How Acephobia in Fandoms Spread Ace Terminology

Truly one of the funniest moments in a fandom for me was in 2016 when Ubisoft posted under a long tumblr post debating Jacob Frye’s sexuality this simple message:

It was after witnessing a post on tumblr where a straight woman showed off her emails to and from a random Ubisoft staff member demanding that Jacob Fray be declared straight. It’s also among the best usages of an official platform using it to protect bisexuals and end biphobia.

But there’s more to this story. The woman who felt entitled enough to email random Ubisoft staff members was what some aces knew as an “Allo Solas Fan.” The term allo means other, and allosexual meaning someone sexuality attracted to others. Basically a word based on existing naming conventions to mean non-ace.

Enter Dragon Age: Inquisition released late 2014 and a huge active fandom until around 2016.

This is also when allo stopped being used near exclusively in ace circles as a nondescript marker when discussing non-aces and started to be used about specific fans. Now why did a bunch of aces call a group of predominantly straight women allo rather than straight?

It’s because for every ace fan in a fandom space there were also camps of acephobes who would harass asexuals for seeing themselves in the characters. The allo Solas fandom in particular did this like no other. By setting themselves up in direct opposition to aces, their behavior became defined by their allosexuality, not their heteronormativity.

Some of the allo dragon age fandom was also really racist and declared they’d “give us” a black character in the game as a “trade”. Why? It’s because they didn’t feel sexually entitled to black women being a largely straight white group of women. They wanted Solas. A “bad wolf” and all the ace coding in the world did not stop from their violently aggressive patriarchal projections onto his character. These fans also would tweet the Dragon Age writers asking to confirm that Solas had sex with the player character. The writers never did. It was so highly debated that in DLC the following year the writers confirmed in dialogue that he did not sleep with the player. (Which was also among the funniest fandom moments I’ve been a part of.) But stopped short of giving Solas a label.

Calling people “allo” was never about aces discussing fellow lgbtq people, it was pointing out the sexual entitlement of characters who weren’t sexual.

Aces showing up in the fandom. Using Solas to help explain the nuances of asexuality to groups who never heard it before helped spread asexual visibility.

And it’s also why I have such a strong negative reaction to those who try to “reclaim allo” or stick allo in front of any character who is often headcanoned as ace. Because the history of that is one of white sexual entitlement. The assumption that those who weren’t overtly sexual were secretly dirty, nasty, and kinky underneath. Words used by straight women about their own desires.

As time went on with any headcanoned or canon ace character more lgb people started using it too. It became a near meme to stick “Allo” before character name, or brand your url with it. Some would say “I’m a proud Allo!!” instead of embracing their own queer identities. They picked up the sex negativity left by those straight fans and turned it on themselves, saying aces were the ones called themselves dirty because they too related to the sex negative nature of it. But while the straight women were gleeful with it their kinkiness and acephobia, in gay hands because they were choking on homophobia they didn’t unlearn and started in on their own acephobia as if that was the cure for it.

“Allosexual” is not an sexuality on its own, it’s sole purpose was to help explain asexuality and acephobia. It’s far more like “cis” than any other community term.

For good or bad, asexuality and allosexuality became far more common words after this. In my mind, the biphobia around Jacob Fyre and the acephobia surrounding Solas are linked by women who wanted bad boys who only wanted women. Nothing else would do.

Dragon Age, Glowing Hands, and Disabilities

There is a new genre called empathy games. These games have the goal of making you empathize with the main character to show a point. Generally that you aren’t the one in power, but to some small degree I believe all games are empathy games.

I think a lot about representation in fiction, and lately about the representation of disabilities, everything from ‘my knee gives me a lot of trouble’ to those who rock a wheelchair. (I’ve been thinking a lot of legs specifically because mine have been hurting a lot. But, stay tuned maybe I’ll talk about a abdominal pain like I’m a Super Bowl ad.)

I’ve been fairly impressed when it comes to TV characters who have leg troubles. On TV now, there’s Raven from The 100 and Felicity from Arrow. As fantastic as they both are I started to wonder if there was a medium that could showcase the constant struggles better. And after a really tough and unusual boss battle I realized video games are perfect for this narrative.

No other medium makes you face the struggle. Books, TV, and movies are setup so we are empathizing with someone else. But with video games you are living it. Also little needs to be done to make these Triple A titles show disabled characters of all ranges.

Yesterday’s game of choice was Dragon Age: Inquisition so I’ll loosely use it to explain what I mean then you can apply it to your own beloved game.

This whole train of thought started because Dragon Age doesn’t have cure anymore. I’m usually the type of player who likes having a full health bar in order to kick ass, but now that’s practically impossible. After playing for a while I noticed how I played was different. I didn’t get nervous if it wasn’t full, I’d even take fall damage to save me some time. I started to live with that fact that health isn’t going to be perfect. And as someone who now has a chronic illness riding shotgun that’s a pretty good metaphor. You have to live with your “health bar” not being at 100% most of the time. In video games saving the world with very little health left is almost common place.

The game now has barrier instead of heal. Barrier gives you an extra bar that lasts a certain time and protects your real HP. Now it isn’t an exact comparison but imagine this was your self care. Even if you’re a squishy mage or have low health it doesn’t matter as long as you protect yourself in other ways.

Health is less important than it’s ever been before in other Dragon Age games. Your character is undeniably disabled, but no doubts arise because of this from the other characters. You are still their leader.

In Dragon Age you are given a party of four. In the real world asking for help can be tricky, but the game encourages you to have the help of others. You could play solo, but parties are actively rewarded.

And in video games in general, starting all the way back with Doom, you learn to keep fighting even with a busted up and bleeding face. If you or the NPCs get knocked out they get up for the next battle. All really important life lessons.

Yesterday, I had three mages and a rogue face a boss that had 39 times more health than my whole party combined. It was horrid planning on my part, but the party made me happy and now we were stuck. I had to shake things up and literally bring the fire. By taking my time and breaking the problem into smaller bits I was able to win.

So even if your real life “health bar” isn’t what others have, you just need to plan and take your time in order to knock down really any beast in the world. In Dragon Age Inquisition that sometimes means the boss and sometimes means the day because your glowing hand is acting up. I’d love to see games actually incorporate their graphic interfaces to show disabilities in a real way because no other platform can show it like they can.