This is actually a cross post from the Fuck Yeah Asexual blog, since I always find the subject of asexual characters important and thought it should be shared in a new format here.
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 asexual characters in fanfiction.”
Here’s our answer if asexual character’s should, well, do it:
We can agree content should be tagged appropriately to help people find or avoid it. The anon’s question is wildly dismissive of the aces. People they already fully acknowledged exist. Why should one person get to see their experiences represented but other’s can’t? Why must we deny expectations of a singular ace experience. Since it would deny the lives of so many people in our own community.
More importantly, we should we never insist on a narrative that contributes directly to our own oppression. One that would ensure allos, allies, and aphobes walk away with a tremendous misunderstanding of asexuality. One that encourages a narrow understanding of what asexuality is. We were there for this type of asexual exception before. We worked for YEARS to shut it down, to spare future aces. So know learn it now: this attitude that aces can never engage in sexual things is one of the most violent tools in the aphobe quiver.
The not so cute sleight of hand attempt at equating the very existence of the fictional asexuals in sex scenes as always wrong makes it clear that the anon asker desires a world where aces are a stereotype. You’ll find no support for that here, and we will not cast stones at aces writers who do write sexual content.
There should be discussions on the number of stories that feature ace characters who are sexless and those who aren’t. Concern about the difficulty of finding the content that does exist due to inadequate tagging are also very understandable complaints, and we’re sympathetic to them.
That’s not actually what the anon asked however. 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.
The 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.
There’s a lot of history behind this question.
We’re more than happy to encourage conversations like the one this anon wanted to have. Or about how best to accommodate those experiences and where things 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 anon ask 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.
Others 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 asexual characters of all sorts of experiences. It can be 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. Nor dismiss the efforts of allies who also approach the subject respectfully. (Recall that the broader aspec community does include allo members!) Nor discount that aces can also externalize their own possible struggles with internalized aphobia.
However, it can be particularly cruel to dismiss the efforts of ace writers. There are valuable discussions to be had about the differences in writing asexual characters from and internal vs. an external perspective. Especially considering how plentiful misinformation and erasure are.
When people suggest that only aces should write asexual characters we have disagree with that blanket statement.
Fuck Yeah Asexual 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. People must be free to write about aces in ways that don’t push way questioning folks or 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 us vs. them approach to entire communities. – Dew
There is absolutely room to talk about the behavior of allosexuals in regard to their fandom treatment of canon asexual 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.