How Can I Help Autistic People?

title of post, "How Can I Help Autistic People?"

If you’ve clicked on this blog post on purpose, congratulations! You have already taken the first and most important two steps to help autistic people: 1. Give a shit, 2. Listen to autistic people about their own experiences. You would be surprised how many people fall at the first hurdle, so I want to genuinely thank you for giving a shit – with the caveat that it’s a pretty low bar, and you shouldn’t expect to be thanked or ego-stroked for simply exhibiting decent human behaviour, especially by autistic individuals in your life who have plenty of other shit to be dealing with. Step 3 is probably, “Let go of the notion that you can learn a set of steps and instantly become the perfect ally to autistic people.”

If the question is, “How can I help autistic people as a community?” then the answer is reasonably straightforward: do as you (hopefully) would with any other marginalised community. This includes amplifying our voices instead of adding or centring your own, sharing educational resources, especially among your friends who are also not members of this community, speaking up in defense of our basic human rights and dignity even if we aren’t there to witness it, etc. I know that “straightforward” does not mean “easy”, but let that giving-a-shit fuel you to continually put in the work of educating and advocating.

If the question is, “How can I help autistic individuals in my life?” then the answer becomes a great deal more complicated. Like other humans, no two autistic people are exactly alike, and our needs and problems are as varied as we are. Our most visible problems are meltdowns (moments of responding to intense distress by way of crying, shouting, rocking etc) and shutdowns (responding to intense distress by withdrawing, becoming quieter and often unable to perform basic tasks), so we’ll start there.

My number one biggest tip here is to ask the autistic person what they need from you during a meltdown, at a time they are not distressed. Regardless of whether or not you’re actually able to extract the information you’re looking for, it will be easier for the autistic person to give you a thorough overview of what’s going on for them in a moment of relative calm (e.g. instead of asking more than once in the midst of all the supermarket noise, “What’s wrong? What do you need?” during a meltdown or shutdown, wait until you’re back in the car and the person has got their vape to ask, “Hey, I noticed you were struggling in Tesco. For future reference, what’s the most helpful thing I can do when you’re going through that?”). Mid-meltdown communication is hard, and I personally find it easier to answer closed, yes/no or this/that questions than anything less specific about what my needs are – for example, the only response you’ll get to, “What do you want to eat?” will be confused wailing, whereas I’m more able to answer “Would you like chicken or fish? Do you want ketchup?” with either words or nods/head-shakes. I also find it frustrating to be pressed when the only answer I have is “I don’t know,” and if I don’t know now I won’t know the third time you ask (even if it seems odd to you that I don’t know how cold I am, or whether I need to pee), so I can imagine that other autistic people would prefer you accept their first answer unless they volunteer another one. And if this isn’t obvious, please don’t touch a distressed autistic person (or, really, any autistic person) without their express permission, unless it is absolutely necessary to keep them safe. Sometimes I would benefit from a big, intense, squishy hug, but other times my fight-or-flight response is already on the brink of starting, and to touch me uninvited would not only intensify that, but bring with it the fear that the “fight” bit will render me a danger to you. Again, yes/no questions help so it’s totally reasonable to ask, “Is it okay if I touch you?” before you commence that soothing bear hug.

But autistic people aren’t melting/shutting down through every waking moment of their lives, so how can you be of help in a non-meltdown, day-to-day sort of way? Well, again, every autistic person is different and has different needs, so you do need to actually talk to the autists in your life to figure out what help you could offer them. However, I will say that a majority of autistic people struggle with atypical sensory perception, so asking whether your speech is an okay volume, whether the room is too warm, when it’s okay to initiate touch, etc. are all good starting points which will grant your autistic friend permission to voice their sensory needs. The same is true of communication – some autistic people might benefit from you adding line breaks into your longer messages, being able to look at your face and lipread as you speak, etc., and obviously improving your communication with one another will also help you gain a clearer picture of other ways you can be helpful.

You can also be helpful in just… regular ways that you would help anybody else. Autistic people expend a lot more energy than our allistic counterparts on things like sensory processing, masking our symptoms, interpreting social signals etc., and that leaves us with less energy for every element of day-to-day living. If you want to help a particular autistic individual through a rough time, I cannot overstate how much difference practical help can make – do your friend’s dishes! Help them make phone calls! Tidy their front room! Only do these things with the person’s permission, because autistic people are sometimes sensitive to people entering our space and touching our stuff but also because it’s the polite thing to do in this context. (I would encourage you to approach autistic people with politeness even when it seems we don’t fully understand the rules of politeness or their significance, because we can often still perceive when we’re being treated differently and because, again, we’re human people.) If you can’t do these things because of distance or Covid or your own disability, but you want to help monetarily, I’m inclined to suggest that donating to individuals’ emergency fundraisers and buying your autistic friend a takeaway is a better use of your money than pouring it into an organisaton, since a majority of autism-focused organisations do problematic shit and do not materially help autistic people in any way (google “Autism Speaks” if you’re ready to be horrified), but again, you can ask your friend what they would prefer. 

I’m sorry that the core of this post is simply, “Ask us!”, but there really isn’t any better advice – I could make a million suggestions to a single autistic person and their support system, but as soon as we’re looking at the autistic population as a whole, the variability of presentations and of humans makes it impossible to issue more specific advice. I hope this post has at least helped you know how to ask us, and reassured you that it’s okay not to know instantly how to be helpful in every situation. If you want to read more from me on autism, click here, and if not, thank you for reading and I’ll see y’all soon!

How to Have Sex in a Body You Hate

Me, lying on my back, cupping my boobs a little so they look extra perky. I have a couple of wristbands on as well as a collar, and I'm white, slim-ish and, dare I say it, exceedingly cute.

In an ideal world, I would love my body.

We don’t live in an ideal world, though. Specifically, I live in a body which hurts a lot, and which is the site of both my trauma and my eating disorder. Very few people I know actually love their bodies, and quite a few actively dislike theirs – and I’m no exception. Instead of telling you to love your body (because I’m sure you’ve never considered that before /sarcasm), I thought I could give some tips as to how you can have sex even during those times you hate the body you live in.

1. Try to forgive yourself for not loving your body.

I know this is hard. When I catch myself feeling shitty about my body, my knee-jerk response is to say to myself, “Fucking stop it! You’re supposed to be body-positive! This simply will not do!”

In reality, this kind of thinking isn’t just unhelpful in your journey towards self-love – it directly undermines it. It’ll take a lot of work, but making the switch from the “Fucking stop it!” mentality to a more gentle pattern of thinking (along the lines of, “It’s okay that I feel like this, even if it doesn’t line up with my body-positive ideals. Everybody resents their body sometimes, especially in this awful diet culture we live in, and I’m not a bad person for falling prey to that,”) will cut short the cycle of self-criticism and free up your emotional energy for the task at hand: sex.

2. Spend more time being naked in non-sexual settings.

You’ve probably heard this one, but it bears repeating. Be naked, or half-naked, while you watch TV, while you cook, while you write blog posts – whenever you can manage it. Get used to the way your body really looks, rather than the way that it looks when you’re taking nudes, stretched or contorted or sucked in or freshly voided of pee. Spend more time around mirrors, while you’re at it, and get used to the way your face looks from unexpected angles. It’s going to be hard to feel great about everything you notice at first, so try making neutral statements, out loud or in your head, instead. “My face looks rounder from this angle,” “My tummy folds when I sit down,” and “My knees are kinda wonky,” are all entirely neutral observations to make. Try, if you can, thinking them in a gentle, neutral voice, and you’ll start to understand that your sexual partners view your body in a way that’s separated from value judgements. (Unless they’re judgemental bastards, in which case, tip 2b is, “Only fuck people who aren’t dickheads.”)

3. Wear things that make you feel cute!

I know that I literally just told you to spend more time being naked, but if sexytime is on the horizon and you haven’t magically repaired your relationship with your own nude form yet, I think it’s an okay short-term solution to wear something that boosts your confidence a little. The primary aim of this exercise isn’t necessarily to cover up (although, honestly, your comfort is more important than some externally-imposed ideals regarding body confidence), but to embolden you by making you feel like you’re putting your best foot forwards. Maybe for you, this means nothing but cat ears and a tail, or maybe it means a long, flowing, opaque nightgown. Whatever it is, the key thing is that you love it! Customising your body with clothing or jewelry can help you feel more in control of it and will draw your own attention to the cute things you’ve deliberately added to yourself, rather than the physical traits you perceive as “flaws”.

4. Voice your boundaries and your needs.

Sometimes, I will ask my partners not to touch my tummy. This is usually when I’ve had a fair bit to eat, or have eaten something that my body firmly disagrees with, and I’m a little bit bloated. Whilst I’d love to be able to embrace my body in every one of its states, I’m just not there yet – and that’s okay! (See tip #1.) Working through my trauma has taught me that there’s no point in knowingly setting off triggers when you’re not equipped to handle them – it only reinforces the stress response you experience, which will reinforce your negative feelings about your body. If you’re having a really bold, self-loving day, you could touch, examine, or ask your partner(s) to interact with an area that you’re usually self-conscious about, but you’re also well within your rights to say, “Actually, I feel a little negative/dysphoric/delicate/etc. about [body part] at the moment, so could you avoid touching it?”

Additionally, you can ask your partners to reassure you about your body. Try to steer clear from things like, “Tell me I’m not fat!” because those will reinforce to you the (entirely incorrect) idea that being fat is bad. Instead, say things like, “Can you tell me that you find my body attractive?” or, “I’d like some reassurance that my body looks nice today.” If you don’t have a partner on hand, you could ask a friend for a boost, or even try to give yourself one by listing all the parts of your body that you do like. You might find it reassuring to look at pictures of other people with bodies similar to yours – chances are, you’ll be able to see their beauty, and that might help you absorb the notion that you’re not so unattractive yourself.

Oh, and posting pictures of your body on the internet, especially if you’re not posing in such a way as to maximise your conformity to Westernized standards of beauty in said photos, can help boost your confidence as well. Like these photos of me, which feel even more vulnerable than that one photo of my entire cunt.

Me, a white, curvy, boob-owning person, twisting my body a little bit so that my back rolls are readily visibleMy curvy white butt, with little red lines across it from sitting still too longMe, a white and curvy boob-haver, sitting a little slouched so my tummy is squishy and foldy


 

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Why Bottoms Should Make Notes At Kink Workshops

Stock photo of a blank, lined, spiral-bound notebook, open and with a fancy pen sitting on top of it

I want to present to you my case for bottoms who attend kink and BDSM workshops making notes on the material they learn. I notice a lot of tops with notebooks and pens, but markedly fewer bottoms with the same, and I think those bottoms might be losing out a little as a result.

But before I delve any deeper, a small disclaimer: I go to a lot of rope workshops. And very little else. So this piece will be from a rope bottoming perspective, using rope bottoming examples, but it should still be relevant for spanking workshops, protocol workshops, humiliation workshops, and any other workshop you can conceive of where bottoms might be there, absorbing information and/or being practised upon by their toppy friends and/or partners.


I’ve written plenty about how actually being tied up feels for me, and why I like it, but I think there’s a particular art to attending workshops and classes in a bottoming capacity. I’ll likely never use the information provided at these classes for topping (since I’m dyspraxic as hell and sub-leaning besides), but I like to be more than a willing body for a top to practice on when I’m in any kind of workshop setting.

So I make notes.

They’re not notes that a top could use (at least, not on their own), because they don’t feature any technical details, diagrams or instructions. Instead, I make notes on the things I’ll find useful later, for one or more of the following reasons:

  1. When I’m in subspace, I’m not likely to retain information unless I write it down;
  2. When I’m overwhelmed by being in a noisy room full of people, I’m not likely to retain information unless I write it down;
  3. The physical act of writing keeps my autistic gremlin hands busy in a way that doesn’t look too rude (unlike, say, playing Animal Crossing on my phone), so my autistic gremlin brain can focus on what the workshop leader(s) is/are saying;
  4. They’re both informative and fun to look back over days or weeks after a class or a workshop.

“But Morgan,” you may be asking, “what do you make notes on, if not technical details and instructions?”

I’m glad you asked, dearest hypothetical reader.

I primarily make notes based on gut feeling – things that make my ears perk up, if you will. I start each workshop’s notes with the title of the class, the date on which it takes place and the scene name(s) of the workshop leader(s), and then I outline what we’re actually doing, like so:

Example Workshop – 12.05.19 – Led by Example McExampleface and E. G. Forinstance

Objective(s): full side suspension; gunslinger hip harness; eat as many aftercare snacks as humanly possible

After that, I might make notes on specific ties, both naming and describing them so that I don’t have to Google fancy shibari terminology every time I revisit my notes.

Tie: Tengu (the raptor hands one that makes my boobs look excellent)

The most useful notes I make, though, are usually based upon things said by the demo bottom (who often also doubles as a workshop leader). Demo bottoms provide invaluable tips on which things are the hardest to endure and how you might go about doing so, and they’re not usually tips that tops will take note of. Demo bottoms remind you to stretch and wiggle, encourage you to be a princess if something hurts in the wrong way, and give you straight answers about how uncomfortable or painful something might be. They make the world go ’round.

TIP: keep an eye out for circulation loss/nerve impingement in the hands for this one

Another key thing I include in my workshop notes is something a top simply cannot do on a bottom’s behalf – my initial reactions to all the activities we try. This is especially important for me as I have a hypermobility condition which requires me to be careful with the positions I put myself in (or allow others to put me in), and keeping track of which positions seem to aggravate which joints is key. For instance, if I’m having a Bad Knees Day™, I can use my notes as a tool in considering whether a futomomo is a good idea.

“Morgan, don’t you just remember when things hurt you?” you might be wondering.

No, dearest reader, I do not. If I remembered every position, activity or weather change that ever made my joints hurt, I would have no room left in my brain to remember anything else. I’m always in a little bit of pain, and often in a lot – so I often block it out, and I almost always forget about it afterwards.

Thoughts: that was hot as fuck, very much enjoyed the feeling of being compact & smol. Elbow joints ache, about 4/10 pain, but worth it (and could be fixed w/ ibuprofen and care)

Naturally, bottoms who might be inspired to take notes in workshops as a result of this blog post can deviate from the formula I’ve presented here. If you think you’d benefit more from making notes on the mechanics of something, drawing little diagrams of human anatomy or anything else, you do you. I’m just here to sell notebooks remind bottoms that they’re active participants in kink, and that their insight and learning is as valuable as that of their toppier counterparts.