Touch and Fear

I don’t know if this is really what a nice, frum (religious) boy should be writing about so soon after Yom Kippur, but here goes.  It’s a subject I’ve touched on before, but not in as much detail (hopefully not too graphic).

I’ve been thinking seriously lately about going to a shadchanit (matchmaker).  I think I’ve mentioned I found one who specialises in dealing with people with ‘sensitive’ situations, particularly medical conditions.  I told myself I would see how I coped with the Yom Tovim (festivals) and with adapting to my longer work hours and so far things are going reasonably well.  I’ve been thinking lately that maybe it would be a good thing if the shadchanit could set me up with someone with Asperger’s as regardless of whether I’m actually on the autistic spectrum, I have a lot of characteristics of someone who is on the spectrum and I think in some ways I would be a good match for such a person, certainly more so than matching me up with someone with depression or OCD.  In the latter case we could well end up in a situation where neither of us could cope with each other’s problems or where we even reinforce the problems and bring each other down, whereas with another Aspie I think there would be a stronger chance of a shared outlook on life and similar behaviours that would lead to a shared understanding of each other and which wouldn’t necessarily reinforce each other in a negative way (e.g. feeling uncomfortable with crowds, not liking small talk, finding it hard to communicate with neurotypical people… although reading this back, I could probably get that just from someone who is strongly introverted).

Aside from the fact that there simply aren’t many autistic women diagnosed out there, so it may be hard to find a frum one my age and compatible in other ways (not all autistic people are the same!), my fears really come down to this: I’m scared of what will happen about sex.  I’ve done a bit of reading around the subject and I know that some people with autistism/Asperger’s do manage to have sex lives and even to have families (which I very much want), but others can’t cope with physical intimacy at all.  The sensory overload is just too much.  Cynthia Kim in Nerdy, Shy and Socially Inappropriate says that people with Asperger’s can have sexual relationships, even with neurotypical people, but it does take good communication, patience and sensitivity.  I’m OK with that, as I think those are important for healthy relationships generally, but I do get scared about being with someone who can’t cope at all with sex.

I guess I should worry about that if and when I’m in a relationship with an Aspie.  But more than that, I’m worried that I wouldn’t be able to cope at all with sex.  My ex-girlfriend thought I was frigid and that my desire to keep the Jewish laws of no physical contact before marriage was just an excuse to avoid making out with her.  I did give in and did some minor touching.  I liked hugging, but I found hand-holding awkward, I hated it when she stroked my arm while we were watching TV (but didn’t know how to say so without upsetting her) and when she once tried to kiss me, I instinctively jumped about two feet away from her.  It was mostly due to shock, as I wasn’t expecting it, and guilt, but there was also a strong feeling of disgust at her lips on mine, wet and fleshy.  I felt guilty and thought I should try again, but I literally couldn’t do.  Nothing to do with dislike, I simply couldn’t work out how to do it.  Yes, I’m so bad at physical stuff that I couldn’t actually work out how to kiss my girlfriend!  Our brief attempts were inept and abortive and after the third or fourth time I happily gave up (as none of the kisses actually worked, I tell myself I’ve never been kissed because as a first kiss, that was too horrible to contemplate).  Soon afterwards, I wanted to go back to no physical contact at all, as I was feeling too guilty from the whole experience, but she decided she would rather break up.

Ever since I have worried that I won’t be able to kiss even if I get married or if I will find it as disgusting as when my ex tried to kiss me.  And if I can’t cope with kissing, maybe I won’t be able to cope with sex at all.  Maybe my ex had a point when she said I wouldn’t have sex with her even if we were married.

The thing is, I’m desperate for intimacy, physical and emotional (the two are linked for me, I know I could never have sex except with the woman I love and have pledged my life to even if this was not required by Jewish law).  When my rabbi rhetorically asked in his sermon a while back, “What is the thing you can never get enough of?” I knew it was intimacy.  Not sex or even love, but intimacy.  Really opening up to someone, really being known and vulnerable and accepted and having her open up to me in the same way.  But I’m really afraid that I won’t be able to manage it and I won’t know until I’m actually married, which frightens me even more.

I’m kind of pinning my hopes on this book, a sex guide by two sex therapists, one of whom is also an Orthodox rabbi, designed for frum newly-weds who haven’t had any physical contact with the other sex before marriage.  You can’t see much on the Amazon look inside feature, but from reviews and from the contents, it looks like it has a lot about things that would concern an Aspie or a socially-anxious person about sex that I assume isn’t in the normal type of sex manuals aimed at people who have some sexual experience already e.g. discomfort with nakedness, sex smells, negative body image, transitioning from not touching at all to full intercourse etc.  Also guilt about previous sexual experiences (I feel very guilty about not being 100% shomer negiah (not touching) with my ex).

My therapist encouraged me to buy a copy to read to try to set some of my fears about sex to rest and I actually ordered a copy from Amazon, but there was a problem with the order and I was given a refund instead of the book.  I wondered if this was a sign I shouldn’t buy it, especially as I was already worrying how I would explain owning the book to a future wife, so I didn’t try to order it from somewhere else.  Maybe that was a mistake.

The thing is, it really matters to me that I should be able to satisfy my wife, even more than myself.  I wouldn’t want her to have to sacrifice that for the sake of the relationship.  I also don’t want to have sex just to have children, which sounds horrible.  I desperately want to be able to express my love for my wife physically in a way she would enjoy, but I’m terrified that I wouldn’t be able to do it.

Yeah, I know, I should find the woman first before I worry about all this.  But it makes me wonder if I should even be looking.

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