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.