Ace: The Final Frontier

In the midst of a creative dry spell and general despair, I recently took a desperate jaunt down to fanfic land, and in one of my last posts I discussed how my dabble into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine fic helped me (momentarily) out of the writing slump I had found myself in.

But for every solution, a new problem inevitably arises, and I discovered something as I journeyed farther into my self-indulgent Quark/Odo fanfic. All I wanted was to write some good old-fashioned alien sex… but what am I supposed to do when one of those aliens happens to be asexual?

I had written the pining, the buildup, the crackling romantic tension. All that was left was to deliver on the sex–the part I’m usually excited to get to. And… I hit a wall.

Kate Beaton, Hark! A Vagrant

Okay, what’s the problem now? This was like 90% of my motivation for writing this scene in the first place and I get to the grand finale and I freeze? What’s the deal, man?

And I realized that I was struggling to write a sex scene between a character who is sexual and comfortable in his body and with physical intimacy, and a character who is very clearly coded (subtextually and through his own dialogue) as asexual in canon.

And therein lies the rub, really. For reference, for anyone who hasn’t watched the show, Quark (a snarky Ferengi bartender with a heart of gold) and Odo (a shapeshifter working as the chief of security who has it out for Quark) have a show-long, bantery, enemies-to-friends-to-they-could’ve-been-lovers if the showrunners had taken one very tiny extra step in that direction because they were honestly THERE.

Stand even closer, I dare ya

Odo says early on that he has never understood non-shapeshifters’ penchant for coupling, and let me tell you I did a double-take. It’s rare if ever that I encounter any explicitly asexual characters in media, and when I do they tend to be robots, aliens, or sociopaths (which is a whole other issue that we will address in a later post.) But this character was layered and gruffly lovable, with a tragic backstory I deeply empathized with, and I felt very suddenly SEEN.

His slow-burn romance (because that’s what it was) with Quark was one of my favorite things to see develop over the course of the show–up until the showrunners decided that it was very important that Odo, who had explicitly voiced having no interest in sex, have sex and then immediately decide that it was great, and he was wrong this whole time, and let’s do some deeply out-of-character leering at people whose asses we want to tap now.

If I had a dollar for every time an ace character was introduced only to be forced into a “cure” narrative

And obviously there is nuance here–sexuality is often fluid, and confusing, and can change with a person’s growth throughout their life. And for goodness sake, even under the asexual umbrella, there are many aces who do still have sex for a myriad of personal reasons, and this is nuance that I believe should be explored and talked about without having to fit into a very Specific Box that is most palatable for mainstream’s understanding of this identity.

BUT TO BE FAIR, HOW WOULD YOU KNOW? a familiar voice grates, and hoo boy, looks like it’s time for HetPat’s unasked-for opinion again. He rolls gratuitously onto the scene with his lewd and uneducated commentary, waving a Straight Pride flag. IF THE MAJORITY OF PEOPLE HAVE SEX AND LIKE IT THEN MAYBE YOU’RE THE ONE WHO’S WRONG! ASEXUALITY DOESN’T EXIST–THERE’S JUST PEOPLE WHO ARE SCARED, OR CHILDISH, OR JUST DON’T KNOW ANY BETTER! OF COURSE THEY NEED TO BE FIXED–YOU SAID YOURSELF YOU ENJOY READING AND WRITING SEX SCENES, HOW DO YOU EXPECT TO DO THAT IF YOU DON’T JUST ACCEPT THAT SEX IS THE NATURAL, LOGICAL, HUMAN CONSUMMATION OF LOVE?

Okay, even if we ignore everything blatantly wrong with what this gremlin’s ignorantly spouting, that’s the thing–sex and romance, while sometimes related, are not intrinsically correlated. In DS9, Odo never expresses any aversion to romantic love, or companionship–in fact, he privately indulges in reading cheesy romance novels.

An iconic episode for an iconic alien couple

An asexual icon, to be sure, but not an aromantic one.

See, that’s what I need to incorporate in this torrid fanfic I’m composing when I should be doing other things. There’s no reason to believe that someone like Odo wouldn’t, when given the opportunity to engage sexually with a beloved partner, put aside his own lack of desires in an effort to see that partner satisfied.

Odo from DS9 is a stone butch, tell the geek boys I said what I said.

So why not use that nuance? The scene I want so desperately to write can still exist, just maybe not in the way it might for two allosexual individuals. And this is something the characters could mention, and explore, and communicate about (you know, like a healthy relationship dynamic.)

This, of course, works out fine because these are already existing characters in a fictional world that we’re free to speculate about. What remains a struggle for another day is what happens when these characters are my own creation–like, for example, the two asexual characters I’ve decided to pair up in a romantic relationship in my WIP novel.

What does it say that I, an asexual writer striving for better representation, still want them to smooch and stuff? Does that make me a hypocrite? A fraud? A lying liar who lies?

Bet you ten bucks that HetPat says DUH.

Tune in next time when we do our best to figure this out, one insecurity-gremlin at a time.

But for now, I have more procrastinating to do.

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