Literature without lust – on authors and asexuality
Where do we see asexuals in fiction? Usually in fan-made works. People are having to write it for themselves, says asexual YA author Calista Lynne.
Sex sells, which means my publisher’s marketing team needs to step up their game for my upcoming novel. It’s called We Awaken and is about two female asexuals in a same sex relationship. My intention was to write the representation I wish I had seen growing up because there are so few asexuals in the media. Wrapping up an explanation of this sexuality into a young adult magical realism story just seemed like the best way to make it reach a wider audience. If people don’t discuss asexuality it will never be understood.
Care to understand it better? Well, asexuality is when someone doesn’t feel sexual attraction to any gender. For me, puberty came and went without me ever daydreaming about taking any boys or girls to bed. I never looked at rippling pectorals and felt anything apart from admiration for that person’s commitment to the gym instead of their refrigerator. That doesn’t mean I didn’t desire a relationship. Love still seems like a pretty fantastic idea but is seen as being nearly impossible to earn without lust factoring into the equation. For me, it was important that I give my ace characters a happy ending because it is possible, but because of the lack of examples of this many young asexuals feel ostracized and like they’ll end up alone forever.
Mythbusting media images of asexuality
When asexuals are seen in the media- a rare occurrence- it’s usually not in the best light, either. Allow me to dispel some common misconceptions:
- Asexuality is a sexual orientation, not a choice. Celibacy is when someone chooses not to have sex. Asexuality is like homosexuality or heterosexuality in that it’s just a part of the person. People pity us because life without sex is seen as boring but I’m perfectly happy being this way. Not to mention there isn’t anything stopping asexuals from having sex if they so desire.
- It is not a problem to be fixed. It’s wrong that when young people have access to ace characters they’re shown as being broken. This isn’t a disease or disorder. There was an episode of House where, by the end, both ace characters are “cured” and proven to be sexual people. That’s invalidating and we don’t even have many positive examples of asexuality to bounce it off of.
- Asexuals are not robots. Characters are assumed to not feel sexual attraction, are often literal robots and their robotic tendencies are played up a lot. They are portrayed as being emotionless. That’s just not fair. I am loads of fun at parties! I even crack sex jokes all the time! This is like how bisexuals are stereotypically portrayed as being promiscuous for being attracted to more than one gender.
- You won’t always ‘grow out of it’. When a young person comes out as asexual they’re oftentimes seen as being too young to know and it’s thought that one day they’ll have a good experience and be just like everyone else. Now it’s true that some people aren’t asexual their entire lives; they might find a label that applies to them better one day. But I am in full support of anyone identifying as ace for as long as it validates them. I never identified as ace growing up because people were already devaluing everything I said just because I was a teenage female. Having to pull out my receipts and explain my sexuality constantly just didn’t seem worth it at the time.
Now let’s discuss literature. If you google asexuality there are positive articles from major magazines (Time, Cosmopolitan, New York Magazine) right on the first page, which is great to see. But it’s nearly impossible to find novels with asexual characters. My intention was to fill a void in the market because of how rare it is to see a protagonist openly state that they are ace.
While it would be nice to just write a character who doesn’t feel sexual attraction and not have to explain or justify that to anyone, it was important that I have my characters openly state their sexuality and be proud of it because that’s what we need to see more of at the moment. Not enough people understand asexuality for me to be able to gloss over it in my writing.
So where do we see asexuals in writing? Usually in fan-made works. I’ve heard that webcomics are rife with characters who feel no sexual attraction and that fanfiction writers enjoy reinterpreting well-loved characters as asexual. I think that’s great. People saw that there was no representation and went out and wrote it for themselves. My only hope is that one day we don’t have to scan through loads of books and classic literature trying to pick out characters who might be asexual if we squint, but instead have shelves full of characters who embrace their sexuality, no matter how under-represented it is at the moment.
And if you’re intrigued by my tale of ladies loving ladies, here’s the synopsis of We Awaken:
Victoria Dinham doesn’t have much left to look forward to. Since her father died in a car accident, she lives only to fulfill her dream of being accepted into the Manhattan Dance Conservatory. But soon she finds another reason to look forward to dreams when she encounters an otherworldly girl named Ashlinn, who bears a message from Victoria’s comatose brother. Ashlinn is tasked with conjuring pleasant dreams for humans, and through the course of their nightly meetings in Victoria’s mind, the two become close. Ashlinn also helps Victoria understand asexuality and realize that she, too, is asexual.
But then Victoria needs Ashlinn’s aid outside the realm of dreams, and Ashlinn assumes human form to help Victoria make it to her dance audition. They take the opportunity to explore New York City, their feelings for each other, and the nature of their shared asexuality. But like any dream, it’s too good to last. Ashlinn must shrug off her human guise and resume her duties creating pleasant nighttime visions—or all of humanity will pay the price.
Visit Calista Lynne’s author profile on Mookychick to see ways to follow her on social media and buy her book!
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