On Poly Assholes, or — Was Ayn Rand Autistic?
Since my recent discovery about myself I’ve been wondering if this controversial lady was also on the autistic spectrum. It would certainly explain what many read as her callousness in regards to other people and the consequences of her actions.
While I have many large issues with her philosophy, as I do with any philosophy, there was actually much within her writing that resonated with me. And apparently, I’m not the only Aspie who recognizes ties between her books, her behavior, and autism.
Often, autistic people are accused of being cold, emotionless, socially awkward, selfish, stubborn, and more; basically all of the points that you’d think would make us pretty shitty partners and friends, romantic or otherwise.
Our obsessions with content, productivity, and knowledge rather than people’s feelings are often upheld as faults in many cases, cutting us off from neurotypical people. Many of us aren’t big on romantic gestures, enmeshment, and find physical affection problematic, unwelcome, or are very particular about it.
Our need for order, for everything to make logical and rational sense, for realism rather subjectivity also leave us fumbling around within social circles. The realm of non-monogamy is no exception to this.
There have been several articles on “poly assholery” but instead of dealing with destructive power dynamics, the various isms, or with inherent incompatibilities or lack of intersectional knowledge we have people picking at personalities and behaviors.
Some of these behaviors sound like things autistic people naturally do. It’s not because we’re jerks; it’s because our minds literally work differently. A neurotypical person might seem to over-rely on their emotions to inform their decisions, or might seem too needy, or it might simply be extremely overwhelming to process every time someone gets jealous or feels slighted in some way.
Much of this stands for aromanticism, at least as I experience it. Much like some think Rand was one of us (which doesn’t excuse being a total asshole in some ways), there is an overlap between aromanticism and autism as well.
Our ways of loving tend to look different from the usual romantic sort, even if we are romantically-oriented!
If this isn’t something you’re aware of, it can be very troublesome for all involved parties.
I had the “luck” to have partners who understood my literal sensory sensitivities, my seemingly avoidant behavior when it came to affection, and who let me work when I had to work.
But most people aren’t really that understanding, especially cisheteroromantic folks. Not too many people fully understand autism, asexuality, or aromanticism, or even Oughtism for that matter.
But all hope is not lost. At my author event — which was fucking amazing, by the way — one of the lovely folks asked about why I’d listed Rand as one of my influences/favorite authors. It was genuine curiosity, with no malice. There was definitely a bit of confusion, because, come on, this is one controversial figure!
I was delighted they had the wherewithal to ask and truly listen. I explained that for someone who grew up feeling as if I was in the wrong universe where everything was literally upside-down and backwards, her sense of rationality, her insistence on true equality of the sexes, and her characters’ dedication to their craft resonated with me.
In a world that puts emotion at the fore of everything, where people judge me by ignorant standards, where systems exist that insist I should be capable of so much less, I found heroes and heroines I could actually relate to in her books. I felt that I mattered and that my work mattered.
It’s not so much that emotions don’t matter; I experience emotions rather deeply and extremely but it tends to be more internalized (hence my stoic appearance unless you know me well). It’s that emotional intelligence was something I could rationally work on.
I knew for certain that in order to effective and whole, I needed to trust myself absolutely.
And so I never let anything hold me back: not opinions, not mediocrity, not violence and abuse. When my mind whirled or I grew confused I looked for what made sense. I did my research, I kept an open but skeptical mind, and I built the foundation of my mind, heart, and spirit upon the foundation that I was complete.
As with everything I’ve ever researched to death, I’ve taken what works and what’s rational for me to follow and left the rest behind. A lot of people, especially in the social justice sphere, discount her automatically and make fun at her expense. It doesn’t really matter. I’ve never been much of a follower and anyone who doesn’t know me will never understand my process, anyway.
I can be a bit scary, but I’m not an asshole. I can be physically distant, but I’m not cold. I may not be romantic but I am extremely loving.
I’ve had so many things assumed about me throughout the years but I’ve always been certain of who I am. I’ve always been willing and able to explore the unilluminated parts of my soul. And I absolutely maintain my integrity and autonomy.
No matter what you think of Rand, please be aware that all of us have unique brains that function in fantastic ways. What you might think of as assholish behavior might simply be you brushing up against another universe.