Recently in comics, diversity has become more of an impetus for creators and publishers, and the inclusion of LGBTQA+ characters has been a part of their focus. Among the queer superheroes that populate comic books, there are lesbian characters (Batwoman and Karolina Dean), gay characters (Northstar and Wiccan), bisexual characters (Ian Soo and Prodigy), and trans characters (Alysia Yeoh). However, there’s a group in the LGBTQIA+ community that’s still underrepresented in comics: asexual people.

asexuality - aseuxal flag

The Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) defines an asexual person as someone “who does not experience sexual attraction.” Asexuality isn’t the same as celibacy, which is an active choice to refrain from sexual activity. Instead, asexuality is defined as an orientation, meaning asexuality is simply a way of being. This definition allows for different types of asexual expression and a variety of ways in which asexuals experience and express love and intimacy.

A large number of problems still face the asexual community at large, from lack of knowledge as to what asexuality means (no, asexuals are not plants) to the total dismissal of the existence of asexuality. Everyone longs to see themselves reflected in the media they consume, and it’s disheartening not to see oneself reflected. There’s also the problem that, because asexuals get so little representation in every form of entertainment, there’s a lack of understanding about the asexual community by the general public.

READ: Want to read more about LGBTQIA+ characters in comics? We’ve got you covered.

This is where Jughead comes in. Originally created in 1941 by artist Bob Montana, Jughead has been one of ARCHIE COMIC’s most popular characters. He’s a sarcastic lover of fun and food. Jughead has often acted as the voice of reason for his girl-chasing best friend Archie since the series began. In 2015, after 75 years of ARCHIE COMICS, writer Chip Zdarsky established Jughead as asexual in the spin-off JUGHEAD #4. During one scene, Jughead Jones and Kevin Keller discuss romantic options in their town. Responding to Jughead’s lackluster attitude about dating, Kevin says, “You just don’t get it cause you’re asexual.”

Is Jughead asexual?

ARCHIE has had many instances of diverse representation, from depicting Archie in an interracial relationship to exploring the acceptance of Kevin Keller. Many ARCHIE fans praised Jughead’s coming out, as decades-long speculation on the character’s lack of romantic inclinations was put to rest. This decision was also a triumph for those longing to see more asexual and LGBTQIA+ representation in comics.

However, there are still some problems with how Jughead came out. First of all, it is Kevin Keller, and not Jughead himself, who calls Jughead “asexual.” As one of the only LGBTQIA+ members in the ARCHIE universe, Kevin’s coming out was so big the (fictional) character was named a GLAAD Ambassador. However, the fact that Kevin’s coming out process received more high-profile attention than Jughead’s may reveal an unconscious bias towards the traditional coming out narrative. The difference in media reception evidences a bias against asexual people. Kevin’s writer, Dan Parent, and Chip Zdarsky, as Parent received various praise and awards, including the GLAAD Media award, for creating a more “diverse Riverdale” while Chip Zdarsky received only a little enthusiasm from recognized critics. Furthermore, in RIVERDALE, the CW’s live-action series based on the ARCHIE comics, the writers have retained Kevin’s sexual orientation while giving Jughead romantic storylines, disappointing the fans who hoped to see asexual representation.

READ: That’s not our only problem with RIVERDALE. Find out why we’ve got a bone to pick with Archie. 

There’s also a problematic implication in Kevin’s statement that asexuals cannot relate to dating dilemmas. However, many in the asexual community are interested in romantic relationships. In reality, there are multiple facets to asexuality, which include asexuals who identify as heteroromantic (attracted romantically to the opposite gender), homoromantic (attracted romantically to the same gender), biromantic/panromantic (attracted romantically to more than one gender), aromantic (attracted romantically to no gender), and many other identities. Asexuals, like every other person, are complex and unique in the way they experience attraction, be it romantic or platonic.

asexual Jughead?

However, it’s still significant that Zdarsky uses the actual word “asexual.” Asexuality is often burdened with many negative stereotypes: that asexuals are cold, socially detached, or “broken” for not desiring sexual activity. Yet Jughead negates all those clichés as he is warm and kind, and has many positive social relationships. Furthermore, Jughead is completely accepted among his peers, easily taking part in the various shenanigans that take place in Riverdale, including making fun of Archie’s lovesick ways.

In an ARCHIE-centered panel at New York Comic Con 2015, Chip Zdarsky explained that he had established the iconic ARCHIE character as asexual as a plausible explanation for his historic lack of romantic or sexual interest. While realizing in a modern context that Jughead could be defined on the asexual spectrum, Jughead’s treatment of women has historically been misinterpreted as misogyny. In response to this, Zdarsky said,

But he’s not a misogynist — he just watches his cohorts lose their minds with hormones. People have asked me if there is going to be a romance if I’m writing Jughead, because I’m very romantic, and the answer is no, because there is enough of that in Archie. I think something like asexuality is underrepresented, and since we have a character who was asexual before people had the word for it, I’m continuing to write him that way.

Thus, by making Jughead asexual, Zdarsky doesn’t just modernize the character; he also provides representation for the asexual community.

Jughead’s existence as an asexual character helps validate asexuality as an orientation and the positive fan response demonstrates that fans want that kind of representation. Asexuals, like every member of the LGBTQA+ community, deserve a place in comics, not as stereotypes, but as dynamic and relatable characters. While by no means perfect, Jughead is a good start to address the tragic underrepresentation of asexual people.

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4 Comments

  1. Michele Kirichanskaya

    March 28, 2017 at 2:07 pm

    Sure, no problem

    Reply

  2. Dr. Dannii Cohen

    March 28, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    Hello, I am writing a book about asexuality with essays by other Aces/pro Ace alleys. Could I possible be allowed to use this, as it is perfect!! Dannii

    Reply

  3. numbathyal

    March 18, 2017 at 12:44 am

    “while giving Jughead romantic storylines, disappointing the fans who hoped to see asexual representation.”

    I think it would be important to note here that Jughead is also canonically aromantic (as well as touch-averse and not interested in a romantic relationship), and the problem with giving Jughead romantic storylines is because he’s aromantic, rather than because he’s asexual. An alloromantic asexual character having a romantic storyline would not necessarily be a disappointment.

    Reply

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