5 min read

Guest Post

Ace brands respect the A in LGBTQIA+

A lot of brands think sex sells. And, often, it does! But if inclusivity is one of your brand’s values, you might want to consider prioritizing forms of intimacy, romance, and friendship that are not sex-centric.

Asexuality Ace Playing Cards

October 25 marks the beginning of Ace Week 2020. Every year, community groups and LGBTQIA+ advocates get together to spread awareness about asexuality.

It’s the perfect time to consider how your brand might invite asexual representation.

A brief background on asexuality: Why should brands take notice of ace folks?

You may have heard that asexuality is an identity category for people who experience little to no sexual attraction and/or desire. But, according to most research, only around 1% of people identify as asexual – so why should brands take notice of such a small group? 

Well, because asexuality is better understood as a spectrum of identities and they articulate an amazing wealth of non-sex-centred experiences that may appeal to anyone on-or-off the a-spectrum. 

You see, while 1% of people identify as asexual, a much larger proportion might identify elsewhere along the a-spectrum (ASPEC) between asexual and allosexual. Some of these identities include aromantic, demisexual, and graysexual.

More young people seem to understand what it means to be on the asexual spectrum, and ace communities are becoming more and more visible. Which means brands can’t afford to ignore ace inclusion and its impact on buying power. 

But what does ace inclusion look like? 

For one, it’s highlighting non-sex-centric forms of intimacy. 

Obsidian Entertainment’s recent video game, The Outer Worlds, won some kudos for its ASPEC representation. In a side mission, you get to ‘wingman’ your companion Pavarti into a romantic, but asexual relationship. 

Oh, and you can totally identify as asexual in the game too, if you want. Having this level of customizability over your identity in a mainstream video game hasn’t been treated with so much respect since The Sims axed in-game gender restrictions. 

The Outer Worlds was a critical and commercial success. Netting awards, earned media, and exceeding expectations in sales. Owing in no small part to its portrayal of Pavarti, who became the internet’s favourite character

But can this approach alienate non-ace folks? Well, think of it this way…

No matter your sexuality, non-sex-centric forms of intimacy are relatable.

Everyone forms ace relationships in different ways, even when they don’t identify as ace. Here in Australia, we recently hinged our tourism campaign on themes of mateship.

Tourism Australia’s ‘Matesong’ campaign was born from the idea that ace forms of intimacy, like mateship, might actually be better at driving brand love than sexy people on beaches.

Despite being cut short due to the Bushfires Crisis, the campaign earned 46 million views, 182 million impressions and a ton of earned value. And that’s because everyone understands the power of making new friends. 

This campaign isn’t preachy: it’s bold, fun, and effortlessly inclusive.

 

Ace inclusion doesn’t have to be a huge shift in your strategy, just a small shift in your mindset.

Sex positivity still has a place in ace culture

Just because ace inclusion emphasizes other forms of intimacy, people sometimes assume ace rep is sex-negative. Yasmin Benoit is a model and asexual activist who created  #ThisIsWhatAsexualLooksLike. Yasmin has been featured on magazine covers, in a range of lingerie ad campaigns, and has elegantly explained the difference between aesthetic and sexuality. 

In an interview with The Lingerie Addict, she describes the clothing she models: “I don’t really place different meanings on different clothing. Some have more fabric than others. That’s the only difference.” 

Ace inclusion doesn’t have to be a huge shift in your strategy, just a small shift in your mindset. 

But explicitly acknowledging the A goes a long way. 

Three-quarters of people cannot correctly define asexuality, making ASPEC identities some of the most misunderstood. When brands go above and beyond to spread awareness about asexuality, they demonstrate a greater understanding than most. 

Oreo has done an awesome job of this in the past. They included the asexual flag alongside other LGBTQIA+ flags in their pride content on social media, and then teamed up with queer non-profits. 

Google had some fun with their inclusive rep this year when they commissioned an artist to illustrate the Pride doodle. This design featured the asexual flag and Google then partnered with the Marsha P. Johnson Institute.

Using your platform to raise ace awareness is a great way to show that your brand understands a lot of the nuances of the LGBTQIA+ community, and isn’t interested in tokenistic gestures.

Shine4Diversity have some awesome tips on avoiding tokenismLearn more

Ace inclusion is about more forms of intimacy, more types of relationships, acknowledging that more than sex sells. 

Remember, ace inclusion is about more not less.

No matter your sexuality, it’s refreshing to see more types of love being celebrated. This year, a New York Life Insurance ad debuted during the Super Bowl and featured four different forms of love. It lists sexuality, or Eros, as one form but emphasises  “a different kind of love” as the most admirable. 

Similarly, McCain debuted the ‘We Are Family’ campaign in 2017, as a response to research that suggested that 84% of consumers were unable to recall seeing anything in popular culture that featured a family like their own in over the last six months.

When there are infinite configurations of human connection outside the romantic-sexual norm, it’s awesome to see them being represented on big platforms. 

So let’s do more. After all, ace inclusion is about more forms of intimacy, more types of relationships, acknowledging that more than sex sells. 

Remembering the A in LGBTQIA+ opens more doors than it closes. 

Rosie's Linktree

Rosie Clarke is a freelance writer and editor based in Australia. She is currently researching asexual representation as part of her MPhil thesis. 

You can find her on Instagram and Twitter via her social links. She keeps her Linktree updated with projects she’s currently working on, so check it out regularly for more articles like this one.