Asexuality in Mainstream Media

Every time I hear there’s going to be a new asexual character in mainstream media, I get really excited… Until I remember what most allosexuals think of aces.

The most recent gut-punches came from two of my favorite authors.

The first: VE Schwab confirmed on twitter that Victor Vale will come out as asexual in VENGEFUL, the sequel to VICIOUS. Sadly, this characterization falls into some bad tropes in ace rep and while Victor Vale is one of my favorite characters, I’m not excited about this new development. So much so, I’m considering skipping the sequel entirely.

The second: I read RAMONA BLUE by Julie Murphy. This book is an amazing story for people questioning their sexual orientation and the main character’s arc is dealt with beautifully, but the asexual character is portrayed as unfeeling, hating everyone, and at the end she cries “actual human tears.”

I’m really tired of getting my hopes up when I hear about a new ace character and then having the representation be so poor. If you’re considering writing an ace character, keep reading for pitfalls and bad tropes to avoid.

Bad Asexual Tropes

Being associated with death:  Aces are just normal people living their lives how they deem best for them. This weird association between lack of sexual attraction and death is harmful because it tells aces that the only place they can be themselves is in the realm of death. And that is blatantly untrue.

Being unfeeling: All emotions don’t stem from lustful feelings. Just because someone doesn’t experience sexual attraction doesn’t mean they don’t experience a full range of emotions.

Being less than human:  Unfortunately, there’s a feeling among allosexual people that if a person doesn’t experience sexual desires, there is something deeply wrong with them and they aren’t quite human. Sexual desire is not a trait that makes someone human and to insinuate that is pretty awful.

Being frigid: Again, aces experience a full range of emotions just like everyone else. And yes, there are sex-repulsed aces, buuuut there are also allos who are sex-repulsed or touch-averse. This isn’t an inherently ace trait, but it seems to be mostly applied as such.

So what can you do?

If you’re thinking of writing an ace character, RESEARCH. I can’t emphasize how important that is. Read academic articles. Read experiences written by ace people. If you’re confused about something, reach out. And if you think you know enough to start writing, research some more because I guarantee you, there’s always more to learn.

Just remember that asexuality is not a monolith. There’s an entire spectrum and every experience is varied and valid.

On Beta Reading

If you are looking to improve your writing, having beta readers and critique partners giving feedback on your work is an important part of that. Finding people, however, can be the most difficult part.

How to find Critique Partners/Beta Readers

  • Twitter
    • I resisted joining Twitter for a long time, but once I did I realized I was missing out on the wonderful writing community on there. I’ve met some great people on there who are willing to beta read. Just be prepared to reciprocate!
  • Writers Groups
    • You can find a writers group in your area! I’ve had great success with several groups, but sometimes it can take some searching to find one where you feel like you fit. and your local libraries are good places to start searching for groups!
  • Websites
    • There are also websites where people can sign up to be beta readers. I volunteer my time on a website called Readers for Writers and people can contact the volunteers on the page to have them read parts of their work.

So you’ve found a beta reader. What now?

  • While not necessary, giving your beta reader an idea of what you’re looking for in their critique can be helpful.
    • Are you looking for help with a difficult plot line? On developing your character? If you have something specific, let them know!
  • Find a reader whose writing skills are equal to or above your own.
    • This might seem obvious, but you’ll learn more from a person with more experience in the craft than you.
  • Know that beta readers are not editors.
    • The point of a beta reader is to find the weaknesses in your story and give feedback on how to improve it. It’s not their job to make sure your grammar, spelling, and punctuation are correct.
  • Find people unrelated to you to read your writing.
    • Family and friends are often not the best people to ask to critique your work. It’s extremely rare that they will give the feedback necessary to improve because they often don’t want to risk hurting your feelings.
  • Remember that their feedback isn’t personal.
    • Writing is personal and our work can feel like our children. It’s important to remember that you asked your beta reader for help and it’s a waste of everyone’s time if you dismiss their comments because they’re difficult to hear without at least considering them.
  • Find more than one person to read your work.
    • If everyone is telling that something doesn’t work, you should listen to them.
  • That being said, you, the author, have the final say.
    • After carefully considering what your beta readers have said, you don’t need to make every change they suggest. If you feel strongly about something, you aren’t obligated to change it.

An important thing to remember when finding beta readers is that the writing community is very small. It’s important to be polite and kind because people tend to remember those who are not. But go out, join some writing communities, and have fun.

Happy writing!

On Rejection

Rejection is, unfortunately, an inevitable part of writing. Whether it’s rejection from agents or publishers or bad reviews from readers, once your work is out there it never stops.

It’s important to have a thick skin when you want to be an author. Once your writing leaves your personal possession, it takes on a weird life of its own and it no longer belongs to you. It belongs to all the people reading it who bring their own unique experiences to the words.

When I get a rejection letter from an agent, I know it isn’t personal. It’s business and their “no” might have nothing to do with my writing and everything to do with the current market. Or my work just isn’t their personal preference. I’m disappointed, but not devastated because I realize it’s just a business decision.

I know that’s not the case for everyone. If you’re dreaming of becoming a full-time author and you’re having trouble getting your foot in the door, here are some things to remember.

  • Breathe. Everyone starts somewhere. Even the greats have been rejected.
  • Edit, edit, edit. Every time you go back and edit your work, you’re making it stronger.
  • Find some critique partners and beta readers you trust. Your writing won’t get better in a vacuum.
  • Listen to the feedback you’re getting. Don’t just dismiss it out of hand because you don’t want to hear it.
  • Persevere! Don’t give up because it’s hard. If you don’t keep trying, then you’re destined to fail.
  • Sometimes you have to let go of the manuscript you’re submitting and work on something new. You can always revisit the old work later.
  • Kick back, relax with your beverage of choice, and remember to take care of yourself!

With luck and perseverance, we will all realize our dreams! In the meantime, how do you deal with disappointment and rejection?