Question of the Week: January 16th, 2018.

Do you participate in fandom such as reading or writing fanfiction?

According to Centrumlumina’s amazing survey of Archive of our Own* users from 2013  11.4% of respondents identify as asexual, 7.6% as demisexual, and 6.1% as gray-asexual (but people could select more than one category). That’s obviously a lot higher representation of ace people than in the general population. I’m curious what makes fan spaces so saturated with aces and if there are any other places you may be more likely to find us

I’m taking a break from fandom because other hobbies are simply more interesting to me right now, but for several years I read fanfiction, wrote fanfiction, watched fanvids, and drew fanart almost every day. Fandom (or at least the Marvel fandom I spent most of my time in) was a fascinating place where I didn’t feel that constant tug and pull between being too sexual for ace spaces and too asexual for allosexual spaces. I explored finding people hot that I wasn’t sexually attracted to, a sexual desire with no target, and other asexual experiences Tumblr and Archive of our Own gave me the anonymity to dare to think about out loud. I didn’t have a huge audience, but I had regular readers and fans that left me adorable and encouraging comments. I met a lot more ace people than I expected (to be fair I didn’t expect to see any). I still remember one regular reader that had been heterosexual all her life but was on medication that had side effects that made her question if she was suddenly asexual. She felt both drawn to the ace community and very apart from it. Like me she was fascinated by asexual stories in fandom that didn’t fit popular ace narratives.

* Archive of our Own is a fanfiction site made by fans for fans partly as a response to fanfiction.net making money off of the free fandom gift economy and censoring mature works.

About Talia

Talia is an asexual, nonbinary, vegan-feminist that drinks a lot of coffee and stays up very late playing Blizzard video games and writing fiction. They are working on a PhD in Environmental Studies where they think a lot about oppression as intersectional and impacting identities differentially. Talia has a particular fondness for asexuality, fandom, and Critical Animal Studies. Their personal blog is petuniaparty.tumblr.com
This entry was posted in asexual identity, personal experience, Question of the Week and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Question of the Week: January 16th, 2018.

  1. kaikiky says:

    I write fanfiction, but I don’t participate in any fandom. I don’t read other people’s fanfiction and I don’t post my own, because to me, enjoying a series is a personal experience, not a communal one. I don’t care about other people’s opinions or headcanons or crack humor or whatever. I don’t like how much shipping goes on in fandom, and I don’t understand that impulse to just look at two characters and translate any variety of interactions they have as potentially (or obviously) romantic and/or sexual. To me, fandom actually ruins my enjoyment of a series because most of what goes on in fandom appears to be shipping and just other bizarre behavior. So that’s why I just stick to my own headcanons and interpretations of how things in canon are, and I hide away in a hole and write my own stories for myself. I can write exactly what I want that way and never feel any pressure to please others or any disappointment when I don’t get any likes or whatever.

    • Talia says:

      That’s really interesting that you write fanfiction but don’t participate in fandom. I just assumed the two would go together but obviously they don’t have to. Nice to have learned something 🙂

      Yes shipping is a big part of fandom and I can see how if you’re not into that fandom can not be so appealing. One of my favourite features of fandom is actually the theorycrafting. People spend a lot of time writing about why something happened in a scene, how a character’s history impacts the plot, and debating over what a symbol or action really meant in the larger context of the series. That’s some of my favourite stuff because I’ve learned to appreciate characters I really didn’t like before and learned more about characters I do like.

      • kaikiky says:

        Haha, and for me, it’s been fascinating to see just how important the community is to most other fans, because it never really occurred to me to be part of a community xD
        I’ve never seen any Star Wars stuff, but I keep an eye of some of the fandom discourse going on from a distance and I find the discussions people have interpreting characters and scenes fascinating, but I can probably appreciate it more because I’m not invested in it. If I see people theorizing and headcanon-ing about a series (and characters) I’m actually passionate about, I get irritated and territorial because I’m like, “NO!!!! STOP MAKING THIS CHARACTER SEXUAL WHEN THERE IS NO SIGN OF IT IN CANON!!!” haha.

  2. Oh, do I.

    I first “officially” joined a fandom in 2004, when i signed up to a Harry Potter forum, but I’ve had fannish tendencies for years already (coordinating with friends to record —in VHS!— and watch Code Lyoko episodes together, reading pseudo-wikis up and down, looking for fanart, etc.). Which means that I’ve been following discussions, meta and fanart, reading fanfics, watching fanvids, listening fanmusic, playing fangames, knitting fanknits and going to cons and meetups (or at least seeing photos…) for 14 years or so, with multiple fandoms. That’s most of my life already.

    Talking about why there seem to be a high proportion of ace people in fandom spaces, I think it may be related to queer fandom and ace representation: for me, fics have been a place where —beside having access to written fiction for free— I’ve gradually started seeing and exploring more lifes and relationships that didn’t follow cisheteronormative rules, the kind of stories I never would had seen from canon and mainstream media. Looking up ace fics was specially important for me when I was trying to figure out what asexuality was and felt like. Most stories were either too fluffy and uwu or “and then they had sex and we’ll never mention asexuality again”, but there are a few that I still reread and enjoy today.
    Also, most of the art I’ve seen that represented an ace person has been fanart, so that’s another point of connection.

    And as a sidenote for anyone who didn’t follow the link, those percentages from the 2013 AO3 Census refer to the people who selected those options in a “Check all which apply” kind of question.

    • Talia says:

      That’s awesome that you’ve been in fandom for so long! I’ve heard of the trope of “and then they had sex and we’ll never mention asexuality again” but luckily haven’t encountered it that much.

      Good point about the data. I’ll mention that in the original post 🙂

  3. I do read fanfiction and have been for the past 4 years. I’ve discovered that I prefer stories without a sexual element because whenever there’s a sex scene I get bored and I skip it. I’ve not written fanfiction but I am currently thinking about writing one for the first time! As of right now, I have no plans of including any sex scenes.

    • Talia says:

      Oh best of luck if you do end up writing your first fanfiction 🙂

      Do you find the tagging system (like explicit, mature etc.) helpful for avoiding fic without sexual elements? I assume it’s probably a lot easier to avoid sexuality in fandom than in general media, but since I don’t specifically seek to avoid it I don’t have the experience to know.

  4. Carmilla DeWinter says:

    Ohh yeah. I mean, I’ve been reading fanfic since 2002, writing occasionally since 2005, mostly slash plus some ace and gen fic. I personally like reading (slash) romance (don’t ask me why, but as a functioning aroace, I’m utterly fascinated by it), and I do not avoid sex scenes, though I tend to scroll down until the porn part is done.
    My reasons for participating in fandom are, as far as I can tell, part escapism into non-heteronormative environments, part exploration of non-traditional relationship forms, part dissatisfaction with source material I love, and part fascination with the possible alternate readings of a source.

  5. Elizabeth says:

    Yeah… no, not me. I used to, but not anymore. I am a fan of certain things and I will talk about/analyze it with other people and maybe enjoy some fan art, but I can’t get into true fandom activities like I used to. And, well… the last fandom I actively participated in at all… was House. So I don’t think I really need to explain how sour I am about that.

    I never really experienced any connection between fandom and asexuality when I participated in it before. It was way before asexuality was a big enough thing to really get recognized and represented in fandom (certainly not in my social circles at the time). And to be honest, it was the sort of thing where I felt like I was “missing a permission slip” to participate in because of how sexual it was. I found it interesting (and from a writing standpoint, educational—sex scenes are pretty formulaic, as it turns out, but some things work better than others), and I enjoyed the queerness and representation of things like polyamory, but besides that, I didn’t find a whole lot of space for people like me in it. So while it was validating on some level, it was also really alienating. I’m sure it’s quite different now, but no matter how much I try I can’t summon any desire to participate again.

  6. luvtheheaven says:

    I’ve answered the question a variety of places – and if you look here: http://chrysocollatown.tumblr.com/post/167038955344/carnival-of-aces-round-up-asexuality-in-fandom

    in the Carnival of Aces recently hosted on the topic my entries for that are an almost up-to-date answer. Since then the only other pretty big way my life has changed in terms of how yes I am an ace participating in fandom is that I’ve decided to start a podcast in the relatively near future on the intersections of asexuality & fandom. I think we’ll launch during Asexy April of 2018, and I have a couple of co-hosts already and even a tentative title for the show.

  7. DasTenna says:

    Most of my comic and novel characters were born out of (never-written) fanfictions, so yeah, I once used to create fanfiction, but more or less only for myself, not for public reading.

  8. Grey Wanders says:

    I go on occasional fanfic reading boughts, in part because it’s the easiest way for me to find concentrated masses of ace character content. I like novels with ace characters, but the proportion of specifically ace content to general story content can be a lot higher in short fics.

  9. Rachel says:

    I’m a frequent reader of fan fiction, and have been since my mid teens. My more active side of fandom is that I release mods and participate in lore discussions for a game series that I like. I really am not drawn to fandom for its representational or demographics elements, but more as an exploration and enrichment of whatever franchise I happen to be following.

    My theory as to why fandom draws asexual people in such disproportionate amounts has to do with a couple of things:
    – fandom tends to be women-dominated
    – fandom tends to draw misfits, nerds, and creative types
    – fandom tends to draw LGBTQ+ people in droves

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