Ace Tropes: Ace Police

This is a part of the series on ace tropes in fiction.  It was written by Siggy, but Sara K. suggested the idea and provided some examples.

Marcella shook her head. “Anything sexual makes you not an Ace. Touching yourself is included in that. So is kissing and lots of other stuff that we don’t do.”

A lot of the people looked surprised by that, and Seth raised his eyebrows. “Uh. I like kissing. But I don’t have sex or think about sex or anything like that. And you’re being combative.”

Of Monsters and Men, Chapter 14

It’s common for fiction to depict allosexuals policing the identity and behavior of aces.  But sometimes, the policing comes from other aces.  This can particularly sting, because it can happen in spaces that are supposed to be safe.  It might also come from people that you hold in respect or in authority.

I would say that most people here have had experience with Ace Police at least once in their life, or at least have been affected by hearing about it second-hand.  But in fiction, it appears to be somewhat less common.  Between Sara and I, we know of three examples:

  • In Of Monsters and Men, by Caitlin Ricci, Seth goes to a therapy group for aces, and one week he tries a different day of the week and meets someone who insists that aces can’t like masturbation or kissing.
  • In Finding Your Feet, by Cass Lennox, Evie refers to an episode at an ace meetup where someone took issue with her not being out to her family.
  • In the movie The Olivia Experiment, Olivia goes to an asexual support group.  Afterwards, the leader pulls her aside and suggests that she look at other support groups because some people just use asexuality as a way to hide.  I discussed this example in more detail a few years ago.

What’s the common thread?  All three examples involve some sort of Ace Group!  It makes sense, after all, that you can’t have ace police unless you have at least two aces.  And you probably want even more than two aces, otherwise half the aces are jerks.

Once a story features an Ace Group, it seems natural to also add Ace Police, since that adds a little character conflict and allows the story to confront another ace misconception.

One thing that surprised me, based on this small sample, is the variety of forms that ace policing can take.  I initially expected, based on my own experiences, that most policing would be about romantic orientation, gray/demi exclusion, or the inclusion of asexuality in queerness.  But in our three examples, one of them is about behavior that appears sexual, one is about being out, and one is about “hiding”.

The three examples feature also different reactions to the Ace Police:

  • In Of Monsters and Men, Seth clearly doesn’t enjoy the encounter, but is clearly able to handle himself in an argument.  He’s more worried about the other people in the group.
  • In Finding Your Feet, Evie is very upset by the encounter, and later vents her anger and doubts to her dance partner.
  • In The Olivia Experiment, Olivia seems to just accept what the group leader tells her.  This precipitates the titular experiment to have sex.

Given the major variety in the examples we have so far, I would be interested to see what other permutations of Ace Police are possible.

Although, to be honest, one of these examples is not like the others.  In The Olivia Experiment, there isn’t any critical examination of the Ace Police.  The movie never really goes into the fact that a lot of Olivia’s problems can be blamed on that one ace group leader being a jerk.  So this may be an obvious point, but it’s important that whenever a story features Ace Police, they should also be paired with a rebuttal.

Unfortunately in real life we are not so lucky, and we always seem to find people who are Wrong on the Internet who apparently haven’t yet been paired with a rebuttal.


The Olivia Experiment (movie)
Of Monsters and Men by Caitlin Ricci
Finding Your Feet by Cass Lennox

Discussion Questions:

  1. What specific things do you expect Ace Police to police?
  2. What responses would you like to see from the other ace characters?  Should it deeply affect them, or should they have a way to counter everything?
  3. How do you feel about the black and white nature of Ace Police?  Could a story portray an Ace Police character in a semi-sympathetic way?

About Siggy

Siggy is an ace activist based in the U.S. He is gay gray-A, and has a Ph.D. in physics. He has another blog where he also talks about math, philosophy, godlessness, and social criticism. His other hobbies include board games and origami.
This entry was posted in Articles, asexual politics, Community, Media and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Ace Tropes: Ace Police

  1. Rivers says:

    I always enjoy posts about aces in fiction, and I’m glad I’ve stumbled upon the ace tropes series seeing as I have really wanted to start including my orientation in my fiction. Reading ace fiction reviews and stuff about ace tropes have really opened my mind about a lot of things, and lately I’ve wished for more characters who are definitely ace or aro (I’m both) than settling for less.

    I do like the idea of an ace police as a character who can provide conflict and as a way to dive deeper into discussion about these things, as long as the person policing is proved wrong. Even if the police themselves don’t recognize the error of their ways, it should be made clear to the reader how twisted this kind of thinking can be. Since the ace police trope is used (when used correctly) to show how wrong certain extremes or trains of thoughts are towards aces, I personally think the trope can be used in all sorts on contexts in many different issues. I was glad that the variety of issues that can be policed was mentioned in the post because it’s so true, yet something I don’t know I would have thought about on my own.

    As for how the ace character should react, I believe that aces in fiction should have no less variety than aces in real life as long as the issue is shown to the reader to be an actual issue, and I don’t think an ace being upset or hurt by something said to them by an ace police would not be able to counter the police. In real life, I have personally had a variety of ways that I have responded to certain situations which involved acephobia or erasure.

    Another thing to consider with ace police is how the power falls in that situation. An ace can level more with an ace policing coworker or friend than their boss, teacher, or the authority they are dependent on for certain things.

    Or the police may attack or confront the ace when they are in a situation where they cannot rebuff without complications. Maybe the only person in the room they are out to is the ace police, and that person is taking advantage of or doesn’t realize that the ace cannot respond the way they could in a different situation.

  2. Sara K. says:

    1. I can’t say I expect the Ace Police to police anything in particular, there are too many targets.
    2. It depends one what the story is trying to do. However, all else being equal, I think I’d prefer it to deeply affect the ace character and for them to stumble a bit while trying to counter it (at the time – maybe afterwards they figure out to counter it in their own mind at least).
    3. If an ace police character is just a minor character, then there isn’t space for a ton of nuance. However, if it is possible to develop the ace police character a bit further, then yes, I think it’s possible to portray them in a semi-symapthetic way. For example, if it is demonstrated that the ace police character acts that way because they are deeply insecure about their own ace identity, and the policing is a response from their own fear/pain.

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