Now, this might just be a Me Thing™, but I find that autistic people are disproportionately easy to find in kink settings.
Conservative estimates suggest that 1 in 100 people in the UK are autistic. Even if there were 100 people at every munch, social or class I’ve ever been to, and even if I was, miraculously, extroverted enough to talk to every single one of them, statistically speaking I should’ve been the only autistic person in the room. I have found, however, that this is rarely the case.
If you, like me, are wondering why autistic people seem over-represented in kink settings, read on; I have some theories.
1. A lot of kinks involve sensory-seeking behaviours.
Obviously I can’t speak for every single autistic kinkster out there, but one of the things I enjoy the most about practising kink is the sensory component of it. The way that rope smells, the rhythm of a beating, the secure hug of being strapped to something – all of these things are sensory experiences. And in kink, we’re not just pursuing sensory experiences covertly, like when I’m in a busy shopping centre and I discretely tap my fingertips against my thumbs to attempt to self-regulate. In kink, we’re supposed to wholly lean into the sensory experiences we’re creating.
Additionally, dungeons and the like are more or less designed to make it so that you can focus entirely on the sensory experience at hand. They often have some areas for louder play and some quieter ones, and there won’t be any overwhelming distractions like a TV playing or people bumping into you. A well-designed dungeon is a safe sensory haven for the autistic kinkster.
2. Everyone in kink communicates more explicitly.
In vanilla life, communication with others can sometimes feel like an uphill battle. People use sarcasm and euphemism, they hedge their statements, and sometimes they say things they straight up don’t mean. (I still struggle to understand that the question, “How are you?” is not a request for information about how I actually am, but rather a relationship-building pleasantry that requires me to say something banal that’s easy to respond to.)
In kink, however, people are somewhat more forthcoming. Plenty of kinksters have Yes/No/Maybe lists that make their preferences clear, and there’s generally a heightened degree of openness in settings where anal fisting and inverted suspensions are being discussed. A culture of consent means that people feel more comfortable saying what they actually mean.
(However, I do feel the need to point out to some of my fellow autistic kinksters that people in kink settings aren’t always 100% forthcoming. Sometimes, when people feel uncomfortable saying, “No, thank you” to a proposition – because you are or are read as a man, because they’ve been harassed before, or simply because they want to be polite and avoid hurting your feelings – they will often use a ‘soft no’ instead. A soft no is something like, “Maybe another time,” or, “I’m not really sure.” It can be tempting to follow that up by asking when they would like to play with you or otherwise pressing them about it, but generally, a soft no won’t turn into a firm yes. It’s always better to say, “Okay, thank you anyway!” and then, if they actually are interested in playing with you “another time”, they can come and seek you out.)
3. Kink is outside of the mainstream, so autistic people feel right at home.
Plenty of people in kink settings have experience of being belittled, mocked or shunned for things they do in their personal lives – and even when they don’t, they’re aware that it’s a possibility. So it follows that plenty of people in kink are empathetic to people who, for reasons relating to neurodivergence, have also never felt too comfortable in mainstream society.
This is not to say that neurotypical kinksters face discrimination and oppression on the same level as neurodiverse folks, but they certainly know more about how it feels to be rejected by mainstream culture than vanilla neurotypical people do. Moreover, there’s a pretty high correlation between people who practice BDSM and people who identify as LGBTQ+, and those people are even more likely to understand what it’s like to exist outside of societal norms and to have to fight for one’s own human rights. This helps kinky spaces to be welcoming and accommodating to neurodiverse people and helps those people feel safer and more able to be their authentic selves.
If you’re autistic and you’re not sure whether you’d be welcome in your local kink scene, I hope this post has reassured you somewhat. Not only will you have built-in conversation topics available to you, since kinksters all have at least one thing in common (kinkiness!), but you’ll probably find your local munch or dungeon to be a welcoming environment where everyone is a little (or a lot) ‘odd’ by mainstream standards. I think it’s pretty likely that you’ll fit right in.