Ace Tropes: Ace Meets Incubus

Sara K. blogs at The Notes Which Do Not Fit, and has written a number of book reviews of asexual fiction. She is continuing the ace tropes series.

Incubus: You must have been very naughty to have summoned someone like me, Human. Reveal to me your deepest, filthiest desires, and I shall grant them all with this body of mine. Ace: Sorry. I'm actually kind of asexual?? I found a spellbook in the attic and wanted to try it out. (I'm totally up for cuddling tho, now that you mention it) Incubus: WHAT?!

From the webcomic Up, Where It’s Warmer

Some cultures have stories about mythical beings which are extremely sexually attractive, and their ability to sexually seduce humans is a source of their magic power, or at least an essential quality of their magic. Examples of such magical creatures include succubi and incubi, but there are other mythological beings which loosely fit this mold (selkies, for example).

Now toss an ace character into this picture…

When putting an incubus (or similar mythical being) together with an ace, there is an instant contrast. In fact, this trope is basically a fantastical variant of the Ace Foil trope.

The ace generally does not react the same way that non-ace characters react to the incubus (or equivalent). The ace may still be affected by the magic of the incubus (or equivalent) in some way (which is why this trope does not always overlap with the “Ace/Aro Immunity” trope) but something is different about how the ace reacts to the incubus (or equivalent).

(From now on, when I say ‘incubus’ I really mean ‘incubus or equivalent’ and I just don’t want to keep on typing ‘or equivalent’).

Incubi/demon boyfriends are a trope of the Boys’ Love genre, and that has possibly influenced the creators of ace fiction.

I think the deeper significance of this aspect of the trope (and the “Ace/Aro Immunity” trope as well) is that it is very clear external evidence that an ace is actually ace. Most aces in the real world only have their own thoughts and feelings to serve as evidence that they are ace, and since people are generally not mind-readers, the only evidence one can have about whether or not someone else is ace is what they say about their thoughts and feelings. If someone refuses to believe what an ace says about their own thoughts and feelings, there is no other evidence which can be presented that the ace is really ace.

However, in stories which have an incubus who clearly elicits a different type of reaction from the ace, or which use the “Ace/Aro Immunity Trope” there is external evidence. I think some aces may fantasize about having this kind of external evidence so that they can get people to stop questioning their asexuality, or least get themselves to stop questioning their own asexuality.

After the ace has a distinctly ace reaction to the incubus, the incubus is generally very surprised, because they generally have never met an ace before. This tends to be played for humor. The webcomic Up, Where It’s Warmer is basically a gag strip about an ace and an incubus reacting to each other.

When a story goes beyond humor, it tends to lead to … the incubus getting into a romantic and/or queerplatonic relationship with the ace.

Er, what?

The incubus has trouble with having close nonsexual relationships because, well, they are an incubus (maybe it never occurred to them to try a nonsexual relationship, or maybe everyone around them assumed that incubi could not have nonsexual relationships). But because the ace is not interested so much in sex, and the ace and the incubus have to have a relationship for some reason (possibly related to some kind of contract, but not necessarily), they have to have a nonsexual relationship, and it turns out to be more meaningful/deeper/special/something than any of the incubus’ sexual relationships.

So that’s what the incubus gets out of the relationship. What about the ace? Well, if the ace desires a nonsexual romance and/or a queerplatonic relationship, and the incubus is obliged to satisfy the ace’s desires … then the ace gets what they desire.

Not every story which has an ace meeting an incubus follows the above pattern – but most at least partially fit the pattern.

There is a trope which on the surface is superficially related to this trope – namely, “The Asexual Succubus,” in which the succubus or equivalent is ace. However, even though “The Asexual Succubus” is like “Ace Meets Succubus” in that it involves aces and succubi/incubi/etc., “The Asexual Succubus” tends to have a very different effect. But that trope is for another installment.

Up, Where It’s Warmer
Making Love” by Aidan Wayne
Texture Like Sun” by Ils Greyhart (alternative pen name of Aidan Wayne)
A Quiet Night In” by Jesse Ellorris

Discussion Questions:

1) Do you find this trope appealing? Why or why not?
2) I was only vaguely aware of incubi/succubi before I got into ace fiction, and I didn’t know about selkies at all. Did you find yourself learning a lot more about this type of mythical being because of ace fiction?
3) What do you think the deeper significances of this trope are? Do you agree with the speculation that it is partially driven by the fantasy of having external evidence, and do you think there may be other kinds of fantasies driving this trope?

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.
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23 Responses to Ace Tropes: Ace Meets Incubus

  1. Awesome! Need to read this right away

  2. Writer Ace says:

    I like this trope, in part because my immediate response to any plot point that relies on a character being overwhelmed by attraction/lust is “how would this play out if they were ace?” This answers that question, which I like.

    I’m into fantasy/urban fantasy, so I knew about these beforehand. A future story in one of my stories actually involves this plot device, because the characters police supernatural creatures, and when facing a succubus (or incubus, not sure yet), everyone is incapacitated except for the main character, who’s basically like, eh, arousal, I feel that all the time and don’t want to act on it, no big deal.

    • Rachel says:

      I can’t help but wonder whether a repulsed ace would find the forced arousal to be a mentally violating experience? I imagine that it totally could be.

      • Writer Ace says:

        Yeah, most definitely, though part of her initial/in the moment reaction is because she’s trained to deal with other supernatural creatures who have mind control-esque abilities, and so in the moment she thinks of it more in that way. My character is also more averse to sex (when it comes to herself) than repulsed by it, so it’s more of an ugh no than panic.

      • Rivers says:

        As a repulsed ace, I would say it would be 100% violating experience. I can’t speak for anyone else, of course, but that just sounds awful.

        • ettinacat says:

          As another repulsed ace, I second Rivers’ statement. On the rare occasions that I get aroused, I often feel repulsed by it as well. If someone was deliberately doing this to me, it would be way worse. Probably feel kind of like being raped, even if they didn’t try to make me act on the arousal. (And if they did, it *would* be rape.)

          • Writer Ace says:

            I guess for me, because my repulsion runs in a sort of different direction, I would react to it differently (and my character’s reaction would be different from mine, because she’s less sex-repulsed). Like in my case, I’m generally not repulsed by my own arousal (though obviously I would have issues with that happening to me, too). But I totally get what you mean, particularly because there are other things that I’m much more repulsed by (like evidence of other people’s arousal).

    • Sara K. says:

      I also like seeing that question answered.

  3. Siggy says:

    3. In BL webcomics, I think the reason why there are a lot of incubi and demons (and other supernatural boyfriends) is basically wish fulfillment. It’s also an excuse to draw canonically sexy humanoids in pretty colors. And as far as erotic stories go, incubi are a more plausible reason to show sex than e.g. plumbers (even though the latter are more realistic lol).

    I would guess that “Ace meets Incubus” is driven by some of the same motivations. Wish fulfillment. Pretty humanoids. Plausible pretext for cuddles. This seems to describe Up Where it’s Warmer at least, but I’m not familiar with the other examples.

    (Disclosure: I mentioned the incubus/demon boyfriend thing in the review process, that’s why it’s in the OP.)

    • Sara K. says:

      This makes me think of this moment from “Texture Like Sun” (one of the stories which features the Ace Meets Incubus trope)

      “I’m just not supposed to be able to visit you. I’m normally only able to enter the dreams of people where there will definitely be a benefit. That’s how the magic works. Otherwise you could have just been visited by a procubus! Or not visited at all!”

      “What’s a procubus?”

      “They’re like incubi, but they feed off of affectionate energy instead of sexual energy,” Xerxes said, looking disgruntled. “So they’ll cuddle you to death.”

      “To death?”

      “Only sometimes,” Xerxes said, waving a hand.

  4. ettinacat says:

    Regarding #3, I think it might also be a metaphor for what it’s like to be ace (or aro). You see everyone else going nuts about something that they all think is obviously amazing, and you just don’t feel it. It sometimes feels like allo people are under some kind of spell that doesn’t affect me.

  5. asurabg says:

    1.) Maybe?

  6. asurabg says:

    1.) Maybe? Yes, I kind of find this trope interesting beucase of several reasons.
    A.) i’m currently working on a crossover series in which one of the antagonists is an asexual and theu encounter several demond (angels and aliens too), including a incubis/succubus. Unironically, the demons ect. Are supposedly the “good” people in the story while the asexual antagonist and their friends are the evil one (which isn’t true but still, they cause a lot of destruction).
    Even tho, the asexual person and sex demon (i prefer to call them like that) doesn’t end up married like the ones in the gag comic, they do have some conflicts between them because they are away too different.
    I personally have been thinking what could have happened betweenasexual and a sex demon, and I ended with 4 different results.
    One of the results is described in my crossover series.
    B.) I find Mythology fascinating even tho I’m atheist.
    C.) I love fictional characters. Belive it or not, I debate on them. Why? Because why the fuck not. I learned a lot of stuff about space and shit. This is one of the the reason why I wlove Mythology too.

    2.) Yes.

    3.) Hmmm… i guess you could say that it’s a “proof” that “Asexuality” isn’t a phase? Yes, I’m aware that you said that asexuals reacts different to incubus/succubus compared to sexuals. My point is that if we are talking about lore wise, asexuals aren’t affected by by their (incubus/succubus) sexual charms as other people are.

    P.S.: Sorry for the double post.

  7. Pingback: Ace Tropes: The Asexual Succubus | The Asexual Agenda

  8. I don’t know about the rest, but i like Up where it’s warmer because it’s extremely cute. I knew about incubus and succubus before, as i love mythology. Finally, those kinds of stories makes me wonder what would happen if the ace in question was hypersexual, had kinks, or was sex-positive, instead of a sex-neutral or sex-repulsed ace.

  9. Tabitha says:

    I know another example of this trope! The short story “A Quiet Night In” by Jesse Ellorris (which is in Vitality magazine’s free minizine) has the ace character meeting a cambion, which is apparently the offspring of an incubus/succubus and a human, but is basically the same thing as an incubus in this story. The story also falls under the ace/aro immunity trope.

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