For Asexual Awareness Week we reached out to bloggers who identify somewhere on the asexual spectrum to write posts related to asexuality and YA. We’re happy to bring you the second post in this series! Check back every day this week for more posts from other great guest bloggers. If you missed the first one, here it is!
Warning: This post contains slightly mature content. It may be inappropriate for young audiences.
by Dragon A
I discovered my asexuality through fanfiction. Put like that, it sounds slightly ridiculous. However, if I was not such an avid reader of fanfic I’m pretty sure I would still be completely in the dark about that aspect of myself.
I’ve been unabashedly bisexual since I was fourteen, changed my terminology to pansexual some time later, and became a cheerful adventurer in the world of kink as soon as I was allowed into clubs. I got used to dealing with the bullshit that comes with being in a mixed-orientation-but-outwardly-perceived-as-gay relationship (Can I watch? What will you do if you want children? Who’s the man? Surely if you’re both women and you’re together, then she’s gay not bi? What’s pansexual?).
So, when I first read a well-written Sherlock fanfiction in which Sherlock is asexual and in a functioning relationship with John where they trade experiment time for sex, I couldn’t figure out why it made me feel so strange. I was completely shaken, and ended up snuggling with my partner for hours while trying to verbalise exactly what it was that had thrown me so badly; I couldn’t.
The next day I went back on archiveofourown.org and carried on reading. I added “asexual” to the search tags and suddenly found a variety of fanfiction with asexual characters. The ones that really held my attention were the ones in which the asexual character was in a relationship.
All these little lights were going off in my head and I kept thinking things like: “This can work? Relationships like this can work? Other people feel attraction without the sex bit? Oh shit, is this why my previous relationships fell apart? How do I talk to my partner about this?”
My partner was completely chill. She gave me a slightly disbelieving look and said: “I thought you knew that you went through long phases of asexuality at fairly regular intervals.” I spluttered at her a bit, and managed to calm down.
Thing is, I was terrified. I absolutely hate having unknown bits of my personality leap out at me; it’s something that I sort of expect to happen sometimes, but I was very confident about my sexuality. So this whole thing threw me completely off kilter and I panicked and convinced myself that nothing was ever going to be the same.
Part of what was throwing me for a loop was that I was in a relationship and totally in love with my partner (still am, for the record). I knew this was something I needed to figure out, but I was also scared that it would fuck up our relationship.
As far as I could see there was no roadmap for having a relationship when one of us is always interested in sex and the other one goes through long periods of actual revulsion at the very thought of it. (Although to make things more complicated, it’s the thought of me being involved that makes the revulsion happen. I will happily read porn while in an asexual phase and enjoy it, but no no no to touching! There’s a word I use for this, which is autochorisexualism. Yay words.)
I couldn’t find role models. The problem that I had trying to find mainstream representations of asexuality was that, even when I did find them, the characters were generally portrayed as also being aromantic; obviously there are asexual aromantic people—I’m not one of them. Or, their sexuality was stable and they were asexual 100% of the time; again, I couldn’t relate. I am on the asexual scale, but it’s pretty fluid. Sometimes sex is great (read: fantastic), but often I’d rather have naked cuddles, read together, or get tied up (which for me is an intimate yum thing that does not translate to sex).
So I went back to fanfiction. I also spent a lot of time talking with my partner, but I really needed a frame of reference to bounce myself off before I could have a coherent conversation. Fanfiction gave me this. I have lost track of the times that I have ended up happily sobbing because some wondrous fan wrote a character in which I could recognise myself.
I read enormous amounts of MCU and Sherlock fanfiction; Phil Coulson became one of my favourite characters (alright, he was already a favourite) because people just seemed to be able to write him as asexual in a really sensitive way. Whenever I found a story that I particularly related to, there would be this physical sensation of lightness in my chest because it was such a relief knowing that I wasn’t alone and I wasn’t going through this alone. Reading the comments sections on these stories was pretty enlightening too—I couldn’t have talked openly about my sexuality at the time, because it was too confusing. Talking about the sexuality of characters in stories provided a safe way of discussing a somewhat scary subject.
What is interesting is that, before my fanfiction-spurred revelation, I knew what asexuality was; I had heard of it, I had a distant friend who identified as asexual. I just never thought of applying the term to myself because I could not see how it related to my life.
What I needed was characters I could relate to, who I got to see in action, living their lives and experiencing conflicting emotions and building relationships in a variety of ways. It’s much easier to relate in a profound manner, to feel a sense of recognition, when faced with a complicated and human-seeming character than when faced with a dictionary definition.
There are some really awful representations of asexuality in fanfiction (The “I’m asexual for everyone except you baby” trope is very frustrating); most of it seems to be friendly ignorance rather than anything else. More than half a year after coming across that Sherlock fanfiction, I still mostly feel as if I am stumbling about in the dark and wondering if I’ve left Legos on the floor. My partner is endlessly supportive, and my friends are a bunch of fabulous nerds who have helped me coin the term “Dragon” to describe my sexuality (it’s easier to say than “Panromantic/pansexual with strong asexual tendencies and autochorisexualism, also demisexual/romantic, sapiosexual/romantic, mildly genderqueer with polyamorous tendencies; originally came out as bi”).
It’s because of all this support that I feel able to keep exploring myself, but the place that I’ve found to do that is fanfiction. I would love to see more complicated, real representations of asexuality in mainstream media. I’d love to just pick up a book and feel that thrill of recognition when I meet a character. For the moment, though, whenever I feel wobbly about myself, I run off to the internet to read fanfiction because even if the characters are superheroes or ex-military doctors, they are written in a way that makes me feel reassured and among friends. And that is something that everyone deserves to feel.
I can’t actually find the fanfiction I read that set everything rolling, but here are links to some of the fics I read while I was desperately searching for a frame of reference: be warned, they contain mature content!
Little and Broken, But Still Good (has an epic poly relationship that includes two asexual characters, two bisexual characters, and one straight one)
all different names for the same thing (asexual Captain America)
The Marvel Fractions (mixed orientation relationship, very interesting to read if you’re figuring out your sexuality, but be warned that there are enormous emotional rollercoasters)
Dragon A, 23-year-old nerdy nerd. Loves reading and writing, grew up listening to a weird mixture of Nirvana and Ani diFranco. Collected all the Discworld novels as a life goal and is now a little aimless. Lives with two cats, a dog, some chickens, and a luscious partner in a slowly crumbling house. Dragon A has a shared blog here: https://sexualitydragon.wordpress.com/