Why Are Sex-Indifferent Aces Assumed to Be Open to Sex?

The theme for July’s Carnival of Aces is “Sex-Aversion and Sex Repulsion”. I am going off a little to the side of this topic and talk about being sex-indifferent because, as someone who is sex-indifferent, I have much more to say about it.

NOTE: When I say I am sex-indifferent, I mean that I am neither sex-averse/sex-repulsed, nor am I sex-favorable. As is evident in this post, sex is such a loaded matter that true indifference is nearly impossible.

I sometimes encounter the implication, both inside and outside of ace communities, that sex-indifferent aces are okay with having sex, being in sexual relationships, or that of course the sex-indifferent aces are having sex. Once in a long while I see this sentiment expressed more explicitly. Even in the call for submissions, sex-indifferent aces are grouped with sex-favorable aces as one of two groups. Why? As a sex-indifferent ace, I feel like I have nothing more in common with the sex-favorable aces than I do with the sex-averse/sex-repulsed ones.

If I say that I am indifferent to playing tennis, would you assume that I am going to get a tennis-playing partner anytime soon? Or ever?

You see, all activities have some kind of cost. Time, for example. I am not going to live forever, so most people would understand that, if I say that I am indifferent to tennis or feel that tennis is pointless (and when I imagine myself having sex, my reaction is ‘that would be so pointless’) that I probably would prefer to do something which I actually like and do not consider pointless. Sure, if one of my tennis-loving relatives asked me to play with them, I might oblige, but it has been more than ten years since I have played tennis.

Of course, time is not the only cost of sex. There is the risk of sexual-transmitted infections. And the risk of someone getting very emotionally hurt, especially since, as a very sexually-inexperienced asexual, there is a lot I do not know about navigating sex, and my partner would be at high risk of emotional hurt as well (for example, if it is obvious that I am not enjoying myself and they take it personally). To me, sex is not worth that much, and I have ruled it out except for the few specific situations in which the benefits might justify the costs/risks.

On top of that, I am romantically-averse, which deserves a post or two in itself, but for now I just want to make the point that sex-indifferent people may have other aversions which might interfere with normative romantic-sexual relationship.

Now to answer the question in the title … I think the assumption that sex-indifferent aces are open to sex/having sex/etc. is an expression of compulsory sexuality.

I did not grow up in a culture of of compulsory tennis-playing, so if I say that I am not interested, people understand that I probably do not want to play. But under compulsory sexuality, if I do not have some kind of obstacle like sex-aversion/sex-repulsion, then of course I am OK with participating in sex … huh? I am aware that compulsory-sexuality is very harmful to sex-averse/sex-repulsed people and that people who push compulsory sexuality do not in practice give sex-averse/sex-repulsed people a pass. The point I do want to make is that, under compulsory sexuality, you need a *reason* to opt out of sex rather than a reason to opt-in in the first place, and the assumptions made about sex-indifferent aces are made because we have not provided a reason for opting-out.

Recently both the sex-repulsed and the sex-favorable have been talking about the ways they feel uncomfortable in ace-spectrum communities. I do not feel uncomfortable as sex-indifferent ace in ace communities, but I hope that in these discussions people will make it clear that many sex-indifferent aces do not want and are not participating in sex.


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Takarazuka: Passionate, Yet Non-Sexual

I love this poster for Takarazuka’s Flower Troupe’s “The Last Tycoon”. It is set in the 1930s! It features two people in some kind of intimate relationship, it is clear that one is a very femme woman and the other is on the female-presenting-as-male spectrum, yet officially this is non-sexual and non-lesbian-romantic – which makes it not unlike my fantasy of an ephemeral evening.

So, I have written posts about a) the Takarazuka Revue and b) passionate aces in fiction. I have been leading up to something:

If I cannot get passionate aces in my fiction, I can settle for non-sexual displays of passion – and this is where Takarazuka comes in.

Takarazuka makes a point about *not* being about sexuality, and from a certain angle, not even being about romance, yet being passionate most certainly is the point.

Takarazuka performers are required to be unmarried and not involved in any sexual/romantic relationships while they are working for Takarazuka. I do not know how strictly this rule is enforced, and there probably is somebody discreetly bending/breaking it. When I discuss this with fellow Americans, many assume that the performers must be involved in lots of lesbian activities/relationships (which must be true to some extent because, before we even get to the fact that theses are female performers who regularly act out romantic love with other female performers, when you have hundreds of women, quite a few of them are going to be pan/lesbian/bi based on sheer statistical chance). However, the Takarazuka Revue claims that this is not at all what it is about. And on top of that, being a Takarazuka performer requires a ton of time of energy, so I think that even if they were allowed to openly pursue sexual/romantic relationships, many would not because they need to pour so much of themselves into their work.

And pouring yourself into performing in the Takarazuka Revue because you love singing and dancing is a passionate act in itself.

So, we have here a) people doing something (singing and dancing and acting) with great passion b) people professing their passionate feelings for each other and sometimes other things (for example, singing passionately about how beautiful the flowers are) and c) none of it is intended to be sexual (unless it is required by the story) and d) when they declare romantic love, they do not *really* mean it romantically, because they are all women and not presenting as lesbians/queers.

To me, this feels like a burst non-sexual passion. It validates passion as I experience it.

That is not to say that Takarazuka is ace/aro-friendly. For example, the structure of the shows means that the stories often center around a heteronormative romantic relationship (even if the ‘heteronormative’ part is being subverted by the lack of male performers), and what they say often affirms heteronormativity (even if it is being subverted, again, by the lack of male performers).

Perhaps that is the true source of the appeal. In Takarazuka, the words say one thing (HETERONORMATIVY), yet the physical reality is saying something else (women expressing their SUPREME love for each other – and flowers too of course). This offers lots of room for interpretation, and everyone can find the interpretation they needs. Cis het women can get their fantasy ‘men’ (Takarazuka fans often claim that the Takarazuka’s otokoyaku are more appealing than men in real life), pan/lesbian/bi women can watch a woman dressed as a man have a passionate romance with a very femme woman, genderqueer people can watch people who are messing with the gender binary, and I, an ace, can watch people expressing passionate love, knowing that this is officially non-sexual and that the romance bit is not really romance. In short, people of different genders/sexualities can find themselves in the ambiguity of Takarazuka.


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