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There’s a word for if you like the same sex (homosexual), the opposite sex (heterosexual), and everything in between (pansexual). But what about if you check off the box “none of the above”? That’s what this week is all about celebrating: asexuals, the sexuality that often jokes they’d rather just eat cake than have sex.
While not as world-renowned as Pride Month, Asexual Awareness Week marks a special occasion for a sexuality that doesn’t receive much coverage in the media or even at LGBTQIA+ specific events. It’s an international campaign to spread visibility for and educate on asexuality, having a lack of sexual attraction to other people.
Not to be confused with celibacy, a lifestyle choice, asexuality is an orientation that manifests in a spectrum of personal experiences. Some asexuals are repulsed by all things sexual, others experience a libido, but it’s a general and often confusing feeling, undirected at any particular person. Even still, others enjoy sensual acts or engage in sex for a variety of reasons, like to have a child or because they enjoy pleasing a partner.
Asexual Awareness Week also aims to cover sexualities under the same umbrella as well, such as demisexuality (only experiencing sexual attraction to people you’ve formed a deep emotional connection with) and aromantic (experiencing little or no romantic attraction to other individuals). So this year, artists online are creating work—from comics to character reinterpretations—to showcase the variety of experiences on the ace spectrum.
For a great introduction to the terms, artist Teloka Berry has been releasing parts of a comic throughout the week to explain some of the fundamental elements of being asexual. “I was inspired by seeing so many misunderstandings and constantly getting asked the same questions about common myths and misattributions to do with asexuality,” she told the Daily Dot.
💜🖤happy asexual awareness week everyone! 💜🖤— 🥞 ᵗᵉˡᵒᵏᵃ ᵇᵉʳʳʸ 🥞 (@telokaberry) October 21, 2018
everyone knows I have lots of ace opinions, so figured it was about time I did a bigger contribution to this very important week. I'll be adding pages to this thread over the next few days!
📝more comics: https://t.co/qicwVFYLsT pic.twitter.com/PcgFkzX0HQ
Other artists have chosen to draw characters they either headcanon as asexual, or “ace,” or represent the supportive and collaborative spirit of the week. Tumblr artist Stephanie “ultyso” drew the Final Fantasy XV character Prompto Argentum, one of their favorite characters who they also think may be gray-asexual (aka somewhere in between sexual and asexual), though it’s unconfirmed in the canon.
Similarly, Twitter artist Reyne @starfallblade posted a drawing of Amaterasu, the protagonist from the 2006 game Okami, a character referred to as “mother of us all” in-game that they said fit the week’s message of warmth, love, and pride. They explained that making ace art helps builds solidarity in the community.
“Being a visual medium, art is one of the most easily accessible ways to spread visibility and pride,” Reyne told the Daily Dot. “Personally, I use the colors of the Pride flag to indicate when something of mine is explicitly ace, and it becomes a symbol recognizable to all others that this piece is a symbol for pride and hope, not just for myself, but for all ace folks.”
According to Twitter artist Dovah_del_Norte, some of the more visible people in the ace community are writers and artists, with their contributions generating lots of buzz on social networks. Dovah_del_Norte’s own work has gained a bit of attention this year, garnering over 500 likes. For Asexual Awareness Week, they decided to take a more personal route, drawing an original character that has played a large role in their learning to love both themselves and their asexuality.
They first drew Kinseviing, their original character, sporting the purple, gray, white, and black of the asexual flag after coming out during Pride Month. After seeing fellow asexuals on the receiving end of hate and discrimination both from within the LGBTQIA+ community and without, they said, “I wanted to say to other asexuals: I’m not broken and seriously, I can be happy and proud of myself! I wanted them to feel accepted, if not by other communities, by me… We don’t have to be invisible anymore.”
Several other artists echoed the sentiment of feeling “broken” before discovering asexuality. Tumblr artist booping-noses agreed that, through art, the community is able to spread not only visibility but understanding of a sexuality not often represented in mainstream culture—so much so, many people either don’t know it exists or are confused as to what it is.
“I think art is one of the most influential and expressive ways to bring someone’s point across, or spread awareness,” booping-noses said. “Seeing ourselves in art is not only important for us ace people, it’s also important for others as it normalizes/celebrates our orientation and displays it in a positive way.”
This year, they drew fanart of an animation they made for Pride Month a year ago. The animation features a cartoon version of themselves struggling to figure out their sexuality, represented by placing different hearts colored to the various sexuality flags into a gaping hole in their chest. A little heart in gray, white, purple, and black ends up being the perfect fit.
Berry agreed that imagery is sometimes the most impactful way to impart a message.
“On social media, the way it stands right now, visual pieces and comics probably do a better job of catching and holding people’s attention than a lump sum of pain educational text,” Berry said, “so I think the comics that usually crop up during Ace week are integral to the community and awareness.”
To learn more about Asexual Awareness Week and ways to contribute, check out the official website here. For additional resources, visit the Asexual Visibility and Education Network. Asexual Awareness Week is celebrated through this weekend.
Alyse Stanley is a video game and culture reporter based in Virginia with words at Polygon and USGamer. When she’s not writing about memes, she edits Unwinnable’s monthly magazine. You can follow her on Twitter @pithyalyse.