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

How V for Vendetta sells the lie of white innocence, and how it destroys it.

I used to have friends who would watch V for Vendetta religiously. The movie would be queued in the evening so lines of “It’s November 4th” “…Not anymore.” would hit exactly as the real day turned over to be the 5th.

It’s important to remember this movie originally came out in 2006. I was 16 at the time. Assumed myself to be nothing besides American. Had no understanding of queerness, or cultural heritage, nothing besides “I’m live in America, so I’m defined by being American.” This is something that is literally sold to citizens sometimes directly via flags for your pickup truck, or indirectly via cultural assimilation. At the time of the movie’s release, most media criticism of was having a terrorist as a hero. 2001’s 9/11 was still more on people’s minds than fascism from within your own country.

In the movie, we see an assumed white women played by Natalie Portman face abuse several times throughout the movie. But the story to a lesser degree also follows an equally white coded young British girl. And it’s her death that really sparks the people turning against their fascist government. Everything that V does is up for public debate. Evey’s suffering is largely unnoticed. Deitrich, the closeted gay TV show host is only, for a while at least, protected by money, fame, and the performative nature of his job. But that white child specially targeted stood out as a line too far. Her death isn’t excused, it’s truth isn’t confused in media coverage in contrast to the kid’s hurt by St Mary’s virus.

This plot point I always found interesting because it’s an uniquely white idea that the death of ‘innocent’ young white life becomes the line drawn in the sand to stop “the bad things”. That once young girls are targeted well that’s game over for “bad guys”. And there’s a reason why I put ‘innocent’ in quotes, because we cannot deny the fact that white women, and girls in particular, are treated more angelic than little black boys who are demonized. And it’s a lie that is still sold to white Americans who need to protect their “innocent daughters from outsiders”. This has been Trump’s political platform since 2015, and continues to be.

It would be easy to from a strict causality point of view summarize V for Vendetta’s plot in a way that reaffirms this lie. That once that young girl was killed all the white people in the neighborhood step up and fight against their police state. But, the movie also spends every other moment destroying that idea.

I simply am unable to watch the movie like I once could in 2006. Now when I think of it, if I had to pick which one life that changed the course that ended that fascist state I’d think of Valerie’s life. It’s her hope, even in death, that keeps both the main characters going. “It seems strange that my life should end in such a terrible place, but for three years I had roses, and apologized to no one.”

But her death is not the tipping point. As mentioned in one speech, it’s the causality of all events, everyone’s collectively suffering and hope that makes people finally topple the police state.

Detective Finch: I suddenly had this feeling that everything was connected. It’s like I could see the whole thing, one long chain of events that stretched all the way back before Larkhill. I felt like I could see everything that happened, and everything that is going to happen. It was like a perfect pattern, laid out in front of me. And I realised we’re all part of it, and all trapped by it.

That is what history is. And it is the moment we live today too. Each of us a domino of action or inaction that will fall one way or another sending ripples out into the world. There’s not a single piece that stands truly protected, nor alone.

“I hope that whoever you are, you escape this place. I hope that the worlds turns, and that things get better. But what I hope most of all is that you understand what I mean when I tell you that, even though I do not know you, and even though I may never meet you, laugh with you, cry with you, or kiss you, I love you. With all my heart, I love you. – Valerie.”

It is in solidarity and love of other that change is found. Not innocence. A movie like V for Vendetta with its heroes who aren’t innocent is that makes for the foil for this message. “Who was he?” “He was Edmond Dantes. And he was my father, and my mother, my brother, my friend. He was you, and me. He was all of us.”

Growing Up Ace: First Lessons In Transaction Sexuality

I’d be willing to wager that phrasing makes you think of sex work, and while that is one type of transaction, it’s definitely not the first I learned. The first example of this for me was in the animated Aladdin. I can still picture Jasmine in the red outfit, flipping a switching and beaconing the bad guy with a come hither tone of voice.

That is my first memory knowing that sexuality, particularly women’s asexuality, was something that was not so much felt, but offered. The next time I saw this type of behavior was a Stargate SG-1 episode where the men were chemically seduced by Hathor. The women were locked up since they are unable to be controlled in this fashion, hick up their shirts and get their flirt on with the male guards.

Science fiction is a common offender of this trope, which says fair reaching things about the assumed submission of women to men, and how men are slaves to their urges.

But today, I’d like to highlight how these examples teach aces that sexual behavior is something offered in exchange for something. This is a wildly dangerous situation when aces date simply because a friend is needed, or when aces have sex because protection is wanted. These events are at times consensual, but are transactional in a less obvious way than sex work.

For aces in particular, depictions of Jasmine’s red outfit inspired sexuality, or Stargate’s flirt ploy, can dangerously misinform aces about how to navigate the topic. Women’s sexuality is displayed as a weapon towards men, and one that far to easily can turned against us. A weapon not of our own consumption, and not for our own empowerment.

And without feeling earnest sexual attraction we have less of a chance to make course corrections into situations that make us feel respected.

While this article does not paint a complete picture of all the reasons aces might have sex, but it does ask for a growing awareness that the behavior of aces, and many other groups, are the result of simply trying to survive in a world where compulsory sexuality and amatonormaity are demanded.

And acknowledgment that aces face this, that women face this, that anyone may face this, might be able to keep our sexualities from feeling as if they were for sale to the hetro-patriarchy.

On Death Stranding, Queerphobia, and Rape Culture

This tweet was brought to my attention and I’d like to go over it. 

image

In the following text, I will break down line by line this the above is just biblically old homophobia, recycled queerphobia in general, as well as sexism and rape culture.



The title says an “Asexual World” not a “Celibate World” not “A Population In Decline.” An asexual world. Many times casual acephobia would use those two words to mean the same, but what Death Stranding does is even worse. 

Line one and two reads: “Widespread aversion towards physical contact and intimacy”. Since we are talking about queerphobia and rape culture it should be noted that aversion towards physical contact and intimacy are not issues exclusive to asexuals. Not all aces have an aversion. Furthermore, sex repulsion and touch aversion are often found in rape survivors and other victims of abuse. It is a safety feature, not the back story to a horror genre. You also see an aversion to touch in same-sex couples that do not feel safe to even hold hands. If the societal issue is a “widespread aversion towards physical contact and intimacy” the issue is not “An Asexual World”. It’s a world were people have no ability be interact safely.

Line four, five, six read:  ‘”sexless lifestyle” among young people.” and “younger cohort were self-identifying as asexual, claiming to be incapable of feeling desire or attraction.” Once again asexuals may have sexless “lifestyles” but so may anyone. It is again not an inherent feature of asexuality.

You can also note in this section the double usage of young and younger. This is classic queerphobia of “the youth and their new labels.” It’s been said about every letter of the queer community. Death Standing further goes on to say people are “claiming” further removing the agency from those who gained enough agency to feel like they could safely label themselves in the first place. And year after year studies shows that the number of LGBTQ people goes up as awareness and safety for these groups go up. LGBTQ people vanish without labels, they hide.

Line nine, ten, elven reads: “demisexuals, who are incapable of sexual attraction without an emotional connection, and panromantics, who profess an attraction unrestricted by sex or gender–albeit one not necessarily sexual in nature.” I mentioned most acephobia is misguided definitions. These here have a flavor text of the game but are otherwise correct. This flavor text is not a misguided stray comment from Death Stranding. It’s someone who knows what the a-spec community is and still decided to take a shot at multiple queer communities. Attacking panromantics is an attack of any multi-spec person.

Line thirteen reads: “One theory posits that the Stranding accelerated the proliferation of these sexualities.” If you haven’t heard the recycled homophobia before this line, I hope you do here. This the classic homophobic line of: those social deviants are ending our society.

Lines seventeen, eighteen, nineteen reads: “Incidences of sexual harassment and assault have also seen a sharp decrease, which seems to suggest that sex could be further from our minds, for better or for worse.” First off, if anything that reduces sexual harassment and sexual assault. It is for the better. Rape culture is not the price we have to pay for having a culture, and it isn’t directly about sex being on the minds of rapists either. Even in a Me Too era Death Standing still does not understand that harassment and assault are abuses of power.

And while it is not directly mentioned in the screencap a few more things need to be mentioned. Two cis gay men did not produce offspring. They are not and should not be shamed for it. I point this out because  “Oh no, those queers are going to ruin the population” is a biblically historic form of homophobia. And the only reason Death Stranding isn’t direct homophobic is because those exact same believes are indirectly hiding behind willful acephobia. By taking a shot at asexuals for “not breeding” you are taking a shot at anyone who does not “be fruitful and multiply.”

Now that I’ve done a Scooby-Doo unmasking of homophobia, I’d also like to mention further implied rape culture and sexism. You’ll often find men like Hideo Kojima and his writers who concern troll over if those who can have children are fucking and having babies. You see this played out in the fight for rights for people to control their own bodies.

Horror as a genre can point out the unknown lurking out of our sight. Unmast it, or hold it just out of clear view. Death Stranding’s back story does not do this. Instead of subverting a society that already has rape culture, compulsory sexuality, heteronormatity, and sexism, Hideo Kojima theorizes that maybe the backstory to his great horror story is asexuals, the very same people who are not the monsters but the targets of those four things.

Why I’ve Given Up Hope For Cyberpunk 2077

A short essay on marketing, flavor text, and Poe’s Law

Cyberpunk 2077 is no stranger to controversy when it comes to its behavior towards trans people.  Faith was all but lost when their official twitter replied with a transphobic meme.

They said sorry, and there’s a rumor that whoever tweeted this was fired, who knows though.  The point I want to make is highlighted by this nearly year-old tweet. In order for this joke to be funny, you have to believe that misgendering is funny when it’s been shown that doing so leads to higher suicide rates. This types of jokes come at the expense of trans concerns and always from an outsider pov.

Many found new love for the name when Keanu Reeves appeared by surprise announcing he’s in the game. Known for the Matrix, a movie that has strong trans themes and was made by two trans siblings. And as much credibility Keanu can bring, Cyberpunk 2077 has a huge problem: Poe’s Law

It’s an internet adage that says without a clear indicator of the author’s intent, it is impossible to create a parody of extreme views so obviously exaggerated that it cannot be mistaken by some readers for a sincere expression of the parodied view.

This week at E3 when they showed off more of the game, a lot of people saw a new problem. Namely, this fictional soda ad:

On it you have a femme model with a penis showing, which caused many to ask why. And the art director was quick to defend saying, “their beautiful body is used — for corporate reasons.” as reported by Polygon. Not only am I concerned that irony has died in the year 2077, but here’s where Poe’s law kicks in.

The art director went on to say:  “In [the year] 2077, especially with how much body modifications are available, I think people just mix and match however they want, however they feel. […] This is not to say that the player should see this kind of advertising as good. Redesiuk said that it was designed to feel jarring and overly aggressive, like all the other ads in the game, but not because of the femme-presenting trans model.

While that’s all well as good, it has the same problem that “did you assume my gender” jokes have if not something worse and worthless.  2077’s critique of “soda companies sell to trans people” is not criticizing rainbow capitalism. It’s hardly even critiquing capitalism. It’s largely saying “isn’t it edgy to be trans, mix it up, buy two of our sodas and combine them.”

Let’s look at Watch Dogs Legion, another do crime ‘n hack shit game coming out around the same time. In the top image, their flavor text images show something that is clearly pro-nationalism, and if you ‘misread’ or even agree with these ads the whole plot is there to correct you. It’s a game about subverting the police state, something they make known from the first seconds of the trailer.

Cyberpunk 2077 (shown again as the second image above) instead uses this background space to have two meaningless ads and then this one. And here’s the point I don’t think I can emphasize enough. If you “misread” 2077’s ‘critique of capitalism’ you end up with ‘soda companies are selling transgenderism, aren’t they out of control?!” That’s a problem, one the developer CD Projekt Red could have easily avoided instead of trying to play a double negative about hypersexuality.

But instead, their defense is: There are many examples of hypersexualized women, hypersexualized men, and hypersexualized people in between. […] You fight against corporations. That [advertisement] is what you’re fighting against.”

In 2077, the “we’re not sexist, we objectify everyone” defense is still around?
That’s cispicious.