supernatural and I hope the inspirational. But nobody has sex within the pages. (Though intimate relationships are at times implied.)

This is not a puritanical stance on my part. Sex isn’t dirty, or evil. It’s just that in my fiction, as in my life, I don’t base much around it. None of the stories I have told so far in my career have required a description of any two characters having sex. Sex isn’t a plot point, and it doesn’t reveal character in my novels, so it is absent.

I particularly have no interest in seeking to describe intercourse in literary terms.

If my characters have had sex, or will, you won’t find me describing it to you, because I don’t write things I don’t want to read. And I don’t want to read such scenes.

“There isn’t a purpose in having a man and a woman and the center of a story, without sexual chemistry,” an acquaintance of mine once told me. It was a singular disappointing and cynical take.

Furthermore, I find many people with Autism, in their own way, want to get to the point of whatever it is they are doing. Some may take the long way round, but they are getting somewhere. I have said before how much we on the Spectrum tend to hate small talk because it gets us nowhere. Disturbing our routine of process at work prevents us from attaining the goal. If nothing else, the depiction of sex, which has never held a commanding presence in my life, would also become a mere distraction that diverted from the point of my stories.

There is also an Aromantic Spectrum, wherein one doesn’t desire emotional partnership, or love. I don’t consider myself on that spectrum at all, and hence you will find some elements of love and romance in my novels, if it relates to defining the character’s arc. Even then, because I am not a romance author, I don’t throw around such relationships amongst characters willy nilly.

You’ve missed the point of this post if you think I want to rid all fiction of sex. Read this again, if that is what you came out of it believing. I won’t even promise sex will never appear in my own fiction in the future, though it really is unlikely. If, however, I am doing my job as an author and storyteller, the reader will identify with the personalities and struggles of my characters as they navigate a worthwhile journey without mentioning sex at all.

1 Comment

  1. CK1

    Love this! The more I can gain from inference given by the author, the more talented the author is.

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