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Don Burke, Asperger’s and He Who Soweth The Thunder

November 28, 2017 - 13:08 -- Admin

Sigh.

So here we are
again.

Yet
another celebrity accused of rampant sexual predation and the excuse
of “the Asperger’s made me do it”.

Don
Burke’s claim of recently self-diagnosed
Asperger’s Syndrome is dubious at best. Not that I doubt his claim
– the man has made a career out of talking passionately and
exhaustively about plants and
soil compositions, he’s certainly ticking a couple of boxes. It
isn’t for me to cast Asperger’s as it were.

No,
it’s the timing of this
revelation that evinces
suspicion. “Recently
diagnosed Asperger’s Sydnrome”, as though he had seen the
impending storm clouds of controversy and tried to head them off with
a trip to Dr Nick Riviera’s
Hollywood Upstate Clinic of Excuses.

As
if the first step on the mitigating sexual harassment fallout
flow-chart is “claim to have high functioning autism and that you
don’t know any better”.

But
that’s the thing isn’t it? As someone on the spectrum, speaking
on behalf of those on the spectrum, we do know better. It seems to be
the rest of society that doesn’t.

There’s
a constant societal
misconception that people with Asperger’s are social buffoons,
misreading the cues of interaction and not knowing when they’ve
offended someone. Don Burke has seen the hideous caricatures of The
Big Bang Theory and The
Good Doctor and thought that he
had found the perfect excuse for being overly hands on with women.

“Oh
I just like touching people’s naughty bits, I didn’t know it was
wrong”. Sure Don.

Whilst
for most the experience of autism is a subjective one, there are some
commonalities where I feel I can express a consensus. Such as touch.

Being
touched. Touching others. Feeling skin-to-skin contact with another
human being can be difficult. The social obligation of handshakes and
hugs are tiring, visits to the hairdresser and the dentist can be
nothing short of an agonising hell akin to something by Hieronymus
Bosch.

No
one, and I mean no one – not even my mother – can touch my neck.
Doing so will send me into a meltdown that could take days to recover
from. That’s the kind of thing we’re talking about here. Does it
make sense? No. Is it completely arbitrary? Absolutely. Does it sound
like something that would specifically predicate you towards
inappropriate sexual behaviour? I don’t think so.

In
fact rather than giving me sexual superpowers my autism has made sex
and sexuality quite difficult. I am 33 years old, I work in show
business and even had a brief stint as a model, and although
I can recite Pi to a hundred places, I
can count the number of sexual partners I’ve had on one hand.

I’ve
not once initiated a relationship. I’ve never even asked anyone
out. Having Asperger’s means that you’re never quite sure of the
rules of social interaction. You never know if you’re crossing a
line or accidentally offending someone. So
you tend to withdraw. You don’t dance across that line with
abandon, you’re exceptionally careful. Rather
than blithely barrel through life offending people without fear of
consequence, you instead exercise great care and play it safe. You
try and be polite, non-confrontational and boring.

Like
how an alcoholic won’t have a single drink, I won’t make a
flirtatious comment. Because I’m not sure where the line is.

I’m
good with numbers, but I can’t count the times I’ve missed out on
a chance with an exceptional woman because I was too frightened to
make a move. Because I didn’t read the signals she was sending me,
or wasn’t certain enough to
risk acting on them.

I’m not complaining. The women I
have been with have been amazing people. They are the ones who have
noted the issues I have due to Asperger’s and realised that they
would need to be extra overt in their courtship. That they would need
to make the first move, that they couldn’t be subtle about it. I
will be eternally grateful to them for that.

Even
the act of sex itself, when it does happen, is a trial. Don’t get
me wrong, I enjoy it immensely. But for the entire time you can’t
immerse yourself fully into the experience. There’s a constant
nagging voice in the back of your head critiquing your performance.
Is she enjoying it? Is she comfortable? Are you doing it right?
You’re not doing it right. Maybe you should be more vocal. No, be
less vocal. Maybe you should make more noise? No that’s weird,
don’t do that. Should I have my eyes open? No that’s creepy.
Closed then? No, she’ll think I don’t find her attractive. I’ll
just look at the wall. She just closed her eyes – that’s bad
right? It’s bad. You’re bad. You’re doing it wrong. She’s not
enjoying herself. Maybe you should just stop. Wait she said don’t
stop. Does that mean keep going? Or is she just saying that to make
you feel better?

If
we have a reputation for lasting longer in bed, there’s your
reason.

That’s
a brief insight into what it’s like living with Asperger’s. Into
how we view relationships, sex and personal space. I ask you, does
this sound like Don Burke?

Are
we the kind of people that would, to quote a world leader, “grab
‘em by the pussy”?

Is
Don Burke autistic? That’s not for me to say. Is he a sex offender?
That’s also not for me to judge, though the outlook isn’t great.

Is
autism an excuse for sexual harassment?  Absolutely not. Don Burke
can no more claim that as a reason for his actions any more than the
Beatles can be blamed for the actions of Charles Manson.

His
comments were ignorant and grossly offensive. They
reveal a man perpetuating a negative stereotype in a desperate
attempt to salvage his dignity.

In
my 33 years I have never, not once, sexually harassed a woman. Or a
man. Or anyone of any gender they choose to identify with. Since the
Don Burke story broke I’ve been inundated with aspies sharing
similar stories and the same outrage. Perhaps that is the true
superpower of Asperger’s Syndrome – being immune to the
compulsion towards sexual predation that seems to be have reached
epidemic proportions.

Or
maybe after having worked with manure for so many years, Don Burke is
full of it.