I’m no more broken than you: Aromantic erasure in the asexual community

Recently it was announced that despite Jughead being canon aro ace in Archie comics he would be straight in the new Riverdale TV show. The asexual community rightly spoke out about this is unacceptable, and has been trying to pressure the show to keep Jughead asexual. However, some of this response has highlighted problematic trends in asexual activism.

Jughead is a canon aromantic asexual who is also touch adverse. While only the term asexual has been used in the text, his explanation of how he feels has made the rest clear. I haven’t actually read the comic, I don’t generally read comics and I disliked Archie comics when my brothers read them as teens, but despite that I have seen enough excerpts from them to be confident that this has been made as unambiguous as it could be without using the actual words.

Despite this, the backlash against the choice to make Jughead a character who “will have romances with women,” has primarily centred around his asexuality, not his aromanticism. There have even been posts that argue that it is fine for Jughead’s character to be changed this way, since he can still be ace if he experiences romantic attraction.

While it is true that aces can be alloromantic, arguing it in the case of this specific character is erasing and discarding his aromanticism as irrelevant or unimportant. There are other opportunities to discuss the need for a wider variety of alloromantic ace representation that does not involve erasing an aromantic character.

This is a far bigger issue than a single event or single character. Asexual activism, particularly when it is directed at allosexuals, frequently is handled in a way that is damaging to aromantic, touch adverse, or sex-repulsed aces.

In an effort to make themselves relatable to allosexual people, there is a tendency to draw comparisons. “Aces aren’t broken, we still can have romantic relationships!” “Aces aren’t broken, we can still have sex if we want to!” “Ace aren’t broken, we still like to cuddle and non-sexual intimacy!” are all things I’ve seen expressed. But when allosexual, sex-neutral/favourable, not touch adverse aces use those ideas to prove that they aren’t broken, they leave those of us who aren’t so relatable back in the broken category.

Because no, I am not going to have a romantic relationship just like someone who’s alloromantic. I am not going to be able to have sex if I choose, I’m sex-repulsed and that would be traumatizing. I am not going to be able to cuddle, because I am somewhat touch adverse, and especially touch adverse in situations that could be taken to be romantic/sexual in nature.

I AM NOT BROKEN.

And I am profoundly disappointed when alloromantic aces, who should understand this better than anyone, cast us aside in their push for acceptance.

When conducting asexual activism, it is important to consider who is being included, and who is being left behind. Alloromantic aces need to do more to learn to identify amatonormativity and arophobia in our community and activism, and refuse to accept it. Do not promote things that accept aces but hurt aros. Do not allow us to be collateral damage in the fight for recognition and acceptance. Do not allow broken to be the code for aromantic, sex-repulsed, or touch adverse.

We are here, we are not broken, we should not be erased.

 

 

Note: I’m using aromantic, sex-repulsed, and touch adverse similarly in this piece. They are not the same, and do not necessarily occur together. I have a difficult time separating them because they all apply to me, and at least two apply to Jughead, so it seemed appropriate in this case.

 

 

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10 thoughts on “I’m no more broken than you: Aromantic erasure in the asexual community

  1. “While only the term asexual has been used in the text, his explanation of how he feels has made the rest clear.”

    Has it though?

    I’d love to see some of the posts you mention here: “There have even been posts that argue that it is fine for Jughead’s character to be changed this way, since he can still be ace if he experiences romantic attraction.”

    Because I wouldn’t be surprised if some people only know he said asexual, he never said anything else, and so… He could be any type of ace. Most people who are invested in ace representation in things have heard about the comics’ revelation of his Asexuality but have not actually read the comics. They might not be working from the same context of him having any established romantic orientation, especially if it wasn’t explicitly named.

    While you say, “While it is true that aces can be alloromantic, arguing it in the case of this specific character is erasing and discarding his aromanticism as irrelevant or unimportant.”

    I’m not sure I agree. To clarify, I’m not sure people are discarding it as unimportant. I think they are just understanding that Asexuality is a broad category and especially in this case, are considering the possibility that the TV show writers for Riverdale who already are making the choice to say he’s going to be interested in romance still have the potential to make him ace. Clearly they also have the potential to make him straight, and disregard the recent revelation in the comics, and have “their own interpretation” of who Jughead’s character is, so if they made him an alloromantic ace now, wouldn’t that at least be better than him being straight? He’d be mainstream asexual representation on tv and we don’t have that USA at all right now. We need any romantic orientation for aces. (We need them all.) He’d be a different type of asexual than he seemed to be to anyone paying attention to the comics, but at least he’d still be Asexual, which is what people are currently fighting to have happen at all.

    Arguably the easiest way to contextualize asexuality for people unfamiliar with it is that asexuality is “the fourth” sexual Orientation (straight, gay, & bi being the first three) so that… much as gay people want romantic relationships with people of the same gender, often motivated by wanting sex wth the same gender… Asexual people, not wanting sex with any gender, don’t want romantic relationships with any gender either. Aromanticism, by default, is lumped in as a part of asexuality.

    This is often my urge too, as someone who is aromantic or at least aromantic-leaning… When defining Asexuality for the first time or simplifying… To just imply Asexuality and aromanticism are one and the same. Based on what you said, the Jughead comic seems to have done that too, simply saying Asexual but then explaining the orientation in a way that implies that aromanticism is one and the same. The truth is, roughly only 25-40℅ of Asexuals are aromantic, so the truth is more complicated, and to imply that Asexuality = aromanticism is simply incorrect.
    (Those statistics come from http://ace-muslim.tumblr.com/post/103575333946/aromantic-respondents-to-the-2014-aven-community and http://www.asexuality.org/en/topic/142506-romantic-orientation/ , that kind of thing)

    On the other hand, I completely agree here: “This is a far bigger issue than a single event or single character. Asexual activism, particularly when it is directed at allosexuals, frequently is handled in a way that is damaging to aromantic, touch adverse, or sex-repulsed aces.”

    And how quickly people can start being hurtful toward aromantic aces in an effort to “defend” asexuality as “not as different as you think”. I wrote extensively about my nonlibidoism/non- arousability (which feels like part of my asexuality) and how when other aces try to give 101 and say “of course, aces’ bodies can react to touch just like everyone else’s” it is clear you are saying if aces WERE the way I am, THEN we’d be broken.

    About your main point, the persistent and damaging idea that aromantic asexuals are “more broken” or “worse” or “more different” than alloromantic asexuals… Yeah I was quoted in queenie’s awesome blog post here: https://asexualagenda.wordpress.com/2014/04/05/asexuals-arent-just-like-everyone-else-minus-the-sexual-attraction/ for a reason, this is a thing that we’re going on year 3 of me being aware of and it sucks, I hate it.

    But I just am not sure when it comes to discussions of Jughead/the upcoming series Riverdale that this is what is happening? Idk… Let me know if you think I’m misunderstanding something crucial.

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    1. I am not going to link to the post that was the worst about this, but it can be found on Twitter, and several other aros commented about how it hurt them as well. Let it suffice that the post was very clear that they didn’t care at all about erasure of him being touch adverse or aromantic. If most people were unaware of Jughead’s aromanticism, that is just further evidence of the widespread erasure of aromantic identities.

      I will not accept erasing any character’s aromanticism to make a more acceptable asexual character for TV. Erasure is unacceptable for any identity, and it isn’t made better if aros are supposed to tolerate it for alloromantic aces benefit.

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      1. Sorry to hear about that. I was trying to give the benefit of the doubt, devoid of seeing the initial thing that prompted this reaction from you and all… But yeah I can believe that kind of thing happened. I don’t look at your Twitter very often btw let alone other twitters in the ace and aro sphere…

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      2. Many of us are not competent enough with Twitter to find what you’re talking about.

        I don’t like when people refuse to link to specific comments they’re criticizing. It’s bad netiquette. I mean, you’re calling for others to speak up about a topic, while simultaneously withholding the most important tool that people need to do so.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I am talking about the entire trend I saw from many sources. I did not consider it necessary to link to a particular post, since it is far from a single person who says these kinds of things.

        EDIT: Edited to remove link, because honestly, this is not about a single post.

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    2. I’ve read the recent comics; at one point a girl likes him (presumably romantically – they go on a date that he agreed to without realizing it was one) and he tells her “I don’t go on dates” and “I don’t like people that way.” I dunno if the authors are assuming ace=aro, or just don’t want too much unfamiliar terminology, but I do like the way he’s represented in the comics

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