Neurodivergence can come with a whole host of sensory sensitivities, from touch, too light, to noise and beyond. Sex can be especially funky as a neurodivergent person, as it’s such a sensory heavy experience - and can become so overwhelming, even when we’re super into it!
For me personally, I struggle with making out, breath on my skin or hair, rough textures rubbing on my skin, light ‘tickly’ touches and more! The extent to which these bother me varies hugely day-to-day, and it’s always been a struggle with new partners to accommodate my needs without ruining ‘the mood’. But after a few years of having sex & engaging in kink, and having some partners that are super great with it, I’ve learnt a few tips for dealing with sensory issues in sex:
- Flexibility & Understanding - everyone is different, and every neurodivergent person will experience neurodivergence differently, what they like and dislike, and what becomes overwhelming changes, from person to person & from one day to another! Ensuring that both you and your partner are empathic with this, and meet it with sensitivity & flexibility is key!
- Using toys! - sometimes, being touched by another person in certain ways or places can be overwhelming, but using a toy - either yourself or your partner using it on you - can be a lot easier! Sex toys are an amazing accessibility aid for a whole host of disabilities, and don’t be afraid to use them as such!
- Communication & Control - sometimes, it can help if we know what’s going to happen, it can make it a lot easier to deal with. In general, consent & asking before you do things is the go-to, but often people with sensory issues need this more than most. For example, whether I can handle making out varies day to day, so my partner always asks before they kiss me - even if I was okay with it an hour ago. Equally, I’ve found that putting my hand on top of theirs, so I can feel where it’s going, and what contact will be made, really helps with the amount of touch I can handle in the moment. Equally, like with all sex, ensuring that you have safe words/actions & a general ability to stop the situation as quickly as possible if you get overwhelmed.
- Start slow & work up - some people can handle going straight into a sexual situation, but that’s a big change in the dynamic of the moment. Sometimes, starting slowly, with vaguely sexual things, or taking breaks, can really help to ease you into a sexual situation, rather than throwing you into the deep end.
- Kink & BDSM - for me personally, I find kink & BDSM a lot easier sensory-wise than sex - which seems odd, because it’s usually focused on pain or restriction, but I personally find that easier than the intensity of sex - and kink/BDSM works as a great way to ease me into a sexual situation, to have gaps between sex that aren’t just…nothing, or simply to do something satisfying that isn’t sex, if I totally can’t handle it!
- Be kind to yourself - it’s easy to tell partners to be empathetic with us about sensory needs, but oftentimes we don’t hold ourselves to that standard too. Ensuring that you’re empathetic with yourself, and challenging any negative or self-blaming thoughts will help you to generally feel more positive about yourself & the sex you have!
- Just….not! - it’s also totally okay if you can’t have sex at all - whether that’s on a specific day, for a few weeks or permanently. Sex isn’t the be-all and end-all of a relationship, and people that don’t have sex & asexual people live completely happy and fulfilling lives & relationships! I’m personally polyamorous, and me and my partner that I have sex with both see other people too, so that works quite well for them when I can’t have sex. But ultimately both yourself & your partner can have a chat about what works & how not having sex (either temporarily or permanently) will look like for you!