Content Warning: F-bombs
A few days ago, Blue Ice-Tea left this comment:
What’s needed is more resources that will give allosexuals a better understanding of asexuality and introduce them to ace 201 issues – but how do you get allosexuals to read them? Do you have any thoughts on how the book could have been made to appeal more to non-ace readers?
I gave a quick answer, but after thinking about it for a while, my answer has changed.
To get allosexuals to read about asexuality and ace 201 issues, we need to poke their pain points. We have to (non-sexually) sleep with them, know what keeps them awake at night, hit them there, and offer a salve (or at least hint at it).
Two of the most popular posts ever on this blog are Mortality on the Pacific Crest Trail and We Are All Barbara Yung. They are both posts about death which affects readers personally. A lot of people are scared that they or their loved ones will die on the Pacific Crest Trail and it keeps them awake at night. More than thirty years after her death, there are still many people who love Barbara Yung so much that her death still hits them in the heart.
Does that mean that ace media has to be about death to get allosexuals’ attention? No. The key is to find the pain points. Fear of death and grief over death just happen to be prevalent pain points.
Upon reflection, I think what strikes me as deeply weird about Ace is that on the surface it is targeting allo readers, yet it hits ace, not allo, pain points. That is why I think it’s going to get a much larger ace than allo readership. Yet because it’s written for the allo gaze, it seems to put ace readers in second place. It feels like a mismatch.
Before we can talk about how to get allosexuals to pay attention to ace media and learn about asexuality 201, I think we need to be clear about why we want them to pay attention, and what exactly we want them to learn. Without that clarity, I don’t think we can get very far.
I don’t think we need to convey all of asexuality 201 to allosexuals. Some of it is not relevant to them, just as some of the deeper aspects of being a woman in the 11th century Byzantine Empire are not relevant to me. The parts of asexuality 201 which we do try to communicate to allosexuals need to be carefully chosen.
Reading Blue Ice-Tea’s recent post “Asexuality: Not Just for Asexuals Anymore” and Angela Chen’s Ace, I think a key idea, possibly the #1 idea, both writers want to convey to allosexuals is “compulsory sexuality is bad for everyone”. This is a message I strongly agree with. I don’t think this is the only message aces may want to convey to allosexuals, but it’s the idea I’m going to use as my example.
To get the message “compulsory sexuality is bad for everyone” message to allosexuals, I think the best strategy is to make it about how compulsory sexuality is bad for allosexuals. Write a whole book about how bad it is for allos. Give it a title like “Don’t Let Sexual Expectations Ruin Your Life: Get People to Fuck Off Instead of Fuck You Over”. That title hits many allosexuals’ pain points and promises a solution. I bet it would attract a lot more allo readers than “Ace”. As a title, “Ace” vaguely promises to address ace pain points but promises nothing for allos.
There are a few select groups of allos whose pain points are closely tied enough to asexuality that they will read a whole book about asexuality. For example, a mother who is worried about her daughter’s future because her daughter is ace might read a book about asexuality. A sex therapist who is worried about mishandling an ace client and ruining their career might also read a book about asexuality. But these are very small, select groups of allosexuals. When most aces talk about reaching allo audiences, I don’t think they have these hyper-specific groups in mind.
A book about how compulsory sexuality hurts allosexuals, featuring stories like this, with some reference to how it hurts aces mixed in, would center allosexuals. But if you are targeting an allosexual audience, you’ve already centered them, you might as well go all the way.
Throughout this post, I’ve implied that allo and ace pain points are different. When it comes to (a)sexuality, I think that’s functionally true. And if we, as aces, want to reach allosexuals, we have to make an effort to understand them, which is hard.
Personally, I think I get a much higher reward-relative-to-effort by writing ace content for ace audiences than I would if I were writing ace content for allo audiences. But that does not mean that putting in the huge effort it takes to effectively present ace content to allo audiences is not worthwhile.