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Brief Report: Asexuality and Young Women on the Autism Spectrum

Abstract

Existing research suggests that people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are more likely than those without ASD to self-identify as asexual, or as being on the asexual spectrum. This study contributes to the literature by exploring aspects of sexuality and well-being in a large, community-based sample of young women (18–30 years old) with ASD (N = 247) and comparing the experiences of those with asexual spectrum identities and those with other sexual orientations (e.g., gay, bisexual, heterosexual). In the present sample, asexual participants reported less sexual desire and fewer sexual behaviors than those with other sexual orientations, but greater sexual satisfaction. Being on the asexual spectrum also was associated with lower generalized anxiety symptoms. Clinical and research implications are discussed.

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Authors

Contributions

HHB conceived the larger study from which the current study is drawn, collected data, performed statistical analyses, reviewed the literature, and drafted the manuscript. LWW and EM reviewed the literature, helped to draft and edit the manuscript, and developed ideas presented in the Introduction and Discussion. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Hillary H. Bush.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Hillary H. Bush is a Staff Psychologist at the Learning and Emotional Assessment Program, Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, and an Instructor of Psychology, Part-Time, at Harvard Medical School. Lindsey W. Williams is a Clinical Assistant Professor at University of North Carolina TEACCH Autism Program, where she specializes in working with adolescents and adults. Eva Mendes is a sought-after Asperger/autism specialist, author of Marriage and Lasting Relationships with Asperger's Syndrome and Gender Identity, Sexuality and Autism, psychotherapist and couples' counselor in private practice in the Boston area, who works with clients from around the country and internationally via video conferencing. The original research presented in this article was conducted as part of the first author's doctoral dissertation at the University of Massachusetts Boston (UMB). The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI) and the UMB Doctoral Dissertation Research Grant Program are recognized for their financial support of this work.

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Bush, H.H., Williams, L.W. & Mendes, E. Brief Report: Asexuality and Young Women on the Autism Spectrum. J Autism Dev Disord 51, 725–733 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-020-04565-6

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Keywords

  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Asexuality
  • Human sexuality
  • Internalizing symptoms
  • Women