Aces and Anonymity

Life has changed from access to broad open spaces and meeting friends in person to access to broadband and meeting them solely online. It’s almost a year since my last irl ace meeting was cancelled, due to Covid of course. I live in South East England, but I’d booked a week’s break in County Durham, several hours away by train. As I’ve posted elsewhere, part of my reason for going was that I wanted to take photos to upload to YouTube along with extracts from my stories, but I was also intending to join in an AVEN meet – the date coincided. My plans were scuppered. The book extracts benefitted: instead of photos, I’ve been uploading stunning videos shot professionally. (There’s a link below.) In other ways, I lost out though.

I’m a regular poster on AVEN, a sometimes poster on Reddit’s Aegosexual sub, an occasional poster on the Asexual Agenda, and I do truly appreciate the interaction that online forums offer. I can talk to people from far-flung places, share their sadnesses and happy times. I’ve seen pictures of other people’s homes, their pets, their cars. I know where they take their walks and what they grow in their gardens. I’ve discussed politics and social norms and lifestyle differences… skewed, it’s true, to comments from Europe and North America, but with a sprinkling of input from elsewhere. And, as I’m a curious person, I really enjoy such exchanges. I can’t think of anything that isn’t discussed on a forum somewhere. Sex too. There’s a lot of discussion of sex considering that most of us are aces. It’s not the same as meeting in real life though.

When you meet people in person, you lose your anonymity. This can be such a disadvantage. It’s only natural, I suppose: people tend to gravitate to those who are, perhaps, similar in age or towards those whom they like the look of, or the sound of (pitch and accent) or, in a class-ridden society like mine, to those who seem to have a background that resembles their own. Et cetera. And that is so exclusive! It locks people out. It ignores them. The reason I miss irl ace meetings so much is that the commonality – the being ace – overrides all those reasons for not talking to someone, not sharing a meal with them, not going on a walk together, not giving them a second look. Age, class, background and all the other stupid divisions and barriers to interaction become irrelevant. All that matters is that you’re either an ace or someone who is supportive of asexuality. And the weird thing is, being ace has never been discussed at any of the meets I’ve been on! It’s just there, floating around in the background yet, like glue, sticking everyone together.

It amazes me that I can meet up in person with a group of people and feel a part of the group instead of apart from a group. I don’t get that feeling as much when I’m just online perhaps because, online, it isn’t necessary to dispense with anonymity. Online, I’m part of the general group, no questions asked. In person, because that anonymity is lost, questions can be asked and, if you don’t fit in with people’s expectations, tough luck: you can’t join in. Ace meets, however, are inclusive. At least, the ones that I’ve attended have been. So, I’m waiting for these awful times to change and for a resumption of something like the old normality. I miss the real meetings. And, thinking of the differences between things online and in real life, here is the link to this month’s drone-shot video. It’s for Ace in the Picture, the third of the County Durham Quad books (There are 6 books in total) and the one in which I introduced Nick, who is ace. He definitely feels apart. (You’d have to read the subsequent books to see how that all changes!) Not County Durham in the flesh, but, even online, you can see that the scenery (Weardale) is simply beautiful! Many, many thanks to Andy Ditchfield of Skyward Aerial for filming it. https://youtu.be/l7BoHSr8NeU

More ace rep like this please…

Don’t know how many folk know this, but, every month, The Asexual Agenda blog puts out a call for submissions on an ace-related theme. This month’s theme is Literature, Academia and Storytelling, and some of the questions posed by Aria’s Hollow, December’s host, really caught my eye. These three for example: How do you feel about current ace representation in literature? What changes would you like to see? What kind of stories are you most interested in seeing more of? Now, I’m not an avid reader of ace-rep stories, and I think the reasons are connected with my answers to the questions.

Firstly, I want my ace characters to be explicitly ace. I don’t want to be asking the question ‘Are they or aren’t they?’ That might have to be something asked of fiction written before asexuality was a known and talked about orientation (which maybe contributes to my reasons for giving a lot of works a miss) but, for me, please, not now. If the characters are ace, I want to know it. I want to see the word used either on the page or in the author’s note to the reader. No ‘maybe’s. I want to think ‘Oh, there’s something here for me!’

Secondly, I want my ace characters to inhabit a world that’s mundane. By ‘mundane’, I don’t mean (Google search definition number 1) ‘Lacking interest or excitement, dull’, but, rather, definition 2: ‘of this earthly world rather than a heavenly or spiritual one’. I would add ‘nor a fantasy nor paranormal one’ to that. I know that fantasy and the paranormal are much loved and very popular genres, but for some reason that I fail to understand, my imagination will not let me go to either. So, to identify with a story’s characters, to see my thoughts mirrored in theirs (or not mirrored if there is a learning curve), I have to read fiction that is deeply grounded in terrestrial soil. So, what sort of mundane (definition 2) explicitly ace stories would I like to see more of? One theme in particular: navigating a route through an asexual-sexual relationship. The reason is simple enough: it echoes my real-life experience.

I’m switching from reader view to writer view here and asking a couple of questions of my own. In what ways can writers approach the asexual-sexual scenario? What are the possible story lines? In each of the following possibilities, I’m assuming that the ace character experiences some sort of attraction to the non-ace one. Romantic, sensual… something.

People meet, but the relationship fails. Their a/sexual needs are so different.
People meet, and despite a life without sex, they live happily ever after.
People meet, and they compromise. Sex not often, but sometimes.
People meet, and both are poly-favourable. Perhaps there’s a QPR.

The first: my feeling is that this is a likely result irl; it’s certainly one that surfaces on forums. However, I don’t want to read about unhappiness in a story. I don’t want to be left with a feeling of sorrow and sadness. Life is hard enough without being brought down by a broken-heart tale. I want… I want a happy ending. The second plot line then, but how do you write a love story with protagonists who are content to dispense with sex? T. J. Klune managed in the delightful, funny, wonderful How to be a normal person. An ace/non-ace relationship that works, but (big but) there’s a tiny bit of me that feels that the outcome is almost too good, too happy to be true. Most sexual people (I think) do want sex, at least sometimes. I like my fiction to be truthful, if that makes sense, and so I think that sooner or later there would be a need to compromise. Hence, scenario three. But compromise is rarely satisfactory. By definition, neither party is really getting what they want; each is forfeiting something. It’s an idea that I explored in the story Scar Ghyll Levels. Its two young men are striving (and so far succeeding) to make their relationship work, but are either of them truly satisfied? One has sex he doesn’t really want. One has sex, but not as often as he’d like it. It’s a story line that I would like to see explored more often. I think there is scope for some really sensitive character development and for thoughtful navigation through a very tricky situation. (I’m not implying that I managed to do this successfully! Scar Ghyll is just a short ebook and YouTube video. It scratches the surface, no more.) However, the compromise trope necessarily excludes those characters who are sex repulsed or sex averse. How can a writer bring their stories to life?

I really would like to see more tales that focus on polyamory and queer platonic relationships. There is scope offered within those foci to explore situations whereby a sexual’s needs are met, but the ace’s well being isn’t threatened. There’d be boundaries to establish, problems to face, solutions to be worked out… The protagonists wouldn’t find it easy, but, by working together with commitment to the cause, they could reach their goal. These sorts of lifestyle choices fascinate me, and I’ve been working many of the details out in Books 3 and 4 of my County Durham Quad series. I don’t want to give everything away, but I do think Book 4 has an ace and a non-ace happy ending: all the characters get what they want. I’m sure that their future will have difficulties (Book 5?) but a poly/QPR/ace scenario is, for me, an interesting and exciting way to examine an asexual-sexual relationship.

Okay, as this was written in response to a blog request, I don’t wish to offer PR details of my own work directly: it would seem wrong to do so! There are plenty of details on my other Poly All Sorts posts – novel buy links, YouTube link – all there. I will just say that the latest novel, Body Parts And Mind Games (which does contain one short, intimate description) is available as an ebook and in paperback and I wrote it precisely because it’s the kind of thing I like to read and the kind of thing I’d like to see more of! Thank you for reading this – Jude, at Poly All Sorts.

Aces and Friends: Where’s Home?

(A brief response to Coyote’s request for submissions to the Asexual Agenda’s Carnival of Aces on the theme of ‘Home’)

Lack of time to use the internet a lot, but I regularly check the Asexual Agenda and AVEN sites. Usually on my phone or tablet. Sometimes seated at a desk in front of my PC. I don’t find the desktop set up very relaxing. Putting up with the discomfort has one big advantage when I’m forum-ferreting though: if users wish to offer it, there’s extra personal info. I always want to know the answer to the question, “Where is home?”

Some people inhabit places found in books, or dark spaces of the mind. Others make something wonderful up. They should be publishing poems and stories – there are some brilliant locations. (I’d give some examples, but I doubt it would be ethical.) The majority of users simply state a genuine place you can find on a map. I love geography. Homelands interest me.

It probably comes as no surprise that the asexual (and ace-friendly) community seems to be strongest in the United States and the United Kingdom. At least, it does when I’m looking. I’m sure there are lots of reasons. A time-zone bias perhaps. I tend to be on-line mid-evening, UK time. Not good for catching posters from Australia and Japan. Language bias maybe…although I don’t really think that language is the barrier it would have been, say, thirty years ago. A brief look the other night showed posters living in Poland, Belgium, Sweden and the Czech Republic. All were posting in English. Many homelands are represented – but others rarely or never are.

I can’t believe that the reason is that no one in those missing countries is ace. I’m prepared to believe that they don’t know that they are ace, though. I don’t like to think that there are people who are living with all the problems caused by ignorance of their orientation. Because their political and social and/ or religious systems are so repressed, they don’t have access to information, and they’re denied the comfort that comes from sharing on-line with a community of like-minded people. It’s so helpful to share like that, particularly if actually meeting other aces isn’t possible. However, this blog, or any blog published in response to Coyote’s request, is unlikely to be read by people who live, for example, in mainland China. Mine is hosted by WordPress, as is the Asexual Agenda’s, and I understand that although the WordPress software is unrestricted, all blogs hosted on wordpress.com are blocked there. Ditto if posts go out on Tumblr and Blogger. (Not sure about Pillowfort or Dreamwidth.)

But, occasionally, information does get through. When I last looked, there were over 7,000 posts on AVEN’s Alternate Language Forum (dating back, admittedly) and they included some from China. I shouldn’t have written that sentence. All that’s going through my head right now is Katie Melua’s ‘Nine million bicycles in Beijing’ and, sorry, it’s totally stoppered more blog-thoughts. If one or two per cent of the cyclists are asexual (the usual aces-in-the population figure that’s quoted), that’s a helluva lot of aces on saddles.


the Asexual Agenda: https://asexualagenda.wordpress.com

AVEN: https://www.asexuality.org

Wiki has a lengthy article on internet censorship. Dates aren’t current, but under ‘Around the World’ there’s a neat map that shows the degree of restriction, and many links and briefings. For China-specific info, there’s https://pgamboa.com