Attraction magic, acespec and arospec characters

It’s Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week! You can check out my round-up from last year and follow me on Twitter to see more talk about aromanticism!

I had a short Twitter thread on this topic several months ago and have finally been able to expand on my thoughts!

I’ve been interested in attraction magic for a long while. Succubi, love spells, seduction magic, manipulation, enthralling—all that kind of stuff. I’m interested in thinking about how they would work, or how they would not work, on acespec and arospec characters. So whenever I see a piece of fiction where attraction magic and asexuality/aromanticism coexist I’m always excited to see how the author’s chosen to think about this intersection. And so far… So far I’ve always been disappointed. There’s just “this asexual (usually also aromantic) character is not affected, that’s it”.

(It’s rare that I find attraction magic believable, even when ace/aro characters aren’t involved. Often there’s just a blanket “this character is irresistible” or “irresistible to men and/or women”, excluding the existence of non-binary characters and lacking the nuances of characters attracted to butch women or to androgynous looks or to doms or to anyone wearing a tuxedo but only if they’re wearing a tuxedo… And there’s usually little discussion on what it actually entails, what kind of attraction is involved.)

So, look, first of all: attraction magic is creepy. It’s non-consensual and it’s creepy and it’s magic and it’s creepy no matter what the orientation of the target is or what the purpose of the attracter is. At its worst, it results in sexual assault for any target. At its lightest, it results in a moment of mind control for any target. Why would it work differently on an ace/aro person than on an allo person? If an allo target couldn’t resist being magically seduced by someone they’re not attracted to, why would an ace/aro target? Asexuality and aromanticism aren’t superpowers.

To me it’s reasonable to think that an ace character with high libido, one who’d be likely to masturbate or engage in and enjoy sexual acts with another, could be affected by sexual attraction magic. It could make them horny, it might not make them sexually attracted to the attracter, but it could make them attracted to having sex with the attracter or at least having a pleasurable experience in their vicinity (or going off to have a pleasurable experience in private). An ace character who’s into kink, whether sexual or not, could be targeted. Then there’s the aces who might be thrilled to live out fantasies involving tentacles and monsters and fanfic that don’t involve other humans. And acespec characters: what the hell happens to them? They’re never used in these situations.

As for romantic attraction magic, well, again, there’s arospec characters who never get a moment’s consideration! How would grey or demi or quoiromantic characters’ reactions differ to those of an aromantic’s or alloromantic’s? If the romantic attraction is more commitment-based rather than infatuation-based it might affect aros who aren’t interested in romantic behaviour but are interested in committed relationships. Aros who are open to soft romo or who love the romance genre could be affected. Maybe romantic attraction magic would result in not romantic feelings/behaviour from the aro, but it would manifest as feelings/behaviour more matching a passionate friendship, queerplatonic, sensual or sexual relationship.

Would a demi character be unaffected by a stranger’s attraction magic, but more likely to be affected by someone they’ve grown emotionally close to over time, or could the attracter bypass this with a magical fake emotional attachment? What if someone realised they were grey or flux because of being affected? What about someone who’s questioning, or in denial of their orientation, or pretending to be allo or wishes they were allo? How would an asexual alloromantic’s reaction differ to an allosexual aromantic’s? Perhaps aces and aros have a higher chance of resisting, or a lower chance because of the unfamiliarity dealing with sexual/romantic feelings, or the spell wears off quicker, or the attracter needs to finetune their magic to not focus on sexual or romantic attraction, or anything that involves more thought than just “well obviously not”.

Of course, attraction magic doesn’t need to be sexual or romantic in nature. It could be queerplatonic, platonic, romantic friendship, general limerence, familial, aesthetic, sensual, touch-based, fealty- or rivalry-inducing, overwhelming need to protect or entertain or impress, non-sexual kink, generalised feelings of intimacy. An aroace character could be hit hard by attraction magic making them obsess over someone they’d view as a squish, someone who’s just utterly fascinating and into their same hobbies, someone who’s the perfect platonic cuddler, someone who could be a queerplatonic partner and provide future stability, someone who makes them feel safe like a trusted friend or family member. (And there’s no reason why an allo character couldn’t be affected like this.)

Asexuality and aromanticism aren’t superpowers. Asexuality and aromanticism are spectra. We have various feelings and attractions to varying degrees, and ace and aro characters can be manipulated to varying degrees in varying ways. Your attraction magic doesn’t have to treat ace and aro characters as completely and always immune, and it doesn’t have to treat them as exactly the same as allo characters.

I hope this doesn’t actually need to be said, but I don’t want to see allos writing stories where ace and aro characters are sexually assaulted or brainwashed into romantic relationships through attraction magic!! (Side note: whenever my friends would tell me “you just need to find the right guy, he’ll make you understand romance :)” what I heard was “a guy is going to change how your brain works and it’s going to make you happy whether you want this or not” and the idea of someone persuading or controlling me to become or act alloromantic is just terrifying, never mind the fact that most of society would be happy for me finally getting fixed…) If acespec and arospec writers want to explore those horrors and the horrors that’d follow once the spell’s lifted, that is for us to explore, not some allo who thinks it’s the only way we can be interesting.

I want authors to stop treating us like untouchable magical unicorns, I want authors to think about how their attraction magic works and whether it has to be based on sexual-and-romantic attraction.

I also want allo authors to think about why they want their acespec or arospec character to be faced with attraction magic. Too often it seems to only be a plot device, either “I need an obstacle for the attracter” or “I need to make the ace / aro character interesting”.

(Disclaimer: I have written about an acearo queerplatonic couple whose “Immunity to desire-poisons/brings a brisk cull of spring sirens”. I thought about which words to use, what they meant, what this immunity meant for the characters and for sirens.)