This is part of a series on tropes in fiction with ace characters. To link or follow this series, please use the “ace tropes” tag on this blog.
“Yes!” Wes shouted. “Because our entire relationship was built on that one thing. It’s the reason we met in the first place. If a foundation’s rotten, nothing you build on top of it is stable.”
“That wasn’t our only foundation,” Nash protested. “I was excited to meet another ace Pagan. Weren’t you?”
Wes blew out a sharp breath. “Yeah,” he admitted. “I really was.”
“Isn’t that part of our foundation, too?”
Wes gave a small, grudging smile. “I guess it is.”
– “Mr. March Names the Stars” by Rivka Aarons-Hughes
The definition of this trope is simple – at least two ace characters have a romance with each other.
Of course, there is more to this trope than that. For one thing, Ace/Ace Romance, like the Ace Group, is a trope which guarantees that there is more than one ace character in the story.
In all of the ace romances I have read, I have not found ANY which are M/F (and if I expand the field to ace/ace aromantic partnerships, I can only think of one M/F example). The rest are F/F or M/M. Part of that is probably just that a substantial portion of published ace fiction comes from LGBTQ+ publishers, and LGBTQ+ publishers – even in fiction about B, T, and Q+ characters – strongly favor same-sex pairings over different-sex pairings. However, I cannot help but wonder if there is also a cultural stumbling block against have a romantic yet nonsexual M/F relationship.
Satisfying fiction tends to have conflict. One reason that the Allo/Ace Romance trope is so common is that it lends itself so easily to conflict. However, romance fiction also often is intended to serve as wish fulfilment for readers. It’s tricky to make Allo/Ace Romance serve that function (especially if one wants it to have that effect for both ace and allo readers). So, if one wants to write an ace romance without the conflicts typically present in allo/ace romance, the obvious move is to write an ace/ace romance.
It is possible for aces to have romantic feelings for each other without knowing that the other is ace – thus, they think they are in an allo/ace romance when it is actually an ace/ace romance, and I’ve seen this in one story (which I am not going to name because this is a major spoiler). The viewpoint character (who is ace) is anxious that his love interest will not want to date him because he does not want sex, and therefore holds himself back, but if he had tried communicating with his love interest, he would have learned that his love interest is also ace. Thus, one of the conflicts of allo/ace romance got worked into an ace/ace romance.
Of course, many allo/allo romance stories have conflicts around things other than sexuality, so it is entirely possible for an ace/ace romance to have a conflict completely unrelated to (a)sexuality. For example, in We Awaken, the ace/ace romance indirectly causes people all over the world to be seized by such awful nightmares that they are turning into insomniacs just so that they can delay returning to their nightmares (it makes more sense in the novel than this brief description) (also, this problem is caused by their romance, not by their asexuality), so the ace characters have to either break up in order to save the world, or they have to find some other means of controlling the mass nightmares. That type of conflict works equally well for both an allo/allo and an ace/ace romance.
Are there any conflicts which are specific to ace/ace romance? The only ace/ace romance I know of which has a conflict directly related to asexuality is All the Wrong Places. One of the ace characters is really insecure about his asexual identity, and that leads to problems with his relationship with his ace boyfriend.
Something else which stands out to me is that ace/ace romances tend to always be about two aces who are at similar places under the ace umbrella. Non-gray aces go with non-gray aces, and gray-aces go with gray aces (actually, in my opinion, the ace/ace relationship in The Painted Crown is gray/demi since one of the characters is occasionally sexually attracted to people when he first meets them, which seems gray-A rather than demi to me, but Word of God says they are both demisexual). Also, I have yet to find any ace/ace romances in which the aces have different levels of comfort with regards to kissing/touching/etc.
One thing that ace/ace romance stories tend to imply is that the ace characters’ are each other’s one true love because they are both ace. It is true that, all else being equal, two aces are probably more compatible as romantic partners than an ace and an allo. All else, however, is rarely equal. Some ace/ace romance stories acknowledge this, and the aces in those stories have to work out their interpersonal incompatibilities. Other ace/ace romance stories assume that, just because the two characters are ace, they are automatically compatible.
It is true that aces who have felt they were all alone as being ace may experience euphoria when they meet another ace, and this euphoria may even been a way to spark a romance. It is not impossible that such a romance, through sheer luck, will avoid all significant interpersonal difficulties without any particular effort on the aces’ part. Reading about such a romance may be effective as wish fulfilment and escapism. Yet there is also a risk, to quote this old Asexual Agenda post:
When people present ace/ace relationships as a panacea for relationship difficulties, all those potential stressors are erased. When every ace/ace couple is squealed over and pointed to as the ideal, it can be really hard to talk about the fact that, hey, no relationship is completely bump-free. When your [ace/ace] relationship configuration is elevated as the Holy Grail for lonely, scared, and anxious aces, it can be extremely uncomfortable to talk about the fact that, actually, work (sometimes a lot of work) goes into maintaining that relationship. But, hey, you should be grateful you have that relationship at all, right?
There are plenty of heterosexual romances where the love interests are extremely compatible without having to put much effort, but since people looking for a heterosexual lover have a much larger pool than people looking for an ace lover, this may be even less realistic for ace/ace romances than heterosexual/heterosexual romances. Then again, many romances are unrealistic, and this is not necessarily a bad thing.
We Awaken by Calista Lynne
The Painted Crown by Megan Derr
All the Wrong Places by Ann Gallagher
“The Cybernetic Teashop” by Meredith Katz
Ignition Zero (webcomic)
“Mr. March Names the Stars” by Rivka Aarons-Hughes
How Not to Summon Your True Love by Sasha Miller
1) What is your take on ‘they are both ace so of course they are a One True Pairing without having to go through any difficult interpersonal stuff once they’ve found each other’ style ace/ace romances? Do they make you feel happy as a reader? Why or why not? Do you think readers can enjoy these as wish-fulfilment without it negatively impacting real-life ace/ace relationships?
2) This post mentions an example where an ace character’s insecurity with his own ace identity leads to problems with his ace/ace romance. What other kinds of problems might be specific to ace/ace romances (i.e. problems which would be much less likely to occur in allo/allo romances)?
3) What do you want to have in ace/ace romance stories?