Can We Have an Honest Conversation about Dating While Autistic?

I tried to post this in r/autism but somehow the mods would not ready for me to drop the heat in dating while autistic. There has been some drama around involuntary celibate rhetoric and while I abhor the incel crowd the lived experiences of men are valuable. Thank goodness I had the foresight to create The Cameron Journal and make a popular platform where my views can be heard and read all over the world. Let’s dig into dating while autistic.

I think it would be good to have a frank discussion about dating. Now, let me begin by saying that I don’t like incels as much as anyone else. Their rhetoric is truly deranged. No one owes anybody anything but especially not sex. I’ve interviewed Paul Elam from A Voice for Men, and I’ve profiled the MRA community widely. I’ve been out there on this and have found both real and valid complaints and insanity. It is a very odd subculture that is pulling in more and more men who just can’t seem to land a relationship of any kind.

I think it would be good to have a frank discussion on dating while autistic. As a cis-man, I have one perspective. I’m also bisexual. I’m not terribly attractive, but I’ve also had four long-term girlfriends, and I had a reputation of being a manwhore in college and when I worked in nightlife after college. I’ve had my fun both in relationships and casual hookups. I’ve also seen how the dating scene had changed between 2006 and the present day (34 here, so I started when I was 18). As of now, I’m 2 yrs out from my last relationship and a year out from a stalking situation resulting from that relationship (long story). I’ve been diagnosed with ASD/ADHD for 18 months. I’m still learning much about my brain and adjusting my life. I see the situation about dating in general, but especially while autistic as incredibly difficult for a few reasons.

This is especially true if you are as a cis-male/man today than it has been in the past. This is far worse for autistic men, who often lack social skills and maybe ruin their chances without even knowing it. It is a minefield out there. Not only are autistic men going to struggle. However, when autistic men complain, it appears that no one wants to listen to their complaints about the dating scene. This is intrinsically unfair.

I know several married autistic men and a few with children. I know autistic men who are actively dating or in relationships. Prominently voices in the community like Rory (on Twitter) or Paul (Autism on the Inside youtube) are both married. So it’s not all desperation out there. There can be dating success for autistic men (and women too!) but it is going to take a special effort and some folks might genuinely end up alone and simply left out of the conversation. All are due support on this stuff.

Tinder and OkCupid have both done studies on who is getting matches and who isn’t on their dating networks, and the data is clear: it helps to be white, attractive, and preferably thin. Also, a minority of men tend to attract the majority of women while women are barraged with messages of the most despicable nature by desperate men.

Now, apps aren’t all bad. I met my ex-girlfriend on Tinder when I moved to the Washington D.C. area. I met her the first week I was there, we had sex on the first date (which she came back for after running errands because I have game like that), and we started dating a month later and moved in together two months later. I’m a big black guy with an ok face. I’m a working artist, so I’m not rich. She was white, so the relationship was unusual, given the data out of the biggest dating apps. It’s not impossible to overcome the odds (I did), but that will not be the experience of many guys or most guys.

Men generally are starved for touch and starved for intimacy outside of sex. Part of this patriarchy and part of this is societal expectations of men. This multiplied for autistic folks and especially men. One of my friends described autism as a life of “radical loneliness.” This has caused many men to become desperate for anything.

In my Dad’s day, there was a script for men to follow. If they had a good job and could be a good provider and had their life together, then a relationship was perfectly achievable. My Dad is/was basically an anti-social hermit who only went to work and came home to run his BBS board (it was the 90s) and managed to meet my Mom, who had inconveniently forgotten her password. Two years later, they got married when I was 5. My Dad is not terribly good-looking, but he had a good job and a stable life.

Today in 2022, my Dad would still be in his apartment being a hermit. Today, having your life together and a decent job isn’t enough to get much attention from women. I’m not judging women or how they select who they date. I don’t care about that. I’m just saying that from the male perspective, the standards have changed, and it seems like the good-looking, wealthy guys are cleaning up while everyone else renews their adult membership website of choice. This domination by 20% of men is well supported by what data we do have from the dating apps (see above).

In my view, this is the state of play. We can say it is good or bad, but it is the state of play. I think it is helpful to acknowledge the uncomfortable realities of how the world has changed. I know that I have struggled with dating myself. After my last breakup (which was bad), I naturally presumed that I would probably not date again. At 34, I figured that my time for sex and dating has passed, and she was my last train out of town. I’ve never dated a guy (would like to, but that is rare over in the gay world), although there is a certain subset of men that find me incredibly attractive. I get nice messages but no dates.

I’ve felt emotions of anger and disappointment when single friends pick someone else at times. I’ve had women in my life tell me, “I don’t really see you as a man.” That’s tough to hear. It is easy to flip open your phone and look for anyone offering a way to fix that. If advertising algorithms figure out your gender, your ads on social media will be awash with supplements, courses, and influencers hawking various ways to level up your life so you can get laid. The Manosphere has more grift than Spiro Agnew. I see myself in many incels. I don’t harbor their hatred of women. My two best friends are women (both for more than ten years), and I’ve enjoyed their company and been there in the tough times. My one friend’s kid literally thinks I’m his blood uncle (I’m not), but it’s very cute because he’s nine.

In conclusion, the situation is complicated. Let’s not entirely cast out reasonable discussions of dating that are respectful of all parties involved but also acknowledge that it is tough for everyone, especially men. Some compassion and empathy are called for in this situation.

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