Eye Contact During Sex – Eye’d Rather Not

A white person with blue hair (Morgan) lies in bed, making direct eye contact with the camera. They have a neutral facial expression and their face takes up most of the frame.

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.

My Cervical Erosion Adventure, Part 2: Vag Mechanic Boogaloo

Stock image of a labcoat, worn by a person whose head is not in frame, with the pocket lined with pens and a stethoscope slung around the person's neck. The background is out of focus and beige.

Content note: this post mentions blood, describes a minor medical procedure and discusses non-consent in a medical setting. If any of those are difficult for you, feel free to give this one a miss, and join me next week for a new Smut Saturdays post instead!

Also, please forgive me for the title; I couldn’t help myself. As you can see, this post is a continuation of one from last week, available right here, but hopefully it’ll make sense as a standalone piece too. (Except for, y’know, the title.)

After I explained to my doctor that I had recently learned that my post coital bleeding wasn’t “normal”, and my doctor explained to me that bits that were meant to be inside the neck of my cervix were, in fact, on the outside, I was referred to a treatment centre to have it looked at.

I am not a shy person, as evidenced by my Twitter full of nudes and the existence of this very blog. I am not averse to jumping onto a clinic bed and having a stranger examine my bits (though, like most vagina-owners, I am a tiny bit averse to the ol’ speculum. That thing is a bastard). Being autistic and anxious, I hate appointments in general (travelling to new locations? Introducing myself to new people? Wearing outdoors clothes?!), but I wasn’t any more upset about seeing the Vag Mechanic than I would be about going to the optician. I showed up to the treatment centre early and was beckoned into my appointment after about ten minutes of apprehensive knitting.

The nice Vag Mechanic lady sat me down and asked me a number of very predictable questions about my recent sexual partners, my periods and my oral contraception. Then she asked, “And do you experience any tearing upon penetration?”

I explained, somewhat sheepishly, that I did a bit, sometimes, but only when things were rushed. She had some stern words to say about foreplay and lubrication, but we agreed that since the bleeding I’d been experiencing didn’t always correlate with the hurried sex and tearing sensation, it was likely cervical ectopy, as my doctor had suggested. I was taken into the next room, shown a curtained-off corner where I could have some privacy, and instructed to strip from the waist down in my own time, whilst the Vag Mechanic went and got a nurse to observe.

Once I was on my back with my legs in stirrups and a nurse standing on the right-hand side of the bed, the Vag Mechanic started unpackaging a speculum whilst the nurse chatted with me, presumably with the intention of keeping me calm and somewhat distracted from the impending plastic jaws that were about to wrench me open. (If you have a vag and you haven’t experienced a speculum before, please be aware that I’m largely being dramatic, and am hypersensitive to a number of sensations because I’m autistic; speculums (or speculae?) are, at worst, distinctly uncomfortable for a few moments as they’re being inserted and a few moments as they’re being removed. Do not be deterred from attending important gynaecology appointments because I’m a gigantic baby.)

The bastard thing went in, and the Vag Mechanic pulled a light on an arm down between my knees so that she could have a proper look, which wasn’t a surprise. What was a surprise, however, was the screen to my right, directly next to the nurse at my bedside, which displayed footage of what looked like…

“Is that my cervix?” I asked excitedly, pointing at it like you might point at a very cool zoo animal. The nurse informed me that it was. “And that’s live?” Yep, it was a closed circuit live feed of my very own cervix. Being the sex nerd that I am, I was ecstatic.

The Vag Mechanic slid a cotton swab into the opening of the speculum (and, by extension, the opening of the me) and used it to point out to me on the screen where some of the tissue was red and raw-looking. She prodded it gently and blood oozed out, confirming that it was indeed cervical ectopy.

I expected to have the speculum withdrawn, to be able to sit up, and to have a discussion about the benefits and drawbacks of cauterizing the tissue (the most likely treatment option, according to a quick Google search and literally zero medical professionals that I’d spoken to thus far).

I did not expect her to unsheath a glorified toothpick and begin explaining, as it drew nearer to my bits, that this was silver nitrate, and she was “just” going to “quickly” cauterize it. I hadn’t even had a chance to Tweet about the confirmation that it was what I’d suspected. I lay there, frozen, unable to object or ask questions. All my thoughts were replaced by terror.

And then, to make it worse, the nurse very deliberately moved in front of the screen.

Desperate to regain some control of the situation, I asked, “Have you moved in front of the screen because sometimes it smokes and that freaks people out?”

“Exactly that,” she said. When I tried to crane my neck past her, less spooked by my smoking cervix than by unknown things happening to my genitals in real time, she fucking leaned so that I still couldn’t see it. Before too long it was over, and the nurse and the Vag Mechanic were completely unaware that they’d put me into fight or flight mode.

The moments after that are hazy in my memory, presumably because I was having a minor trauma response. They gave me a piece of paper about looking after my newly-scarred cervix and I made some joke about the line that forbade me from horseback riding. I had to put a pad in my underwear (no internal menstrual hygiene products, so no beloved menstrual cup) to catch the blood that my disgruntled vagina was ejecting along with bits of silver nitrate-y crud. Nobody had told me about that beforehand, either, and some warning would have been nice: apart from the fact that I very rarely have pads in my bag nowadays, I find them intensely distressing on an autistic level on account of the rustling, the stickiness and the scent, so I would have benefited from mentally preparing myself for the bastard things.

And that’s the point, really: I would have benefited from mentally preparing myself for all of it. Mostly, you know, for the cautery.

I don’t want to be ungrateful for what was a minor but important medical intervention that I received completely for free, thanks to the amazing (if strained) NHS. And I totally understand the logic behind “getting it over and done with”, and I understand the nurse’s insistence on shielding me from watching the process happen. Most patients would want to think about their raw cervical tissue being chemically burned as little as humanly possible, I’m sure, and taking the speculum out just to give them an opportunity to worry about it would be cruel. But I’m not most patients: I’m autistic, for one, and benefit from a clear outline of “the plan” from the outset in order to feel safe and in control. Maybe more importantly than that, though, I’m a survivor of sexual trauma, and so I want to know and understand what people are doing to my genitals at all times.

Maybe it was a miscommunication – maybe the Vag Mechanic assumed that my doctor had laid it out more clearly to me, or maybe the nurse thought that the “Generalised anxiety” bit on my notes meant that I’d pass out at the sight of the cautery taking place… or maybe they just made some assumptions based on their previous patients or what they themselves might have wanted… but regardless of why they didn’t check what I wanted, they didn’t check what I wanted. They didn’t explain. They didn’t make my options clear to me. They probably had the very best of intentions, but they took away my agency at a vulnerable moment and that made me feel unsafe.

I don’t think any medical setting, but especially a sexual or reproductive health-oriented one, should ever make a person feel unsafe. Ever.

There is a happy ending to this story in that my recovery was fine, I no longer have the post coital bleeding and I only dread my next Vag Mechanic appointment a bit, but that doesn’t take away from the feelings of fear and helplessness and discomfort and the rest of it that I carried home with me as well as my leaflet. If you found this article because you think you might have cervical ectopy, I want to make it clear that you absolutely do not need to feel this way, and you have every right to tell the Vag Mechanic before you get into the stirrups whether you want the procedure explained to you before, during or after, as well as any other worries or needs you might have. If you found this piece because you’re a healthcare professional who deals with genitals, I urge you to check in with your patients about how much they’d like to be aware of and involved in procedures that you’re going to do – even minor ones like mine.

And if you found this article because you’re a regular reader of mine, I’m always grateful for your support and I’ll see y’all next week with some unapologetic smut.

“Honey, You Need To Piss On Me More”: Templates For Talking About Kink

Being autistic has a huge, variable impact upon my communication skills.

Being anxious exacerbates this, but too often I neglect to have crucial conversations with people because I don’t know how to start. It’s hard to parse how much of the problem is rooted in autism stuff and how much is rooted in anxiety stuff, but I’ve always struggled with task initiation. I also struggle with expressing myself accurately and thoroughly, and I’m an absolute fucker for that autistic thing where you think that somebody knows something simply because it’s obvious to you. (Because everyone’s brain works exactly like mine, right?)

Fortunately, kink makes a lot of communication unavoidable for me. The first piece of advice any budding kinkster receives is usually, ‘Do your research,’ and upon doing said research, they find that the second tip is nearly always, ‘Communicate, a lot.’ Any partner who doesn’t want to hear about your thoughts, feelings, needs and boundaries – relating to sex, kink and life at large – is not a partner you want to keep around.

So, regardless of my reluctance to be ‘needy’ and all the autism things that make it hard for me to hold a conversation, I have found workarounds that make it easy (or at least, easier) to talk to partners about kink. One of them is using meta-communication strategies, voicing my anxiety so my partner(s) can understand why I might be stammering and hiding behind my blankie while I suggest a watersports scene. And others are a little more suited to people afraid of being direct:

Method #1: Blame somebody else

Sometimes, the scariest part of communicating about kink is just conveying the concept accurately to your partner without them thinking you’re super fucking weird. (It’s okay if you are super fucking weird, but I understand that a lot of people are anxious, especially in the early stages of a relationship, about the impression their partner is forming of them.)

So I hereby grant you permission to make it my fault.

Lots of sex educators say similar things, so you can pick from a bunch of ’em. Some ways to open this sort of conversation include:

“A friend of a friend of mine has started a blog, it’s about kink stuff, and uh, they wrote a really interesting post about threesomes…”

“I was reading around about sex and autism, and this one person online mentioned their Daddy kink, and uh, I thought that was really fascinating…”

“I saw someone’s cute tote bag on the tram and I Googled the name of the podcast that was on it, and suddenly I was listening to two people talk about wearing butt plugs in everyday situations…”

It might turn out that your partner has been just waiting for you to bring a particular kink into conversation so that they can voice their enthusiasm for it to you. In these cases, they might react excitedly, telling you that they’re a big fan of whatever you’ve mentioned, or that they’ve always wanted to try it.

If they don’t respond this way, it’s either because they’re not getting the hint, or because they have no interest in the thing you’re namedropping. If they’re squicked by it, or have it as a hard limit, they’ll probably make that clear, by asking to stop talking about it, or by abruptly changing the subject. If your partner outright states that something is a boundary of theirs, you should definitely stop talking about it, and accept that you can’t do that sex or kink act with that particular person.

If trying to gauge their enthusiasm (or lack thereof) about a kink from just this seems like it’d be a challenge to you (since it relies on a number of nonverbal cues), there are a number of other ways to communicate more explicitly.

Method #2: Just outright be nerdy about it

There are a wealth of Yes/No/Maybe list templates out there. Plenty of people will be receptive to the idea of filling one out, together or separately, and then comparing them. I like having this kind of conversation over a messaging app, so that you can seemlessly integrate the link to the template into your message about it. Like so:

“Hey, I found this cool template for a document where you can list which sex things you’re interested in: http://www.bextalkssex.com/yes-no-maybe/ I think it’d be really cool if we each filled it in and then swapped, so we have an idea of what’s on the table and what isn’t.”

If your partner doesn’t want to do this, it might be because they’re shy, in which case it might put them at ease to see yours first (because it’ll reassure them that most people have at least a couple of kinks). If your partner ‘forgets’ to fill theirs in after you’ve reminded them a few times, or if they state that they really don’t want to, it’s best to leave it, and let them talk to you about their sex and kink preferences in their own time (or maybe never).

Method #3: Slip it into sexting

It’s not respectful or consent-aware to turn a flirty or sexy conversation into one that’s about your specific kink if you’ve never checked that your partner is okay with the kink before. However, you can drop a kink briefly into a sexy conversation, and an ideal way to do this is to nestle it amongst other sexy things, so that your partner can just focus on those things if they’re not into the kink thing. For example:

You: I’d love it if you were riding me, slowly but so deep, and I could reach up, play with your nipples, maybe choke you, or grab your hips and help you to grind against me
Them: Ahh that’s hot, I love having my nipples played with! You could pinch them a little… and the hip-grabbing thing too, fuck

The hypothetical second person in that conversation expressed enthusiasm about the nipple play and the hip-grabbing, but completely neglected to mention the choking – so you can safely assume that they don’t want to talk or fantasise about them being choked at that particular juncture. If they don’t bring it up at any other point, you can probably draw the conclusion that being choked is not a kink of theirs.

Communicating about your wants and needs can be terrifying, but your partner can only say ‘no’ to anything you suggest. The best case scenario is, of course, that they’re as into the things you suggest as you are, and you have a grand ol’ time having safe and consensual sex and kink scenes.

The worst case scenario is that they’re judgmental and rude about your kinks, but in that case they’re probably kinda douchey anyway, and not somebody you need in your life.

Do any of y’all have any suggestions about communication methods and tools? I’d love to hear from you!