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.
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.
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?