Category Archives: Asexuality

Coming Up Aces – Feb 2017

One of the things I’m passionate about is asexuality education and awareness. Many people still don’t know much about this section of the orientation spectrum—one categorized by a lack of sexual attraction to anyone regardless of gender or appearance.

I’ve talked about asexuality in interviews and written essays on the subject (Don’t Erase the Aces || Identity, Spectrums, and Labels), but I also like being able to answer specific questions both about the orientation and about writing asexual-spectrum characters. I want to teach people more about this facet of my own life and the lives of so many others. Hopefully, with greater understanding will come both empathy and acceptance from the world at large. And a lot more accurate and respectful representation in books and media.

Without further ado, welcome to the first ever Coming Up Aces.

Dianna asked: How common is it for asexual people to also be aromantic?

Quickly, for those who don’t know, there’s a difference between romantic and sexual attraction, and an individual’s place on those two orientation spectrums don’t necessarily match. For example, someone could be panromantic-homosexual, heteromantic-pansexual, homoromantic-homosexual, or any other combination.

In the same way people who are asexual don’t experience sexual attraction to anyone, aromantic individuals don’t experience romantic attraction. This isn’t to say they don’t feel love. They can and do love deeply, but only in the way we love family and friends.

Now to the question. It’s a good one, but I unfortunately don’t have an answer.

The statistics we have about correlative relationships like this one exist either because of large psychosocial or sexuality studies or massive survey data sets which researchers have taken the time to dig through and analyze. Technically, asexuals were noted in Alfred Kinsey’s original research in 1948, but his team simply noted the existence of group “X,” those who experienced “no socio-sexual contacts or reactions,” and left it at that. It wasn’t until nearly fifty years later that someone dug deeper.

A survey in 1994 of over 18,000 citizens of the United Kingdom once again pointed out the existence of Kinsey’s group X. In this survey, 1.05% of the respondents answered a question about attraction by saying they had never felt sexually attracted to anyone at all. However, it wasn’t until 2004 that Canadian researchers Dr. Tony Bogaert took a closer look at this segment of the survey data, looking for other correlations and information hidden in the responses. Since then, there have been a few more studies, but most have been small scale and none—that I am aware of (if you know of one, please let me know!)—have specifically looked at or even included a comprehensive analysis of the difference between romantic and sexual orientation identities in individuals.

Without any evidence one way or the other, I must say that it wouldn’t surprise me to learn there’s a higher percentage of people on the asexual spectrum who also identify as aromantic. I’ve certainly met far more aromantic-asexuals than aromantic-anything elses. It shouldn’t be assumed, however, that asexuals are automatically aromantic. I’m not, and neither are most of the asexual-spectrum people I know. If you’re not sure, ask! Most of the ace-spectrum people I know are willing to answer simple questions.

Have a question for Coming Up Aces? Submit it here.

Random presents are the best!

This is how I know my friends know me well. Look at my amazing new #asexuality shirt! This is effing perfect! 💜

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Introducing Q & Ace!

Recently, Brandilyn from Prism Book Alliance invited me to participate in her blog’s ongoing series Outside the Margins! The authors invited to participate post monthly about…something. Brandilyn is very open minded about post topics, inviting authors to talk about whatever they’d like. At first, I couldn’t come up with anything! I mean, if I had anything that great to say, I’d be posting more regularly on my own blog, right? But I wanted to join, so I started thinking…

Eventually, I came up with an idea, and now that Brandilyn has approved it, I can share it with you all: I’ll be posting a monthly question and answer style series about asexuality!

I’m calling it Q & Ace.

My first post will be up on Prism Book Alliance on February 1st, and the posts will continue indefinitely the first of each following month. In the weeks leading up to the posts, I’ll be taking questions from anyone and everyone! They can be about anything relating to the asexuality spectrum or about how to write ace-spectrum characters. Either/or! Anything ace-related goes.

For the first post, you can submit your questions using the form below. If you want your question answered anonymously, just add a note saying so to the question field!

The deadline for question submissions is the end of the day on January 27th, 2017. Questions that come in after that date will be held in consideration for the next Q & Ace post.

I can’t wait to get started!


You can land on Shiara in five weeks!

Five Weeks. FIVE. That’s one month plus one week. Hardly any time at all!

This week I’m talking about relationship dynamics. Specifically, how & why Khya and Tessen’s came to be not quite vanilla.

Short answer? It’s Kate Brauning​’s fault. The long answer is similar, yet a bit more complicated.

I wish I still had a link to Kate’s tweet, but it was something like, We must portray YA relationships as diversely as we do adult. Then she went on to say, (approximately) “For example, not all teens are entirely vanilla, but we give them no mirror.”

I said, “You’re okay with that? Because I can ABSOLUTELY do a D/s dynamic. Really, they’re already there. I just need to bring it out.“

Basically, Kate was all, “Yes. Good. Go.”

Knowing going in that my editor wouldn’t give me an “are we sure this is appropriate for teens” speech was a relief. It also gave me the freedom to explore the characters at a deeper level and take a new look at what sexuality meant in Itagami.

Desire (or a lack thereof) and the specific form that feeling takes is a very fraught topic in contemporary society. Dangerously so. The island of Shiara and the city of Sagen sy Itagami gave me a chance to erase a lot of the expectations and “rules” of desire. Although orientation is included in the “rules” (more to come another week), here I’m referring more to preferences, kinks, & fetishes.
Our culture makes a lot of value judgments on an individual’s behavior, ESPECIALLY in regards to sex.

In Itagami, the only rules are 1- CONSENT, 2- no irreparable harm, & 3- don’t let sex distract you from work.

That’s it.

Well, okay. There are a few more rules, but none regarding the HOW of desire or sex.

Although all of it is very minor, I mention or imply a lot of facets of sexuality in Island Of Exiles. Exhibitionism, voyeurism, masochism, and power dynamics all come up somewhere in some way in this book. For Khya and Tessen, though, control, power, trust, and surrender are all key components to their relationship. They both need something from the other, and a lot of the buildup with them is admitting those needs and trusting the other to meet them. Communication–verbal & non-verbal–is crucial in relationships, but especially in ones where power in the sexual relationship isn’t equal.

There are books (which shall remain unnamed) that portray these kinds of relationships in a VERY dangerous way. What I wanted to show is it’s not only okay to want things outside of the normal. It’s okay to talk about them. It’s okay to ask for them. What Khya and Tessen eventually illustrate (fair warning, they’re a sloooooow burn) is how everyone has different needs. Part of what makes relationships strong (ANY, not just romantic and/or sexual ones) is finding someone who needs what you can provide. Another important point, however, is recognizing your own needs and desires and accepting them.

How in the world is anyone supposed to do that if they never see a relationship that ticks their mental boxes in any form of media?

Like all other levels of diversity and representation, relationship dynamics and differing desires are so important. Dynamics, preferences, kinks, and fetishes are ESPECIALLY important for YA authors to consider and include. For most, the teen years is when they begin to discover arousal and desire. Or their lack thereof. If anything, portraying relationships outside the center of the bell curve is MORE important in YA than in adult. Puberty and adolescence and young adulthood are confusing enough. Why make it harder for anyone when we can provide a map?

What I hope is that Khya & Tessen–& the other pairings in the series–introduce teens to concepts about relationships they don’t often see.

In Itagami, monogamy isn’t societally expected. Polyamory is perfectly acceptable. Bisexuality is the normalized orientation. In Itagami, marriage–called a sumai bond in the book–is rare, but when that vow is made it is soul-deep and unbreakable. In Itagami, those who don’t have a sumai bond often move between romantic and/or sexual relationships as their needs change. In Itagami, “normal” has an entirely different set of definitions and expectations than what we’re used to, and I loved creating those rules. In Itagami, the how and why of what happens between two or more people isn’t something anyone else has a right to comment on. Not to say gossip doesn’t happen–it absolutely does–but the judgment and the interference I’ve seen happen in life doesn’t. Mostly.

Hopefully, all of this will be commonplace one day, but it’s not there yet. Especially in young adult fiction.

Khya & Tessen are snarky, strong, and incredibly fun to write. They’re also steamy as hell when they get together. Soon (sooner than I’m ready for, honestly), you’ll get to meet them for yourself!

Buy it from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Books-A-Million | IndieBound

Add this book on Goodreads.

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Nemesis is here in T-minus…

There is only one week–ONE! WEEK!–until the Nemesis release!

This week I’m going to talk about how important and very much not a trend accurate, diverse, respectful representation is.

I am asexual. I know this now, but it’s not something I discovered until I was 29. After marriage, divorce, and therapy. For more on that, I’ve written essays about asexuality on my site: Don’t Erase the Aces || Identity, Spectrums, and Labels

Growing up, there were few characters I truly identified with, and none who didn’t eventually find their fulfillment with sex. The lack of representation substantiated my growing belief that my lack of interest in sex meant something was fundamentally wrong with me. This is why I promised myself I’d include an ace-spectrum character in all my books. I don’t want other kids to grow up without the word.

Representation of the world around us AS IT ACTUALLY IS is crucial for so many reasons, and I try to make my books reflect that. I try to do this not just with the inclusion of asexuality, but with everything I trust myself to portray with respectful accuracy.

The cast of the Assassins duology is heterogeneous in race and sexuality, and it’s reflective of the world I grew up in. We need more stories to be mirrors of reality–and we need more of them written by those not usually reflected in those mirrors. Blake’s romantic arc is a close reflection of my own orientation, and I hope she’ll be the same kind of mirror for someone else.

Buy it from: Riptide/Triton | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book DepositoryBooks-A-Million |IndieBound |
Add this book to Goodreads.

 

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The Friday Five – October 28

THE FRIDAY FIVE

I’ve skipped a while because I’m bad at remembering, but that’s a shame because the last month and a half has been filled with lovely things. So this week, I’m doing a Friday Fifteen to catch up on some of the wonderful people and events I have to be thankful for.

  1. Getting to road trip from Utah to Florida with Cait Greer in September! It was a marathon push across the country filled with too much fast food and too many altitude headaches, but we got to stop in Tallahassee to see some great friends and at the end of the trip my bestie moved in with me. Definitely a win!
  2. My new agent, Eric Smith, has awesome taste in entertainment. He assigned me homework because of a soon-to-come WIP, and because of that I found a new fandom: The Expanse.
  3. HOLY HELL THE EXPANSE. It’s amazing. I love it. I’ve watched season one so many times already I’ve lost count, and I’m on book 2 of the series even though I do NOT have the time for reading anything I didn’t write. It’s become my new favorite. You all need to watch and read and enjoy.
  4. I attended GRL (Gay Romance Lit) Retreat for the first time! I got to hang out with amazing people like Anna Zabo, Elyse Springer, Amelia Vaughn, EJ Russel, Avon Gale, and Carrie Pack.
  5. I finished final proofs on Assassins: Nemesis! THAT MEANS IT’S DONE! And it’ll only be a couple of months until you guys get to read it.
  6. Also in Nemesis news, the first few chapters went up on Riptide’s site! That means they’re also up on my site’s page for the book. You can meet Blake!
  7. I mentioned Cait Greer moved in, right? But I haven’t mentioned her cooking yet. She cooks! Which is amazing. I love food, and I intensely dislike cooking. I’m utterly and immensely grateful she’s willing to feed me as long as I clean everything up afterward.
  8. My new #TeamRocks friends. It’s amazing how wonderful my agents other clients are, and I’m so thankful I get to be part of the community they’ve created. One day I sincerely hope we get to hang out in person!
  9. Entangled Teen. I can’t go into why, but wow. They’ve been AMAZING. They listened to me, took what I said seriously, and acted on it. I am so happy to be working with such a dedicated, supportive team. Hopefully, I get to keep working with them for a long time yet.
  10. My editor at Entangled, Kate Brauning. She’s been SO patient with me this year as I got further and further behind schedule (because I am awesome at overloading myself while simultaneously underestimating how long each project is going to take). And her notes for Ryogan Chronicles 2 are making this book SO GOOD.
  11. Edits. Oddly, I’m so grateful for edits. For being able to do them and for the wonderful notes I have to help guide me, and for how much better this book is becoming as I work on it. I wasn’t sure about the first draft, but I’m beginning to love the second version of the story.
  12. Ace Awareness week! I love that this is a thing, and I’m really happy I learned about it early enough to write a new essay I’ve been meaning to add to the site.
  13. Giveaways! I wish I could do more of them, but the one I have running now is BIG. And it includes a copy of Island of Exiles, which I’ve never given away before! SO MUCH FUN!
  14. Speaking of Island of Exiles, I saw the final cover and WOW DO I LOVE IT OMFG IT IS SO PRETTY AND YOU GET TO SEE IT SOON WHAT?! 😀 Pay attention Monday morning. It’s gonna start popping up all over the freaking place!
  15. Winter in Florida is never exactly what one would call winter, but this year it’s cooled off earlier than usual. We’ve had almost a week of low humidity and decent temperatures, and that makes me very happy.

I could keep going, but I’ll leave more for later. Next week, hopefully. <3

Identity, spectrums, and labels

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Even after I discovered the asexual spectrum in 2014, it took me over a year and a half to call myself asexual. I changed my identifiers at least three times in that period, and each change was one notch further from the point where the asexual and allosexual spectrums meet.

I have incredibly mixed feelings about labels. As an author and a lover of books, I believe words have power, and I believe finding a word to describe you—or simply some small aspect of you—can be a life-changing moment.

Labels can help us clarify our own thoughts, they can validate our feelings and/or experiences, and they help us find others like us. However, labels tend to be seen as rigid, fixed, either/or definitions of a person. According to the wider consensus, you’re this or that, but rarely both. Labels come with sets of expectations, stigmas, and qualifications, and it’s these plus the seeming rigidity of it all, that makes accepting a label—even an accurate one—a struggle sometimes.

Which is exactly what happened to me.

As I’ve mentioned several other places, I was married. It ended for a lot of reasons, but a major factor was our sexualities. I didn’t have the language I needed to have this conversation with him at the time, but I’m almost certain my ex-husband was about as far on the libido and sexuality spectrums as he could be from me. Bi-hypersexual if I had to guess. Being found sexually attractive and desirable by his partner (i.e. me) was crucial to his happiness. I loved him, but I didn’t want him. Or anyone. Not naked and in bed.

Despite knowing I’d never even been sexually attracted to the man I married—and did love; for a while, at least—when I placed myself on the ace spectrum several years later, I still chose heteromantic and demisexual as my identifiers. They felt safer. More “normal.” It was as though all I needed was to meet “the right person” and then I’d be able have a “normal” relationship one day. I wasn’t admitting it to myself, but there was a strong fear of deviating too far from social expectations, and so I picked the identity closest to what everyone else seemed to experience and told myself it was right.

But it wasn’t.

Like a healing wound or a loose tooth, I couldn’t stop poking at the label. Slowly, I accepted the difference between romantic and sexual attraction, and I admitted the truth of my feelings for my ex to myself: I’d loved him once, but I’d wanted to jump his bones never. The times I did initiate sexual intimacy were about an emotional pull—or the emotional blackmail he was fond of using.

Graysexual, then. Maybe I was heteromantic graysexual. It still left the door open for “normal” one day, even if I couldn’t begin to guess what random set of circumstances would have to occur for me to finally and suddenly feel sexual desire for the first time.

Still, I couldn’t stop poking. I thought back on my life and honestly looked at my history with crushes and attraction and romance.

In elementary school, everyone carried around Teen Beat to pour over. They crushed hard on Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Devon Sawa. I barely knew who these people were and stared in utter confusion as another girl in my class repeatedly kissed a picture of JTT. Why? What was the point?

Through elementary and the end of middle school, I knew people had crushes, so I said I did too, but mine never felt the way they talked about theirs. Watching people kiss in movies made me uncomfortable to the point of squirmy. Sex scenes? I closed my eyes until they ended. There were no posters of bands or celebrities on my walls. I didn’t fantasize about kissing the boy I liked during recess, I just wanted someone to like me best. When someone did make it clear they liked me, though, I had no idea how to react or what to do. I became awkward and panicky until they went away.

I started dating in high school, but every relationship I had was because of someone else’s persistence. Especially the one with my future ex-husband. I discovered cuddling with someone I liked was phenomenal. Kissing was pretty great. Beyond that? Everything was only okay. I didn’t mind it, but I never wanted it. Never.

Finally, more than a year and a half after first discovering the term, I claimed asexual.

It’s not an easy label to claim in a society with such harsh double standards for sex. Especially for women. We’re not supposed to be sexually independent or promiscuous, but when a person expresses interest in us sexually, we’re expected to respond. Enthusiastically. To not want sex (of any type) at all? It’s seen as more deviant and unnatural than almost any kink or fetish I have ever heard of. Asexuality is dismissed as a nonexistent orientation. It’s seen as a smokescreen for past trauma and lingering fear. It’s laughed off as religious fundamentalism. It’s treated with cloying concern and proof of some kind medical or psychological problem that can be fixed. And needs to be fixed.

I knew all of this, which is why it took me so long to espouse the label most suited for my identity. I knew claiming asexual would come with all of these judgments and social expectations, and it took me a long time to be ready for that. Because we view labels (and not solely ones for orientation) as fixed, defining points of focus, they’re often the first thing to fall back on when describing someone, so claiming a label often means accepting the culture and ideology surrounding it. Or accepting the constant battle against them.

For me, identifying as asexual meant stepping up to protest the dismissal and misperception of the orientation. I use the stories I create and the characters I populate them with. I use the essays I write. I use the panels I have the chance to speak on. I educate and spread awareness of the truth—or, rather, of the idea that there is no “truth.” All there can be is experience in its infinite variety, and all we share are moments of overlap where we can look at someone else with wide eyes and say “You too?”

There’s no one way someone is as an asexual, and there’s no one path to embracing the label. Mine was long and had a lot of stops and wrong turns. Others might be able to jump in and immediately attach to the term closest to their heart. The point is how important it is for the community at large to allow for this exploration.

As we become more educated and aware of how different our experiences and perceptions of the world can be, giving each other safe spaces to work through their identities and figure out their brains is crucial. What I hope initiatives like Ace Awareness Week will do is give people the language they need to have this conversation—either with themselves or their family and community—and allow them the space they need to set aside the expectations of the label and look at its core. That’s where the comfort lies, and that’s where the rest of us who’ve already made this journey are waiting to welcome them.

 


In honor of Ace Awareness Week, I’m hosting a giveaway!

Entries are simple, and you can enter daily. To win the grand prize, you must live in the US, however, both second and third prize are open internationally. The caveat for international winners is these books won’t be signed; I’ll be ordering them through Book Depository or sending you an ebook through Amazon.

Another note? This is the FIRST time I’ve ever given away one of my incredibly limited paper ARCs of Island of Exiles! Very few of these printed copies exist, so enter to win a signed, limited edition copy of my upcoming fantasy novel.

To enter, check out the form below! One of the entries is to leave a comment on this post answering a question: When and how did you first hear learn about asexuality?

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