Aces

This webcomic starring a popular condiment may be the tastiest explainer of asexuality

Asexuality is one of the most misunderstood and marginalized identities. We exclude this group of people, for example, every time we use the initialism LGBTQ.

But Charis Loke, an illustrator and “ink-wielder” from Malaysia, is spreading awareness and acceptance of asexuality with a dollop of sambal.

Related: Asexuals talk about the woes of living in an overly-sexualized society

In series of illustrations posted on the website Queer Lapis, Loke explains asexuality with an analogy to this spicy paste popular in southeast Asia:

“Some people want sambal. Some people don’t want sambal. Some want a little, and others want a lot. There’s a whole spectrum of preferences for sambal.”

There are many reasons why people might not want to have “sambal,” Loke explains, including this truth bomb: “Some people just don’t feel the desire for sambal at all.”

The artist elaborates: “They might have it to make another person happy, or they might not. They might enjoy it, or they might not. They might have tried it before, or they might not have. But they don’t feel a need for sambal.”

“In a world where almost everyone else likes or needs sambal, this can be difficult to understand,” she adds. “But it is okay to not have sambal. It is okay to not like sambal. It is okay to not want sambal. Some of the time. All of the time.”

Related: These asexual guys are madly in love, they just have zero interest in having sex with one another

As it turns out, “aces” often turn to food to explain their identity to laypeople, as a forum post on Asexuality.org reveals. “I was inspired by a friend of mine,” wrote one user. “She told me she loved the smell of coffee in the morning. It made her feel excited about the fact that the morning had begun, and it stirred her to life. I asked her if she wanted to drink some coffee, and prompt came the reply: ‘No, I don’t like coffee.’ She liked the smell but did not have any desire to drink it. I think some asexuals are like that. At least, I am like that.”

Or take this user’s description: “Sex is apparently like this fantastic pie. Everybody loves the pie. It doesn’t matter what flavor the pie is: apple, cherry, blueberry, and whatnot. Everyone agrees that they just love pie. Except for me. Yes, the pie looks pretty. It smells lovely, and nice job on that glaze. And I don’t mind that you like pie. Good for you. But I’m going to stay over here eating my cake, thank you very much.”

Just in case these analogies are hard to follow, though, Loke spells it out in plain English under her illustration: “The ‘A’ in LGBTQIA+ stands for asexual; an asexual person is someone who does not experience sexual attraction. There are many kinds of desires and relationships in life — platonic, aesthetic, intellectual, sensual, romantic, sexual — and the absence of one makes a person no less whole … Like being gay or trans, being ace is not a choice. It is an intrinsic part of a person and is a valid way to be.”