Carly and her autistic girl power t-shirt

As monthly columnist for My Family, Our Needs, most of my articles are family based. However, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day (and apart from references to being a tired carer here and there), this isn’t a family friendly article… at all! It’s definitely one for the parents.

Tonight, I am talking to you about sex. Well, lack of it actually. Yep, autism and celibacy.

I am demisexual, often common in autistic people from what I’ve heard, which means I do not feel any form of sexual attraction to someone until I build up a connection with them. This could be as friends, colleagues or even acting roles, I recall now when I was younger being completely disinterested in boys day to day but finding myself have a crush on the lead male role in our play, particularly if we shared a duet!

If I fall in love with somebody’s mind, outlook, achievements and passion, it is then that the physical attraction hits me like a bulldozer. This is very rare though and naturally this means I am not the type of person to want to date a lot or use Tinder or online dating. I’m far more organic than that.

That’s a sentence I never thought I would hear myself think, let alone type.

You see, even as a demisexual, autistic, independent single woman, sex had always been a big part of my life. I was by no means a late starter in that department and as a divorced adult carer it became my ‘treat’ ad hoc when I had an evening off. Always completely on my terms and with a respectful, safe, friend with benefits style set up (if you’re reading this – thanks by the way!)

But I found myself tired of sharing my only evening off with someone else. I grew tired of having to feel I had mask my exhaustion, wear makeup and something a little more seductive than a onesie. I grew tired of giving up my precious ME time to focus on something shallow and fleeting when I had real time out needs. As my work became busier and my family got older, my time became more precious than ever. But more important than my time, was my mind.

Focusing on something deeper

I needed to heal. I had experienced some really tough situations as a young person and as an adult in relationships and I think this has led me to be quite misunderstood. Some women in recovery time shy away from their physical appearance, others want to control and own it. For a long time, I was the latter. It makes you appear shallow when actually you’re scared.

I also wanted to free my mind, reimagine who I was, without emotional distraction, opinion or others perspective.

My whole life prior to autism advocacy was based on how I looked, whether it was in a relationship, on stage or working as a dancer. In fact, I’m not ashamed to share that the way I got my first multimillion viewed autism article was by winning Sexiest Woman 2012 in an Australian magazine competition wearing not much but a cardigan.

The irony is that

A) My mum made me promise to keep my cardigan on

B) I’ve never even been to Australia

That act is not to be misunderstood as vain; I was sick of not be listened too and I saw an advert saying whoever won the title could write an article of their choice on any subject that would be viewed by 5 million readers. So, I bared my soul and pretty much everything else to talk about autistic women and girls. It’s obviously a million miles away from the work I do now and maybe I should be ashamed, but I don’t regret it. It was, as a woman, very empowering and more importantly, people listened.

I wanted to draw a line in my mind, however, between who I was perceived to be and who I wanted to become so I decided to try a period of abstinence.

Trying it and liking it

I thought it would last maybe 6 months. But despite kind offers, some temptation and one or two almost falling WELL off the bandwagon moments, abstaining from sex turned into a lifestyle of celibacy.

I’ve now, by lifestyle choice and willpower, been celibate for almost 4 years.

The last 4 years have also been the most rewarding, life changing and happiest of my life. Not to mention having absolutely no contraception hormones to cloud my already complex autistic mind!

I’m not saying that it’s for everyone, perhaps the fact I’m demisexual, autistic, a tired carer/parent and passionate advocate has meant that for me, it just worked.

I have been able to concentrate blinkered on my family, home, career, caring and campaigns like never before and it’s been a wonderful, healing, safe and happy experience.

I don’t think it will last forever, I’m pretty sure as soon as I start to get more time alone as my family start up and move out, I will want to spend time with someone who deserves someone who’s waited for them. I’m pretty sure I will fall for someone’s mind, achievements, goals and ambitions again and I will become a sexual adult being once more. But it’s going to take a superman of epic proportions because I know I don’t need to and I won’t settle for less.

Maybe not so shallow after all?

My girlfriends tell me sex is just like riding a bike, you never forget how. Sadly I can’t ride a bike…