This is part of a series on tropes in webcomics with ace characters. To link or follow this series, please use the “ace webcomic tropes” tag on this blog.
In the previous post, I covered the Queer Ensemble, which is currently the largest source of ace representation in webcomics. The second largest source of ace representation is the allo/ace romance. Of course, this isn’t so much of a trope as it is a whole genre, or at least a twist on a pre-existing genre.
To trace the influences on allo/ace romances in webcomics, you’d have to start with Yaoi. Yaoi, also called Boys Love or BL, is a genre of Japanese manga about m/m (male/male) romance and often sex, typically written by women for women. There are many webcomics that draw from yaoi, as well as from the tradition of slash fanfiction. The result is a new genre, although it still goes under the name of BL. In the same vein there are also many f/f romance comics, but they are much less numerous.
Allo/ace romances most often arise from the BL genre or the f/f analogue, so it’s not too surprising that most of them are m/m, followed by f/f. In fact, the only other combination I can recall seeing is the m/nb relationship in the Shades of A backstory. Ace/ace relationships are also very rarely portrayed, as are any poly configurations.
Ace/allo romances can be used for several ends. Sometimes it seems to be a way to insert more diversity. I mean, you obviously already have one gay/bi character, and you still have to fill out the rest of that Queer Ensemble. Other times, the allo/ace relationship is a way of addressing a particular kind of relationship conflict.
I find it funny how conflicts in the romance genre vary by orientation. In straight romances, conflicts usually arise from miscommunications, lies, and toxic gender roles. Same-gender romances tend to involve a perfect relationship embedded in an unfriendly society. Allo/ace romances also tend to involve otherwise perfect relationships, only they have this orientation difference to deal with.
Sometimes, allo/ace relationship conflicts can be resolved in troubling ways. Some years ago there were complaints that fanfiction about allo/ace relationships would almost always be resolved with the ace character having sex with their allo partner. While this narrative represents at least a subset of ace experiences, it’s obviously problematic when that’s the dominant narrative. I don’t know if this is still true in fanfiction today, but I think it’s much less true in webcomics. Sometimes ace characters have sex, but there are also plenty of other narratives, like ace characters who try sex and don’t like it, or ace characters who refuse.
From what I’ve seen, the allo partner is quite frequently a “special exception” to the ace character. I know uniqueness is supposed to be romantic, but I consider it a sad commentary on how for aces and aros, positive relationships are the exception.
1. What conflicts would you like to see in an allo/ace romance?
2. What other kinds of relationships do you wish you could see more often in fiction?
3. How do you prefer portrayals of allo/ace relationships to deal with sex?