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Thursday, August 17, 2017

QSR Guest Post: Sex Repulsed Aces in Fiction

Hey Scouts! Please welcome Tabitha to the blog! This is a post I think you guys are going to find really interesting. I know I do!

Growing up, I never saw anyone like me in fiction—a sex-repulsed asexual person. This left me basically thinking I was the only person on the planet who hated the thought of ever having sex. So it’s amazing to now get to read about characters who actually have similar feelings to mine; it means so much to finally see myself reflected in stories. Here are a few sex-repulsed/averse ace characters who have especially resonated with me (all of whose names, coincidentally, start with “N”):

Nevian from City of Strife by Claudie Arseneault

When I started this book, I knew there were several ace characters, but it was still a pleasant surprise to discover that Nevian was a sex-repulsed ace almost as soon as he was introduced: “Nevian didn’t know who she was trying to impress with that. Not him, he hoped. He had no interest in these things—not with her, and not with anyone. The thought had always made him recoil a little.” I appreciate that his specific orientation is made so clear—he doesn’t just lack interest in sex, but actually has an aversion toward it.

And then this later encounter made me smile:
Nevian jumped back as if the door had burned him. Why was the High Priest naked in the middle of the day? Then he heard a woman’s stifled giggles, and Varden hushed her. The door snapped shut and they shuffled inside. Nevian would never understand that kind of desire—he had never even experienced attraction and doubted he one day would—and physical proximity unnerved him. He waited, wishing people were more reasonable about this whole sex thing. Because, really? The middle of the day?
Having been regularly forced to overhear my former neighbors doing certain… things… at random times like 10AM or noon, I am completely with Nevian here. I haven’t seen many characters who are uncomfortable with being aware of others’ sexual activity (although Nadin is another one—see below!), but that is my experience, and it was exciting to find a character who shares it.

Nadin from Fourth World by Lyssa Chiavari

Like Nevian, Nadin is also disconcerted at witnessing others’ sexual desire on display:
The man said something I couldn’t hear and pulled the woman close. She giggled and draped herself around him, her hands snaking up under the tight fabric of his shirt. I grimaced and pulled the hood of my cloak further over my face.
[…] “They were just being affectionate,” [Isaak] said.
“You mean that didn’t”—I paused, struggling to find the right word—“bother you?”
“No. Honestly, it’s the first time since I've been here that I've seen anyone act human.”
I glared at him. “How is that what makes someone human?”
Sex scenes in movies = me covering my eyes and asking when it’ll be over. You’re not the only one it bothers, Nadin! (And yay for her calling out the idea that sex makes us human!)

Later, her boyfriend initiates a passionate kiss for the first time, which completely freaks her out. When she expresses her discomfort, he gets upset:
He pushed away from me, getting to his feet. “I’m sorry, Nadin,” he said, his voice impossibly small. “I thought… I thought you loved me, too.”
I jumped up after him. “I do love you!” I protested.
“Then why don’t you—” I flinched, and he lowered his volume. “Why don’t you want me?”
When society equates love with sex, and when even other aces often emphasize that asexual people can still have sex to please their partners, it’s powerful to me to see a character who isn’t able to just go along with sexual activity for their partner’s sake—not that there’s anything wrong with choosing to do that, if it is indeed a choice, but I wouldn’t be able to make myself, and I relate to Nadin because she can’t either.

Niavin from Sinners by Eka Waterfield

I fortunately don’t relate to Niavin’s experiences too much, as he’s been through a lot worse than I have because of his sexuality, but I certainly understand his feelings:
He could never desire anyone and yet he simply had to. He was the last of his House, and it depended on him to survive. Children were rare among the sidhe; the union needed to be a formal marriage blessed by the Queen, and even then it would take countless nights, countless decades of copulation. Niavin would have to endure that. His aunts and uncles and nephews had fallen to war and duels and other misfortunes, and the House had to go on.
I felt so alone growing up because the adults around me talked as if everyone got married and had children someday—it was just inevitable, just what people did. But Niavin, like me, knows that making babies is not for him (and fortunately, he gets out of getting married). I also really appreciate that by the end of the book, he knows there’s nothing wrong with that: “He did not need the flesh of another to be happy, that much was for damn sure.”

Trigger warnings for these books:
  • City of Strife trigger warnings
  • I don’t know of an official list of trigger/content warnings for Fourth World, but the second scene I quoted contains a description of a non-consensual kiss. Nadin also grapples with feelings of brokenness after that encounter.
  • Sinners trigger warnings
Tabitha is an ace vegan feminist who loves thinking and talking about representation in media. One of her short stories with an ace main character has appeared in Vitality magazine. You can find Tabitha on Twitter @tabithawrites and on Wordpress at tjoconnell.wordpress.com.

Thanks for joining us, Tabitha!!

Peace and popsicles,

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for sharing my post! And for hosting QSR. :) I've been enjoying following along over the summer!


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