How to Ally: Advising for Sex-Negative Language

Handdrawn illustration of a yellow pasture against a background of hills and sparodic trees. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Aro Worlds Discussion Post sits across the image in a black, antique handdrawn type, separated by two ornate Victorian-style black dividers.

Note: I consider this site’s content advisory page sufficient for non-fiction posts, but as I need asexuals to read this essay, I’ll begin by saying that I reference sexual attraction, sex acts, sex repulsion and sexualisation. And romance! I also cite common examples of sex negativity/sex-negative language, misogyny, ableism, cissexism, heterosexism, amatonormativity and allo-aro antagonism.

I now seldom participate in–and even actively avoid–online general aromantic and a-spec spaces.

This isn’t because I don’t wish to meet other aros. This isn’t because I’m uninterested in what other aros have to say. This also isn’t entirely because chronic pain limits my online interaction and I can’t afford the supports/technology needed for full access (although this is the reason why I fail in replying to comments and asks).

This is because any space predominantly occupied by asexuals results in my being exposed to posts that hurt like a punch to the gut.

Continue reading “How to Ally: Advising for Sex-Negative Language”

Book Edition: Love in the House of the Ravens

Cartoon-style illustration of shrubs, roses and grasses growing against a grey stone wall. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Marchverse sits across the image in a white, fantasy-style type.
Cover image for Love in the House of the Ravens by K. A. Cook. Cover shows a wooden bed set against a stone wall, with filmy curtains draped over the wall and bed. A translucent room divider is set off to the side, with a chest and boxes visible through it. The subtitle "a marchverse short story" is written in white handdrawn type. Title and author text is written in brown handdrawn type.

After seven years in Rajad, Darius has fallen out of love with the unattainable and avoided falling in love with the companionate. If he lives at arm’s length from passion, isn’t that better than risking the abuse his fellow mercenaries so eagerly deliver to an autistic who can’t quite fit in? But when the right person suggests a romantic relationship, “yes” still won’t grace his tongue, and Darius hasn’t the least idea why. He likes Harlow. Shouldn’t he want to love her?

The only thing he can do is turn to his old friends and rescuers, the Ravens. They have an answer if he can stumble his way through asking the question … but it may upend every truth Darius thinks he knows about himself.

Love in the House of the Ravens is a story about what it means to be aromantic and autistic when the world isn’t accepting of either.

Continue reading “Book Edition: Love in the House of the Ravens”

How (Not) to Ally: The Good and Bad of Allo-Aro Rep

Handdrawn illustration of a yellow pasture against a background of hills and sparodic trees. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Aro Worlds Discussion Post sits across the image in a black, antique handdrawn type, separated by two ornate Victorian-style black dividers.

How (Not) to Ally is a series discussing the supportive content made by well-meaning asexual allies to allo-aros–and why some approaches still fail to recognise, promote, welcome, protect and include us.

It’s now not uncommon to see alloromantic allies asking questions about how best to write (or not write) aro characters. It’s also not uncommon, in response to open questions or in discussing a-spec and/or aro representation, to see not-allosexual aros and alloromantic asexuals reference allo-aros in their answers. Writers should include and depict a diversity of aros in their works, so we do need our asexual kin to remember us!

Unfortunately, most discussions argue that good allo-aro representation encompasses the following:

  • Sex occurring in the context of close, intimate, “serious” relationships or partnerships
  • Emphasis on monogamy or exclusivity
  • Idealised, non-harmful depictions of sexual relationships
  • Emphasis on possession of meaningful, intimate bonds with other people
  • Capacity and desire for friendship and emotional intimacy
  • Emphasis on ability to love and experiencing love for others
  • Focusing on non-sexual thoughts and experiences
  • Avoidance of sexualisation
  • Emphasis on healthiness and “wholeness”

When I look upon such lists, all I know is this: they do not include me.

Continue reading “How (Not) to Ally: The Good and Bad of Allo-Aro Rep”

Aro Week: My (Personal) Aromantic Manifesto

Handdrawn illustration of a yellow pasture against a background of hills and sparodic trees. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/grey/black stripes of the aro pride flag. The text Aro Worlds Discussion Post sits across the image in a black, antique handdrawn type, separated by two ornate Victorian-style black dividers.

Over the last few years, the aromantic community has seen a comparative outpouring of recognition. It’s less common to see multi-identity art posts that remember asexuals but forget aromantics; it’s more common to see LGBTQIA+ blogs, spaces and communities referencing aromanticism. On Tumblr, I can find a wealth of positivity posts affirming many aromantic-spectrum experiences and even resources that reference aromanticism. Our existence, individually and collectively, is no longer solely the province of obscure art and essays … or presumed to be encompassed by asexuality.

We have a long way to go in acknowledging, including, supporting and protecting non-asexual aros, grey-umbrella aros, loveless aros, fluid and flux aros, aros of colour, non-English-speaking aros and disabled aros. Many of our gains have not yet reached or served all aromantics. The online aromantic world of 2021, however, bears little resemblance to that of 2011.

Past Aro Week content centres on demonstrating our existence: what we are, experience, feel, need, deserve. Now, though, such explanation feels repetitive; in 2021, I yearn to look inward, to face the questions underpinning my essays and storytelling. What does my aromanticism look like? What understandings, beliefs and obligations do I consider an inherent part of my aromantic identity? What do I owe other aromantics? What do other aromantics owe me?

This manifesto–my manifesto–details my belief in the creation of aromantic identity and community that refuses repackaged amatonormativity, rejects sex negativity and celebrates our radical, queer divergence from normal. Built from the bones of my intersection of identities and experiences, this list is limited at best and blinkered by my privileges at worst. Nor have I lived up to all its goals, because I am as flawed and hypocritical as any other human.

It is the start of an attempt to answer one question: what do I believe, as an aromantic seeking to understand and conceptualise aromanticism?

Continue reading “Aro Week: My (Personal) Aromantic Manifesto”

Story Collection: Bones of Green and Hearts of Gold

Banner for Bones of Green and Hearts of Gold: Non-Asexual Aromantic Stories. Image features dark black handwritten type on a mottled light blue background. Diagonal rows of arrows with bands, heads and fletching in the colours of the green/light green/white/yellow/gold allo-aro pride flag cross the image above and below the text.
Cover image for Bones of Green and Hearts of Gold: Non-Asexual Aromantic Stories by K. A. Cook. Cover features black handwritten type on a mottled light blue background. Cartoon images of arrows--in four different styles--sit in diagonal rows across the cover, the fletching and shafts coloured in the stripes of the green/light green/white/yellow/gold allosexual aromantic pride flag.

A princess flees her betrothed in search of a witch willing to entrap her within a tower. Rowan yearns to be out and proud as an aromantic, but other people’s misapprehensions—and his own anxiety—hamper his quest. A woman expresses her wish for unfettered sexual intimacy, despite her mother’s desperate romantic expectations. For another pansexual, the route to freedom from amatonormativity lies in accepting monstrosity’s fur and fangs. Suki finds aromantic freedom inside the priesthood’s cloisters, but even a rebellious life leaves her at a loss when ministering to her own. And the words “allosexual aromantic” offer a struggling magician hope of a new road—but one not without its dangers.

Bones of Green and Hearts of Gold collects twenty fantasy and contemporary stories celebrating the many ways aromanticism need not always pair with asexuality.

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Fiction: Bones of Green and Hearts of Gold

Banner for Nine Laws: Allosexual Aromantic Fairy Tales. Image features a tree in the foreground, lanterns hanging from its branches, against a background of heavily-overgrown grey stone walls and archways leading into smaller courtyards. Vines and ivy cover the walls, archways and steps; an array of grasses grow around the bases of trees and walls. Text is set in a white, slightly-curving serif type; white curlicues matching the text, set in each corner, form a broken frame around the text.

Constance, princess of Blackvale, knows the duty of a summer-hearted heir: wed the prince, birth the child, symbolise her people’s prosperity and fecundity. Love, joyously and passionately, a man even she believes handsome and kind. But what if her heart can’t cast summer’s warmth? What if she feels solely the profane desires of skin and flesh? What if Blackvale’s crops wither and rot unripened because their future queen can’t—and won’t—bow to the nonsensical-seeming rule of seasons?

She knows only one way to avoid catastrophe, falsehood and marriage: surrendering herself to the Forest Witch. Not even for his daughter will the king risk angering the feared but necessary master of briars, protector of forests and abductor of women.

Constance expects a lifetime’s bondage to a dangerous witch, freeing her cousin to inherit Blackvale’s throne. The witch has other ideas…

She owns no place in a world ruled by sacred seasons, and even a witch’s tower must be more welcoming of a princess whose heart beats unknowable.

Continue reading “Fiction: Bones of Green and Hearts of Gold”

Book Edition: Absence of Language

Handdrawn illustration of a green meadow foreground with green and yellow pine trees growing against a mint-hued sky. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/grey/black stripes of the aromantic pride flag. The text Aro Worlds Fiction sits across the image in a black, antique handdrawn type, separated by two ornate Victorian-style black dividers.

Cover image for Absence of Language by K. A. Cook. Cover shows a red brick wall behind a wooden step, a red curtain covering half the wall, with a small wooden bench sitting on step. A chair, a hat and a squarish bag sit in the foreground of the image and a fabric banner hangs on the wall in the background. An assortment of coins and buttons litter the floor, and two yellow roses are shown floating inside clear bubbles. The scene looks like a magician's performance area or stage. The subtitle "a kit march short story" is written in white handdrawn type.Four months ago, Kit March abandoned his fiancé without even a note of explanation for a deserving man.

Leaving Lauri should have freed him from the pressures of romantic expectation, so how does a talented magician end up performing flash magic for buttons and hairpins in Raugue’s worst tavern? Kit doesn’t know and doesn’t care, as long as he can keep drowning guilt in beer and spellworking. As long as he can keep not thinking!

When a stranger offers the word “aromantic” followed by an opportunity to join a dangerous quest to the Gast, Kit may have more distraction than he can survive—and more comprehension than he can navigate.

Continue reading “Book Edition: Absence of Language”

Fiction: Absence of Language, Part Two

Cartoon-style illustration of shrubs, roses and grasses growing against a grey stone wall. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Marchverse sits across the image in a white, fantasy-style type.

Four months ago, Kit March abandoned his fiancé without even a note of explanation for a deserving man.

Leaving Lauri should have freed him from the pressures of romantic expectation, so how does a talented magician end up performing flash magic for buttons and hairpins in Raugue’s worst tavern? Kit doesn’t know and doesn’t care, as long as he can keep drowning guilt in beer and spellworking. As long as he can keep not thinking!

When a stranger offers the word “aromantic” followed by an opportunity to join a dangerous quest to the Gast, Kit may have more distraction than he can survive—and more comprehension than he can navigate.

There’s a word for anything if you look long enough.

Continue reading “Fiction: Absence of Language, Part Two”

Fiction: Absence of Language, Part One

Cartoon-style illustration of shrubs, roses and grasses growing against a grey stone wall. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Marchverse sits across the image in a white, fantasy-style type.

Four months ago, Kit March abandoned his fiancé without even a note of explanation for a deserving man.

Leaving Lauri should have freed him from the pressures of romantic expectation, so how does a talented magician end up performing flash magic for buttons and hairpins in Raugue’s worst tavern? Kit doesn’t know and doesn’t care, as long as he can keep drowning guilt in beer and spellworking. As long as he can keep not thinking.

When a stranger offers the word “aromantic” followed by an opportunity to join a dangerous quest to the Gast, Kit may have more distraction than he can survive—and more comprehension than he can navigate.

A drowning man doesn’t drown because the water creeps up on him by degrees, so why can’t Kit make himself search out something better?

Continue reading “Fiction: Absence of Language, Part One”

Fiction: Ringbound

Cartoon-style illustration of shrubs, roses and grasses growing against a grey stone wall. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Marchverse sits across the image in a white, fantasy-style type.

If Kit can’t find anything unfair about the contract or the man, why is the ring so heavy?

Kit March is a signature away from marrying the man who loves him. He should be delighted, but for reasons he doesn’t understand and can’t explain, his future with Lauri weighs upon him. What is a magician to do when no script extant has words for the confusion he feels?

Is it so very cowardly to not want to be monstrous?

Continue reading “Fiction: Ringbound”