Friday, February 9, 2018

Book Review: The Aspie's Girl's Guide to Being Safe with Men

 The Aspie Girl's Guide to Being Safe with Men: The Unwritten Safety Rules No-one is Telling You, by Debi Brown, is a book of rules for the intended subject, and only the intended subject, as written by one autistic woman.

I found the scope of this book very narrow, all thing considered, and perhaps more suited for 20 years ago than now.  Today's understanding of sexuality and gender identity allow for a much broader range of relationships than "cis straight girl with cis straight guy," which is all this book really addresses.  There is no discussion whatsoever about same sex relationships, trans people, or genderfluidity.  The lattermost is relatively common in autistic people, apparently, with myself as the obvious example.  I am agender, meaning I would like you to take your gender stereotypes and toss them in a fire, far away from me, thanks.  Some people feel they have traits of both genders, or are more one gender than the other depending on the day. 

So, all of this is skipped.  This book is intently focused on abuse-prevention in the most statistically common relationship or sexual situation.  The language choice is simplistic and written for literal-minded people, which is excellent given the intended audience.  Not every autistic woman needs these accommodations, naturally, but it doesn't hurt.  Particularly since the subject matter makes most people uncomfortable to talk about, even if it's their job (looking at you, guidance counselors and sex ed teachers...).  The writer tends to start technical and then get into more detail, and list "rules" and priorities for those rules, which I think is good for the kind of black and white thinking autistic people are prone to.

One good point about this book is that it includes a discussion of boundaries.  This subject is, as far as I know, not one that was ever discussed with me until last year.  I was expected to simply learn this information on my own, somehow.  (By the way, the person who helpfully discussed this with me?  She's gay, knowledgeable, and awesome.)  So the author here defines boundaries, and then lists some basic ones, including ones I hadn't really thought about as specifically boundaries.  This transitions into how to say no, why to say no, and how to handle hearing "no" from someone else.

The author does take a lot of time in this book to talk about herself, which is why I'm able to safely say that she has the opposite problem that I do.  On the spectrum of independence, with "overdependent" on one end and "refuses help from anyone or anything" on the other, the author falls closer to "overdependent" and I fall more near "refuses help from anyone or anything."  The healthiest place for people is right in the middle of that spectrum.  No one is truly independent in truth, not the richest person in the world nor the poorest hermit.  The tools we use, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, even the work we do, all rely on other people.  But as a rule, this author seems to prefer other people swoop in and solve her problems all the time, whereas I tend to prefer to solve my problems myself regardless of how much quicker or better it would be for someone else to do it.

I suspect the author's end of the spectrum is more common in disability circles.  Part of the reason I'm relatively anti-getting help is because I learned very young that no one would help me anyway.  So it doesn't really occur to me to ask for help, or include other people.  But most people with disabilities know about their disabilities and are given help whether they want it or not, which seems, in my experience, to lead to relying on that help.  Again, this is not necessarily a bad thing, since everyone is dependent on others.  It's just a problem if it becomes overdependence.  The author talks about her struggles with overdependence a bit, along with her emotional struggles regarding sexual abuse.

Which is the last thing I'd like to point out about this book, in fact.  While overall I found this book a little too simplistic and limited for everyday life, it does make a point of walking you through some common reactions to sexual abuse, how to work through them, the complicating factors, what things you should do if you've been raped and what to expect with the aftermath, etc. 

Read This Book If

You're autistic and biologically (or trans-) female, especially if you've had a more sheltered life and/or the people around you haven't really wanted to discuss sex, sexuality, and how to be safe when dating men.  This book is rather restricted in focus, which I think is a pity given the incredible amount of diversity in relationships there is now... but as far as its focus goes, it does a decent enough job.  I have yet to find a better resource for how autistic people deal with abuse, how to manage and set boundaries, and how to describe sex in relatively clear, understandable language. 

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