Parenting takes you on some interesting twists and turns, but as I lay in the maternity ward staring into my newborn baby’s eyes, never in my wildest dreams could I have ever imagined that 21 years later, I would scour sex worker websites looking for a suitable young woman to take her virginity. Yet this is exactly where I found myself earlier this year.
We hadn’t been out of the hospital for a long time when I noticed my baby’s gaze had a distant quality. A few days after his third birthday, he was diagnosed with autism.
He is now learning to drive and take public transport, having finished high school. But navigating social relationships is harder than reading a train timetable or Google Maps. Physically and sexually he is a young man, but his social skills are years behind.
I hope one day he finds the right girl, his own version of Love on the Spectrum. But how can you channel your sexuality in a healthy way until then?
Long story short, I wondered if he’d rather meet the good boy, because more people with autism identify as LGBTQ+ than those who don’t. However, while my son thinks he is bisexual, it is clear from his comments that he is primarily attracted to women. “No filter,” his teacher once observed.
This candor is largely a blessing. Teenagers now have unrestricted access to Internet pornography, but – unlike my son – do not confide their viewing habits to their mother, giving her the opportunity to correct misperceptions. There is a danger in socially isolated autistic men, with their obsessive tendencies, of being exposed to misogynistic porn. They are already overrepresented among “incels” (involuntary celibates), known for their anti-woman views.
So when my son mentioned certain “activities” he must have encountered on the Internet, I was able to explain to him that, in real life, not all girls like this sort of thing. This good sex was all about caring and respecting each other.
I had suggested the idea of a sex worker to him a few years ago when he was struggling to get over his first rejection, his first broken heart. Unfortunately, the pandemic intervened. Then, at the end of last year, I attended a webinar on disability and sexuality.
A sex worker from Touch base, a Sydney-based charity that connects sex workers and people with disabilities, answered questions, along with a worker called “Anna” who identified as neurodiverse. Touching Base’s vision aligns with that of People with Disabilities Australiawho argues that “people with disabilities have the right to a sex life, like everyone else”.
Feeling validated, I asked Touching Base to email me a list of suitable sex workers and called in my son to vet the applicants. After pushing for this to happen, he suddenly became shy. “You choose,” he said.
Ha-ha: a mother’s prerogative.
I’m not against tattoos, but heavily inked women in black leather looked pretty fierce. In contrast, there were a few workers who preferred a girl-next-door look. One of them, I recognized Anna, from the webinar. I had my daughter.
Worried that others might judge, I confessed our plans to only one good friend, who also has an autistic son. He had visited a brothel on his own. She was quietly proud of her initiative (parents of children with disabilities have a completely different frame of reference for success) but added wryly that she would have preferred to hear about it in less detail.
I emailed Anna, describing my boy and what he was looking for from the date, but also what I wanted. My son understood consent in theory, but I wondered if he could enforce it. Who better, I thought, to educate her than an experienced sex worker? Anna agreed, and we negotiated the terms – a four-hour “immersion experience” for $1,000.
She asked if we were going to use the NDIS funding, but I hesitated. Some brave souls fought and won the right to include sex work in their NDIS plans, but it was a battle with bureaucracy that I preferred to avoid.
Finally, the day has arrived. I had once imagined that sex workers with disabilities would be a distinct and rather old-fashioned group, not ordinary workers who had branched out. In my mind, my son’s first sexual encounter would be with a short-haired woman wearing sensible shoes, not the barefoot sylph with pre-Raphaelite curls who opened the door for us.
It’s probably all downhill from here, young manI couldn’t help but think.
I left them alone and did what any other mother would do after dropping her child off at a sex worker: I chilled my heels in a coffee shop, I read magazines, I window-shopped and avoided using my imagination.
Four hours later, after picking it up, I inexplicably choked.
” How are you mom ? You seem distressed,” he said, in an impressive display of empathy for someone who (by the nature of his condition) is meant to lack it.
I reassured him that I was fine but I did. not want to know what happened, and luckily he took that on board. When he later admitted, “It was the best day of my life,” I knew I had done the right thing.
Still, I wondered how it was from Anna’s perspective. What was the protocol here – may I ask? Maybe she read my mind because a few days later I received comments via email. My son was totally respectful and would make someone a lovely boyfriend when the time came, she wrote.
All this time, my husband has chosen to remain in the background, not out of improper modesty, but because he fears that sex work is exploitative. Which can be, of course. But none of that applies to Anna, who is her own boss and obviously comfortable with her choices.
My son wants a second visit, but I told him he’ll have to save up himself. Hopefully he will one day find a girlfriend and learn to enjoy sex in a romantic relationship. No matter what, I will forever be grateful to Anna for the gift of trust she gave my son.