Tales from the Spectrum: the Autistic Asshole

Last updated on February 11, 2021

syllogism1
This person is an asshole. This person is autistic. All autistic people are assholes. FALSE.

WARNING:  I’m about to piss some people off.  Like, probably a lot.  I’m using a lot of curse words and I’m talking about some very personal and serious things, and if you have rough triggers, beware.  You have been warned.  (But, you probably already figured that out from the title…)

ALSO: The original post was on April 25, 2016. I’ve edited this for clarification and grammar as of February 1, 2021. I love your feedback. <3


This conversation is grinding through my brain.  It’s bugging me and it’s preying on me because it grates on every single decent thing I know about humans.  The short version is, Person A told me, “Be kind to this utter asshole who insults you and has been known to be abusive to you and others because, hey, they’re autistic, and you should be compassionate to that because you are and your kids are.  You should understand.

Um…. no.  Fuck that.

Here’s more of the situation to put it all into context:  I don’t talk to Person B anymore because they’re an asshole.  Yes, I know they’re on the spectrum, and I know that they never had the benefit of knowing they were on the spectrum until recently. And, yes. I know that it’s quite likely that a great deal of their… questionable behavior comes from that autie feature of having absolutely no filter operating between brain and mouth.  Person B has a long history of not being called out for this behavior, so I really shouldn’t be surprised.

As I’ve known Person B a long time, I’ve given specific and direct feedback about the nature of the things that I feel uncomfortable with – and I mean “uncomfortable” ranging from “offended that anyone would even say that to another human” to “not safe and kind of threatened”. Their behavior hasn’t changed.  

Person A, however, was trying to take me to task for not talking to someone that treats me poorly because said person is on the spectrum, even though the spectrum person has been given ample opportunity and feedback to change.

Are you seriously using autism spectrum disorder as an excuse for abusive behavior? Developmentally delayed children are still corrected for abusive behavior and their environments adjusted to keep them from hurting themselves and others. A grown-ass adult who has had ample time and ample conversation to be aware of their own unacceptable behavior should be excused because spectrum!?!?

Double fuck that.

I am on the spectrum, and I have more than the normal number of kids on the spectrum, and I can tell you that being autistic is not some kind of “trapped in amber” moment where we know what we know and that’s it.  Contrary to what it appears Person A thinks about autism, it doesn’t take much for us to learn something new.  We can change habits, we can control ourselves, and we can even get trained up on how to human with other humans in a nicely human (or at least human-like) way.  Even my youngest who is essentially non-verbal has learned after being corrected only once or twice not to bite or pinch or hit.

And, yes, I know every autie is different. We’re each made up totally unique mixes of different genes and behaviors and factors that are all pulled from the same bag but never assembled the same twice.  Person B is an adult person of above-average intelligence, not a non-verbal 8-year-old, so…. why the excuses?

Look, I know that somewhere in Person B is someone who isn’t malicious and mean.  I know that maybe they think they’re being funny.  I also know that psychopathic killers are not walking around 24/7 plotting ways to murder people – they have to pay the water bill sometime, and maybe go to the grocery story.  I’m sure Person B doesn’t sit around plotting the next shitty thing to say to me or anyone else – and I’m pretty sure they know they’re an asshole because they say it themselves frequently and have avoided humans as a whole for much the same reason.  Or, to put it another way, I can have compassion that a person has a specific brain configuration (they cannot help what they desire) that makes them think it’s okay to fuck little kids, but that doesn’t mean that I have to let them fuck little kids.

It’s established that the assholery is present, and it’s probably “just” untherapied autism. But, you don’t have to be diagnosed with autism to learn to be a decent human. Finding out that Person B is or isn’t autistic and making an excuse for their behavior – putting me in the line of fire – demands that my comfort level as less important than theirs.  Somehow, I should be okay with being victimized by demeaning and suggestive language and behavior towards me and mine because, hey, they’re autistic.

I won’t go so far as to say that Person A is “victim blaming” – it’s not quite that far, but it’s in the same vein (and they’ve displayed that tendency heavily in other areas).  Regardless of the person – regardless of NT or ND status, regardless of any diagnosis – I have the right as a human to protect myself from crappy behavior.  The rules are the same for every person in my life – you can treat me with respect or you can GTFO.  And I have a list of people on both sides of that decision-making process that I can refer you to in case you doubt.

There’s a part of me that shouldn’t be surprised since Person A comes from a culture where they really did blame the victim, where girls (or boys) were raped or molested because they just weren’t careful and then they were afterwards forever branded as “soiled”, “used up”, “less than worthy”.  But, again, if that’s where you came from but you have since learned that that way of thinking is wrong, then perpetuating it is not a good look for you.  In fact, it kind of makes you look like an asshole.


Other posts related to this one: Autistic Masking

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23 Comments

  1. JJ
    October 27, 2017
    Reply

    I love this so much!

  2. Katheleen
    May 9, 2018
    Reply

    Pure gold XD

  3. Sidney
    May 25, 2018
    Reply

    I completely agree

  4. Karin
    May 27, 2018
    Reply

    I can’t agree with the article more since I’m working with an autistic ass hole at work who feel so entitled when in reality no one gives a shit about him and secretly wishes him to go away forever. You have described exactly how my co-workers and I have felt for months, can’t thank you more for sharing some truth and common sense with us this time.

  5. Lola
    June 12, 2020
    Reply

    Omg I was just thinking this today. The word asshole. I had no idea that someone else out there felt the same way. Usually when I read an article it tries to get people to sympathize with the person on the spectrum. I have tried to for 4 years or more. I even have done alot of research to understand but 😐their behavior is starting to urk me so I seldomly interact with them. I shouldn’t want to 👀 go off on my own friend. Thank you for this article it’s nice to know someone out there can relate.

  6. Karen
    June 17, 2020
    Reply

    I couldn’t agree with you more when you read your article. You are absolutely the one with compassion and understanding here! Thank you for being so honest because in fact I am working with an autistic asshole myself and I can totally relate to what you say~

  7. Laura
    November 19, 2020
    Reply

    Yes. I could not agree more. Both my sister and I are neurotypical and have delt with abusive behavior from out now 21 year old autistic brother. A grown man who acts violent is unacceptable regardless of being on the spectrum. I can tell you my brother has even strangled me, and had there not been another person in the house I dont believe he would have stopped. Yet, after the incident I was told “be understanding that he has triggers” and “you know your brother loves and would do anything for you, right?”. Those on the spectrum are ultimately also human, and humans can be assholess.

  8. Ilona
    November 26, 2020
    Reply

    Autistic or not, assholes are assholes lol

  9. dd
    December 23, 2020
    Reply

    I guess autistic people can be prone to being assholes because of their limited ability of putting themselves in other people’s shoes. If you don’t see your behavior from any perspective but your own, it’s more difficult to undestand what may be wrong or even feel any need to change at all. You don’t perceive the damage you’re doing, so ‘what’s the big deal?’ It’s also worth mentioning that autism can come with other comorbid disorders, which may be partially responsible for this kind of behavior. Of course, this doesn’t mean they should use this as a pass for not even trying.

    • December 30, 2020
      Reply

      And that’s really my point, dd. Yes, absolutely, autism comes with a SLEW of comorbidities that show up on the “personality disorder” lists, but it’s so much more important to be conscious of that. Using “autism” as the pass to be a jackass is like anyone else who uses a disadvantage as an excuse to not try: just not a very good human, really.

  10. AnAA
    January 22, 2021
    Reply

    So… Autistic Asshole here… found the post and read most of it.. got a bit grindy for a bit there, but I think I get the jist of what you’re saying.

    I want to provide some examples from my side, simply as consideration, I have no desire to demean or belittle your perspective, and I appreciate you just laying it all out. Something my own extended family didn’t give me any courtesy of was giving me any feedback through our time together. I never knew how to adjust myself because no one told me. And yes, we really have no clue sometimes. I’m 40 now and I can completely miss a flirt. Like Data’s daughter trying to catch the ball. Whoops.

    My Autism has been like trying to process the world from a fire ladder fire hose through a flour sieve, caked with dried axle grease… and the edges completely sealed by an unobtanium o-ring.
    Information overload is a daily occurrence, and even the slightest disrespect for the most basic of common sense rules is my trigger point. I’ve gotten better at controlling my reactions, but it took some effort on my part. Things like using your turn signal, not trying to merge into me to get to the interstate when it’s the next lane over and I’m in the way, or even simply tailgating me through a posted speed limit zone (ESPECIALLY a school zone. There are true monsters out there, and all you need are wheels under you to ruin someone’s life, and too many people disrespect that – self included, and I’ve tried to be better.) Everyone screams about being equal and having their say, but no one will respect common rules in place to keep everyone safe. And you get upset at me? Your car is literally a weapon, and most folks get the equivalent of training necessary to operate a can opener. It terrifies me that some of you are gun owners, and I have neighbors that shoot on the weekends. I absolutely support your right to have ’em.

    But, and I fully acknowledge the counter-punch on comorbids. My own diagnosis was the ASD and basically anxiety and depression. I knew there was more. I didn’t even know about the BiPolar connection until I researched it myself. Even our healthcare systems, as much as they try, aren’t 100%, and people are expecting absolutes from an area that is quite frankly…science. We need to remember to be kind and gentle with everyone, and if the person is not doing that… it is ultimately the person’s choice, not the disorder. I adore the strengths my ASD gives me, but I fully acknowledge the wild sides, and I really do work to better myself from them. Unlike your example, I endeavor, not unlike Commander Data, to be more human. To be more like you NTs. I desperately want to live a normal life, to not be persecuted over my shortcomings and shortfalls, and to contribute to everyone’s wellbeing. I serve no one by being a miserable grouch.

    • February 1, 2021
      Reply

      I KNOW, RIGHT? (That was non-sarcastic, I am truly agreeing with you on all counts, and thank you for the editing feedback. I’m working on an edit for it because it was definitely written some time ago).

      I’m sorry if you got the impression that I was an NT, but absolutely not! I’m very spectrum, but my point was that people who use being on the spectrum as an excuse to be asshole-y or are given a pass to be assholes just because they might be or are are doing themselves and everyone else a massive disservice.

      More recently, I’ve been finding a lot of research on learning the difference between masking and accomplishing what you’re talking about – the “learning how to human” part. The main difference is that masking is emulation – giving the “right answer” even though we don’t know why – while “learning to human” is developing emotional empathy moderation, cognitive empathy skills, individuation versus objectification… but once we get there (and I say “we” because I’ve watched so many auties get there), we’re decidedly better than NTs. Just a little something to look forward to. <3

  11. BJ
    January 29, 2021
    Reply

    What a load of bs. Seems like the author is the asshole. And an ignorant one at that

    • February 1, 2021
      Reply

      And what I hear from this is a lot of defensiveness. I guess you’ve been accused of being an asshole? Or you think that autistics should just be allowed to “express themselves however”? I’m truly curious. Which part do you think is bs?

  12. DD
    February 2, 2021
    Reply

    Hello, would you mind referring me to any source where I could learn about the “masking vs. empathy skills” you were talking about in your reply to Anaa?
    I’m particularly interested in HFA in relation to personal relationships. From an NT point of view (I am one), masking is often a major issue that, when finally exposed, leads to the impression of having been living a lie, or having been cheated, although I undestand how difficult relationships must be for austic people and why they would resort to masking in order to get a chance. I can empathize with that, even if it ultimately leads to loss of trust and it jeopardizes the relationship itself, that’s why I would like to know if there are alternatives.
    It seems to me that this kind of issues is still “uncharted territory” for the most part, even in scientific literature, and it’s a shame. I often find many people, whether they’re on the spectrum or not, being very judgmental and confrontational, as if NTs and Aspies were at war or something, and it saddens me tremendously, since this attitude, along with lack of knowledge, pulls us apart and hinders our mutual understanding. I have many questions going round in my head, I hope not all of them will remain unanswered.

    • February 3, 2021
      Reply

      That is a FANTASTIC question, DD, and I’m about to post a follow-up blog to this discussing it in more detail. The short version is, though, that a major part of the support and therapy that auties receive is to learn consciously about both emotional and cognitive empathy. There is a lot of confusion about empathy, and a lot of NTs do imagine that it’s just “something you do,” like it’s an inherent quality. The big question I hear around it is, “How can you teach someone to give a shit about someone else?” Um? Auties care deeply about other people, but they don’t always show it in a way that NTs can recognize.

      Don’t feel lied to because your autie masks. For so many of us, we had no idea that we were on the spectrum, but there was extreme pressure to “fit in,” to make it look like NTs. It was very much a matter of displaying the “right answers” without knowing how to actually do the calculations. So, we have to go back and learn those social mores consciously with the background logic and reasoning. (Yes, emotions have logic and reasoning, they just apply to emotions.) Look for the next blog post today or tomorrow. <3

  13. MS
    February 11, 2021
    Reply

    Oh thank God that I just found this!!!! I don’t even have the words to express how helpful this is.

  14. Erin Shaw
    February 17, 2021
    Reply

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I’m NT in some ways but have depression, cPTSD and anxiety majorly. My fiancé is an autistic asshole. I think he can make progress though, but he needs more feedback. But I feel understood and heard- I never felt I could fully call out his crap and still be sensitive to his way of doing things. Thank you so much.

  15. Matt
    February 23, 2021
    Reply

    I came to doing some research on the attitudes struggles and patterns of people on the spectrum as I have had to lock horns with people who are either diagnosed or undiagnosed autistics for the last few years. Luckily, they were in my free time activities so avoiding their toxic behavior is easier now. I tried to give them a break, understand their issues and made effort I did not see in return. And I for a while thought I had to try so hard to conquer the negative feelings heir behaviors gave me. Its nice to see someone not being an apologist for bad behavior. Its good to see that Autistics are capable of being responsible and not falling into the trap of accepting the bad behavior. I think this shows that Autistic people CAN succeed, some just can’t try but more than we might like to admit, DON’T try.

    • February 23, 2021
      Reply

      I won’t lie, sometimes it’s really hard to bridge that gap as an autie in order to get on with other humans, but some effort at least needs to be made. It’s not about “being held to the same standards as NTs,” it’s about belonging to a species. There is no excuse to be knowingly toxic. Good on you for keeping your boundaries!

  16. One who knows
    March 12, 2021
    Reply

    I like your candor. Fuck people who know better and still use any disability as an excuse. There is some leeway but not the whole fucking way

  17. Laura
    August 8, 2021
    Reply

    Thank you!! Reading this has me near tears with relief. My best friend is Autistic & I love them. But, sometimes their actions & words to me are so hurtful. And if I try to say anything it is met with, “well, you know I’m autistic” or some sort of gaslighting that makes me question if I’m in the wrong.
    Thank you for this post that draws a line between jerk behavior & autism.

  18. Pam
    September 12, 2021
    Reply

    I’m an autistic asshole that uses my powers to tell anti vaxxers & american republicans to fuck off bc most of them are stupid douches…as well as extreme leftists that are anti-free speech & insist on making gender shit more complicated and making clear concise communication impossible…and therefore making life harder for my disabled butt ;).

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