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Asexual Representation in the Media: Why It’s Important

Robyn Exton

Oct 28, 2021

Asexual Representation in the Media: Why It’s Important
  • Representation is important for everyone.

    Seeing someone like you on TV, in movies, books, or games goes a long way in helping viewers feel seen.

    Media is powerful – it can help people navigate situations in their own lives, see people they relate to, and give people reference points when they’re talking about their identity. 

    While LGBTQ+ representation has seen huge strides forward in recent years, parts of our community are still left out.

    That includes asexual people.

    People on the asexual spectrum are estimated to make up around 1% of the population, yet there are few examples of asexual people on television or in movies. This needs to change.

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    What is Asexuality?

    Asexuality encompasses a range of sexual orientations, including asexual, aromantic, demisexual, demiromantic, graysexual, and more.

    Asexuality broadly is experiencing low to no sexual or romantic attraction. Asexual (or ace) people aren’t interested in sexual relationships.

    Some ace people are still comfortable having sex if their partners want to, some don’t want sex with others but still masturbate, and some aren’t interested in any kind of sexual activity.

    Aromantic (or aro) people aren’t interested in romantic relationships.

    Like all sexualities, asexual and aromantic people are diverse and have varied experiences, and it’s important not to make assumptions.

    Demisexual, demiromantic, and graysexual people are also part of the asexual spectrum.

    Demisexual people do experience sexual attraction, but only after an emotional bond has been formed.

    Similarly, demiromantic people don’t have romantic feelings towards people, like having a crush, until an emotional connection is established through friendship.

    Graysexual (or greysexual) identities exist somewhere in between sexuality and asexuality. It’s an umbrella term for people who experience low sexual attraction or sexual attraction only in certain situations.

    Why It’s Important to Teach People about Asexuality

    The media can play an important part in educating people about diverse gender identities and sexualities, including asexuality.

    For people who aren’t asexual, it’s a great way to familiarize people with asexual identities and give them the right language to discuss it.

    For asexual people, it can make them feel seen and understood. It can even give them a reference point for when they come out.

    It can be incredibly useful and valuable when people don’t understand to have mainstream characters to point to and say: “I’m like them.”

    Asexual identities are often ignored in mainstream media. But ace people are commonly discriminated against and erased in the LGBTQ+ community, as well as the broader population.

    There are, unfortunately, too many examples of this happening in the media. 

    For example, in a 2012 episode of the popular medical drama House, one clinic patient and her partner tell Dr. House they are both asexual.

    But rather than using it as an opportunity for accurate and positive representation, the patients exemplify House’s ideology: everybody lies.

    It turns out that the clinic patient is lying about being asexual to have a relationship with her asexual partner.

    What’s worse is that her partner also discovers he is not asexual after all but suffering from a tumor lowering his libido.

    It’s an inaccurate and dangerous portrayal of a sexual identity that is valid and should be celebrated.

    Another example is in Riverdale.

    The hit CW show is based on the famous Archie comics, in which the lead character Jughead Jones is asexual and either aromantic or demiromantic.

    Rather than accurately portraying his asexuality as explored in the comics, the showrunners decided that the TV show’s Jughead wouldn’t be asexual.

    Instead, they put him in a love triangle with the other main characters and erased his asexuality.

    Shows and Movies with ACE Representation

    In some instances, while characters’ asexual identities haven’t been explicitly explored in the show, bosses have said that they were indeed asexual.

    Spongebob Squarepants is a classic example of this.

    Fans of the show had long speculated that Spongebob was in a gay relationship with his best friend Patrick Starr. But Spongebob creator Stephen Hillenburg revealed in 2002 that he was actually asexual, like real sea sponges are.

    Another similar example is in Steven Universe, which is often praised for its LGBTQ+ representation.

    Peridot wasn’t labeled in the series, but storyboard artist Maya Petersen explained later on Twitter that Peridot is asexual and aromantic.

    However, other storyboard artists later portrayed Peridot in a romantic relationship with the character Lapis.

    But it’s not all bad. There are a few shows that are making great strides in portraying asexual characters positively and accurately.

    Bojack Horseman is one of these shows.

    Bojack’s best friend Todd Chavez, voiced by Aaron Paul, comes out as asexual in the fourth season, which dedicates much of Todd’s storyline to his coming out and exploring his identity.

    In the following series, he has a romantic relationship with fellow asexual Yolanda Buenaventura. Todd also creates a dating app specifically for asexual people looking to find romantic relationships or companionship.

    It was a huge win for ace representation!

    Netflix’s Everything’s Gonna Be Okay is also a great example.

    The show includes a teenage couple who are autistic and in a lesbian relationship, until one partner opens up about being asexual.

    Drea, played by Lillian Carrier, identifies as homoromantic (romantically attracted to people of the same gender) and asexual.

    The show used an asexual consultant from GLAAD to ensure they did justice to their portrayal of asexuality.

    Fans were amazed and excited to see autistic romance, lesbian romance, and asexuality all portrayed in one show.

    Sex Education is another show that puts LGBTQ+ representation front and center and includes asexuality in its second season.

    At first, the main character Otis dismisses his school friend Florence’s asexuality.

    When she later meets his mother, a sex therapist played by Gillian Anderson, she assures Florence her asexuality is valid, normal, and beautiful.

    She also said the now iconic line: “Sex doesn’t make us whole. And so, how could you ever be broken?

    Another reason to love this show!

    A Safe Community with HER

    Whether you identify as asexual, aromantic, both, or neither, you can find your community on HER.

    HER is a safe space for all sexual orientations, romantic orientations, and gender identities.

    We believe that asexual people are a wonderful part of our community and should be valued as such.

    Whether you’re looking for a romantic relationship, companionship, or just to connect with other people like you, you’ll find them on HER.

    Finding community is vital to helping people feel understood and respected.

    There is huge value in connecting with people who have had similar experiences and can understand you in a way others just can’t.

    If you don’t have this in your life already, sign up for HER to find your community.

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    Robyn Exton

    Robyn is the CEO & Founder of HER. Find her on Twitter.

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