Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 49, Issue 12, pp 4834–4846 | Cite as

Characterising the Sexuality and Sexual Experiences of Autistic Females

  • Laura A. Pecora
  • Grace I. Hancock
  • Gary B. Mesibov
  • Mark A. StokesEmail author
Original Paper


Current understandings of the sexuality of autistic females have been predominantly drawn from qualitative studies. This study aimed to quantitatively examine the sexual functioning of autistic females (N = 135), by comparing these to the sexual interest, behaviours, and experiences to 96 autistic males and 161 typically developing females. Autistic females reported less sexual interest, yet more experiences than autistic males. More autistic females also reported engaging in sexual behaviours that were later regretted, unwanted, or receiving unwanted sexual advances. Differences between autistic and typically developing females were significant. Results indicate that due to a mismatch between less sexual interest, yet increased sexual behaviours, autistic women are at greater risk of negative sexual experiences including victimisation and abuse than autistic men.


Autism spectrum disorder Sexuality Sexual functioning Females Women 


Author Contributions

LAP and MAS conceived the study and its design. LAP and GIH developed and validated the instrument used to conduct this study. LAP and GIH carried out all data collection and data cleaning procedures. LAP conducted data analysis; wrote all drafts of the manuscript. MAS & GBM supervised development of work; edited, and reviewed all drafts; provided statistical guidance, and verified all statistical methods and results. MAS acted as corresponding author. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


This study did not receive funding.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Research Involving Human Participants and/or Animals

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Deakin University Human Research Ethics Committee (DUHREC 2014-270), and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura A. Pecora
    • 1
  • Grace I. Hancock
    • 1
  • Gary B. Mesibov
    • 2
  • Mark A. Stokes
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Faculty of Health, School of PsychologyDeakin UniversityBurwoodAustralia
  2. 2.School of MedicineUniversity of North CarolinaChapel HillUSA

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