When I was younger, not once had I read any book with Aroace representation. Not once. The first book I read with an actual acespec character was Radio Silence by Alice Oseman, I was nineteen. And by my nineteen, regarding where I was in my life and what had happened to me, I alreay was an adult. It is never too late to discover things about yourselves, but I would like to talk about Why Aroace representation is important in Young Adult literature.
The Aroace spectrum
« Aroace » refers to Asexual and Aromantic people.
Please note that some times, Asexuality is seen as being the same thing as Aromantism, when it is not. Asexuality refers to the sexual attraction (the horny feelings if you prefer) and Aromantism refers to romantic attraction (the in love feelings, if you prefer). Someone can be both, but it is not the case for everyone. Here, I will be presenting the main terms used in the Aroace community, but there are a lot more as well as micro-labels (see here for more infos)
- Aromantic / Asexual : Someone who is part of the Aroace community – someone who doesn’t experience attraction.
- Amid / Acemid / Aromid: Someone who is part of the spectrum but not strictly aromantic or asexual.
- Grey Aroace: Someone who relate to the aroace spectrum, but experience various kind of attraction (weak, infrequent or under circumstances)
- Demisexual / Demiromantic: can only feel attraction if a strong emotional bond exists.
- Fraysexual / Frayromantic: feel attraction only when not deeply connected to someone.
It is important for me to underline the fact that an acespec (person on the asexual spectrum) isn’t necessarily sex-repulsed. Some acespec people are actually sex-neutral or even sex-positive. As arospec can feel a lot of different things towards aromantism itself. Once again, this is why it is a spectrum, and a vast one.
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Because we exist
So yeah, we exist. Hi, that’s us, people from the aroace spectrum. No, we aren’t weird, no it is not a phase but yes it is a spectrum, so it is always fluctuating (as a bisexual person isn’t 50/50). Actually, there are a lot of terms in the Aroace community, which is why it is called a spectrum.
A lot of things I understood about myself was thanks to the books I read. This is how I discovered I am not straight, how I discovered there isn’t just gay, lesbian and bi people in the community, this is how I started questioning my gender. But when it came to my sexuality itself, and let’s say it, the absence of it, I didn’t have any clue of what was going on. I thought I was king of abnormal, in a way, and started to freak out a little. I won’t go over my poor life choices then, but let’s say I’ve done some stuff that I wouldn’t have if the term Asexuality had been brought to my attention sooner.
With that being said, I think you understand now how important it is to actually show Aroace people on books. I can help readers understand who they are, at first, but also show people that we exist. This way, by acknowledging us, good representation could also make the world understand us better. And this, peeps, is all we are asking for.
Because sexuality is, in fact, not only about sex
I know, crazy right? Sexuality? Not only about sex? What the hell am I saying? And yet: it is not. And I am here talking about sexual intercourses, coitus, copulation. And I know it sounds weird. But now that you actually know asexuality is a thing, I think you can see where I am going with this. Not only sexuality isn’t only about having sex, but romantic relationships aren’t either.
When I was a teenager, I read a lot of romance novels. And damn, I can see now how straight and cis and white they were – but that’s not the point. The thing is: every single time, the romantic attraction in those books was linked to the sexual attraction. When it is not and shouldn’t be, since we all are different. Actually, always depicting a pattern on which romantic and sexual attractions are kind of the same exclude the potentiality of a non-sexual romantic relationship. And I know most people don’t really relate to this, but I am here thinking about teenager, young people that may be living their first relationship or about to, or young people trying to figure themselves out.
We live in the kind of society (western one at least) where sex seems to be a very important and huge step. Something to be proud of, or ashamed of. When it should not be. People have sex for a lot of different reasons, and most aren’t wrong. And yet, I say most of them. Because in some cases, people force themselves due to the image they give (« what? You are twenty and still a virgin?) or the situation they are in (« I am your husband/wife/date, that’s normal!« ) or to feel « normal ». Because yes, sex and feeling sexual attraction is still the norm nowadays, which sucks a lot for a lot of reasons.
Young Adult novels are read by a lot of teenagers and, you know, young adults (adults as well), which means it is a genre read by people still trying to figure the big stuff about themselves out. And giving them a great Aroace representation opens new doors for them, new questions and maybe new answers. And I am going to sound very old – I am twenty one – but the teenagers of today will be the adults of tomorrow. And by having more open-minded people on sexuality can only do good.
Because we need more diversity
Yes Karen, I hear you. But there are so many more gay books now! Congratulations, you are a moron.
Actually, this goes for every kind of representation but since we are talking about the aroace spectrum, I am going to stick to this one. If you look out of your window, the people you will see are all different: different in skin colour, in shape, sizes, personality and yes, sexuality. And that includes aroace people, because there are more of us than you think out there. And this is the reason why, in books – even more when it comes to Contemporary Young Adult ones – it should be the same.
I mean, if a main male, white, straight, cis character only has friends like him it would be:
- problematic af.
- very boring.
- not the kind of books we want to read.
And that’s great, really, that more own-voice LGBTQIA+ books get out, with amazing representation. The problem is, out of all those amazing books, I can only name five with an aroace character (main or supportive). That’s… not a lot. And yet, for all the reasons we saw above, it should be more important. For the readers, but also for more inclusive works. Some of my favourite books include diverse group of friends and intersectional representations and yet, none include aroace people. It is, in a way, not acknowledging our existence, or the fact that sex isn’t the sun things have to spin around all the time.
And also, can you imagine? You write a book with at least one minor aroace character and you can be sure there will be readers feeling so touched and represented and here. I mean, the first time I read a book with an ace character I almost cried because for the first time, I felt like I belonged in a story as well. And that, my friends, is an amazing feeling.
Of course, we cannot fight every battle up-front, but I am here taking about LGBTQIA+ books, with intersectional representations. The Aroace spectrum presence in those is still too rare in those, and I highly hope we will see more in the future!
Some books to read
An article with more works is coming in the week, if you don’t want to miss it, you can follow the blog to get an email notification!
What do you think about Aroace representation in literature? Do you have some book recommendations to share?