At my work and in my direct environment, I encounter quite a few people who have some form of high-functioning autism, typically Asperger’s syndrome. Lately I often find myself suspecting I might be on the spectrum myself as well, but I was never formally diagnosed. When a counselor suggested I might be on the spectrum back when I was a teenager, my mother insisted I should stop seeing the counselor. Either way, in my experience I have a decent image of some of the difficulties that people with autism encounter in regards to social interaction, some of these are difficulties I have encountered myself over the years.
Although still noticeable, my own social deficits have declined because I’ve regularly taken MDMA and psychedelics over the years. This has also had the effect of significantly reducing the depression I suffered because of those social deficits. I like to think that I can explain some of these problems and help other people overcome them. Some of the main problems people on the spectrum encounter is that they’re essentially pathologically honest. They’re bad at lying and tend to trust other people mean what they say. This makes life very difficult for them. In fact, I’d argue it caused a lot of damage in my own romantic relationships, the fact that I struggle to believe other people might tell white lies to you, even though they care about you.
Something I’ve noticed over the years in people with high functioning autism is that they seem much better capable of acting in a manner that goes against their instincts than most people, based on some abstract ideas they have been exposed to. There are some things that most people know intuitively, but people with high functioning autism have to teach themselves. As an example, consider the various subtleties in regards to social interaction. Most of the people you know automatically nod, make eye contact and say “hmm” when someone is explaining something to them.
If you have autism, you’re less likely to do that and you eventually figure out that it makes it unpleasant for regular people to communicate with you. If you have high-functioning autism, that is, you’re intelligent enough to mask your social deficits, you eventually consciously learn those kind of subtleties. Because it’s something you need to do consciously, it is exhausting and it can look forced and robotic to other people. For people with high-functioning autism, it tends to feel like you’re spending your whole life forced to reinvent the wheel. That’s why a lot of women with high-functioning autism end up suffering a burnout at their jobs, they’re better capable of masking their social deficits but it takes a lot of mental effort.
In a similar manner, when a young feminist writes some tiresome diatribe about how she merely goes to a bar because she wants to dance with her friends, how it’s atrocious when a man in the metro asks her what she’s reading, or that she wears a mini-skirt in the middle of january at 11 PM because it’s “comfortable”, she’s writing that sort of stuff for normal people, who are strongly in tune with their own social intuition. They have a certain behavioral model in their head in regards to how other people behave and they interpret other people’s behavior in accordance to that model, without even consciously being aware of that.
For people with high-functioning autism, that behavioral model is effectively missing. They have to consciously reconstruct it over the years in their minds, through hard painstaking effort and endless episodes of awkwardness and social incompetence. The problem occurs, when those people with autism then begin to try to build that mental model other people receive for free without any real effort, based on the things that regular people say. As an example, we already know that people with severe autism struggle with sarcasm and irony. However, such people also struggle with the fact that many things humans say merely tend to be reactions against a broadly held mental model and cultural norm.
Autism is to some degree seen by scientists as the product of a hypermasculine brain. One of the consequences this has is that men with autism tend to take the things that women say at face value, rather than interpreting them as a nuance against a mental model these women intuitively assume other people have. As a rather banal example, a woman who enjoys wearing hotpants that have half her ass hanging out fears that others will think “what an attention-hungry slut” of her (note: I personally think it’s a perfectly normal healthy human impulse to seek attention). So, a woman who enjoys doing that will write a diatribe arguing that it’s actually just really comfortable, her fundamental human right and has absolutely zero to do with men’s reactions.
Men with high-functioning autism will then read a diatribe like that, in an effort to understand how women think, to help avoid needlessly offending people because social interaction is difficult for them. But, because the intuitive mental model of how other people behave is almost entirely lacking for them, they take diatribes like these at face value. As a consequence, they end up with a warped model of how other people think and behave, which ends up being seen by other people as innocent and naive at best. The consequence this has is that social interaction merely becomes even more difficult for them.
As another example, consider the gay pride movement. People with high-functioning autism will look at the popularity of the gay pride movement and assume that all the progressive cisgender heterosexual liberals who endorse this movement must clearly have no bias against homosexuality and transgenderism. In reality however, these cisgender heterosexual liberals who participate in this movement are signaling to the world that they’re willing to take a conscious effort to rebel against their own innate discomfort in regards to deviant sexual and gender identities. People with high-functioning autism struggle to realize that and simply take these social phenomena at face value, with marginalization and misunderstanding as a consequence for them.
Here’s an example of what I mean. Consider Amber Rose, a prominent feminist in popular culture. She organizes “slut marches”, she’s a white woman who is always acting in hip hop videos, surely she must be a very progressive non-judgemental person with no hostility towards anyone. However, read an interview with her and you’ll find out she has the same innate discomfort around male bisexuality that the vast majority of women have. That’s just part of human nature, but people with high-functioning autism are at risk of ending up completely oblivious to that problem because nobody bothers to tell them about it.
Society tells you stuff like “treat all people equally”, “money is not important in life”, “it doesn’t matter how you look, what matters is what’s on the inside”. The reason it tells you that is because life would be easier if people around us behaved more like that. However, most people incorporate such ideas into their own innate behavioral pattern: They’re intrinsically materialistic, but they become less materialistic because society beats it into their skulls. People with high functioning autism don’t really adjust their own preconceived notions to those messages, they actually generally end up taking those ideas as their starting point.
My suggestion to people with high-functioning autism would be to always remember that when people are arguing something, they’re generally doing so because most people operate on the basis of a framework in which the opposite is true. A feminist who writes some diatribe about how uncomfortable she felt when a guy tried to ask her out in an elevator doesn’t realize she makes social interaction feel even more frightening and incomprehensible for men with high-functioning autism.
Instead, she’s writing her diatribe, for motives that are self-evident to most other people. As an example of one of the motives, consider the extreme human need for validation. “Look people, I’m attractive to men, but it’s petty when I brag about how I’m attractive to men, so I’m going to disguise my bragging as a complaint. In fact, I’m so attractive to men that it’s a significant detriment to my quality of life!” People with autism will generally tend to completely miss that subcontext if it’s not explicitly explained to them. However, explicitly stating these type of things is considered to be in poor taste.
There are a lot of other things that are considered in poor taste to state explicitly, but that nonetheless need to be made clear to people. As an example, I had a black friend back when I was a teenager who was very socially competent. He had a good looking platonic friend. One day they hung out at her house and her father showed up. According to my friend, the father pulled the kind of face when he saw him that immedately revealed “oh my God no my daughter is seeing a black guy”.
Imagine you’re a black guy with high functioning autism. Succesful progressive white people will superficially suggest that they’re perfectly comfortable around you and because you don’t see through their signals, you’ll take that suggestion for granted. In reality, most of them are like the father I mentioned earlier. They feel some sense of discomfort around the thought that their daughter is seeing a black guy. They’ll never admit to it. They feel deeply guilty about it. They try to get rid of the feeling, but it’s still there and they try to atone for it by donating to the United Negro College Fund or hiring a token minority at work.
A general rule of thumb you can use is that when people write a whole book discrediting an idea or do numerous scientific studies trying to disprove an idea, it’s because at some level they fear the idea is true. Or even better, consider when people insist on being proud of something. Let’s take all the parents who insist they’re “proud of their gay son/daughter”. You don’t bother walking in some march insisting you’re proud of your gay son, if you’re not at some level disappointed that your son is gay. If our society genuinely felt comfortable with homosexuality, we wouldn’t need pride marches on a yearly basis that feature ever growing groups of heterosexuals who insist on shouting from the top of their lungs that they’re completely fine with homosexuality.
I say this, because it’s not fair if people for whom this sort of stuff is not self-evident are kept in the dark. A number of my friends are closeted bisexuals. There’s a reason most bisexual men are closeted, it’s because being uncloseted merely puts you at a disadvantage against heterosexual men. In fact, when homosexuality became “tolerated” (it’s not genuinely accepted by most people and never will be), bisexuality in teenage boys seemed to suddenly die out according to statisticians who measured it.
There’s a reason the alt-right attracts a lot of people with some form of autism, it’s because the alt-right tells these people the sort of stuff that’s already self-evident to most other people. In fact, the alt-right even attracts ethnic minority men on the spectrum, one reason being that these men feel relieved to find a community of people who actually say what they mean. If you’re a good succesful progressive, you preach that you love minorities, even as you marry within your own caste and retreat to gated communities. What the alt-right essentially tells these people is “I know you discard your rudimentary mental model of other people’s behavior in favor of what they explicitly say, but your rudimentary mental model is nonetheless right.”
It’s worth pointing out that a lot of people out there don’t so much try to disprove these assertions that the alt-right crowd makes. Instead, they consider them in poor taste. Similarly, a woman who encounters some guy with high-functioning autism who seduces her through a series of tricks he learned on some pick up artist site isn’t going to argue that these tricks don’t work. Rather, they’re considered in poor taste. Why is that? It’s seen as being in poor taste when you say something that’s self-evident to people that they’ve already moved past.
In a similar manner, I realize that this whole essay is going to be seen by most of my readers as being in poor taste. I’m willing to say these things however, because I consider it unfair that a minority of people who hear the cliches our society peddles end up taking these cliches at face value. To me it’s unfair that men with autism end up afraid of women because they take feminist arguments at face value. To me it’s unfair that gay and bisexual people on the spectrum end up believing that people in their direct environment will genuinely think of them the same way when they leave the closet. To me it’s unfair when ethnic minorities would take the majority’s suggestion of being “color blind” at face value. If we want people on the spectrum to have an easier time participating in our society, we need to start being more honest.