“If it helps,” she said, tone tentative but casual. “I don’t think you’re a paradox. But you might be asexual.”
Regan’s mouth fell open. He looked up with wide eyes again but for a much different, much better different reason. Slowly, the tension melted out of his shoulders and his frill dropped back down to hang loose. When he looked at her now she saw something else in his eyes. One of her favorite things to see. Hope.
– Chameleon Moon by RoAnna Sylver
I am borrowing the name of this trope from El, who in this interview phrases it thus:
But I’d also like to see less of what I call the “Allo Savior Complex”: that is, when the poor, confused MC has no idea why they’re “broken”, and their allosexual friend swoops in to say, “Oh, you’re asexual! TA DA!”
That is the trope in a nutshell. It’s not an ace website, or ace support groups, or even an ace acquaintance who helps the ace character figure out that asexuality is a thing, and that they are not ‘broken’. It’s an allo character who does it. Often, there is no other ace character in sight in the entire story.
How realistic is this? I don’t know. I don’t know what proportion of aces first learn about asexuality as an orientation from “allo saviors” and what proportion learn about asexuality as an orientation from asexual education outreach efforts, or random encounters with other ace people. However, in the asexual fiction I’ve read, it is a lot more common for some allo character to take the ace character under their wing and explain that being ace is okay, and for the ace character to be SO grateful, than it is for an ace character to make contact with other aces.
An example of this trope which I find particularly gross is “Bender” by Gene Gant. [Spoiler warning] the ace character feels so, so broken, until allo character saves the ace character from his misery, and puts him in touch with a counselor who is also allo AND NEVER REFERS ACE CHARACTER TO LOCAL ACE SUPPORT GROUPS, OR EVEN ONLINE ACE COMMUNITIES, and ace character is so grateful to allo character that he has sex with allo character, even though he does not like sex.
That said, some examples of this trope are less extreme that others. For example, the ace character in Ball Caps and Khakis never feels broken, just different. Thus, when the “allo savior” tells him about asexuality, his reaction is “Thanks, that’s helpful” rather than “ZOMYGOSH YOU TRANSFORMED MY LIFE!!!!”
There is also a story in which the “allo savior” eventually turns out to be the antagonist! (And no, I’m not revealing which story it is since I just gave away a plot twist). When the allo-savior-antagonist tells the ace character about asexuality, it’s a major red herring for both the ace character and the reader – who would expect such an empathetic and understanding allo person to turn out to be the villain? The allo-savior-antagonist might not have done it deliberately to throw the ace character of their trail – I think it is just an example of moral greyness in the character (sometimes does the right thing, sometimes does the wrong thing). Nonetheless, it is not much of a leap from morally grey allo-savior-antagonist to an allo-savior-antagonist who deliberately explains asexuality to an ace character in order to gain control over them.
One final point is that, at least in the asexual fiction I’ve read, the ‘allo savior’ is usually a queer character or someone who has been questioning their sexual identity, and that is how they became aware of asexuality before they tell the ace character about it. All of the ace fiction stories I’ve read with this trope are by writers who write a variety of queer identities into their stories, not just asexuality (i.e. they will write one story about a gay male character, then they will make their next story about a bisexual female character, and then they will write a story about a trans character, and so forth). I speculate that the writers who use this trope might have first become aware of asexuality through educating themselves about the many ways people can be queer, so to them, the most natural way for an ace character to learn about asexuality as an orientation is to talk to an allo queer character, not to other aces.
“Bender” by Gene Gant
Chameleon Moon by RoAnna Sylver
Ball Caps and Khakis by Jo Ramsey
Crush by Caitlin Ricci
“As Autumn Leaves” by Kate Sands (though at least in this one the ace character also finds online ace communities)
Sister Claire (webcomic)
1. Does the “Allo Savior Complex” trope offend you? Does it depend on how the trope is done, and if so, what would make it non-offensive, and what would make it more offensive?
2. How do you feel about stories in which the ace character and the “allo savior” eventually enter a sexual and/or romantic relationship together?
3. How would you like to have ace characters who feel confused or ‘broken’ to discover that asexuality is a valid orientation?