- Ace/aro nonhuman – robots, aliens, undead, etc. Can lead to the conclusion that ace/aro people are less than a whole person, or lacking emotion, which is a harmful stereotype that many ace/aro people deal with in their daily lives. This can be combated by showing the ace/aro character before they become undead, or by including a human ace/aro character in your story. Ideally, write the character as being likeable and sympathetic. Several things can be done to make them feel more nuanced and whole, in a way that diverts the stereotype regardless of the traits people often equate to non-human-ness.
- Asexual/Aromantic villain – using a character’s lack of interest in sex/romantic relationship to make them seem uncaring or emotionless, and thus, cruel and villainous. If you are going to include an asexual or aromantic villain, do not make them seem emotionless, or have their evil motives be linked to their asexuality or aromanticism. I’d also include some other single allo people, so you don’t fall into the common trend of having everyone but the villain in a romantic/sexual relationship. Including non-villain asexual/aromantic characters always helps with this, as well!
- Traumatized Asexual – having a character come to identify as asexual after surviving sexual assault. Although this is something that does happen for many people, it can lead to some bad takeaway messages without clarity and care given to the subject (such as the idea that asexuality is something to be “cured” and that it is an inherently unhealthy, bad thing). If done, it needs to be written with plenty of attention and discussion around it, and portrayal of asexuality cannot be painted as being an unhealthy coping mechanism for an actually allosexual character.
- Cold, distant ace/aro – often when ace/aro character is included in a story, they are portrayed as unfeeling or emotionless. This is an issue because this is a stereotype many ace/aro people battle in real life, and it is not a universal experience. If your ace/aro character seems relatively unfeeling to you, add a scene or two that shows their emotional range! If you feel it’s important to keep the character as is, consider discussing this stereotype in your story, and having it be something your character takes note of. Many people of any orientation can be cold and distant, and feeling a lot in very visible (or even concealed) ways is not necessary to be a compassionate and good person. Be ready to write these traits in ways that are sympathetic and likeable. Come to the end message that your character is not unfeeling or emotionless because they are asexual/aromantic.
- Fix-it asexual – someone who calls themselves asexual because they’re “too shy” or “too awkward” to get a partner, treating asexuality as a temporary condition that can be fixed with the right relationship, or a choice someone makes because they’re tired with the dating world or were spurned by someone. There’s no appropriate way to include a character like this. They aren’t ace, they’re a repressed allosexual.
- Ambiguously Asexual – when a character could easily be accepted as canonically asexual, but it is never confirmed. This is upsetting because it tempts ace people with representation they rarely get, and oftentimes the unconfirmed asexual characters end up in sexual relationships, to try to make the story seem palatable to a society that isn’t used to storylines with asexual characters. To combat this, confirm your character’s asexuality! If your allosexual character goes through struggles with wanting a relationship, their sexual desires, etc, make a distinction between this struggle, and the struggle between accepting one’s asexuality.
- Autistic = Asexual – This isn’t something to avoid, so much as be educated about doing properly. There are lots of autistic people who are also asexual, and lots of people whose neurodivergence and asexuality are hard to parse out separately for those people. There are even specific terms coined for folks whose identities stem from their neurodivergence. However, when writing these characters, and characters not like them but who share one identity, it’s usually the case that people will try and say something oppressive like, “don’t worry, I’m not like those autistic/asexual people,” which throws the other group under the bus. It’s not okay to use traits and identities of a marginalized group to try and hold yourself (or your characters) above them. It is okay to include them in your story, but they deserve to be represented in a way that is accurate and does right by people with this experience.
- Asexual = Desexualization – This isn’t true, and is a very harmful idea to promote. Asexuality is an identity, an orientation, a sense of self, and does not have to do with sex itself. It’s about attraction, specifically the lack of it. Someone being asexual does not remove who they are as a whole person, or disqualify them from talking about sex or participating in it if they want to. Desexualization and oversexualization stem from the idea of projecting ideas onto someone in a way which limits them, rather than allowing people to have autonomy and their own voice. There are asexual people in every other demographic and it’s worth it to not erase (erACE haha) that experience.
If you want to include any of these in your story, please send in an ask so we can assist you in doing it properly, or research on the stereotype! Whether or not a portrayal is harmful is up to authors, and we are happy to to help you create unique, accurate asexual/aromantic representation in fiction!
Here is a post specific to writing ace POC. We recommend doing more research with material and narratives created and lead by ace POC on these topics. This post does not include enough information on that, as we are still learning ourselves. (And we welcome any info from racialized ace folks who want to add/recommend anything on this subject!)