It makes me so happy to read books with ace-spec characters.
We’re such a small part of the market, and seeing any rep makes me feel so loved and welcome in the world. My hope is to one day pick up a book and be surprised to find an asexual character was added, not for diversity points, but just because.
Because we’re a part of the world that would like to see ourselves represented. I want to see more biromatic aces. Lesbian demis. Straight grey-aces. And for sure I want to see more male characters who are asexual.
So here’s a helpful little guide for writers not on the ace spectrum! It’s not everything, and I can only draw on my own experiences for personal anecdotes. But this is a good place to start if you have an ace character in your story.
Sections of this post:
+ What is Asexuality?
+ What to Avoid
+ Ways to Show an Ace Character
+ Why I Appreciate Asexual Characters
What is Asexuality?
It’s the A in LGBTQIA. Some people think it stands for ally, but that’s not the case.
When discussing asexuality, there are two main spectrums to keep in mind: the asexual spectrum, and the sex spectrum. I’ll go into both now:
The asexual spectrum
Sexuality is a spectrum, and that includes the asexual community. There’s a little photo above this paragraph that’s very helpful (open the image in a new tab to read more clearly).
Allosexual, or sexual as it’s referenced above, means you experience sexual attraction. This is the majority of the population.
Grey-Ace is someone who identifies between asexual and sexual.
Demisexual means you only experience sexual attraction after a strong emotional bond is established.
And typically when someone calls themself ace, it means they don’t experience sexual attraction.
All of these labels fall under the asexual umbrella, but the distinction is important. We’re one community, but with a variety of different experiences.
The sex spectrum
This is the spectrum that confuses the most people, and where a lot of acephobia comes from. You can identify as asexual and still have a sex drive! The chart to the right of this paragraph explains that clearly (open the image in a new tab to read more clearly).
In Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann, she describes sex like jogging. Some people love jogging, and some people hate jogging. I’ve also heard it compared to liking coffee.
Some asexuals enjoy having sex! Some only enjoy it once there’s an emotional connection! Some don’t like it at all!
I’m an asexual, sex-repulsed individual. I can’t speak for everyone on the spectrum, but I can give a little insight into my experience. Being sex repulsed doesn’t mean that I don’t want any physical relationship, or that I don’t like talking about sex. I’m all about promoting healthy and safe sex, and talking about it openly. I just don’t want to have sex. Ever.
This also does not mean that I don’t want a physical relationship. I’m all about physical gestures of affection! Cuddling, kissing, small gestures of affection – I live for those things, and I love reading about them. This isn’t the experience of all sex repulsed aces, but it’s mine.
Important note: sexual attraction and romantic attraction are different. A lack of sexual attraction =\= a lack of romantic attraction.
What to Avoid
“Fixing” asexuality – NO. Just no. House did it (here’s a video analysis by David J Bradley) and there’s nothing that’s worse than this. Would you write about “fixing” a gay character? Absolutely not. Because there’s nothing to be fixed. We’re born asexual, we’re not broken, and we don’t need to “find the right person” if we’re not sex positive.
Asexuality born from trauma – This seems fairly obvious. Once again, if you wouldn’t write a character who is gay because of trauma, don’t write a character who is asexual because of trauma.
If you’re asexual, you’re inhuman \ other – This is actually a personal trigger of mine. I can spiral really fast from even watching a few minutes of this, or reading half a page of it. It makes it really hard not to turn on myself, and really despise that part of me. It’s also why I shut off\block people when I see it on my socials. We’re people. Please treat us that way.
Avoiding romance all together – To repeat the point above, you can still fall in love without a sex drive. This is something I have a hard time explaining to people, and I feel that sometimes I meet others who just don’t get it. In my experience – being a sex-repulsed, biromantic person – I want to be in love so bad. I just don’t have a sex drive. Some people are the opposite though! And some people are both aromantic and asexual.
Erasing the sex-positive asexual – This happens a lot in the community, unfortunately, and it’s something to take note of. Like I said, not all aces hate sex! It just means they don’t \ rarely feel sexual attraction. When you have a character like this, I always like to see it actively discussed with another character, or have it directly brought up in some way. The average reader will read a sex scene and assume they’re both allosexual, and it’s nice to distinguish it with a part of the community that can sometimes be erased.
Changing their sexuality halfway through for convenience – Yes, this is a small jab at Riverdale. It seems obvious, but why not say it anyway? If you express a character as canonically ace, don’t change it please. Queerbaiting is the worst, and for a group that gets so little rep anyway, it’s incredibly frustrating. This could apply to any sexuality, honestly.
Important note: Most of these things are stuff I face when I talk to people in person about my sexuality. The “fixing” asexuality one especially. So it’s not unrealistic for your ace character to come up against these kinds of antagonistic forces. Just don’t use them on your character as an explanation for why they’re ace.
Ways to Show an Ace Character
I’m a big advocate for the “you don’t always have to explicitly state at a character’s identity!” argument. Personally, when I’m reading my fantasy books, I don’t mind it not being explicitly said, but hinted at. This obviously is dependent on the quality of the representation (I do hate queerbaiting after all), but it’s not impossible. A few ideas:
A black ring on the right hand, middle finger. It’s a subtle sign of asexuality that a lot of people use. I’m in the market for a black ring, but have yet to find one that I like. That aside, be careful in your descriptions here. Black rings on any any finger other than the middle one, or on the left hand, have become a sign that you’re a swinger (urban dictionary definition here – warning, it’s explicit). So if your ace character wears a black ring, make sure it’s on the right hand, and the middle finger.
A conversation. This seems obvious, but having your main character and your love interest have a straight forward conversation means so much. It doesn’t even have to be anything dramatic. But this kind of honest conversation is something I love to see, especially since most of the time I’m in a situation where I don’t want to say it, and find it hard to get the words out. I’m always worried about how the other person will react, what they’ll think, and if I’ve ruined the relationship.
As always, when writing outside of your own experience I would recommend getting a sensitivity reader. Ace experiences vary, so I would try to find anywhere from 2-5 to sensitivity read. Five might be a bit much, but I truly believe the more eyes you have on it the better.
Also, if you’re getting your novel with an ace character published (yay! Go you!) I would recommend prioritizing ace reviewers.
I would love to see more asexual characters in the books that I read. It’s an amazing feeling to find a character that just represents you heart and soul. And I’m starting to see more writers interested in writing ace characters, which makes me so happy! Hopefully this is a nice place to reference when writing your ace character and character arc.
If you have any questions, comments, concerns, please leave them below! Don’t be afraid to ask questions about my sexuality, as I’m always open to answering them. If you’d rather, you can contact me via my instagram.