Friday, September 24, 2010

Hello, my lovely readers... Here's a link to my latest Stranger column, in which I smack some of my professional colleagues with Mistress Matisse's Riding Crop Of Cluefulness. But only the whiny ones. So if you don't whine, then you will not have red marks on your butt when you get done reading. Hope you enjoy it either way.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I got some responses to my letter from the kinky man with Asperger's Syndrome that were both thoughtful and helpful, so without further ado, here's what my readers had to say...
(First letter) "I'm a high-functioning Aspie top - and probably have sex work to thank for that. When reading people is your job you learn how to break it down and evaluate the signs eventually, or you don't eat! I've had clients, platonic friends, and lovers with Asperger's, also.

Possibly the best thing he could do is try to find a playmate that's also an Aspie - specifically a high-functioning one (likely to never have been diagnosed). They'll be able to read his cues somewhat while understanding his mindset, how he thinks, and the kinds of communications and instructions he'll have to receive. I do agree he shouldn't advertise in his dating profile that he has Asperger's, however it might help simply to state the facts on interacting with a new potential top: "I apologize in advance, but I don't always read subtle cues very well, especially socially. The more literal you can be the better - I want to do my best to understand and follow your wishes" goes a long way. If they're in the know, they'll be clued in, and even if they're not, they'll get it and know how to respond.

As far as actually finding this person goes, he can try geek haunts and Aspie haunts as well as kinky venues. The levels of overlap have become a cliché...

I think the advice you gave about when to disclose was great. As far as face-to-face venues, it's funny, but he might be best served to try to find an environment with some level of stated (rather than unspoken) etiquette or protocol. Casual situations are often the hardest because the rules of the game are so unclear. If at least some of the mores are stated upfront he'll feel more confident going in which will make all the difference.

In time, his weakness will also be his strength - he'll be able to use his pattern-finding, logical, literal mind to anticipate his Master's needs and wishes. He just might need more sample data to get there at first."

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(Second letter) "I have had the pleasure of having my questions answered by you, Monk, and Max the times and your question related to the BDSM/Autism overlaps my professional life a little bit, so I thought I might at least attempt to offer a coherent opinion. Professionally I work with teenagers with sexually acting out issues (read as poor limits, poor communication skills, social interpretations, etc) that have gotten them into legal issues. The large majority of the students I work with are somewhere on the autism spectrum and face challenges like your reader mentioned about social cues, non-verbal communication, etc--all things that are vitally important when discussing negotiation in BDSM, safety limits, and all the facets that go into the before-the-scenes work.

As this reader goes out in search of their experiences, I think your suggestion of a spotter/canary is ideal. Someone who isn't is knowledgeable about the local BDSM Community, but is able to help assist with communication and sometimes translate between the people in the scene could be helpful until the reader begins to pick up on cues academically rather than internalize them non-verbally as many non-spectrum/Asperger’s/autism people do. I think the reader's decision to communicate their individual circumstances is also important. I think many tops expect effective communication from the other half of the scene either verbally or non verbally. Knowing in advance that the person you have hog-tied with a tens unit attached to the good china may not respond the way you expect them to is probably vitally important.

I would also say that once the reader has made some positive connections in their community having partners that they get to know (like in any good relationship) the social anxiety will go down. There won’t be the fear that the top will go too far, or that the lack of effective communication will put someone in an unsafe situation."

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(Third letter) "I thought I'd point out one potential resource the letter writer might want to look into: FetLife.com. If he joins and does a search on groups for neurodiverse kinksters there are a number of communities that may be of use to him. I think connecting with others with Asperger’s Syndrome and other non-neurotypical kinksters will help him find valuable help that is specific to his situation instead of just the general social anxiety assistance that's out there. Finding a mentor who has dealt with similar problems could go a long way towards helping him. Once he has learned from someone else's experiences and has a few new mental tools under his belt, he'll be better equipped to start looking for partners."

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My readers rock! Thank you for the information and support. This is how a community should work, so kudos to you for taking the time to be helpful!

Monday, September 20, 2010

From The Mailbag

This is an interesting question. I can give my take on it, but I have no specialized knowledge of the issue. If any of you have an educated opinion on Asperger's/Autism and BDSM, I’d be happy to hear it.

As a man with Asperger's seeking Master/Slave and bondage scenarios (as a submissive) I have been struggling to find and negotiate safe and successful scenes and am looking for resources or advice on doing so. My usual Asperger's and Autism related resources fairly consistently advise avoiding kinky activities entirely, but since I have no interest in vanilla sex or relationships, that is advice I intend to ignore. So here I am, trying to find out the safest ways to ignore it.

(In case you are unfamiliar Asperger's is related to Autism. In my case resulting in very literal communication, difficulty with non-verbal communication and fairly pronounced social anxiety - particularly as group size increases. Apologies if this question is outside your interest or comfort zone to address.)

The social anxiety aspect of my Asperger's has meant trying to attend local workshops has been of little value, and I have exclusively been using the 'Recon' website, but have specifically run in to three recurring problems (which I suspect will sound similar to the problems of just about any shy or nervous dater, but please bear with me.)

Mentioning Asperger's directly in my profile proved to be problematic, quickly attracting contacts that quite clearly saw it as a vulnerability to exploit (being evasive or suggesting outright dangerous scenes) and leading me to conclude it is not something to disclose early.

Unfortunately, omitting this very important information about my disability and personality, but still seeking all of the scene, safety and limit information that my prior reading has insisted is important... seems to lead tops to perceive me as pushy or unreasonable or such. Or so I assume from the frequency with which previous expressions of interest transform into complete silence.

The few occasions where I have progressed to play, despite me (I think!) being very good at following instructions have always lead to dead ends - despite being told fun was had and that more scenes would be good, contacts have always progressed into silence. I am at a loss how to find out where I’m going wrong ~without~ disclosing the Asperger's and how important explicit instructions/expectations are.

So finally getting to the point I would like to ask you how, when and where you think it would be safest and most sensible to mention (and explain when necessary) my disability to potential Doms... both with such online resources as Recon and face-to-face venues if I ever gain the confidence to actually dress and step through the door.


My initial answer to this would be: what you are describing also happens to people who do not have Asperger's Syndrome. Naturally I cannot know if the people you communicated with and played with declined to pursue things with you because of that. But the fact is: statistically, most online communications of this sort do not turn into meetings. Of the meetings that do happen, most don’t turn into long-term relationships. They often don’t even turn into a second date. This is true of straight vanilla people, and it’s even truer for those of us with highly specific erotic taste.

And every online dating/hookup site is rife with unscrupulous types looking for the vulnerable people. That is why I constantly push people to make real-life friends – and by friends I mean: people you don’t have sex or play with – in their erotic community. Having kinky friends helps you distinguish nice people from bad people, and if you’re someone who has trouble reading cues, a pal who can act as the canary in the coal mine would be a very handy thing.

One question: can you talk to your doctor about meds to ease your general social anxiety? I know people who take occasion-specific medications for that, and I know people who take a daily dose of something that helps. I don't think that pharmaceuticals are the magic answer to every problem, but sometimes they are a tool worth considering.

So my overall opinion is: just keep trying. Be careful online, try to find a buddy who’ll go to events with you, and be prepared to kiss a lot of frogs. And I think you should disclose this before you play. I know that as a top, I’d be unhappy if I felt my partner had deliberately withheld an important piece of information about himself. If you think this is a crucial factor in your BDSM experience, then you need to tell people about it before the scene. Good luck to you!