Asexuality and Fandom
|Trope · Genre|
|See Also:||asexual_fandom, Fictosexuality|
|Tropes · Slash Tropes · Tropes by Fandom|
|Click here for related articles on Fanlore.|
According to AVEN, "An asexual is someone who does not experience sexual attraction," although asexuals may define asexuality differently. Sometimes fictosexuals are considered ace, since they are only attracted to fictional characters and not real people.
In fanworks, an asexual or "ace" character or relationship usually does not display much or any interest in sexual sensations. Fanworks that include asexuality range from rare to more prevalent depending on the fandom.
Human characters specifically stated to be ace are rare. Ace headcanons are common in some fandoms. Sometimes, distinguishing between a common fanon headcanon and deliberate ace-coding can be difficult. Characters commonly perceived as ace include:
Archie Comics: Since the comics began, Jughead Jones was never a huge fan of women. The joke has been that he is in a relationship with food. Some fans feel that he was clearly coded as gay in the older comics, however in the 2016 issue Jughead #4 it is stated that he is asexual. In the CW show Riverdale, Jughead appears to be heterosexual. Jughead's orientation is a topic of much discourse in fandom.
Dishonored: Head writer Harvey Smith confirmed on Twitter that the assassin Daud (antagonist of the first game and protagonist of the DLCs) is asexual. An in-game book says that "sex had never interested him".
Dreaming of Sunshine: The main character Nara Shikako is canonically aromantic and asexual, although the author, Silver Queen, has said she doesn't mind people shipping Shikako in their recursive fanfiction.
Good Omens: Crowley and Aziraphale, as well as other celestial beings, are often interpreted as asexual (and possibly aromantic), due to a line in the book which describes angels as "sexless unless they really feel like making an effort". Some fans consider this an asexual relationship, while others use "making an effort" as a euphemism for sex. After the TV series was released, many fans expressed joy at a positive portrayal of asexuality, although others wished the relationship had been made explicitly romantic. Co-author and showrunner Neil Gaiman has expressed support for many possible interpretations, including asexual and aromantic ones. 
Mass Effect: The salarians in general are considered to be an asexual race, but the most prominent example of the salarians' asexuality within fandom is the character of Mordin Solus. While he eventually sees Commander Shepard as a good friend, he politely turns down any notion of a relationship with them -if they are not in a romance with another character at the time-, but adds that if he were to "try human", he would "try" Shepard (interestingly enough, he says this to both male and female Shepards).
Les Misérables: Enjolras is often interpreted as being asexual, due to Hugo's description of him in the Brick. However, Enjolras's sexuality is not clearly defined in any canon and is mainly understood through interpreting Classical allusions, and is accordingly one of the most commonly debated issues in the Les Mis fandom.
- Some writers like exploring what this means for his possible romance with Watson. Holmes/Watson or Sherlock/John fic where Holmes and Watson first get together and Holmes is asexual and Watson is not often has some element of angst as they negotiate their romantic relationship. John is often portrayed as missing sex and many stories end in a compromise where their relationship has some consensual sexual element. One common plot in Sherlock BBC fanwork ends with Sherlock convincing a reluctant John that he is comfortable participating in some sexual activity with John.
- Sherlock Holmes's brother, Mycroft, is also sometimes characterized as asexual and other characters rarely.
SpongeBob SquarePants: In 2005, the We Are Family Foundation released a music video featuring more than 100 well-known children's characters, to promote diversity and tolerance. Multiple conservative groups were offended and attacked Spongebob in particular, alleging that the cartoon series depicted SpongeBob and Patrick in a gay relationship. Creator Stephen Hillenburg made a statement in response that "We never intended them to be gay. I consider them to be almost asexual." Many fans embraced this as canon.
Discourse and Meta
Ace fans sometimes interact with fanworks differently than allo (non-ace) fans do. This has led to meta about canon and fanon, as well as discourse over headcanons and other aspects of fandom. Common discourse topics on tumblr include headcanoning characters of color and autistic or otherwise disabled characters as ace.
Ace Characters and Sex in Fanwork
Some fans have expressed concern over the prevalence of ace characters, for whom sex is not a focus, being depicted having sex in fanwork. One fan writes this is perhaps an effect of allo people writing ace characters as well as a problem with the constraints of the romance genre in general:
Well, seeing as how 99% of the population is sexual, that's their frame of reference and they may have a hard time breaking out of that. Sadly, gen fic is pretty rare, and I've noticed that there are certain tropes for fics that involve romantic relationships. Unfortunately all of these tropes assume that romance invariably leads to sex, even if said sex isn't shown in the fic. It becomes an expectation of the genre (if fanfic can be classified as a genre), and a lot of people can't figure out how to work around that expectation. It becomes easier to figure out a reason why the ace character has to have sex than to go against the archetype of how romantic relationships in fictions are Supposed to Be.
The pattern of ace characters altruistically entering into sexual relationships in fanwork is also criticized by other fans.
. . . the narrative of "I'm not sexual, I just like giving you handjobs" is one I can't relate to. It tires me to read stories about "ace" characters without seeing evidence that their relationship to sex actually differs from sexual people. It's not unthinkable for me that some aces would want to have sex, for a host of reasons, but I'm tired of the "magic, selfless ace, who just wants to please" trope. I'd love to read the "magic, selfless sexual, who just wants to please" trope, now; I think it's time to write some of that.
Depictions of asexuality can be idealistic when it comes to the willingness of all ace characters to engage in sexual activity:
Honestly, I think the balance of ase-in-porn!fic vs. ace-no-porn!fic should be considered on a character by character, fandom by fandom basis. In some, it will definitely be more probable than others due to canonical characterization…. At the same time, I also admit to concern that all of the sex fic and happy endings will create a misconception that all asexuals will always be able and willing to compromise and that doing so is no big deal.
Overall there is a lack of variety in relationship patterns in fanwork, especially involving asexuals:
[The "magic self-less ace" trope] can create unrealistic expectations of relationship dynamics that are difficult to pursue in real life. Doesn't mean it shouldn't be written, but too much would be troublesome. Eh, what we really need is a good bouquet of different fic types, so they can be compared and contrasted for possible usefulness as role models.
Tagging on AO3
Tagging on Archive of Our Own is always a somewhat contentious topic. An user on the anon meme fail_fandomanon asked, "Nonnies, Character A is asexual but not aromantic. Should I use Character A/Character B or Character A & Character B in the relationship tag?" which got a good spread of responses:
That's very obviously /. -1 on the tagging Asexual A. Unless the fic is about them being ace, there's no need for the tag.
Communities & Resources
- asexual_fandom on Dreamwidth
- BTAce & Aro Spring Fest, a fandom-specific fic exchange
Meta & Discussion
- Ramp-Up Essay/Meta/Q&A Session/Rec-List on Asexuality (& Kink) for Kink Bingo, 2011. (Archived version)
- Ramp Up Essay: Being a Kinky Ace for Kink Bingo, 2011. (Archived version)
- Asexuality and Femslash, 2011. (Archived version)
- Asexuality in Fandom linkspam, at Asexual Agenda blog, 2017. (Archived version)
- Navigating Fandom As an Asexual on Medium.com, 2018. (Archived version)
- Writing fic as an aroace or aro/ace fic (or with an aspec element to it) it is really frustrating..., 2019. (Archived version)
- Shipping While Aspec, "this blog is a safe place for all arospec & acespec folks to rant about the woes of fandom shipping while aspec."
- "Asexual Information and Perspectives". Retrieved 30 March 2011.
- lavvyan. "This entry is brought to you". Retrieved 30 March 2011.
- Tumblr thread, 2017
- "Asexual Connor".
- "Connor/any, asexual relationship, fluff".
- "Connor was, in my headcanons, grey-aromatic asexual".
- "Today's Queer Headcanon of the Day is: Connor Kenway is asexual and aromantic".
- At one point Penny asks Leonard "What is Sheldon's deal?" and clarifies that she means his sexuality; Leonard replies that as far as any of Sheldon's friends know, "he has no deal." A later episode has Sheldon declaring that he is "quite aware of the way humans usually reproduce" but if he and his friend Amy were ever to have children, it would happen "in a lab with petri dishes."
- Sammy Nickalls (September 8, 2017). "Todd Chavez Is TV's First Out-and-Proud Asexual Icon". Retrieved July 24, 2018.
- "Dishonored wikia".
- Silver Queen, response to an anonymous ask on dosbysilverqueen.tumblr.com. Posted 20 August 2016. (Accessed 27 July 2018.)
- Neil Gaiman response about queer labels on twitter. Posted 8 June 2019. (Accessed 29 December 2019.)
- "Due to their method of reproduction, salarians have no concept of romantic love, sexual attraction, or the biological impulses and social rituals that complicate other species' lives. Male-female relationships are rare (due to the scarcity of females) and more akin to human friendship. Sexuality is strictly for the purpose of reproduction." - Mass Effect codex entry on salarians
- Female Shepard and Male Shepard conversations with Mordin.
- Enjolras’ sexuality in The Brick, one of the most clearly articulated interpretations of the canon that reaches the conclusion that Enjolras is asexual.
- For example, see BBC Sherlock's sexuality.
- Stephen M. Silverman (28 January 2005). "SpongeBob Asexual, Not Gay: Creator". PEOPLE.com. Retrieved 26 May 2019.
- cas (January 20, 2017). "fishing time". fishing time. Retrieved May 26, 2019.
- For example, see Asexual_fandom's delicious tags for SGA (Accessed 31 March 2011)
- "Comment to "Writing Asexuals in Sex Scenes"".
- "Comment to "Writing Asexuals in Sex Scenes"".
- "Comment to "Writing Asexuals in Sex Scenes"".
- "Thoughts," reply to Calvinahobbes's comment to "Writing Asexuals in Sex Scenes" by Ysabetwordsmith
- Nonnie in Post 1025's Ask meme thread. 2019-02-04