Sometimes I think we write to explore the things most important to us. Sometimes however we write to explore other ways of being.
I’ve been posting fiction three times a month to the blog for a while now, 7th, 14th, 21st of the month; I’ve found Wednesdays works best so I’ve switched to the first – third Wednesday of each month for the moment.
I would like to use the fourth week to share something else – moodboards, reviews, prompts, or other non-fiction.
This time I’d like to talk a bit about asexuality. I’ve blogged about it before, and have written meta about characters I headcanon as potentially being on the asexual spectrum.
Things have been personally stressful lately and for an asexual, though it isn’t personal, sometimes it feels very personal to constantly face messages from the media, social networks, friends, or family that posit (1) sex is essential for a relationship and/or (2) relationships without sex as are not as important.
That is, the messages that call an allosexual being in a monogamous relationship with an asexual abusive, because the asexual person is “withholding” sex from someone who enjoys it. The messages that place a spouse on the top of some sort of relationship hierarchy. The constant message that sex is good and all people must want – or need, or deserve – it.
So much for asexuals and those people who cannot have sex for whatever reason.
As such, I’ve been thinking about changing attitudes via fiction and writing about asexuality.
We all have our favourite stories and character types, and fictional tropes and kinks, the things we like to read/watch. For writers we have favourite things to write about. There may be some overlap, though there are probably some things we prefer to read than write, and vice-versa. Some of that comes down to how personal the thing in question is.
Sometimes I think we write to explore the things most important to us. Sometimes however we write to explore other ways of being. Sometimes we don’t write about the things that we hold dear because of fear or anxiety; fear of exposing parts of ourselves, of “doing it wrong”, of being labelled in a certain way because of what we’ve sent out into the world, or perhaps because it feels too close for comfort.
Maybe that fear is why I don’t include more asexual characters in my fiction, particularly original works. I’ve written a fair bit of fanfiction with asexual spectrum characters and various nonsexual relationships. I do have an unmistakably asexual male character in my first novel WiP.
But why not more? Is it because I’m afraid that people won’t read about asexual characters that I keep hedging with “demisexual/grey-ace” when maybe the character fits the asexual label better? Is it because I’m afraid that a book with an asexual lead character, or “too many” asexual characters will get labelled as “asexual fiction”, the way fiction can be labelled as “LGBT” or “women’s fiction”, rather than genre fiction (fantasy, supernatural, etc) that happens to have an asexual character?* Is it because I’ve grown up absorbing the messages that we marry and have sex and have children, and that’s the only real happy ending? And therefore asexual characters must not be worth writing or reading about?
I write more childfree characters than asexual characters, which speaks to my comfort with that aspect of myself, and the growing number of people vocal about being childfree themselves. It does raise questions about my acceptance of my sexual orientation. Mostly I’m comfortable with it but I am concerned that I can never have a monogamous romantic relationship because of it. That fear is deep-seated, and I’m not yet desensitised to being told I cannot have it. Though I’m still questioning my romantic orientation, that denial hurts.
One final word on tropes. I love to read, watch, and write bedsharing. Not sex, just two (or more) characters sharing a bed. I recently came across an article that made it seem impossible to do this without sex resulting, because two adults in a romantic relationship will have to have sex, even if there’s no birth control available and another pregnancy could harm or even kill the female partner in a mixed gender relationship. How can I dream of a relationship when any sensual intimacy I might enjoy is viewed only as a precursor to inevitable sexual intercourse?
There is some hope. There are some positive personal stories out there, asexuals who have monogamous romantic relationships with allosexuals. There are allosexual couples who stay together after one partner becomes unwilling or unable to have sexual intercourse any longer. Sex is not as inevitable as the internet in particular makes out.
There is fiction about characters who happen to be asexual rather than a novel about asexuality.
In closing, maybe I should write more fiction with more explicitly asexual characters. Maybe more asexual spectrum writers should. Food for thought.
*There’s an interesting read on this topic by Lucas J W Johnson, “Rethinking The LGBT Book Shelf” – https://www.lambdaliterary.org/features/01/27/rethinking-the-lgbt-book-shelf/