By now, we’re all used to sexual representation being thrown at us through various windows and doors. It’s everywhere. People are EXPECTED to be sexual, to want others sexually, to need that intimate part of a relationship in order to be human. Often, it is shown to humanize someone, to make them less odd.
So let’s break down a few examples here of characters that represent human sexualness in recent literature and movies, so that you can begin to understand what I mean by representation.
Just off the top of my head, we’ve got Penny, from Big Bang theory. She is shown in several relationshps, several times having sex. She is open about it, and expects everyone to be the same. In fact, if I remember correctly, she actually lamented not being in a sexual relationship during one episode. This is one (of many) example of Heterosexual Representation.
Then there is Gay Representation. Now, I know you all are expecting me to use the couple from Glee, because they’re such a big breakthrough and have been so famously widespread. Unfortunately, while I find them cute, I’m not using them. Instead, I’m using Mitch Downe, the Jock kid from the movie Paranorman. In the end, he rebukes the main girl’s affections by mentioning his boyfriend. This in and of itself gives him a sexual identity, and therefore, provides representation for those of the homosexual persuasion.
Last but not least, I shall refer to Glee once again, using Santana Lopez as our representative of Lesbian Representation. She is shown to have a canonical crush/love interest in Brittney Peers, her blonde friend. This relationship doesn’t work out, but Santana is also shown to be a real person, with real feelings, and therefore counts as representation.
Now, how easy was that? Pretty simple to point out examples for three of the major sexualities. I didn’t go searching for anyone of Bisexual, pansexual or Demisexual sexualities only because I didn’t want this to turn into a novella. You have other things to do besides listen to me all day, after all. However, one sexuality is perpetually ignored. Oddly enough, it’s one of the easiest sexualities to portray!
As our happy little graphic demonstrates, Asexual is a sexuality completely denoted by a LACK of sexual attraction. This doesn’t always mean that they can’t feel Sexual desire, nor does it mean that they can’t have relationships. Often, if an asexual is in a relationship with a Sexual person, they will ‘compromise’ and have sexual relations with that person of an actual form of intercourse, or perhaps just minor intimate acts. However, being Ace means that they do not usually want to engage in Sex.
Asexuality has little to no representation. In fact, it took me HOURS to find even one example of TRUE asexuality, rather than implied or hinted representatives. There are quite a few recently hinted at examples. For one example, the main character of the BBC hit, Sherlock. Another possible example is Sheldon from the formerly mentioned Big Bang Theory. However, neither of these have been proven nor stated as being Asexual.
In fact, Sherlock is shown several times to be sexually attracted to Irene Adler, whom he calls The Woman. It’s entirely clear that while he may choose celibacy based upon his lifestyle and preference for little to no complication, as well as his marriage to his work, it is not clear, however, that he is in fact Asexual, and therefore he does not count. Now, Sheldon, he is a more interesting example, and he may in fact, be the ONLY example I truly have. However, again, he is never explicitly stated to be Asexual, and not just celibate by choice.
However, I did manage to find one, in a show I personally have never seen. Her name is Poppy, and she’s from a show called Huge. It has been confirmed by many, many posts and articles that I have researched to find this out, that she was outed as Asexual because she chose to be. She explained it to a counselor in the camp she was attending during a movie night. Go her!
Representation itself is such a massive point, considering that there are thousands of people out there who don’t even know how to find information on possible sexualities or identities that they may or may not identify with. Not only that, but ignorance and bigotry go hand in hand. How can we expect people to understand and accept those of different sexualities, if no one ever talks about them? Thanks to recent representation of Homosexuality, not only have many nations in the world provided marriage rights, but also equal rights to those of that sexuality.
However, Asexuals, or Aces, have almost no representation, almost no information spread to the general public. Few even know about asexuality.org where they can go to get further information, or even talk to a large supportive community of Aces and Ace-Allies. This is detrimental, because there are people out there suffering through relationships without realizing that the reason they don’t like sex isn’t because they’re doing it wrong, or it’s not with the right person, but rather maybe that they just don’t want sex at all!
Just as it is important to have People of Color in your media, just as it is important to have Women as actual Characters and not plot devices in your media, just as it is important to have male characters who aren’t all steroid pumping blockheads, it is important to represent this type of Sexuality as well. Erasure hurts everyone, not just those who are erased. And Everyone deserves to have a hero. Do some research, let one of your next characters be Ace, and show the world that it’s possible to be Ace and to be a person, at the same time.
Now, there are whole articles online devoted to how to properly portray an asexual character. In fact, at the end of this blog, I’ll include links to a few good ones. What I’m going to cover now is WHY you want to include this sort of diversity into your writing. Because that’s what we’re here for right? Help on making our writing better!
The reason we write stories is often because we have a story to tell, a story we want to hear, that hasn’t been provided for us already. So, we put pen to paper, and begin telling this story so that we, and others, can hear it. This is a fact of life for a writer. I know that’s why I put pen to paper for my upcoming book, The Sorcerer and the Swordsman.
But why do people READ stories? Why do we pick up books, why do we delve into these other worlds? To experience. To enjoy. To learn. And people are always interested in the new, the exciting, the different, once they get past the initial fear.
Nobody thought about what Elvish sounded like, until J.R.R Tolkien wrote about it. Nobody wanted to be a Jedi until Star Wars existed. Everyone thought Superheroes were above human wants and concerns, until Stan Lee showed us his Universe. We read to experience new things, and even beyond that, we read to find out that there are others like us out there. That there are people who think and feel and hurt the same ways we think and feel and hurt.
So, offer these new, diverse options to your readers. Just like when men write a female character or a woman writes a male character, possibly even writing of a different race; writing an asexual character starts with the premise that they are not interested in sex. Add one into your story to give it more flavor, to add to the environment; especially if all the other characters are concerned about sex, have a character turned off by sex and emotional closeness is more fulfilling, and more desirable than sex ever could be. Consider the world from this viewpoint, and discover a whole new set of entanglements, meanings and direction!
A few things not to do:
- Don’t make the Asexual person slut-shame. There’s nothing WRONG with sex from an asexual perspective. We just don’t want it.
- Don’t suddenly change your asexual character into a sexual one just because they found Miss/Mr. Right. This isn’t realistic, and speaking as an asexual person, it’s kind of rude. There are a lot of issues between sexual/asexual romances, and they can be a great source of drama and character development.
- Don’t use Asexuality as a way to dehumanize someone. That’s just like portraying homosexuality as evil. We’re humans too, and we have feelings. Just because we don’t want sex, doesn’t mean we’re psychopathic, crazy or evil.
- Don’t fetishize it. Asexuality is not something to ‘overcome’ or ‘get passed’ in a relationship. It’s a serious sexuality, same as any other, and if an asexual’s partner can’t respect that, then perhaps they need to re-evaluate the relationship.
Now that you have a list of the dont’s, I’m going to give you some links that will give you the how-to’s. Because like writing any character, writing an asexual is going to take time and research, even if you are one. So don’t feel intimidated just because it’s rarely done, or because it might be difficult. Take on the challenge of representing the Asexuals of the world.
Nicohle shares a love of fantasy and adventure with her entire family, and so, chooses to share that love with the world. Her first book, The Sorcerer and The Swordsman is set to publish before 2015, and is going to be the first in many planned novels. Thanks to the encouragement from her friends and allies, she aims to be a fantastic writer and share with the world her stories and hopes that she can make a difference in the world.
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