If you’re reading this, you’re obviously interested in this blog. I figured it might be a good time to introduce myself. My name is Lauren Jankowski. I’m the author of “The Shape Shifter Chronicles” series (more information can be found on my website: laurenjankowski.com). I specialize in writing strong kickass heroines because there are never enough in the fantasy genre. I also happen to be aromantic asexual. I’m very open about my orientation because asexuality is still a pretty invisible orientation and I never want anyone to go through what I did before realizing I was asexual.
Born This Way
When I was growing up, there was nothing about asexuality. Anywhere. I didn’t even have a name for my orientation. When people began developing crushes, I was still lost in my books. I really only realized something was different about me when I reached middle school and suddenly noticed that everyone around me was experiencing something I wasn’t: romantic attraction.
To say that was scary is an understatement.
I spent most of my high school years trying desperately to diagnose myself. I convinced myself I had a number of conditions and disorders. For a brief time, I was even convinced I might have a brain tumor. Every test I took came back negative. Physically, I was perfectly fine if on the lighter side (I was also struggling with body image issues). At home, I was receiving a toxic message: I was just going through a phase, I was a late bloomer. If I was patient, I would eventually become normal.
By some stroke of luck, I stumbled across the Asexual Visibility Network. I can remember it vividly: I was in the midst of a panic attack, desperately searching my “symptoms” on a library website, convinced someone would catch me. When the website popped up and I scanned the words, my heart rate gradually slowed down as did my respiration. I slowly uncoiled, leaned back in my chair, and thought, “Huh. Well, that’s not so bad.”
The more I researched, the more comfortable I became with myself. I wasn’t abnormal, I wasn’t sick, I was just born this way.
This isn’t the same experience all asexual-identifying individuals have, but there is a similar thread running through almost all our stories: being scared and alone. Feeling broken, messed up, or abnormal. There are ace-identifying individuals out there right now who have no idea there’s a name for their orientation. We are bombarded with messages that sex is a necessary part of life. If you don’t desire it, you’re somehow unhealthy or repressed.
Living in a Monosexist Society
Monosexism has a couple different definitions, but the one I prefer is the belief that sexual orientation falls on a gay/straight spectrum, thereby erasing bisexuals, pansexuals, and asexuals.
When I come out to people, I’m often met with the same questions: “But how do you know you’re really asexual if you’ve never even had sex?” or “Are you sure it’s not a hormone thing? You should probably see a doctor just to make sure.” I’ve had a couple friendships fall apart because people didn’t believe in asexuality and thought I was lying to them for some odd reason. The erasure of asexuality is extremely harmful and I wish more people understood this.
I’ve had a number of people approach me at conventions and tell me they had never heard of asexuality, but it totally described them. Can you imagine not having a term for a crucial part of your identity?
Society has started to catch onto the term asexual, but unfortunately, a lot of mainstream media hasn’t bothered to research the term. So aside from asexual erasure, ace-phobia has begun to pop up in extremely insidious ways. You have a lot of narratives I refer to as “Fix the Asexual” (a good example being the film “The Olivia Experiment” or an episode of “House” that dealt with asexuality in the most insensitive way imaginable). What I find disturbing is how many pro-equal rights people believe there’s nothing wrong with “Fix the Asexual” narratives.
As a passionate genre feminist, I’ve seen how asexuals narratives have begun to be seen through a very narrow lens. Our stories are being told through a white, cis-het patriarchal lens, and that needs to change.
What Brought About this Blog
When I was querying literary agents and publishing houses, I encountered my fair share of misogyny (I was a poor woman without any connections. How dare I consider myself worthy of publication!). I’ve heard every sexist rejection you can imagine (including one really wonderful individual who said my books had “too much estrogen” in them. Charming. I also had a literary agent freak the hell out because a lot of my characters are queer). However, the only one that really bugged me was a literary agent who said “asexuality is too niche to move books.” Um, okay. People aren’t niche. I’m not niche. Why can’t heroines be asexual? Who says fantasy with asexual characters won’t sell? Because I know of quite a few readers who would disagree with this.
So, like many asexual-identifying individuals who want to get their stories out there, I went into self-publishing. Indie publishing is starting to be seen as a valid method of publishing, but indie authors (especially newer ones) still have to deal with a massive amount of bullshit. You hear all kinds of “that’s not real writing” crap from a lot of traditionally published authors. But here’s the thing: traditional publishing isn’t open to everyone. It’s a rigged game and there are massive amounts of people who the gatekeepers turn away due to unconscious bias. Asexuals are seen as niche, so their narratives are often ignored.
I’ve written about this elsewhere (on the Asexual Artists Tumblr), but what brought this around was a blog about asexual representation in books that included almost no asexual authors. Worse, one of the only books by asexual authors was a romance anthology (because non-asexuals love to gawk at the kinds of attraction asexuals feel. As if that’s solid proof our orientation isn’t real). So, I did what I normally do: I ranted and raged about the damn list. A friend of mine asked me to make my own list of asexual authors. I thought that was a brilliant idea . . . until I realized I couldn’t think of any (besides me, obviously. God, that would have been a pompous list: Asexual Authors! Me!).
The more I thought about it, the more bothered I became. No openly asexual artist has ever been up for any major award (any of the literary ones, Oscars, etc.). Try as I might, I couldn’t think of many asexual artists. That needed to change. Asexuals needed a resource to show we were indeed out there.
So I put out a call on Tumblr. Wanted: Ace Artists from all fields and all over the ace spectrum. To be interviewed and profiled for this new project.
This is the result. I will be interviewing ace (and aromantic) artists for this blog. This is going to be a resource for those on the ace and/or aro spectrum. It will mostly be modern artists, but I plan to tackle historical aces at some point in the future. Future aces need to know that it’s okay to be who they are. They need to see asexual artists telling their own stories.
As I mentioned before, I’m also a genre feminist (intersectional, obviously. Because women kick ass). At some point, I’ll write about the intersection between feminism, asexuality, and art.
The posting schedule will depend on when artists respond. To begin with, I will likely be posting every other day starting tomorrow. There may be times when I don’t have access to my laptop or when I’m busy with writing projects (I make my living as an author after all).
I’m still working on the menus, but I have a page for links about asexuality (for those who may be interested). I also have “Asexual Artists Links” where you’ll find links to the artists profiled/interviewed for this site.
That’s it for now. Thanks for reading 🙂