The double standard we have to live with every day

The idea for this post came to me at 5 am this morning following a works night out to a seaside town around 40 minutes away from my workplace. Now I am not the most social person around by any means but I do like to make an effort and go out for works parties because I love spending time with my work friends. Last night was a good night but it would have been ten times better if I wasn’t in a subdued mood due to a suspected chest infection. The night took place in a nice little bar, a lot smaller than the average nightclub-it was basically a cocktail bar with a dance floor.

Now I will admit to something here-I don’t do dancefloors as a rule. It’s a combination of too many people, some of which I won’t know, and the fact that being so crowded means it is inevitable that some form of physical touch will occur. I just can’t enjoy it-I spend the whole time trying to maneuver around the dancefloor in ways that mean I avoid contact with other people as much as possible. That said, I do get up on the dance floor at times when enough people have persuaded me to but I usually dance slightly away from other people. Most of the time, in places like this, I stay seated where there are seating areas and I have people to sit with who I know.

Anyway, I digress. My main point is that, as I spend a lot of time in these environments observing rather than directly participating, my sober mind (I never drink alcohol) is continually noticing behaviour that people are getting away with that autistic people are taught, often extremely firmly, not to do. The main example in a club environment is unwanted physical touch. Every time I go out to one of these places, I notice inebriated men trying their hardest to successfully get a girl to notice them and take an interest in them. They appear to have absolutely zero respect for personal space and boundaries of socially acceptable behaviour. They make nuisances of themselves, all in the desperate pursuit of a female. I am not saying that it is just men who behave in this way but my main point is that people with autism who have issues with getting too close to other people’s personal space and inappropriate touching such as hugging people they don’t know are continually taught, quite rightly, not to touch people they don’t know and to keep their hands to themselves when, on every Friday and Saturday night, men and women who, in most cases, don’t have any autistic spectrum condition, are breaking these rules of socially acceptable behaviour in every nightclub in the country. Now, personally, as someone who has issues with touch as one of my sensory sensitivities, seeing any sort of unwanted touch makes me recoil but I can imagine that it must be incredibly confusing for any adult with autism who has been taught not to touch people they don’t know to then see people breaking this rule in wider society (not just in nightclubs). Although I have never been drunk myself, I am aware of the effects that alcohol has on someone’s behaviour and that some (most?) people lose their inhibitions when they have had too much to drink and behave in ways that they never would usually but this is not the only example where people judge those of us on the spectrum for certain behaviours yet either do the same themselves or claim to have no issue with the behaviour and most of the other examples I can think of take place every day in people that are sober.

One of the main examples I can think of involves honesty. So many people say they respect honesty, yet, when someone with autism gives them their honest account of something, they take offence. This always confuses me-why ask for an honest opinion if you are going to take offence at it? Over the years, I have learned through being taught methodically about how small “white lies” can save someone’s feelings or prevent a situation from escalating but it continues to baffle me why a lot of people on the spectrum are penalised for their honesty by the very people who claim to have respect for people who speak honestly. I know that some of the ill feeling may be because of miscommunication but I still think that, if you claim to respect honesty, you should not lash out at the person who is giving it to you. I think the problem is that people on the spectrum are quite often too honest for other people. I saw a picture on Facebook recently that had the phrase, “Why do we fear honesty but praise deception?” That phrase struck me as something which is so true. Another thing I have found over the years is that people value honesty from people who are the most similar to them but don’t value it so much from those who are often known to be eccentric.

I was always brought up with the underlying motto of life being, “Treat others how you would like to be treated yourself”. I always try to be patient and kind. I don’t always succeed-I am not perfect-nobody is-but I never intentionally try to make anyone feel bad about themselves. A lot of other people I know, both autistic and non autistic, are like this but there is a worryingly significant minority of people in society who now seem to have no care at all about how their words and actions may impact on other people’s wellbeing. The news is full of stories about people committing vile crimes against other people and schoolchildren being bullied to the point of suicide. Such people are sometimes deceptively referred to as “strong characters” when, in fact, as an online friend of mine with Aspergers pointed out once, not caring at all about what other people think is not the sign of a strong personality but, instead, the sign of a selfish one. Some people would argue that I am too passive and try and please people too much (indeed, this is probably true) but I would rather be known as being too passive than for being abrasive and unsympathetic. Assertiveness is one of the more subtle social skills to master and I am still not fully there but I would rather be seen as caring than the opposite. Too many people don’t stop and think about others. A lot of these people don’t have autism or Aspergers Syndrome and yet have the audacity to accuse us of lacking empathy for people when they act in such cruel ways. How little empathy do you have to possess to be capable of behaving with zero compassion?

When those of us on the spectrum learn social skills, we learn them in a fixed way and, for those of us who were lucky enough to receive an early diagnosis, usually in therapeutic sessions-essentially “this social skill is relevant to these particular situations” and so on and so forth. This is all fine until we start practicing them out in wider society and discover that most people don’t play by the same rules that we were taught. I guess the advantage people who aren’t on the spectrum have of being able to instinctively read and pick up the nuances of social situations means that they can change the rules at any time based on their analysis of the situation. The autistic person who has learned to behave in a certain way in a certain situation is then left feeling completely confused when their behaviour is misunderstood because the rules have moved on. We are continually chasing the new rules and being left floundering day after day after day, year after year after year. We are the ones accused of being odd yet how odd is everyday life with its ever changing scenarios? Something is all right with one person at one time but a complete faux pas with another person the next day-think how confusing that is for somebody whose brain does not pick up the nuances in social situations. I understand that everybody is different and therefore upset and offended by different things but, if you are in the situation where somebody who you know or suspect to have Aspergers/autism has upset you or offended you inadvertently, please explain to them exactly what has offended you. I know that, personally, I have a fantastic memory and will remember what has offended you and avoid replicating this in the future. Yes I am not denying that there are people with Aspergers out there who, just like some people without Aspergers, know they offend people but don’t care and the best thing to do with such people is to try and avoid getting into arguments with them as much as possible but, I promise you, the majority of us with Aspergers do care about other people’s feelings and don’t wish to offend or upset them.

Double standards exist everywhere in our society, not only between those of us who are on the spectrum and those who are not. It is a sad fact of life that the dominant group in society will set out their often everchanging norms and values as the only ones that matter and then often break these rules continually without consequence yet, when those of us who are not in the majority make such mistakes, we are treated as though it is the worst thing we have ever done.

Please remember that we are trying our hardest to succeed in life and teach us where we are going wrong but don’t penalise us unduly and take a look at the way you interact with people too. I think everybody needs to stop and reflect on the impact their words and actions can have on other people and try and be the kindest, non judgemental person they can be and the world would be a much better place.

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2 Responses to The double standard we have to live with every day

  1. I too have always been confused by this. I have done the not respecting personal space lots of things because that is how others show they are interested in what somebody is saying etc. I have also been drunk quite a few times with lots of interesting stories there and yes you do get more autistic the more you drink leaving you vulnerable and the social skills you learnt disappear from your inebriated brain but its part of life learning to handle your alcohol. However the honesty thing bugs me. This happened most recently when Sam asked me to “frape” him and to do it bad as it hadn’t be done it in a while. He didn’t mean that at all but why tell someone to do something if you don’t actually want them to do it?
    The whole does this outfit look good on me? Do I look fat is another one. Do you answer truthfully and risk offending or do you tell them what they want to hear and let them buy a terrible outfit that totally does not suit them?

  2. dennis says:

    Much of this aspect of double standards relates to matters of ‘perceived social rank’. It operates at the level of instinct in most Normies – it is not conventionally learned, nor is it explicitly taught.

    Simply put, we (I include myself in this) are regarded as ‘lesser beings’ by our Normal betters. They think this to be ‘good, right, and proper’ – as is appropriate to their exalted status (compare to us ‘defectives’) in the social hierarchy.

    An analogy: when it comes to most matters, society operates like a one-percenter biker gang, with three broad categories: members, nonmembers, and ‘prospective members’. Among biker gangs, the common ‘handle’ for the last category is “prospect”.

    Normally, autistic people – regardless of all distinguishing aspects; it’s not behavior, but identity, sensed at an unconscious level – are nonmembers: no rights, seen as subhuman, the rightful slaves, prey, and playthings of the members – who view them with total disdain and profound narcissistic entitlement.

    That’s where those double standards come from.

    Where the problem comes in is when we try to join the ‘gang’ I.e. society. In gangs, there is a lengthy and fraught-with-peril process: first, one must be accepted as a prospect. That means severing ALL ties with one’s former life and fully embracing the new identity implicitly manifest in the gang. During this time of testing, one is supposed to become normalized to all facets of the new life, but primarily its hierarchical nature.

    When one is a prospect, everyone who’s a full member is better than you. Why? They are full members. You are a prospect. That’s ALL the explanation you are supposed to need – you are supposed to KNOW this instinctually.

    Most people do.

    Becoming a full member – of both gangs and society – is a matter of being seen AS a member by existing members. In short, the ultimate test is ‘are you an asset to others’ drive toward domination? Can you prove this? If so, how? Will you ‘suck up’ to your betters, such that they are well-pleased with your ‘worship’ – your supplication – your demonstration that you accept and approve of society / the gang as a whole – that the power structure is righteous, correct, and true?

    Note: truth is what the most powerful person says it is – and that simply because they’ve said it.

    But one trouble in all this for the autistic: he or she will never be a true member, because the current members don’t wish him or her to be one. No reason needed; mere whim suffices when you’re powerful relative to another.

    Power means your whim is law, and lesser beings best not object to it if they know what is good for them.

    So: either we remain nonmembers – mere cattle in the eyes of our Normal ‘masters’ – or we become eternal prospects, who exist solely to prove to their lord-and-master ‘full members’ that they indeed ARE full members? They aren’t inclined to let us join up – as the original poster so potently stated.

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