In Search of Ace Representation // it’s ace awareness week!

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All this week — the 23rd to the 30th October — is Asexual Awareness Week! It’s pretty self-explanatory, but it’s a week to raise awareness about asexual, aromantic and anywhere-along-those-spectrums experiences. (Although I don’t know why all these weeks start on Sunday. MONDAY IS THE START OF THE WEEK?? But anyways haha.)

I actually missed ace awareness week last year because I didn’t even know it existed until it came around… So this time I was especially determined to write something. I mean, I still got the dates wrong but pfft, I’m writing this in advance.

If you don’t know what asexuality is — and no, it’s not just for plants — then it’s basically just a lack of sexual attraction. That’s it! There are also people who identify as aromantic, which is a lack of romantic attraction, and people who identify as demisexual/romantic (when you only experience attraction to people you’ve known for a long time) or grey-sexual (a general time for people who are somewhere in between).  But I’m not here to you to explain what asexuality is… Whilst obviously that’s extremely important, it’s also in many other places across the internet, in a much more eloquent way than I can put! I’d recommend the Ace Awareness Week site and the AVEN wiki as a starting point.

So, after that little intro bit, I decided to talk about some misconceptions people have. Although of course raising awareness is super important, my personal experience is that people know the technical definition but don’t always understand what it actually means. The diversity of ace and aro — I’m kind of using this to mean all people who identify along those spectrums; I hope that’s alright —  is SO WIDE. Yes, some ace people aren’t interested in any relationships. Some ace people are interested in relationships, or other options like queerplatonic relationships. Some ace people are also gay or bi or trans or any other identity, Some ace people want to have sex. Some ace people don’t. (But that’s not the same thing as celibate.) Some ace people can experience certain kinds of attraction, in certain situations. You can’t just say THIS IS WHAT AN ACE PERSON IS LIKE. I mean, you can’t do that for anything. But in my personal experience, asexuality = the plant one to many people.

Yet despite all this intersection with other identities, there are barely an ace characters in books and the media? It’s estimated that 1 – 4% of people are asexual, which is kind of similar to the percentage of redheaded people living in England. I can name SO many redheaded characters, yet I can count the number of asexual ones on one hand. Often there will be a character who seems like they’re ace, but the word is never actually mentioned? I mean, I feel like this is getting better for asexuality, although I’ve never seen aromanticism mentioned once. And sometimes it isn’t always needed, like perhaps in a fantasy setting where society works differently.

It’s just so frustrating to still see media where a lack of attraction is seen as something inhuman. Take Sherlock — which, I’m going to be real, is very far from the paragon of representation, but anyway. Sherlock’s just this unreachable icy guy, and it’s like his apparent lack of attraction means he’s a psychopath? *sighs* And Steven Moffat literally said asexual people weren’t interesting to write about, ugh. (This show is problematic in so many ways, I know. And yet I still watch it. Kind of.) I will headcanon Sherlock as asexual until the end of time just because of that — because all the characters keep saying how can you manage without a relationship?

I don’t want it to be that way. I just want characters who are ace and aro without being any less human; without abstaining or choosing the high moral ground or something. Characters who are just people. Because romantic love isn’t always the most important, you know?

I enjoy reading romantic stories — like, I enjoy them even more than I enjoy romance in real life. I read a book like Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun and marvel at all the love there. (Of many kinds.) It also makes me kind of sad, though… I don’t know if I’ll ever have that, or even if I want to. Currently I identify as grey-asexual, but it’s fine if that changes in the future. And it probably will, because it’s sort of a deduction game… It’s a lot more difficult to tell the absence of something. I don’t think I’ve ever had a crush, but maybe I have; maybe I just didn’t know what it felt like. I’ve spent SO LONG searching things on the internet trying to tell if I’ve felt it or not.

Quite honestly, the internet has educated me about asexuality more than anything else. Some parts of mainstream media still sneer at identities like demisexuality. (I’ve seen it with my very own eyes. I have not forgiven that newspaper.) I obviously only have my own experiences, and I’m still very much learning, so I don’t mean for this post to be anything like speaking for the whole community. I just wanted to say my little bit, and I really hope to see more great books with ace representation in the future.

do you have any ace/aro book recs for me? any headcanons? read any cool things for ace awareness week? let me know!

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17 thoughts on “In Search of Ace Representation // it’s ace awareness week!

  1. I really want to read an ace/aro book as well, so if someone has recommendations let me know!
    I don’t really know how I identify myself but I think I’m also somewhere in the asexual spectrum.
    But wouldn’t Sherlock be more characterized as aromantic though? He does have sexual relationships (if I remember correctly) and has a clear love interest. *cough* Irene Adler *cough*

    1. The only one I really know of is Radio Silence by Alice Oseman, which is wonderful! And I believe Clariel by Garth Nix also has an ace character, although the word isn’t specifically mentioned. (And maybe China Sorrows from Skulduggery Pleasant as aro, although again not actually confirmed.)
      Yeah, he could definitely also be aro! I think it’s really up to people to headcanon whatever they want. I mean, I think you could for sure read it that way, but for me I think he isn’t really interested in a romantic or sexual relationship. But HONESTLY IT’S HEADCANON FEEL FREE TO THINK WHATEVER haha.

      1. I’m going to put Radio Silence on my TBR!
        Yeah definitely, you can think whatever you want about Sherlock, especially since every adaptation is different and every adaptation interprets him differently. I’d have to reread the original stories to check whether he would me ace or aro..

  2. I was trying to think of a book to put down with asexual characters, and I can only think of All of the Above by Juno Dawson (although as far as I can remember it wasn’t a main part of the story, just mentioned) and also I think there one of the characters in Radio Silence by Alice Oseman identified as demisexual, but only realised at the end. It’s ridiculously underrepresented – I would love to be able to think of more!

    1. Yeah, both of those are the only two that I know of! (And both excellent.) I basically just re Radio Silence to every person I know at this point, to be honest. I WAS SO HAPPY TO SEE DEMISEXUALITY IN THERE. I believe that Clariel by Garth Nix also has an ace character, although it isn’t actually *confirmed*? I haven’t read it, though. I’d love to see more ace and aro characters in books! 🙂

  3. Quicksilver as well! It’s a standalone sequel, badass ace female engineer main character, and it really does discuss asexuality in a positive and awesome way. Highly recommend!

  4. This post is SO IMPORTANT!! I can’t think of any ace characters, and I’m even struggling to think of characters who don’t have some sort of romantic interest, even without using the exact word. What I can think of, though, is so many books with characters (especially girls) who seem to be lacking something until they find that perfect man. Apparently getting a relationship is the ultimate life goal? Honestly, representation of so many non-straight non-white non-cis people is so incredibly lacking, it’s like this post is just another one we need to shove in author’s faces

    1. THANKS MY FRIEND I’m glad you thought so haha! Mm yes — although I do enjoy romance it’s actually very difficult to find a book without it. (Although there are lists and books out there.) And WE ARE ALL COOL PEOPLE WITHOUT BEING IN A RELATIONSHIP. *sighs* Basically haha yes just more diversity! Everywhere!

  5. Eve this post resonates with me SO WELL. I’ve never had a crush either, I think?? Like when I was younger I’d be like ‘yeah I had a crush on my childhoodfriend!!1!’ because I thought I was supposed to have had some kind of crush at some point and ay I liked him so I thought why not but that’s just not true?? Also I kind of jumped on the bandwagon with book boyfriends because everyone was doing it and I thought it just meant male characters you liked or thought were good boyfriends, but not for *me* And I don’t know if I want a relationship either. It’s just so confusing because I do have celebrities that I think are goodlooking but I’m not sure if I’d call it attraction? Sorry this turned out into a cry for help lol. As for book recs, I’m currently reading We Awaken and so far I related to the protagonist a lot, but I’m not that far in yet and I don’t know if it’s *good* rep? But yeah it’s an f/f and both the protag and the love interest are ace

    1. (Sorry this is a bit of a late reply haha, NaNo has been eating up my time.)
      Yeah same, this seems really close to how I feel! >.< There are definitely people who are CUTE and NICE out there but??? I, like, don't know if that is attraction. (And probably shall never. Although maybe I will understand more with time, who knows. THIS STUFF IS SUPER CONFUSING ASDKFEFJIO.)
      Ah yeah I think someone else recced that to me? Or at least, I've already marked it off on my Goodreads — it sounds super awesome. I'll have to read it and see! 😀

      1. Don’t apologise, my reply is super late too haha.
        Yeah exactly! It’s so confusing. I feel like I’ll never know if it’s attraction or not hahaha.
        Yes definitely read it! I finished it by now and it was really cute. I also found it really relatable

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