Category Archives: Coming Up Aces

Coming Up Aces: Pet Peeves

Brianna asks: What are your biggest pet peeves with bad asexual rep? Or, what are some of the most common, hurtful things we should be vigilant to avoid when writing ace characters?

Answer: While there are a number of answers to this question, I have to preface everything that follows with this—I am speaking from my experience, and I won’t hit all the points. What hurts me and the people I know is not necessarily a universal wound the entire ace community shares.

In my initial post for Coming Up Aces, I talked a little bit about this, but from a different angle. That post contained a list of everything asexuality is not, essentially a list of common misconceptions and myths. When looking for pet peeves and issues that will cause significant pain when an author gets them wrong, start there. These are common mistakes that are talked about a lot. Getting them wrong in your representation means you didn’t do much homework, probably didn’t talk to anyone who identifies on the asexual spectrum, and are probably looking for “diversity points” more than anything else. Don’t do that. People can tell, and they will call you out for it.

So let’s start there. My biggest pet peeve is authors who don’t take the time to research the experiences they’re trying to represent. You don’t have to include marginalized characters in your book. Honestly. You don’t. If you’re not going to take the time to read what others have written about their own experiences, interview people with questions specific to the needs of your story, and then find readers who can review your manuscript for accidental errors or poorly phrased statements, please do not include us in your book. Don’t include anyone different from you if you’re not going to put in the effort to do it right.

More specifically, it hurts when authors use asexuality as a trick or a smokescreen. Sounds ridiculous, right? It’s not. The first “example” of an on-page asexual I ever found did this. The character (meaning, the author) claimed to be asexual to push off advances from an admirer. He wasn’t asexual or even questioning—something he admitted later in the book—he was a virgin who had spent so much of his life isolated that he was terrified of intimacy. Do not do this. The noise I made when I first saw “asexual” used in print was ridiculous. I was so happy! That quickly faded as I picked up on where the author actually intended to go with this character. By the time we reached the end where the so-called “asexual” character had been “fixed” with sex and admitted he was never really ace to begin with, my heart hurt. I almost never return books, but you better believe I got rid of that one. It seems small, but the ace community doesn’t have much representation to claim. Even one character using asexuality as a ruse hurts. For a lot of readers, it was probably the first time they’d ever encountered the term, and now it seems like something people make up, a lie they use to cover up fear. That kind of belief (or disbelief as the case may be) is excruciating to face in real life. Having it reinforced by fiction helps no one.

Another huge issue is the misconception that sexual attraction and sexual action are the same thing. I have never felt sexually attracted to anyone. Romantically, yes, but it was never anything deeper than that. I’ve had sex, though, and the experience was enjoyable, even if I participated more for the emotional connection and to please my partner. That’s me, though, and my libido is nearly as non-existent as my level of sexual attraction. Others on the asexual spectrum have a much higher libido and enjoy sex frequently. Yes, there are those on the asexual spectrum who are sex repulsed (or even touch repulsed) and will never have intercourse with anyone, but that’s not a universal fact. All of these experiences are valid, but when writing an asexual character who enjoys sex, pay attention to the distinction between libido and attraction. Wanting sex is not the same as wanting another person sexually.

Since we’re on the subject of sex, there’s a big difference between portraying sex as an act that “flips a switch and fixes someone” and an individual who has been questioning where they fall on the asexuality spectrum and eventually discovers that demisexual is a more accurate label than asexual. There is nothing broken in someone who identifies as asexual, and therefore, there’s nothing to fix. However, new experiences can absolutely change someone’s understanding of themselves and make them reevaluate things they previously thought they understood. Tread carefully is you want to write this sort of arc and you’re not coming from a place of personal experience. It would be incredibly easy to accidently get this story wrong, even with the best of intentions.

I could keep going for a long time, digging into a lot of different mistakes and misinterpretations that can do a lot of harm to the asexual community. For today, though, I’m going to close this off with trauma. It’s a touchy subject for a lot of reasons—as well it should be—but it’s an experience a lot of people outside the ace community conflate with our experience. There is a pervasive belief that assault or trauma is the “cause” of asexuality. It’s not. It can be a contributing factor for many—I know my own assault and an emotionally abusive marriage had a huge impact on my perception of relationships—but there is no “cause” of asexuality. It’s not a condition any more than homosexuality or bisexuality is. If your character has a trauma in their past, be careful of how you tie it to their orientation. It can absolutely make them more leery of taking chances on new people or new relationships, and it can change their comfort level with touch and types of touch, but their innate orientation is a different story. Survivors of assault should be treated with far more respect than that kind of assumption grants them.

Like I mentioned before, there are so many more myths, mistakes, and misconceptions that bother me and hurt the community at large, and I could probably write a book on the subject, but these are some of the most common I’ve seen. They’re also incredibly easy to avoid if the proper research is done. Hopefully, this will offer a place to start for those willing to take the time and do it right.

Coming Up Aces: The Forgotten Orientation

The Forgotten Orientation

Recently, I was fortunate enough to spend a week in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. It was a family trip, but not one I had a hand in planning, so it was either luck or fate, not foresight, that allowed me to be in Halifax the same day as their Pride Parade. I was delighted, and I steered my family into attending with me. Luckily, that wasn’t much of a struggle.

So we went, and it was wonderful.

The public’s involvement at every level was fantastic, and both the participants and the crowd were full of energy! Businesses, churches, college groups, volunteer organizations, military service members, city employees, and even the Prime Minister himself marched down the streets of Halifax. I was especially delighted to see a massive group from HalCon, most of whom were in full cosplay. The rainbow flag was flown with joy and, yes, pride, by hundreds of people, and I was mostly exuberant to be part of the experience.


You see, I don’t usually handle crowds well, so I’d never been to a Pride festival before. In preparation for the day, I’d picked out one of my favorite shirts—a long-sleeve gray shirt that says NAH along the front in all caps. Each letter is a color from the asexual flag. It’s adorable. I love it. Since this was my first Pride event, I intended to rep my orientation as much as possible. What I was even more excited about, though, was the possibility of seeing other people doing the same thing. I desperately hoped to meet people who understood and/or shared my experience.

Although I searched the parade for my colors in outfits or flags or floats, I only found it twice. Two flags, both of them on floats that included almost every recognizable set of colors I’ve ever seen. On one of those floats there was one girl who noticed my shirt and grinned at me, giving me a thumbs up. She wasn’t dressed in ace-spec colors, but we still had that moment of connection, that “Oh, hey! Look! Someone else is here!” moment. Then she was gone and I was left searching for something that never showed up. Even on signs and banners, the A in LGBTQIAP+ always got dropped. Most of the time, the letter list never made it past T.

So basically, two flags and a smile is all I got from a parade that took over an hour to pass me by.

It’s not nothing, but I couldn’t keep from feeling disappointed. I couldn’t stop myself from thinking that this is exactly why the small but steadily growing asexual community is shouting so loud for representation. I couldn’t keep from remembering how many stories I’ve heard—or how many times I’ve seen for myself—how unwelcome ace-spec individuals are across the board, both in queer spaces and in cishet ones. I couldn’t stop wishing I’d seen a local group marching for awareness, and I couldn’t stop wondering why they hadn’t—because they didn’t think they needed to or because they didn’t think they’d be welcome?

Is this level of ace representation close to the norm for Prides? Maybe there’s usually more. Maybe there’s less. I don’t know for sure, but I know where I’m hoping “normal” falls.

What I do know is that I’m going to struggle against my own discomfort with crowds and events to be more involved in local Pride parades and events. I’ve also seen why it’s so important to keep talking about ace-spec issues online. There, I’m friends with dozens of fellow aces and can talk to people who understand, but that world doesn’t reflect reality yet. It’ll take a long while yet for that to happen, but I for one am definitely willing to put in the work to help get us there.

Coming Up Aces: Asexuality as Armor

Question: Hi! I’m an ace author who is currently writing a fantasy novel with an ace main character. This is my first time writing an ace character, and to be honest, I’m not sure if I’m doing it right. My character uses her asexuality as an armour of sorts, and is somewhat repulsed by sex, yet still willing to use her femininity to her advantage when she needs to. Is this ok? I feel like I’m projecting my own feelings as an ace woman into my character, but I don’t know whether these are personal to me or whether they are ‘typical’ ace traits.

Answer: To begin with, it’s impossible to say definitively whether or not something is okay. “Typical” is also impossible to define. Like “normal,” it doesn’t exist. Experiences, and how people interpret and/or react to those experiences, vary as much as DNA. In those on the asexual spectrum, there definitely seem to be shared moments (feeling out of place or broken at least once, confusion over celebrity crushes, the “aha!” moment when asexuality is discovered), but those moments can have very different impacts on the people living them.

No group is a monolith.

When people discuss diversity, they often talk about “lanes.” Specifically, there is often the question of whether or not people should stay within their lanes when writing. The inherent problem with this analogy is that it takes a whole group’s experience and then contains it within a single lane. This is not only impossible to do (for more reasons than the one I mentioned in the first paragraph), it is damaging to our understanding of both characters and the lives of those people these characters are meant to represent.

No group can fit in a single lane. It’d have to be something more like a superhighway, a massive one with almost twenty lanes and multiple on and off ramps and express lanes. Within any group, experiences and reactions to those experiences differ. Within any group, some individuals are going to disagree about what their “true” experience is like and what accurate representation “should” look like. Sometimes, even if an author writes a story that exactly mirrors and mimics their own life experience, someone somewhere will think they got it wrong. 

As for the scenario you presented, I think it will very heavily depend on your presentation of the character, the situations you put her in, and how both she and the other characters react to those situations. A character who uses her asexuality as “armour” is not inherently problematic—I’ve done exactly this before—but there could be problems in how you describe the feeling, in how the other characters react, or in how the world perceives asexuality in general. There could be problems with the characters reasons for using this as armor, too, especially if those reasons in any way come back to the character hating themselves for this aspect of their personalities.

Everyone needs armor sometimes, and we can use different physical things or personality traits to serve that purpose. I’ve seen people use clothes, jokes, physical appearance, insults, and, yes, orientation as a distraction from some other part of themselves or as a way to distance themselves from others. It happens.

The same logic applies to someone “willing to use her femininity to her advantage” while still being “repulsed by sex.” The combination of these traits in one person is far from impossible, but executing them in a believable and respectful way could get tricky. Keep in mind, too, that readers will be inside the character’s head as they make decisions, and in the descriptions and reasonings an author uses there is the potential for harm. Proceed as the story demands, but do so with care, conscientiousness, and caution.

One thing I do want to mention on that last point, and that I hope to talk about later in greater detail in another post, is that speculative fiction is a vehicle for hope. You can carry our current prejudices and ideologies over into a sci-fi or fantasy world, but you also have the opportunity to create a world without them. Make sure, whichever side of that coin you choose, you are making the choice consciously. Books can be a powerful tool for normalization. I encourage authors to use that tool when they can.

Coming Up Aces: Historical Asexuality

Caitlin says: I’m ace, and I’m writing a book that features ace girls in love during the French Revolution. My problem is this: I’ve read a lot about how important it is to use the actual word of the sexual orientation in question on the page, especially in YA, as it might introduce teens to words they might need. However, “asexuality” as a word wasn’t coined until about 30 years after this book takes place, and then only in the sense of plants and asexual reproduction, not people. If this was a contemporary I’d put it all over the place very happily, but this seems different.

I know I’m probably using more words that aren’t period appropriate – though I’ll weed some out in edits, I’m sure – but should I skirt around historical accuracy and just use the word? It feels a bit clinical and out of place to me, but am I just being weird? I’d love some further thoughts from other people on this!

Erica says: To start with, thank you for asking this question! This is a subject I’ve been meaning to research in more depth for a while now, and this was the perfect nudge to push me in that direction.

Before we start, a reminder to readers just in case they (like me) couldn’t remember specifically: The French Revolution occurred between 1789 and 1799, and it definitely precedes any known public acknowledgement of asexual spectrum identities. At least any that have been translated into English.

Now, let’s cover the words we do know and when they were first used. 

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, asexual as a biological description meaning “having no sex or sexual system” was coined in 1829. It wasn’t first applied to human orientation until Mangus Hirschfeld used it in a pamphlet called Sappho und Sokrates that he wrote in 1896 (the original is in German, but you can read translations of some of the relevant sections here). Hirschfeld used it to mean “wanting [lacking] sexuality, being of or referring to neither sex.” Before that though, there was something else.

The term anaphroditous appears in the The New Sydenham Society’s lexicon, printed in 1879, and it means “not enjoying physical love; impotent” (pg. 205), but it may have first appeared before that date. However, according to sources the Online Etymology Dictionary pulls from, anaphrodisiac (“diminishing the sexual appetite”) was first used in 1823. Basically, it’s an antonym of aphrodisiac, so it seems to be more of a description for food or other things rather than people. The entry does list anaphrodisia, anaphroditic, and anaphroditous as related words, but there’s no entries for those specifically, and so it’s hard to know if any of those forms existed prior to that time. Anaphroditous certainly appeared before its inclusion in the Sydenham Society’s book, though.

So, great. Words acknowledging the existence of people who aren’t interested in sex are WAY, WAY, WAY older than most of the world realizes. Since there’s no concrete evidence (that I could find) saying when the related forms of anaphrodisia were first used, it’s believable to stretch it back in verbal use if not written another couple of decades. However, would the general population in 1823 know what anaphroditous meant? Possibly, but probably not unless you’re writing about people who are highly educated, well-traveled, and open to schools of thought about human psychology and sexuality that most of society didn’t acknowledge. 

Just because someone doesn’t know the word “asexual” or “anaphroditous” doesn’t mean asexual spectrum orientations didn’t exist. Actions, behavior, and beliefs matter, and all of those can be shown on a page. If the ace-spectrum character is a viewpoint narrator in first person or close third, you also have direct thoughts to contribute to the full picture of the character’s personality and opinions. And also their attractions (or lack thereof).

Even without a historically accurate word, there are still comparisons and descriptions that can be used—as long as they don’t rely on inaccurate metaphors. Calling your ace-spec character a priest, for example, draws an incorrect parallel between celibacy and asexuality. However, constructing a scene in which the ace-spec character gets hit on and then explains that they’ve never been attracted to anyone is a good idea. How the character interacts with the world and how an author describes them will also greatly depend on where the character falls on any number of spectrums. How do they feel about casual touch? Intimate touch? Sexual touch? Do they experience aesthetic or romantic attraction? Are they neurodiverse? Are they a minority in their society in a way additional to their orientation? All these factors and many more influence an individual’s opinions on and interactions with sex and society. They’re also crucial aspects of the character, especially if they’re a major player in the story.

If the character does have sex at some point in the story (an action which in no way invalidates their asexuality), a verbal statement concerning their lack of attraction will clue the reader in to their asexuality. As long as that idea is also repeated after the sexual encounter—otherwise, most readers will assume attraction between the sexually intimate partners and then assume orientation based on the stated gender of the partners. Honestly, without a word to use, the lack of attraction will need to be repeated several times in a variety of ways (thought, behavior, and dialogue) to reinforce the concept in the audience’s mind. As we know well by now, characters tend to be interpreted as straight until forcefully proven otherwise. And characters coded too casually (like Dumbledore, for example) don’t work when you’re trying to add representation.

An alternative is invention. If a historically accurate word doesn’t exist, create one with a basis in the language of the period. As a reader, I’d find it believable that a word once used in conversation but rarely written down would fall away and be forgotten. It happens. This applies to science-fiction or fantasy worlds as well. In my novel Island of Exiles, for example, I created the word ushimo to replace asexual. As long as the created word is explained the first time and then repeated throughout, it could conceivably be a stand-in for the language we use today.

A final possibility is the addition of an author’s note. These aren’t uncommon, especially in historicals. If there’s something you want to be sure readers understand, adding an explanation on the etymology of asexual could reinforce the idea in readers’ heads. And also introduce people to the current terminology. That’s a necessity if awareness and acceptance is going to spread.

Mostly, writing a character in a time “before” asexuality (no such thing!) is about the three Rs—repetition, respect, and representation. Represent your character’s actions and thought respectfully and repeatedly (with situational variation, of course). If you do these things, and get sensitivity readers to help you catch mistakes, you will succeed more often than not.

Have a question? Great! Submit it here for the ongoing Coming Up Aces Q&A.

Coming Up Aces: The Many Facets of a Monolith

Despite centuries of study, humanity has never been very good at understanding itself. We try, but it seems like we get in our own way more often than not. This is true in a lot of respects, but today I’m going to focus on assumptions based on the so-called “biological imperative” and an aspect of human psychology that has only recently began gaining attention—Asexuality. 

I want to explain the spectrum of asexuality as best I can because, since discovering asexuality in 2014 and slowly espousing it, I’ve had numerous conversations in person and online about the orientation. The assumptions I’ve heard people express after learning about my asexuality usually display not only ignorance of the orientation, but the belief that there’s only one way an individual experiences it. 

Asexuality is categorized by a lack of sexual attraction to other people regardless of gender, aesthetics, personality, or other characteristics. It’s an orientation (truly and really), and like other orientations, it’s predicated upon physical, sexual, and psychological attraction, not sex acts of any sort. 

That distinction between attraction and sex is incredibly important. Attraction is about the pull someone feels toward another human, the feeling of seeing someone and wanting to know what they look like without clothes on. Or seeing someone already naked and wanting to do something more than look at them. At least, that’s how it’s portrayed in the media and been described to me. For me and others on the asexual spectrum, these feelings occur in frequency somewhere between rarely and never.

Sex is a physical activity including one or more people, and from what I’ve seen in movies, books, and life, sex in no way requires people be attracted to each other. They don’t even seem required to like each other. This is why it’s a fallacy to make asexuality and having sex mutually exclusive.

The relationship an asexual-spectrum (ace-spec) person has with sex is as unique as people themselves are. Some asexual people (aces) enjoy sex the same way they enjoy running, as an enjoyable physical activity they can enjoy alone or with partners. Some like to read about it, but please don’t make them watch or participate in it. Some aces find the thought of being intimately touched disgusting to the point of nausea. 

Truly, the range of experiences and preferences within the asexual spectrum is just as diverse as those within any other orientation group, but most allosexuals (anyone who experiences sexual attraction of any kind) get stuck on the “I’m not attracted to anyone” part of the definition. They equate it in their head to “I’ve never had sex and don’t plan on ever having it ever,” which seems to be inconceivable to them, and they jump from there to “I’m incapable of love and probably miserable and hiding it.” 

This is literally from a conversation I’ve had before, so I know I’m not exaggerating the thought process. It’s both baffling and painful to listen to.

While there are some asexuals who also identify as aromantic (someone who is not romantically attracted to anyone), many people within the ace spectrum can and do fall in love. They can and do have sex. They can and do enjoy it. They can and do think about it.

I’ve gone through all of this because it’s crucial for writers to understand something before they try to write it. This applies to everything, every experience, and every culture. If you were writing about kidnapping victims, ancient Mesopotamia, nuclear physics, or a detective in Chicago, you’d have to do research to feel like you were getting the details of the experience right. That should hold true for sexualities different from your own, too. You can’t (and really shouldn’t) write something or someone you don’t understand.

The problem is that, even after they’ve done reading and research, asexuality seems to be incredibly difficult for many allosexuals to understand. It’s a mindset that diverges so far from the way sexuality is portrayed in any form of media and how most people seem to experience it themselves that “I don’t understand” is a common response to my explanations. The assumption that aces are “missing out” is prevalent. We can’t possibly be happy without sex, allos claim. An offer to show us exactly how wrong we are about what we think we want isn’t exactly a rare follow-up. Writing us off as robotic, mechanical, or sociopathic happens a lot too. In fact, it’s only in the most recent revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) that asexuality is mentioned, a tagged-on caveat to keep self-identified aces from being slapped with a diagnosis of Female Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder or Male Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder.

Part of the problem with understanding comes from the fact that there’s no easy way to describe what asexuality is; it’s not any one thing or group of things. No matter how I describe the experience, my words would leave someone’s story out. What I can do, however, is create a list of some of the things asexuality isn’t. 

Asexuality is not:

  1. Virginity. While some aces are sex-repulsed from a young age or become comfortable with their lack of desire early and never give in to the pressure to have sex, many do. This can be because they think they must in order to have relationships or because they want to or because of any number of reasons. Inexperience with sex is not a requirement before someone can identify as ace.  
  2. Celibacy. This is a choice, usually lifelong, to not have sex. Key to this definition, though? The word choice. Asexuals can be celibate, but not all those who are celibate are asexual. Think Catholic priests, for example. Identifying as ace would make the required vow of celibacy easy to keep, but comparing aces to priests is misunderstanding both asexuality and celibacy.
  3. Abstinence. Again, this is a choice. Most commonly, this is the religious belief that people should wait until marriage to have sex, but it can be used to describe any period of time when one is willingly choosing to refrain from sex even though they do actually desire to have it. Whether that reason is medical, psychological, religious, or other, it’s a choice. Asexuality is not.
  4. A phase. Almost every ace-spec individual I have ever spoken to knew something was different about their feelings toward sex somewhere between the age of five and fifteen. Most of those aces were between their late twenties and mid-forties when I talked to them. I don’t know what the outside limit of a “phase” is, but asexuality definitely doesn’t fit those parameters. 
  5. A choice. This is why abstinence and celibacy aren’t synonyms for asexuality. Just like homosexuality and bi/pan-sexuality aren’t conscious decisions that people have made at some point in their lives, asexuality is not something we brought upon ourselves. 
  6. A medical problem. “Have you checked for hormone issues?” is a common question asexuals get, but imbalances in the body like that usually come with a variety of other health problems, not simply low/no libido. The changes that come with hormone issues and other health problems are also just that—changes. Low sex drive isn’t a symptom if it’s always been part of someone’s personality.
  7. A call for attention. I don’t know how to fight this one, even after hearing it more than once. Why the hell would anyone want the kind of attention identifying as asexual brings?
  8. Because of religion. More than once, people have assumed I am going to try to “convert” them. As though asexuality is some new cult or a very old religious belief. Aces can absolutely be religious, but the orientation itself has nothing to do with religion or any charismatic cult leader. We don’t want you to join us (unless you feel the same way we do, then come on over). All we want when we talk to you about asexuality is understanding.
  9. Because of naivete or denial. This is an especially common argument when the ace in question is in their teen years or very early twenties. “You’re too young to know what you want.” “Don’t write it off until you try it.” “Just wait until you meet the right person, you’ll change your mind.” “You must like the really twisted stuff if you don’t want to talk about it.” No. Don’t deny the words coming out of our mouths to satisfy whatever expectations you have of people and the world. Trust us to know what we don’t want the same way you’d trust an allosexual to know what they do want.
  10. Because of fear or repulsion. Although some asexuals do have an innate or learned fear or repulsion of sex, it does not automatically describe the mindset of ace-spec individuals. Even for those who do experience a fear/revulsion of sex and intimate contact, it is not because of their asexuality, merely an aspect of it.
  11. Because of past trauma. I have lost count of how many times this question suggestion has been made in some form. My ex-husband was particularly fond of throwing it at me in arguments, saying “this would at least make sense if you’d been raped or something.” While many aces do experience sex-related trauma (assault, molestation, rape, harassment, etc.), often it’s the case that the trauma stemmed from their asexuality instead of the other way around. Sometimes the trauma does come well before any understanding of their orientation, which can certainly tie the two together mentally for an individual, but trauma is not the cause of the orientation as a whole. 
  12. Repressed homosexuality. Asexuality. Is a lack. Of attraction. It cannot be repressed anything, because there’s nothing to repress. Someone repressing their homosexuality by avoiding sex entirely would be either abstinent or celibate, not asexual.
  13. Synonymous with aromanticism. Some aces are aros. Some aros are aces. The two do not, however, always coexist.
  14. Something that precludes the enjoyment of sex. Like I mentioned above, the act of sex does not always have to connect to attraction of any sort. Enjoyment of sex doesn’t have to either. People aren’t attracted to dildos and vibrators, for example, but they use them often enough for the sex-toy industry to be large and flourishing. Some aces actively enjoy sex, others don’t. It’s a spectrum.
  15. Something that needs to be “fixed.” Please, don’t. If someone comes out to you as asexual, do not begin to play the “Have you tried” game. Sex isn’t exactly a secret in our society. We know about it. We know how it’s “supposed” to feel. We know, we know, we know. Whatever you want to suggest to help us “fix” the problem—vibrators! a more experienced partner! drugs! kink! therapy!—chances are we’ve thought of it and, if it sounded interesting, tried it. 
  16. A way to play hard to get/punish our partners. This belief, like the one where people thin asexuality is a cry for attention, makes no sense. There are easier ways to play hard to get, and punishing our partners in this way usually ends up punishing us. It’s a lose-lose.
  17. Restricted to those who identify as female. Because of the pervasive belief that men can’t control their sex drive, male asexuality is often seen as a myth. An impossibility. It’s one that can be immediately disproved, though, with about five minutes of research.  For example, one or more of the founders of Asexual Visibility & Education Network (AVEN), the Asexuality Archive, and Asexual Outreach identify as male. 

If you’re considering including an ace-spec character in your book, please do keep all of this in mind. This is especially important if you’re writing something set in or before our current society. Fantasy and sci-fi authors have the ability to change the societal and cultural perceptions of sex and acceptance of asexuality, but doing that demands an awareness of how those perceptions impact us in the here and now. Readers will come to the story with those concepts in mind, and deconstructing them takes time and effort. 

For those willing to put in that work, thank you and please feel free to submit questions to me for the ongoing Coming Up Aces Q&A segment that will be part of the Queership blog.

For those who can’t understand and aren’t willing to try to, please go play in someone else’s sandbox. 

Below are some words that are useful to know the specific definitions of when discussion asexuality, and a more complete glossary can be found on Asexuality Archive.

Abstinence – the choice to refrain from partaking in a particular activity (like sex) for personal reasons or a specified period of time (for example, until marriage)

Allosexual – a name for all those who experience sexual attraction regardless of their gender preferences

Asexuality – an orientation categorized by a lack of sexual attraction to other people regardless of gender, aesthetics, personality, or other characteristics

Celibacy – a long-term, often life-long, decision to refrain from sex

Demisexuality (demi) – sexual attraction can potentially occur, but only on occasions where some kind of emotional/psychological bond or connection has formed

Graysexuality (gray-asexual/gray-ace) – like demisexuality, attraction can sporadically occur, but for gray-aces, these instances do not require an emotional bond first

Libido – the physical desire for orgasm, whether alone or with a partner(s)

MOGAI – Marginalized Orientations, Gender Alignments, and Intersex; this term is a specifically inclusive alternative to LGBTQIAP+

Romantic orientation – a person’s identifying orientation with regards to emotional/romantic attraction; the labels for these mirror ones for sexuality, for example biromantic, heteromantic, homoromantic, aromantic, etc.

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.

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