In 2003, Craig Kilborn’s The Late Late Show introduced America to one of its first openly ace characters: “Sebastian: The Asexual Icon.” The gist of these recurring sketches was that Kilborn would wear his tie like a neckerchief and perform masculine heterosexuality all wrong. The gag got big laughs. Occasionally, he’d land a joke like, “I can not give you a ride, I lost the keys to my libido,” which feels so close to being for us. It’s not a depiction that should stay in the asexual canon, but whenever I think of ace visibility, my mind always returns to Sebastian.
Luckily, by the time I came out as aro-ace in the late 2000s, asexuals and aromantics were already telling our own stories. Now, in 2022, we have online and offline communities, growing media representation, and a better understanding of the variety of identities under the ace and aromatic umbrella than ever before. Still, it’s an uphill climb for those who want to see their asexuality or aromantism reflected back in the world. What should be in an ace canon? On this International Ace Day, I suggest we consider some better asexual icons.
Openly sex-indifferent, the surrealist painter Salvador Dalí makes a strong case that great art is not intrinsically tied to sexual passion. Though married, Dalí only consummated his marriage once, and later said, “I tried sex once with a woman. It was overrated. I tried sex once with a man[…]. It was very painful. ” While abstinence is not definitive proof of asexuality, the following quote from filmmaker Luis Buñuel still delights me: “As a young man, he was totally asexual. Salvador Dalí seduced many ladies, particularly American ladies, but these seductions usually consisted of stripping them naked in his apartment, frying a couple of eggs, putting them on the woman’s shoulders and, without a word, showing them the door. ” Iconic ace behavior!
Activist David Jay is the first person I saw in the news talking about being openly asexual. In 2001, Jay started the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN), which hosts online forums where asexuals can connect with each other and easily access news and information on asexuality. Rather than hide behind internet anonymity, he put himself out there to bring asexuality into the mainstream at a time where he knew people would treat him and the movement as a joke. These days, Jay balances his activism with raising a family alongside his platonic co-parents. A trailblazing asexual Icon.
Selah Summers (Lovie Simone), the main character of the 2019 film Selah and the Spades, is an overachiever who secretly runs her elite boarding school’s black market. The film focuses on Selah’s growing connection with new girl Paloma (Celeste O’Connor), and the way this friendship brings out her insecurities and jeopardizes her legacy. Selah was intentionally written as asexual, and on the topic of sex, Selah says, “I do not think I’m waiting for some right person. I just do not think I’m interested in the thing itself. ” Just as important, the film counters stereotypical portrayals of ace folks as robotic, instead depicting Selah as a character of stormy emotions and deeply felt desires. For being a refreshingly complex teen heroine, Selah Summers is an asexual Icon.
Despite playing sex symbols in films like Some Like It Hot and The Seven Year Itch, Marilyn Monroe may have been ace. In her autobiography My Story (co-written by Ben Hecht), the legendary actress wrote, “Why I was a siren, I hadn’t the faintest idea. There were no thoughts of sex in my head. I did not want to be kissed, and I did not dream of being seduced by a duke or a movie star. The truth was that with all my lipstick and mascara and precarious curves, I was unsensual as a fossil. But I seemed to affect people quite differently. ” If Monroe had the terminology, she may have recognized herself in the terms asexual or demisexual. Perhaps we should stop reducing Monroe to her looks or sexuality and finally start talking more about her feud with the FBI.
Michaela Coel is a writer, director, and actress known for creating Chewing Gum and I May Destroy You. The multi-hyphenate is very private about her personal life, but in a 2018 interview with The Culture Trip, Coel opened up about identifying with the aromatic label. She explained, “I googled aromanticism and I very much felt like, ‘Oh, that’s me.'” She went on to say, “I am OK being by myself. I like having intimate relationships but I do not want to change people or want to be changed by anyone. ” I see this in her work – friendships between characters like Arabella (Coel), T (Weruche Opia), and Kwame (Paapa Essiedu) in I May Destroy You are unusually well developed – and it’s thrilling to see a creator at Coel’s level who isn’t preoccupied with romance. I can not wait to see more from this aromatic icon.
Created in 1941, the Archie Comics character Jughead served as a comedic juxtaposition to his lust-crazed classmates. While his best friend Archie was always dating, Jughead’s only desire was to eat a hamburger in peace. In Zdarsky’s Chip 2015 run, Jughead was confirmed to identify asexual, with a strong implication of aromantism. Even though The CW’s Riverdale made Jughead heterosexual on television, the asexual Jughead of print has been going for 80 years already and will likely outlive us all. An asexual icon of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
Yasmin Benoit is an activist, writer, and model. Benoit created the #ThisIsWhatAnAsexualLooksLike hashtag and uses her platform to correct misconceptions people have about the ways asexuals look, dress, and behave. Her comfort in her own body and orientation lays bare the entitlement people have over women’s sexuality. She also writes about being a Black asexual and aromatic woman, and the intersection of race, gender, and queerness that often goes under-discussed in mainstream ace spaces. In 2021 Benoit co-founded International Asexuality Day, meaning she gave us a whole holiday! You can not get more iconic than that.
Nikola Tesla was one of the most brilliant inventors in history, having laid the groundwork for electricity and radio. He was also a lifelong bachelor who, in 1927, told a reporter he had “never touched a woman.” While we can only infer Tesla’s lack of sexual and romantic attraction from secondary accounts, many asexuals and aromantics relate strongly to him. His eccentricities and refusal to marry were used against him by colleagues and competitors to undermine his accomplishments. For living unconventionally, and because I’m still mad at Thomas Edison for ruining wireless electricity, let’s declare Tesla an ace icon.
Comedian and actress Janeane Garofalo is best known for stealing scenes in Wet Hot American Summer and Reality Bites. Her confessional stand-up often mentions her take-it or leave-it approach to sex, and in a 2019 episode of the podcast “Dyking Out,” she spoke her mind on the asexual label (calling herself an “asexual atheist”) and how it affects her long-term open relationship. The iconic ’90s cool girl has been an ace icon all along.
Esperanza “Spooner” Cruz
Esperanza “Spooner” Cruz (Lisseth Chavez) is television’s first asexual superhero. Spooner joined the Legends of Tomorrow, a time traveling found family of adventurers, in season 6 when they needed her help (and empathic superpowers) to save their captain from aliens. The following season Spooner confided that she does not get “those types of feelings,” which prompted a teammate to explain the term ace. Spooner, whole face lighting up, responded, “I guess that makes me ace!” Science fiction has so many non-human, un-feeling characters coded as asexual that hot-headed human Spooner feels like a huge turning point. Spooner Cruz is a badass, world saving super ace icon.
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