On ace characters in sex scenes

This is actually a cross post from the Fuck Yeah Asexual blog written by my mod Dew, but I found it important and thought it should be shared in a new format.

It started with an anonymous ask that went like this:

“I have been seeing a lot of smut with Asexual characters having sex. I understand that some Asexuals will still have sex but I don’t get why some Ace people want more Asexuals in smut. Isn’t that like wanting Gay people in heterosexual smut? I just don’t understand the defense of non tagged Ace characters in fanfiction.”

Here’s our answer –

While I agree that this content should be tagged appropriately to help people find or avoid it, this is wildly dismissive of the aces you’ve already fully acknowledged exist. Why should you get to see your experiences represented but they can’t? Why must we put forth the expectation of a singular experience of asexuality that denies the lives of so many people in our own community?

More importantly, why should we ever insist on a narrative that contributes directly to our own oppression, that ensures allos and allies and aphobes alike walk away with a tremendous misunderstanding of asexuality that encourages them to hurt us, that they’ve used to hurt us before. Maybe you weren’t there for it–we worked for YEARS to shut it down, to spare future aces–but learn it now: this attitude, this belief, is one of the most violent tools in the aphobe quiver.

You’ve pulled a clever sleight of hand here, equating the very existence of the content with irresponsible (untagged) portrayals, but it also seems very clear that your problem is with the content itself and the real aces who it portrays. You’ll find no support for that here, and we will not cast stones at members of our and your own community on your behalf.

This is a clear case of an intercommunity issue, and someone brought up what they thought the anon no actually they meant…, but message I want to bring you is how we go about asking each other these things really matters.

Dew writes I would have responded VERY differently to this ask if it actually was a simple vent about the disparity in the numbers of stories that feature aces who are vs aren’t sex-favourable, or about the difficulty of finding the content that does exist due to inadequate tagging. Those are very understandable complaints, and I’m sympathetic to them!

That’s not actually what anon did in this ask, though, if you actually look at the words they chose. They specifically lashed out at their own community–not the fictional representation, but the real, living, human aces who create or ask for or enjoy that content. Their complaint *as worded* is not a gripe about the fiction landscape, it is an attack on real people, and one that directly mirrors specifically oppressive movements among aphobes.

Anon didn’t ask for sympathy in their difficulties with finding the kind of stories they want to read. They asked us to join them in leveling vitriol against “aces who want [the content anon doesn’t like]” and against aces who “defend [portrayals of their own lives].” That is absolutely not a conversation we will participate in. Especially given how closely it echoes aphobic arguments that do things like deny any ace the right to consent, put forward rape apologia, exclude aces from relationships of any kind, and homegenize and dehumanize the entire community. Let alone echoing the very schisms that have haunted this community since it’s inception.

We will never, ever, deviate from the line that the full spectrum of ace and aro experiences are to be welcomed and protected on this blog. We’re more than happy to encourage conversations like the one you want to have, about how best to accommodate those experiences and where we might be falling short. But that will not happen at the expense of our own community members.

We can have good faith with each other even after comments like this which can read as harsh. Here’s proof of that as the original anon came back and added the following:

“Hey! I was the Anon about Aces in smut. I’m really sorry if I hurt you in any way. I am trying to learn more about Asexuality after one of my friends came out to me recently and was talking about that subject specifically. I am a pretty young lesbian and am trying to learn more about the entire LGBT+ community. Thank you for responding, I appreciate your time! Again I apologize for any hurt I caused, that was by no means my intention. I hope you have a good day!”

Dew adds, Hey thanks! I really appreciate the follow up on this. I know I came out swinging on that ask, but you–unintentionally–hit on some very tender points in some really specific ways that unfortunately mirrored attitudes that have historically been very dangerous for the ace community.

But I’m really glad to hear that the underlying motive for that was ignorance and not malice–please know that ignorance is not a character flaw; it’s the natural state of humans and easily changed. It sounds like your heart is in the right place and you’re eager to learn more so that you can be a better ally to your friends. That’s awesome, and if you want some more resources on how to approach this topic with a better understanding of ace community history and respect for the diversity of ace experiences.

When someone else brought up that they actually trust aces writing this more than others, Dew went on to say:

There’s definitely a wide range of the quality of depictions of ace characters of all sorts of experiences, and it’s often a lot easier to trust ace-spec writers to be coming from an informed and respectful place.

I would of course caution that this doesn’t fall perfectly across clean lines based on the identity of the writers and I don’t want to dismiss the efforts of allies who also approach the subject respectfully (recall that the broader aspec community does include allo members!) or to discount that aces can also externalize their own possible struggles with internalized aphobia.

However, yes, it can be particularly cruel to dismiss the efforts of ace writers, and there are valuable discussions to be had about the differences in writing ace characters from and internal vs an external perspective, especially considering how plentiful misinformation and erasure are.

When another party suggested that only aces should write aces in sexual situations both Dew and I had to disagree with the blanket statement.

Sorry friendo but Fuck Yeah Asexual also doesn’t stand for stark divisions across identity lines. We can and should talk about what constitutes a respectful portrayal, where the common pitfalls are, and what damage can be done from irresponsible or misinformed understandings of ace experiences without this level of insularity. Not every ace will magically produce a great ace character, and not every allo will magically produce a terrible one.

If only reading works by other aces is a boundary you want to set in your own life, please do so! As I addressed in the previous ask, there are patterns in play that make that an understandable choice.

We won’t, however, support extrapolating that boundary out until it cuts off anyone who isn’t asexual (and this effort nearly always wants to exclude the wrong *kind* of asexual eventually) from being able discuss or write about aces, until we’ve pushed away all our allies, all the questioning folks, all the supportive ones, all the allies-in-the-making who won’t ever learn what their mistakes are because we’ve isolated ourselves from them.

Nothing good or productive comes from broadly applying that kind of black and white approach to entire communities. – Dew

There is absolutely room to talk about the behavior of allosexuals in regard to their fandom treatment of canon ace characters. There’s also absolutely room to talk about some publishers making a fetish-like “Demisexual For You” trope. Which is a perversion of the biphobic “Gay for You” trope.

But honestly the media we’ve gotten from a main stream source has been from allosexuals inspired by aces, ace works, and ace activism. It’s more of a conversational story feedback loop. That’s the nature of all media.

If you wish you view the asks in their original context you can via that day’s archive. https://fuckyeahasexual.tumblr.com/day/2020/11/20

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