Ace headcanons (and a TV pitch)

Coming in late to Asexual Awareness Week, but I had to jump in on the AAW Fandom Challenge! Since I only just discovered the challenge, I’ll do a few days at once (cherry-picking the ones where I had something to say).

Sun 22nd, Day 1: Post about canon and headcanoned asexual/spectrum characters in books and comics.

Canon: Jughead, obviously! I might do a post later about Riverdale and ace erasure and trying to watch the show with my Wishful Thinking Ace Goggles on. But comics!Jughead is an ace representation treasure.

Headcanon: The Fool, from Robin Hobb’s Farseer/ Tawny Man books. He/ she (the character is canonically genderfluid) clearly has a massive thing for Fitz, but gets really offended when Fitz construes that as being necessarily sexual. I think the Fool is asexual and Fitz-romantic, which kind of sucks because they keep running headlong into Fitz’s wall of heteronormativity, allonormativity, and transphobia, none of which their universe has words for yet. The later books, where the Fool spends more time in their female identity of Amber, have some painful scenes of Fitz Tries and Fails At Allyship.

Mon 23rd, Day 2: Post about canon and headcanoned asexual/spectrum characters in shows and movies.

Canon: Sadly thin on the ground (see my earlier lament about Riverdale), but apparently I need to watch BoJack Horseman.

Headcanon: Adrian Monk. It’s been a while since I watched Monk, but I remember him being very sex-repulsed. He clearly had a loving relationship with his late wife Trudy, but there’s a scene with his therapist where he refuses to discuss their sex life that I choose to interpret as evidence that their relationship was non-sexual. I’ve just learned the term acevague (asexuality influenced by neurodivergence), which I think applies here because it’s likely his sex-repulsion is tied up with his OCD and germophobia.

Sat 28th, Day 7: Post about asexual representation in general. What does it mean to see asexual/spectrum characters in the media you consume? Why is it important to you to see asexual/spectrum characters in the media you consume? What sort of stories/plotlines would you like to see about asexual/spectrum characters? What genre do you really want to see asexual/spectrum characters in? How would you like to see asexual/spectrum people represented?

I’ve written this post already, but it bears repeating: asexual representation is how we normalize asexuality. It’s something for aces to latch on to for validation of our identity, but it’s also for the benefit of people who don’t know much about asexuality–like, say, that it exists. I also think that wider awareness and normalization of asexuality might help challenge some of our toxic cultural narratives about sex, which hurt both aces and allos. (And hoo boy, has this been a month for confronting the consequences of our culture’s fucked-up ideas about sex and consent.)

For example, compulsory sexuality. In the older post, I mentioned the asexual relationship at the heart of Pushing Daisies. Even though neither Ned nor Chuck is asexual, I love that their inability to have sex with each other isn’t really an obstacle to their relationship. In contrast, I had soooooo little patience for Richard and Kahlan’s angst over not being able to have sex in Legend of the Seeker.* Ned and Chuck can’t even hug each other! Stop whining about your lack of orgasms when you’re supposed to be saving the world! I want to see more fictional relationships that aren’t centered around sex, and having ace characters in the mix is a great way to bring that issue to the surface. I would love to see ace/ace couples in fiction, but I’d also love to see long-term ace/allo couples who have figured out something that works for them.

But hey, the aros can come join the party too! Let’s have some plots about aro characters dating and figuring out that it’s not really what they want, or dealing with the social expectation that they’re supposed to date.** Let’s have some gray-A and demisexual characters. The more I think about it, the more I think there needs to be a rom-com anthology series about every shade of the ace spectrum. Love, Asexual Style?

 

* Yes, I watched Legend of the Seeker. I also watched every episode of Heroes Reborn. I hesitate to use the term “pop culture junk food”, because I hate genre snobbery and that kind of judgment gets disproportionately aimed at SF and fantasy, but it really is a bit like eating a whole bag of potato chips when you know you should have a proper meal.

** For example, the story in Jughead where aroace Jughead goes on a date with Sabrina the Teenage Witch, thanks to a misunderstanding and Archie’s misguided attempts to play matchmaker. Sabrina tries casting a love spell that will amplify any tiny bit of attraction someone feels. On the one hand: that’s perilously close to date rape. Not cool, Sabrina! But I appreciate that in this case all that happens is that Jughead feels hungrier.

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Stray thoughts on The Defenders

  • I haven’t yet seen Luke Cage, but I think I need to. I get the impression that under the invulnerable skin is a soft, gooey center.
  • Colleen is right, Danny. You are not a businessman. Also, don’t call a meeting with the bad guys to tell them you’re going to destroy them; skip ahead to the destroying.
  • Alexandra is one of those “ooh, look how cultured I am!” baddies. When she’s not plotting evil, she always seems to be listening to chamber music or eating in swanky restaurants. And her veiled references to her immortality are also showing off about how cultured she is–she ate this dish in Constantinople! She knew Brahms before he was cool!
  • Speaking of that restaurant scene… I definitely had the “Istanbul not Constantinople” song in my head afterwards.
  • Also, more than once someone said “You know nothing” and I mentally filled in “…Jon Snow.”
  • When Matt says to Elektra “There is goodness in you. I know because I’ve felt it,” I don’t think the reaction the writers wanted was “Matt, your ex is Darth Vader.”

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The pack survives

(Here be Game of Thrones spoilers! Also wild speculation, but if any of my guesses happen to hit the nail on the head, I take no responsibility for spoiling the future.)

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Goggles, gears, and corsets

18451801_4996543955900_519808288295065688_oWatch City Festival was yesterday, and I’m always happy to get dolled up steampunky. One of my favorite things about steampunk cosplay is how loosely defined it is, leaving people free to make what they like of it. Some people sport lovingly detailed period-accurate Victorian dress, or design elaborate sci-fi gadgets, while others just slap on a pair of goggles and call it a day. Because there’s an inherent fantasy element, you can combine whatever fashions you think are pretty or look cool and not worry too much about whether they’re anachronistic, or if a woman at that time would really be allowed to be an airship captain. You can create a character and backstory or just dress up for fun, customized to your preferred level of effort/ investment. I admire people who are willing to put the effort into meticulous costume design, but personally I tend to err on the just-for-fun side. My guideline for choosing a costume is “what do I really want an excuse to wear in public?”

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Making the invisible orientation visible

I just found out about the Carnival of Aces, and once I knew about it I just had to do a post. So I’ll do what I seem to do best here and talk about fictional characters.

It’s hard to do a survey of asexual characters in fiction because canon ace characters are so rare. And the “canon” qualifier is important here. If a work doesn’t canonically define a character as ace or aro, then it doesn’t really function as representation, because allonormative culture assumes that a character who isn’t shown to display sexual or romantic attraction is experiencing them offstage. Or you get something like BBC’s Sherlock, where the possibility that the character could be read as aro-ace is drowned out by the writers queerbaiting the Johnlock shippers. So it’s hard to criticize the way ace characters are portrayed when, most of the time, I’m thrilled to see one named as such at all. (Jughead, my man!)

But… is it just me, or fictional aces almost always aro-ace?

Look, I don’t claim that my view of asexual representation is definitive. Some of the few canon aces in mainstream fiction are from works I know little about, such as Sirens and BoJack Horseman, and I’m sure there are a few asexual characters in shows, books, or movies I haven’t heard of. So I’m certainly willing and eager to hear counterexamples to this thesis.

But asexuality does very often get conflated with aromanticism. It’s treated as implicit–allonormative culture again–that adult characters in a romantic relationship are having sex, or planning to have sex. If they can’t, this is an obstacle to be overcome. (Pushing Daisies at least depicts an asexual relationship; neither partner is asexual, but sex between them is off the table, forever. They’re together anyway.) Rarely is the idea broached that anyone might not want to.

So, story time.

I didn’t realize for a long time that I was asexual. I still wanted to date men, so that made me straight, didn’t it? And sure, I wasn’t really in it for the sex part of dating, but I was never planning on sex before marriage anyway; I already resembled a socially approved narrative. And because that narrative seemed to fit, I went along with it. It took a while for me to realize that maybe I didn’t much want sex after marriage either, and then I went into a crisis of “but who will want to date me now?”

I was almost-but-not-quite the hetero-allosexual norm. The “not quite” turned out to matter, but it was and still is the “almost” that trips me up. I can’t help but wonder: what if I had been exposed to a narrative that was an even better fit for who I really was? What if there had been a model for what it looked like to want romance but not sex?

I want portrayals of asexuality to show the way for future people like me, and I want them to become familiar to the mass of non-aces who will surround those people, so the aces of the future can be who they are without fear. That’s why representation matters in general, of course: because stories tell us How To Be. This is what the world is like, and this is what this kind of people are like, and this is how we behave in a given situation. Both quantity and quality of representation are necessary to show any group of people as individuals with a range of experiences.

So this is my plea for representation for romantic asexuals. I have no problem with aro-ace characters; please, write more of them. But representation isn’t rationed; I can want more aro-ace characters and also want to see my own experience. I want to see characters run the gauntlet of trying to date while asexual, and face the dilemma of when to come out to a partner. I want to see aces dating each other, or in queerplatonic relationships. I want to see aces dating allosexuals and finding ways to make it work. Heck, I want to see some polyamorous asexuals! I want an entire sitcom’s worth of asexual dating shenanigans, but I’d settle for a side character or two just to get the ball rolling.

As the Carnival of Aces prompt says, there are many ways to be ace. There must be other aces and aros whose experiences are different than mine but aren’t being reflected in media either, because with such a tiny rate of representation to begin with, there must be a lot missing. (Gray-As? Demisexuals? Non-ace aros?) I would love to hear what other people think is missing from the fictional portrait of asexuality and aromanticism. I would also love to hear about any existing portrayals of romantic aces!

Edit: now that the month is over, signal boosting the Carnival of Aces summary post.

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