What did it feel like to write a demisexual character in an erotic romance?
By Kaelan Rhwiol
Asexuals aren’t interested in sex or are repulsed by it, right? Well, yes and no.
Many asexuals have little interest in sex, or they may lack sexual desire. Some asexuals lack attraction, meaning they may experience sexual desire but lack attraction to others. The asexual spectrum is incredibly broad and varied. There are so many ways people experience being asexual, but there aren’t a metric ton of fiction books exploring those individual realities.
Sex very much repulses some of us, and anyone talking about asexuality needs to know that aces like that exist. People also need to know that my kind of ace exists, too.
That for some of us, we can and do have sex for a lot of different reasons. As many varied reasons as there are individual aces; including wanting to please our partners because it pleases us to do so, to wanting to have children, to experiencing connection, to enjoyment. Some of us, given the right circumstances, can and do enjoy the act itself, really. We’re still asexual.
Have I blown your mind yet?
And what in the world does this have to do with the book I have releasing today? My BLOODBOUND?
A couple of years ago, after figuring out that I’m demisexual, I did what I usually do and looked around for fiction books, ideally in my favorite genres of romance and SFF that featured demisexual main characters.
I didn’t find many. In fact, I only found three. Three books and two of them were self-pubbed, so not well known. Thankfully there are more now, but at the time I felt that I needed to write a book in order to see someone like me on the page.
A gray-ace who very much identifies as asexual who happens to be in a happy relationship and who enjoys sex. One who, for all intents and purposes was a sex-repulsed ace until I wasn’t. Until I needed to start identifying as a gray-ace instead. I wrote all of that into BLOODBOUND.
So what did it feel like to write that?
It was hard, very hard. I’ve been known to liken it to scraping the main character, Rhian, out of my soul with a sharp blade and then bleeding her onto the page. Because a lot of the time it felt exactly like that. I had to relive a lot of relationships where I wish I hadn’t gotten sexual with people, and that wasn’t pleasant. I also had to examine a lot of my feelings and experiences from a semi-impartial writer’s viewpoint. So yeah, it wasn’t easy.
I write almost exclusively own voices work, meaning that my characters share parts of my marginalizations’. Most are queer or mentally ill; some are kinky, some are mixed-race or non-binary, some are autistic or have survived a lot of trauma, some experience the pain of a sibling’s death, but they’re all parts of me. I find I do my best writing when I’m passionate about the subject, and for me, lived experience gives me a unique perspective into a lot of intersectionally marginalized identities.
I’m used to the experience of writing bits of myself and my life into my work. So I expected writing BLOODBOUND to be similar, hard, but not too hard, easier in fact than writing things I’m not.
It didn’t turn out that way. Rhian, my demisexual assassin, is the most of me that I’ve ever put on the page before and BLOODBOUND was the hardest book I’ve ever written. Rhian exposes the most personal aspects of myself in a lot of ways, the parts that I feel are most likely to be the worst reviewed, and the most hated parts. Why do I feel that? Because demisexuality is still so misunderstood, so unknown, and aces, in general, get a lot of hatred to start with. Demis tend to be the red-headed step-children of the asexual spectrum in my experience.
During the writing of it, I felt like I had to be so very careful with concepts and word choices, and at times I questioned what the hell I was doing writing an ace character who enjoys sex of all things, in an erotic romance!
But why not? Why shouldn’t people like me be able to see ourselves on the page as well? Why shouldn’t people who used to be sex-repulsed, like me, or who just never had any interest or understanding for it, (me at other times in my life) have that experience, that reality, to read? I think we should; I think we need to have that, as much as any other marginalized identity needs to see themselves. It’s imperative for us to have mirror books. Those books that we can see ourselves in.
So no matter how worried I am, or how afraid I am that people won’t connect with this very profoundly personal part of myself, shared through the vehicle of my main character, I still wrote and shared it. I needed to. Even if it hurts.
I’ve worried, all along, from the time I had the idea all the way up through writing, submission, acceptance, cover design and editing that demisexual readers will hate my book. It can only show my experience of being demisexual, which may be remarkably different from other demis. It has had four demisexual sensitivity readers, so hopefully, we’ve caught any issues there may be with representation, but it can’t represent all of us, because I’m only one person. Maybe it can let some of us see ourselves though, and that was my goal in writing it.
To let some of us see ourselves.
Rhian is content in her life. As a pwca, a Welsh shapeshifter, she is bound to the Dark God Arawn as an assassin. So when he assigns her as ambassador to oversee Ontario for him, it’s a shock.
Her new job? To find out who murdered her predecessor and bring them to justice, as well as to oversee the otherkin and clean up their messes before the humans find them—all to preserve the illusion that magic and supernatural creatures do not exist.
The problem? One of the otherkin she’s supposed to oversee is her estranged husband, Kai, the only person Rhian never regretted having sex with, and the only one she can’t forgive.
Plus, the first chapter and a giveaway are here on the Erotica for All blog!
Kaelan was born and raised in upstate NY, in the Adirondack mountains.
Xie started writing when xie turned 11 and hasn’t ever stopped as evidenced by the massive amount of notebooks and digital files of xyr writing xie has hanging around.
Xie identifies as queer, because xie fits many of the letters of the QUILTBAG/LGBTQQIP2SAA acronyms.
Kaelan holds a B.A in bioanthropology/forensic chemistry and an MST in education/world history. Xie loved University, so holds minors in English, Literary Fiction, Creative Writing, Linguistics, Graphic Design, Folklore, Medieval History, and Modern Dance.
Xyr hobbies include reading, spinning wool with a spinning wheel, cooking, knitting, sewing and making jewelry.
Xie currently lives in Southern Ontario, Canada with xyr partner of 20 years, their two kids, three cats who put meaning to the phrase ‘foot fetishist’, and a grumpy rescue chinchilla.
The best place to connect with Kaelan is on Twitter, where xie spends way too much time.