FREE RESOURCE: Autism Shapes

So I am aware that this is a sex blog, but it’s also an autism blog, and, as usual, I have a bee in my bonnet about the general public’s perception of autism and their limited understanding of what the autism spectrum actually is. Functioning labels (“high-functioning autistic” and “low-functioning autistic”) are limiting and without nuance, and are mostly defined by how much one’s autism inconveniences the people around them and/or impacts their ability to contribute to an ableist and capitalist society. They fail to take into account the fact that most autistic people don’t have the same level of difficulty unilaterally with all aspects of life, and they make me so annoyed that I want to bite people.

So I made a PDF, because confrontation scares me. You can access it by clicking here. Essentially, the PDF introduces the Autism Shape, a way to visualise the experiences of autistic people in a way that doesn’t limit them to a sliding scale which goes from “not very useful in a capitalist society” to “rather useful in a capitalist society”. The blank template looks like this:

A sort of graph thingy with eight straight lines protruding from a black dot in the middle. These lines are marked at intervals, labelled from 1 (closest to the centre) to 10. They are all labelled with different things an autistic person may struggle with. From the top, clockwise, these are: Social interaction, Sensory perception, Interoception & self-care, Flexible thinking, Adjusting to change, Paralinguistic communication, Verbal communication and Cognitive empathy. In the bottom-right corner, there is some text which reads, “Morgan Peschek, 2019. Feel free to share, but please credit me!”

The idea is to prioritise the nuanced, lived experience of autistic people over the perceptions of their “functioning” that other individuals might have. You mark your own values on the template, with 1 meaning “I struggle a lot with this” and 10 meaning “I’m fucking amazing at this”, and then you connect the dots to create a fun shape, like so:

A radar chart related to the autism spectrum, with eight "spokes" each labelled with a different aspect of autism. More information is available in the PDF.
The same graph as before, but this time with a teal eight-sided polygon drawn onto it. This is my own Autism Shape.

I’ve been developing the Autism Shape for a while now, and I’m really pleased with it, but I’m always open to suggestions! I’m particularly interested in input on how to make the PDF more accessible to people who use screenreaders, and to people with dyslexia for whom black text on a white background is difficult to read.

Who this resource is for:

  • Autistic people who want to define and express their own experience of autism
  • Professionals who work with autistic people and who know that the high/low functioning model is a pile of shit
  • Friends and families of autistic people, only for the purpose of showing it to said autistic person and saying, “Hey, this might be a helpful tool for you!”

Who this resource is not for:

  • Anybody who plans to build an Autism Shape on behalf of an autistic person. Obviously you can help them, but the whole point of revisualising the spectrum is to help autistic people define and express their own experiences.
  • At the moment, people who can’t read English, because I don’t have the means to accurately translate it or to commission a translation (let me know if you do!)
  • Anybody who practices ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis), because if you use my cool resource as a way to harm autistic people, I might actually bite you.

I really hope that this tool helps my fellow autistics, and I encourage all my readers to share it far and wide. And on Saturday, I’ll be climbing off my high horse to deliver some smut, since this is a sex blog – stay tuned!


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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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Love Letters From Lucid Morgan: Paranoia and Delusions

Stock image of two fluffy dogs lying in bed together, apparently sleeping, because they're calming to me and hopefully to others who struggle with paranoia and delusions, too

Note: This was originally a therapeutic exercise suggested to me by my counsellor after I mentioned that sometimes “Sober Morgan” leaves notes for “Inebriated Morgan”, reminding them of the things they need to do before bed and the like. She put forth that “Lucid Morgan” could write to “Paranoid Morgan” or “Depressed Morgan”, reminding myself of coping strategies and facts of reality as well as providing myself with a much-needed dose of compassion. I figured these letters could also be useful to people who suffer symptoms similar to mine, so I’m posting them here. Also, this letter will refer to the paranoia and delusions I sometimes suffer, as well as self-harm. If that’s hard for you, give this one a miss – this is supposed to be a helpful tool, not another trigger!


Dear Paranoid Morgan,

Hi, it’s me. Well, it’s you. It’s us. I’m writing to you now, while I feel relatively sturdy and in touch with reality, to talk to you during what I know to be a deeply scary moment for us. I want you to know that everything I’m about to say, I truly believe in this moment, and that I’ve felt exactly the way you’re feeling before – but I’m stable enough now to realise that it will pass. It always passes.

I imagine you’ll remember what we’re meant to do in these situations, when you’re struggling with paranoia and/or delusions, but a refresher can’t hurt. Take deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth, for a count of at least four seconds apiece. Try to ground yourself in reality with the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 approach (that’s five things you can see, four you can hear, three you can touch, two you can smell and one you can taste), or recite your address, your address from childhood, your mum’s phone number and/or the names of all the Organization XIII members from Kingdom Hearts. You know the drill.

Now, I’m gonna make a gentle suggestion: take your damn sedatives. They are not poison. We know this because we have taken them numerous times and suffered no ill effects. The sleepiness you feel isn’t them poisoning you, it’s them working to soothe your sympathetic nervous system, so that the panic you’re currently feeling wears off. And no, the panic isn’t a good thing. It isn’t keeping you safe, because the thing you’re panicking about isn’t a real danger. And I know you know that, because you identified you were experiencing paranoia or delusions or what-have-you with at least enough clarity to pick up this letter, but I also know that knowing and believing are two separate things.

Here are some more reminders:

  • This feels like shit, and that’s very real. You don’t deserve to feel like shit. This feeling might take hours or even days to wear off, but it does end eventually.
  • I repeat, it does end eventually. We’ve been here hundreds of times and survived it, and it goes away. Even if you wholly believe that the paranoid thing you think right now is the permanent, immutable truth of the universe and you will never change your mind, remember that the panic goes away. Sometimes it does that without us doing anything. Sometimes, you need to take your sedatives and perform some sensory-seeking behaviours until you feel more grounded. But the panic goes away, as do the paranoia and delusions.
  • Bad things that have happened to you were not your fault, and they weren’t caused by that weird evil you think lives under your skin. We know that when bad things happen to other people, it’s not as a result of nameless evil residing in their bodies, and we can’t talk the talk about victim-blaming but then do it to ourselves. The bad things that happen to the people around you aren’t your fault either. I promise.
  • I know I can’t convince you that life isn’t some elaborate simulation or illusion if that’s where you’re at, but remember: other people worry about this too, and they talk about it. If it were a simulation, it’d be stupid of its designers to alert you to that possibility by having other people consider it out loud. And, like we said in AS Philosophy (much to the chagrin of our long-suffering teacher), why does it matter if it’s a simulation? If it’s so detailed and consistent and believable that it seems like real life, then, for all intents and purposes, it is real life. Plus, if it’s a simulation, there’s nothing we can do about that anyway – you might as well eat some simulated Ben & Jerry’s and relax about it.
  • You won’t die in your sleep. We have slept thousands of times in the past 21 years and lived. There is no medical reason to suspect you could die in your sleep and people don’t die in their sleep very often at all. That means that none of your partners will die in their sleep either, and nor will your mum, the dog, your friends or anybody else you’re connected to.
  • You’ve got this. You have. The panic will pass but you don’t need to hurry it along necessarily. You know what steps you can take to help it ease off in its own time, and you know that it’s your body’s outdated way of trying to keep you safe, and you know that we’ve felt like this before, recovered and felt great the next day. You will be calm again. You will be happy again.
  • You are one of the most resilient and tenacious people in the world. We can no longer count on our digits all of the things we’ve survived; nor can we count our triumphs. If today’s triumph is not cutting your face open to extract the supernatural evil that supposedly caused your partner’s recent car accident (or whatever else you think it caused), that’s huge. You should celebrate.
  • I love you. As Lucid Morgan, I can look back on Paranoid Morgan and see a scared, confused human who is trying their absolute best. I can see how hard you’re battling. I am in awe of you and I love you. Give yourself a hug from me.

Thank you for finding it within yourself to read my letter. Thank you for keeping us as safe as you can. Thank you for working so, so hard to examine and recognise the things that you’re feeling and thank you for never, ever giving up.

All my love,

Lucid Morgan 💖