Going Over the Rainbow: Writing an Asexual Character
Last week we discussed what asexuality is and the challenges faced by many asexuals. We really only dipped our toe in the water though, there is a lot more to being asexual than what I can cover in a couple of blog posts, so I very much encourage you to click through the links and do your own research too.
So how do you go about writing this mythological creature? First, lets see where on the spectrum your character might fit.
The above flow chart should give you a good idea where to start with your character. (You can also download the full chart here).
There are a lot of terms up there you are probably seeing for the first time. Don’t panic. Though if you need a moment to panic go ahead. No judging here. To help let me go through some definitions for you.
Demisexual: attraction only after an emotional bond is formed.
- Fraysexual: attraction fade after getting to know someone (opposite of demi).
- Cupiosexual: wanting a sexual relationship but not experiencing sexual attraction
- Graysexual: very rarely having sexual attraction and/on in very specific circumstances.
- Lithosexual: experiencing sexual attraction but NOT wanting it reciprocated.
- Autochorissexual/Aegosexual: disconnect between oneself and target of arousal.*
- Placiosexual: wanting to do sexual things with someone but being alright with the feeling not being reciprocated or acted on.
- Abrosexual: orientation is fluid
- Apothisexual: someone who is asexual and sex repulsed.
Okay, I’ll give you a moment to digest all that because it is a lot to take in all at once. Who knew there were so many ways to not want sex?
But wait, you say, how do I write a romance without sex being a part of the equation? Or how do I show that my character really loves their partner/significant other if they don’t find them sexually attractive?
Easy. No really it is easy. I promise.
You know how to write friendships. Of course you do! You know that there are ways to show affection, appreciation and consideration for another person that do not involve anything overtly sexual or physically intimate. There you go. (For a great list of non-sexual intimacies see Nonsexual Intimacies (Part 1 of 5) – The Wordsmith’s Forge).
Ah I see your brow furrowing. That’s just friendship, right?
Is it? You care deeply about your friends don’t you? You love them, want the best for them and care what happens to them. But we make the distinction between friends and those we are romantically involved with for our own reasons. While you love your friends, you may, or may not, find them sexually attractive. That’s the difference; the ability to feel sexual attraction. Of course, this can, and sometimes does change. It all depends on the person. There is no wrong way to be asexual.
So while you consider that let’s look at some tips for writing asexual characters:
- Keep in mind that asexual does not mean emotionless. Your character should still have emotional actions and reactions to events in line with their personality.
- If the setting allows for it, it might be good to have your character specifically state they are asexual. This will help the reader understand where your character is coming from. Having other characters react and ask questions will help mitigate an info dump.
- Be wary of having a plot that calls for the character’s asexuality to be a problem fixed by ‘good’ sex or a sexual relationship. In this instance it might be better to rethink your character’s orientation.
- Do let your character have close intimate non-sexual relationships with other characters.
- Try to avoid making your character asexual simply as a plot device. It should be an integral part of who they are, not a quirk.
- If your asexual character is a minor character it might be best to avoid having them be the comedic relief as this can reinforce stereotypes of asexuals being socially inept, naive or virginal.
- Asexual does not always mean aromantic and vice versa.
As with every other orientation keep in mind you are writing a person first and foremost. If you are still a bit unsure about how to go about this why don’t we focus on your character and who they are and how they practice their asexuality.
- Decide where on the asexual spectrum your character lies. Does it change/fluctuate? Under what circumstances does it fluctuate? (Keep in mind that this can change over time)
- How does your character think/feel about being on the asexual spectrum?
- How does your character feel towards sex? Neutral, sex-repulsed, sex-positive? Does it depend on the circumstance/person?
- If your character were to find themselves in a sexual situation, what would their reaction be?
- How does your character tell people about being asexual (if they tell people at all)?
- How do other characters react to your character’s asexuality? How does your character react/respond to these reactions?
- How does the society in your story react to asexuality? How does this affect your character? What assumptions do others have about asexuality/your character?
- When did/will your character realize that they are on the asexual spectrum? How does/will your character think/feel about this? Is the realization because of a specific event, a gradual understanding/coming to terms, etc?
Writing an asexual character isn’t any more challenging that writing any other character. We are just people after all. Please join me next week as I go further into ways to write asexual relationships using non-sexual intimacies and tropes to avoid.
*Autochorissexual was a term coined by psychologist Anthony Bogaert to describe identity-less sexuality and is listed as a paraphilia. To combat the negative stereotypes associated with paraphilias the term aegosexual might be more preferred. As someone who identifies as moderately aegosexual I take exception to it being listed as a paraphilia or fetish because, as defined, it doesn’t completely fit the definition of a paraphilia.
If you have any questions, comments or concerns please leave a comment. Next week I’ll go further into how to write your asexual character with examples and tropes to avoid and why.
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