Firstly, making your character ace is not an excuse not to develop them further. We’re writers, we all know this. People’s sexuality and gender identity shouldn’t be the only thing going for a character.
What Is Asexuality?
The definition of asexual is ‘someone who experiences little to no sexual attraction.’ It’s an umbrella term so there’s no one type of asexual. Asexuality is also different to arousal/ sex drive, a concept many people find hard to understand.
So what’s sexual attraction?
This is what causes a lot of confusion around asexuality. No one description will help everyone understand the difference between sexual attraction and arousal/ sex drive.
If you’re not ace, imagine a person belonging to a sex/ gender you are sexually attracted to compared to someone belonging to a sex/ gender identity you’re not sexually attracted to. The ones you are attracted to have a certain sex appeal. Their body/ gender can cause feelings of arousal and a desire to have sex.
Some aces will feel the way you feel towards those you’re not sexually attracted to, but they’ll feel it about all sexes/ gender identities. For me personally, I feel sexually platonic towards everyone. But I can experience romantic attraction, which we’ll get to. Some aces can feel sexual attraction in certain circumstances, which we’ll also get to.
Difference between sexual attraction and arousal/ sex drive
This is the now that causes a lot of confusion because there’s a lot of nuances that are hard to explain, but I’ll do my best.
Asexuals can want to have sex, but this desire isn’t triggered by being attracted to a person’s body. It’s not the person that switches an ace on, but their actions. As reddit user u/Kitsik_ says,
The way I see it, sex is about physical/emotional enjoyment (or making babies), while sexual attraction is more about liking someone sexually. For example, think vibrators – people generally use them for physical pleasure, not because they feel sexually attracted to them
Some aces will have a non-existent libido/ sex drive. Some will find sex repulsive. Some will have a high one. The thing that unites them is that if they do experience arousal, isn’t triggered by sexual attraction to a person.
So when writing a sex scene with a sex-favourable ace, it may take them a bit longer to be ready to do the devils tango since they don’t have sexual attraction working in their favour. You could focus more on the physical side of arousal and the romantic/ emotional gains from the intimacy than how ‘sexy’ they think their partner is.
Addressing Stereotypes & Misconceptions
Asexuality is a spectrum, so there’s no wrong way to write an ace character. That said, let me address some of the more harmful stereotypes:
- Aces aren’t ace because of former sexual trauma. A heterosexual person does not start being homosexual if they’re sexually abused by someone of the opposite sex. The same goes for aces.
- Asexuality isn’t abstinence, celibacy, or loss of libido due to age or health.
- Asexuals aren’t broken. They don’t need fixing.
- The same goes for sex-repulsed asexuals. There’s nothing wrong with not wanting sex/ finding the thought uncomfortable and undesirable.
Misconception: Asexuals never have sex
Some do and for various reasons. Some do it to please their partner. Some do it for physical pleasure/ release.
Misconception: Asexuals can enjoy erotic content
Erotic content of any kind is designed to arouse the consumer, and arousal is a physical response to erotic content. It’s entirely separate from sexual attraction. So yes, some aces can become aroused by reading and watching erotic content. They can also become aroused by their partner’s actions/ words. But not their body, unless they’re greysexual or demisexual (more on that later).
On the other side of things, there are aces who don’t feel anything when consuming erotic content. A lot of aces feel that erotic scenes in media distract from what they’re really interest in, which is the story and the characters. Some can find these scenes quite squeamish. Consider where your ace character lays and how they would react to this content.
Misconception: Asexuals never experience sexual attraction
The definition says they experience ‘little to no sexual attraction,’ not ‘none ever.’ Demisexuals and greysexuals are on the ace spectrum and they can experience sexual attraction under certain conditions. They’re included because their attraction comes with more conditions than a non-ace.
Misconception: Asexual people never experience romantic attraction
People who don’t experience romantic attraction are aromantic. Asexuals who also don’t experience it are called AroAce. Asexuals can be hetero-romantic, homo-romantic, bi-romantic, or pan-romantic. They can also experience other types of attraction, such as physical attraction (the desire to touch and be touched in a non-sexual way), aesthetic attraction (finding a person’s physical appearance pleasing) and emotional attraction (wanting to be emotionally present and close with another person).
How to Insert/ Include an Ace Character
First, it’s not always necessary to include a character’s sexuality. However, this guide assumes that you’re interested in portraying asexual characters.
Start by treating them as an ordinary character regardless of sexuality. When their sexuality becomes relevant, ask yourself:
How do they feel about their sexuality? Are they secure/ insecure? Do they accept/ reject it?
An insecure/ rejecting character may be in denial and may become angry if someone asks about their sexuality or mentions sexuality. An accepting character might be a proud and loud ace who’s happy to explain what being ace means. A quiet but accepting ace might not mention it at all.
How large a role does their sexuality play in their own life?
If it’s minimal, they may only mention it in passing. If you’re writing about an ace character trying to navigate a relationship with a partner who experiences sexual attraction, they may need to be more vocal about their preferences. How they approach this conversation will depend on the character in question.
What is their society’s stance on their sexuality? How does it clash with the character’s? What type of conflict would this create within your ace character and between them and the people around them?
If their society is unfavourable towards LGBT+ individuals, they may keep their sexuality a secret or they may be ashamed of it. It may cause tensions between characters with different views on sexualities. If the character is out, consider how differently they’re treated by the people around them.
Remember that sexuality =/= personality
While people can be fanatics about one aspect of their identity and over-identify with it, and while stories focusing on this are interesting, your ace characters’ aren’t only defined by their sexuality. They don’t need a storyline where they explore the struggles or joys of being asexual. They can just be normal people like you and me who happen to be asexual.
Types of Aces
These are the different aces you can encounter in the wild.
The sex-disinclined/ sex-repulsed ace
These aces don’t want to have sex. These aces are indifferent or averse to the idea of sex. They won’t seek it out at all. If their partner asks for it, they will reject it (the maturity/ attitude with which they reject it depends on the character). Some people identify as sex-repulsed if their aversion to sex is a lot stronger, to the point where any mention or depiction of it makes them uncomfortable.
The sex-neutral ace
This one is quite a big grey area, so take that into consideration when writing your character.
They’re not indifferent or averse to it, but it’s not something they’ll actively look for. They may have sex to please a partner or fulfil sexual urges. To them, sex can be like scratching an itch.
When writing a sex-neutral ace, consider what motivates them to seek sexual relationships. If it’s just to scratch an itch, you could drop the heat setting or just focus on the physical release. If they want to please their partner, focus more on how close they feel with their partner and how their partner’s sexual pleasure pleases them. If the sex scene fulfils a plot point, such as gaining another character’s trust, the sex-neutral ace may focus more on that goal than the heat.
The sex-favourable ace
These aces are more open to sex acts and can pursue them for pleasure and emotional intimacy. This guide discusses this in more detail.
While writing intimate scenes with sex-favourable aces, focus on the emotional closeness and physical pleasure. Bring attention to the romantic, physical (touch), aesthetic, and emotional attraction the sex-favourable ace feels towards their partner. If the heat is stronger, you could focus on arousal, anticipation, and physical sensations. The only thing that will differ from a traditional sex scene is your sex-favourable ace isn’t motivated by attraction towards their partner’s body.
This is the middle ground between asexuals and people who experience sexual attraction. Their sexual attraction may be infrequent/ difficult to predict. They may have experienced sexual attraction in the past, but not in the present. Or they may not have experienced it in the past, but are experiencing it in the present. This is a large and flexible grey area.
These aces can only experience sexual attraction once they’ve formed a close emotional bond with their partner. They can experience sexual attraction more frequently/ predictably than greysexuals.
Thanks for Reading
That’s my thoughts on all things ace. Remember that it’s a spectrum, and many different aces will have different experiences to me. If you have any questions, drop them below and we’ll see if we can answer them.
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