This is my submission for the March 2015 Carnival of Aces, which had the topic “Writing About Asexuality“. Details are in the call for submissions here, and once the round-up of all submissions is posted, I’ll edit this blog post of mine to include a link to it so that you can read all of the wonderful things people have written this month that relates to this topic.
I’ve been blogging about asexuality for over a year now, and I’ve also written a couple fanfiction things with fictional asexuality mentions/ace characters, and am working on a more massive ace fanfic project right now as well.
I’ve found that writing about asexuality certainly comes with an array of challenges.
For starters, you need to understand your audience.
One example: How comfortable will fanfic readers in this particular fandom be with a narrative that changes the canonical sexual orientation of a character? I tend to not write “commonly headcanoned as ace” characters but rather just take a woman who, on a TV show, has pretty much been confirmed to be straight, and be like “no, she’s ace”. I’ve also done “no, she’s bi” a few times, and in my current project I’m taking Kurt on Glee as one of four characters to be ace-spectrum – yes, Kurt, who everyone who doesn’t even watch Glee knows is gay – and I’m making him non-homosexual, but rather homoromantic gray-asexual. Is this okay? Glee fanfic readers are likely to be more okay with this kind of switch than my Switched at Birth readers were when I made one of the main characters, Bay Kennish, asexual. Because Switched at Birth is a fandom with mainly het and gen fics, mainly keeping to the canon sexual orientations of the characters.
So to continue from above, as I said, regardless of what you’re writing, you need to understand your audience. Will they have heard of asexuality before? Who do I expect to be reading my blog? Will people who stumble here after a Google search bother to click links that provide definitions for the ace community’s nuanced words, or will they be tripped up when I start using the slang abbreviation/umbrella term “ace”, or by the first sentence of a blog post such as this one saying it was written for some type of “carnival”??
In general, it’s impossible to successfully address every member of the inevitably varied audience that is likely to read my writing. So I just have to make a decision.
On this blog of mine, I expect people reading my asexuality-related posts to already know quite a bit about the sexual orientation. On my tumblr, sometimes I cross-post my WordPress stuff verbatim, but if it’s a new tumblr post or a reblog with a comment from me, I tend to assume a lower common denominator – I assume some fandom people who follow me because of fandom are learning about asexuality for the first time thanks to my post, and in that case I might try to spell things out more. Sometimes. Other times, I just assume people know a lot by now because I’ve been tumblr-ing about asexuality for what feels like forever now. In reality, it has been less than 2 years, but still. 😛
If I’m writing fanfiction, it… depends. In my recent Teen Wolf oneshot fanfic where I made Kira demisexual, Malia pansexual, etc… I kind of decided not to spell things out for people. They could look up the words if they were curious. That wasn’t the focus of the fic. The focus was that Kira was dating Lydia and Malia was jealous, as Malia was also into Kira. In my fic, we also knew Malia had dated Stiles and it is implied she would’ve kept dating him if he hadn’t broken up with her – and their break up wasn’t about her sexual orientation at all, it was about her choice to move in with her murderous father, which Stiles couldn’t forgive. Anyway, since Malia and Kira are female, and Stiles is male, it should be clear to readers of my fic who don’t know what pansexuality is that it is an orientation where a girl can like people of multiple different genders. For the specifics, they can do their own research, and the same is true of how I handled demisexuality with Kira. I left just enough breadcrumbs that people who were demisexual would hopefully feel represented and happy, people who had heard of demisexuality would get it, and people who don’t understand might be intrigued enough to do some research. I didn’t spell it all out. I actually presented it from the point of view of Malia being a bit confused by Kira’s demisexuality, anyway. So I couldn’t spell it all out, because Malia, the narrator at the time, doesn’t fully know what it means.
That fic wasn’t me writing about asexuality (or demisexuality) at all, though. That fanfic was me writing about the Teen Wolf characters going to prom and friendships with secret unrequited crushes and the demisexuality was just a note in one paragraph. The fic was a gift for someone who ships Malia/Kira, Kira/Lydia, and more, and who said one of her favorite things to read about was ace-spectrum Kira. So I threw in the demisexuality for her (the gift recipient) more than anyone. But most people in the Teen Wolf fandom are pretty well informed on LGBTQ+ issues, I’ve noticed. So maybe a lot more people than the person for whom the fic was written for will appreciate what I did there.
Right now, I’m writing a fic that will be about 10 times longer – a massive Glee fanfic – where 4 characters are ace-spectrum. And the focus of the fic is on their asexuality and gray-asexuality, as well as their romantic orientations and stuff. In fact, it’s so focused on it that I plan to title the story Four Ace Faces.
As cinderace just said in her recent post,
Because there are so few books with ace characters, and even fewer where the ace is the protagonist, when writing a novel about an ace it’s hard to escape the pressure of needing to do it just right, in a way that won’t somehow portray asexuality negatively or inaccurately, or leave aces disappointed or unhappy.
This applies not only to books, but to Glee fanfiction stories. There are so few fics in the Glee fandom where a character is ace, and none that I’ve found of the 50,000 word length I’m attempting to reach. So I feel an immense pressure to do it right. And it’s really tough, tougher than I thought it would be. I don’t want to be too technical and make readers feel like they’re reading a Asexuality 101 pamphlet rather than a compelling story. I want the characters to still feel true to the series of Glee, despite me changing their sexual orientations slightly (or re-interpreting canon, really, as I believe all four characters’ ace-spectrum-ness can sort of be supported by the show). I don’t want to imply that all demisexual people are like my one demi character of the 4, that all gray-aces are like my one gray-a character, or like the only two ways to be non-gray ace (to be asexual, full stop) are the other two ace faces in my Four Ace Faces fic. I don’t want to write things that could imply incorrect things about asexuality, but incorrect assumptions are hard to avoid, as it’s hard to predict what my readers might be thinking while reading my fic! I am working really hard on all of it, but it’s just… surprisingly tough. What I’m also finding more difficult than I expected is writing about ace characters who… aren’t like me. Who don’t experience asexuality like I do. Who actually have a libido, unlike me, or who have a more defined romantic orientation, unlike me, or who like sex, unlike me. I’ve read so many narratives about so many different types of ace experiences, and I thought I would be able to easily draw from them, but it’s really hard. I haven’t read many fanfics (and I’ve read no original fiction) that include these types of non-averse asexuals, or asexuals with libidos, and trying to write a compelling fictional story from the point of view of a character who I’m having trouble fully empathizing with, because I’m confused about how certain things would make them feel… it’s surprisingly difficult. I… I guess I also find it difficult to write about allosexuals though, from an actual allo point of view, despite their narratives being everywhere in fiction. As a sex-averse non-libidoist asexual, it’s really hard for me to ever feel like I’m fully able to empathize with sexual feelings, no matter how hard I try. I still do keep writing these stories, however, and trying.
The last thing I wanted to mention in my post for this carnival was that sometimes, it’s really hard not to write about a lot of other topics, which all feel tied into asexuality for me. Not having a sex drive, and being some type of gray-romantic/possibly-aro/wtfromantic… being sort of touch-indifferent/touch-averse… these things are kind of inseparable, for me, from my asexuality. Yes, you can separate them out and say the only thing that my asexuality is is my lack of sexual attraction to anyone. BUT… it doesn’t really feel like that a lot of the time. Not liking sex is a big part of my own, personal, experience of asexuality. So are all of my experiences dating, kissing, etc. My asexuality is tied to so many other parts of my experience. How can I not talk about the fact that I’m a fanfiction writer, who is attempting to write asexual characters, when I write in depth about what my asexuality means to me? A desire for people who are asexual to be represented in all forms of media is something that rose directly out of my own self-discovery of my own asexuality. Etc, etc.
So… I guess this blog post is over now.
Writing about asexuality is a complicated thing, and before the Carnival was over, I just wanted to share some thoughts on my own experiences trying to do it. I hope someone enjoyed reading it. 😉