A little while ago, somebody on Twitter asked their followers what their feelings were on eye contact during sex. As the existence of my sex blog suggests, I cannot resist oversharing on the internet, so I gave this answer:
“I’m autistic but unlike a lot of autistic peeps, eye contact doesn’t feel toooo invasive or uncomfortable for me, I just… don’t see the point in it? I struggle to focus on looking at one area at the best of times and there are so many amazing visual distractions happening […] during sex that I have to make a conscious effort to make (or fake) eye contact if it’s something my partner wants/needs. I find it distracting & sometimes overwhelming to try to rein my focus in like that so I have more mindful, enjoyable sex without eye contact involved.”
Yep, that’s right – I don’t hate eye contact, but I avoid it where I can nonetheless. This may come as a shock to some of y’all, but not all autistic people are the same. I don’t actually have any particular aversion to eye contact as such, but what I do have is an aversion to focusing on anything at all for longer than three seconds – and that includes other people’s eyes.
Stereotypically, eye contact is a feature of ‘romantic’ sex. I have a lot of sex that probably doesn’t look ‘romantic’ from the outside – y’know, the kind of sex that involves meat tenderisers, breath play, spit and slapping. I’d argue that a lack of ‘romance’ isn’t an intrinsic quality of the sex I’m having, though, because I’m still forming intense and loving connections with the other person or people involved and we’re still spending quality time together in the same thoughtful and attentive way that is supposedly intrinsic to rose-petals-and-candles, mass media-endorsed romance.
The problem with eye contact is that it detracts from romance in my experience, because it’s a big ask for a lot of neurodivergent folk (myself included) and it distracts from so many other romantic things you could be doing. Introducing blindfolds into sex, for example, obviously eliminates the possibility of eye contact completely – but it encourages the blindfold wearer(s) to pay more attention to other sensory inputs like touch and sound, making for mindful and deeply connective sex. Similarly, if I’m not making eye contact with you during sex, it’s almost certainly because I’m staring at some other part of you that I deeply enjoy – your lower lip quivering as I curl my finger inside you, or the neat crescent of teeth marks I’ve probably just left on your shoulder.
…this got real sexy, real fast.
And therein lies my point! Mass media tells us over and over that the truest romance involves staring into the squishy jelly orbs set into one another’s skulls, but there are so many other sexy things that I could be looking at! Maybe it’s an autistic thing that I don’t find eye contact connective in the way that other people seem to – or maybe the autistic thing is that I find eye contact exactly as not-connective as plenty of other people, but I’m too indifferent to social conventions to keep quiet about it and pretend that I love orb-staring.
Of course, if a partner expresses to me that eye contact is a big factor in their enjoyment of sex or their sense of connectedness, I’ll take that into account. (I only experience eye contact as weird or invasive on particularly bad anxiety days, because on those days I worry that I’m doing it wrong, and just because things set me on edge more easily on those days. As a result, I have been known to fake eye contact by looking at the bridge of someone’s nose or at one of their eyebrows – mostly in non-sex contexts, since I usually don’t do sex or kink on those anxious days anyhow.) Since it doesn’t usually feel invasive and weird to me in the way that it does for many other autistic people, if a partner requests it, I can make an effort to make eye contact during sex or scenes – but it’s always going to mean that at least 5% of my attention is diverted away from the sex or scene itself, since I have to remind myself constantly that eye contact is important in this context.
As with all things I write about doing sex and/or kink whilst autistic, the biggest takeaway from this post is that every autistic person is different. If you’re planning on playing with an autistic person, it’s worth asking them their feelings on both brief and prolonged eye contact to gauge whether or not those feelings align with yours, and what you might do about it if they don’t. And if you’re an autistic person yourself, it’s worth taking a moment to ask yourself how you feel about eye contact during sex (and outside of it!), since it can sometimes be difficult to remember that we don’t have to feel the way mass media instructs us to feel. Feel around for your boundaries, because you’re always well within your rights to have boundaries – and then, if you like, you can go and have awesome sex, with or without staring at orbs.