When asexual characters eventually hit mainstream media, one thing I’d like to see are asexuals seeking same-sex relationships. But to imagine such a thing now… it would be a disaster!
Many gay and lesbian folk would take a homoromantic asexual character as an attempt to desexualize them. They’re used to TV shows and movies being uncharacteristically prudish when it comes to same-sex relationships, and here it’s finally being made explicit. What nerve! What is the writer trying to convey here? Are they saying that it’s all about love, and sex completely irrelevant? Or are they trying to tell gay kids they should be celibate? The character is obviously just repressed–when are they going to come out of the closet?
The problem here is that gays and lesbians have been historically desexualized (and hypersexualized as well). Bringing homo/bi/pan asexual characters to mainstream attention would trigger major backlash from people who are justifiably angry at desexualization. And perhaps there would also be counter-backlash from people who are angry at hypersexualization. And a counter-counter-backlash, and a so on. The point is, you wouldn’t want to be a homo/bi/pan asexual caught in the middle.
Luckily, there is basically no mainstream fictional representation of any kind of aces at all, so this is purely speculation. “Luckily”.
I expect similar problems with other historically desexualized groups, such as some ethnic groups and people with disabilities. I won’t discuss these so much, since I’d rather have people within those groups speak for themselves.
But if I may make an observation, there is one difference between representation of ethnic minorities and homo/bi/pan asexuals. Ethnic minorities have an in-community problem–they’re underrepresented in online ace communities. Homo/bi/pan asexuals, on the other hand, are very well-represented in the community. Would this lead to a situation where fictional representations do not accurately reflect community demographics? Or will the visibility of real homo/bi/pan asexual people pave the way for fictional homo/bi/pan asexual characters?
Of course, just because there are lots of homo/bi/pan asexual people doesn’t guarantee they will get representation. This is illustrated by the article in Vice a while back. The article is about asexuals as they relate to the “queer” label. The irony is that the article ignores the romantic orientation of every single one of its interviewees. Sara Beth Brooks, M. (who was misgendered and misnamed Minerva), and Gaia (who was photographed but not mentioned) are all panromantic. I don’t know what label David Jay prefers, but I believe he’s some mix of wtf/pan/a- romantic.
What does the article say? “Minerva isn’t a lesbian, she says, but she certainly isn’t straight.” M. expressed irritation that this is all the interviewer got.
I think this is a preview of political battles over homo/bi/pan asexual representation. People will have all sorts of reasons to ignore, erase, or attack us. From being worried about gay and lesbian stereotypes, to wanting to emphasize controversy between asexuals and queers, to hand-wringing about repression of homosexual desires, to trying to fit asexuality into conservative religious notions. Let’s see what the future holds.