on reading asexual romances
I just finished re-listening to How to be a Normal Person by T.J. Klune. I’m also in the middle of listening to a different asexual romance aptly call Ace by Jack Byrne. I loved How to be a Normal Person. Fucking loved it. Perhaps one of the few genuinely romantic books I’ve ever read. So good, I started the book again after immediately finishing. Which isn’t something I do often at all. Ace so far… is okay. Concerning both, I am happy that ppl are starting to write romance with ace characters. But I can already see a stereotype emerging in this representation by authors who (from what I can tell) are not asexual themselves.
In both cases, the asexual character (at least the self-identified one) is sex-adverse. Which, tbh, isn’t quite a problem I don’t think. But… if this becomes a persistent pattern in these kinds of books, I’m not going to be very happy.
I know I don’t talk too much about being asexual and all that because I fucking loathe the entire asexual ~community~. But the little of ace discourse that I’ve seen that doesn’t make me cringe generally does attempt to note that being ace – in general – is about a lack of desire. Being sex-adverse isn’t a defining quality (especially since there are more than a few non-ace people who are also sex-adverse).
One way that How to be a Normal Person is better than Ace is that the lack of sexual desire and sex-adversness isn’t the central conflict and I really fucking appreciated that. I’m pretty sure that – even though never explicitely stated – the narrator is autistic and the book’s main conflict, you might be able to guess by now, is about him trying to be a ‘normal’ person. Honest to god, this was unbelievably refreshing. The love interest’s asexuality is important to the plot, don’t get me wrong this isn’t just token representation, its just not the main source of conflict.
Ace however… is definitely making the asexuality the main source of conflict. And, tbh, having been where the main character is, I do get this. For a long while I was sex-adverse after engaging in a lot of sexual activities that I didn’t particularly desire but did just because (some coerced by others and some bc that’s what I thought I was supposed to be doing).
In any case, both are still sex-adverse. Although one area that I’ll be interested to see how it develops is that while the ace character in Ace is sex adverse, he is also kinky (leather fetish or something like that). So he experiences some level of ‘arousal’ via this way (not necessarily sexual btw) and because I stay far away from ace discourse, I haven’t seen much discussion around being asexual and having kinks.
This is definitely me too. For the longest time, I didn’t actually understand that kinks were a sexual thing for a lot of people. Like. Indulging in my kinks doesn’t need to have anything to do with sex for me. I’m a masochist because I enjoy pain, not because I find it sexually arousing. Getting pierced in a shop or by a dom is the same for me.
But… I’ve also reached a point where I do enjoy sex in ways that I didn’t before (both before I was sex-adverse and during). Now… how I got to this place isn’t necessarily what I’d recommend for anyone since I ‘forced’ myself to get into it because I thought that having sex was a part of being a Healthy Adult Human. It isn’t. And other aces should only go down this path if they feel like it, not bc they feel pressured by society, norms, people, whatever.
It’d be nice to listen to an ace romance at some future point where the ace character does enjoy sex. Not because they have sexual attraction, but because orgasms and other sexual activities can be fun. Not for everyone, for sure. But… for some people and yeah, it’d be cool to see this represented at some point (but def. do not think it should become a stereotypical representation – just as much as I don’t think the sex-adverse stereotype is all that helpful).
This post is a mess bc I’m mostly just talking about the books without any… need to make an overall point. Lol.
But why did I like How to be a Normal Person so much? Because, my god, seeing hugs being treated as the intimate, meaningful gesture they can be was wonderful. Sex-adverse or not, it resonated with me in my own asexual romance. It was just nice to see things like hugging and cuddling not being treated as lesser forms of intimacy vs bareback sex (as is common in the mm genre, if you recall).
And it was great to find out that descriptions of great hugs, unlike sex scenes, don’t actually get tedious for me. Like. While I may not be sex-adverse in my actual life, I really am Not a Fan of sex in fiction. Its tedious and boring. And most of the writers just put way too fucking much of it in their books.
Er… and I think I’m done.