Re: Moffat and the Fans Who Agree Asexuality is Boring in Fiction
I feel like I can actually back up my defense of asexual characters because not only am I a celibate asexual, I’m a writer who writes asexual characters. Even before I started doing that, I was writing nonsexual relationships only.
Moffat, I understand that you are a middle-aged heterosexual man who knows nothing about asexuality, like the vast majority of the world. I understand you most likely don’t know any asexuals in real life, have never even met an asexual in real life, or at least have never had a conversation about asexuality. You think asexuality is boring because you are someone sexual who has no idea what it’s actually like to be an asexual in the 21st century. I’m strangely not angry at you for your perspective. It comes from ignorance. And who exactly do you have around you that is equipped to educate you thoroughly? No one.
But as a writer who has spent the last decade writing character relationships totally devoid of sex and sexual tension—whether those characters were asexual or not—I have to demonstrate the dramatic potential of asexuality:
- If a character consciously identifies as asexual, if they’re out, that character has to deal with everyone around them not knowing shit about what it means, probably not understanding, potentially mistreating them for it, etc.
- Asexual character needs to reconcile their identity with everything they’re hearing and seeing in the very sexual world.
- Asexual character has sex and hates it and doesn’t know why or feels dirty or guilty or broken.
- Asexual character never has sex and is therefore alone, isolated, unloved, emotionally unfulfilled, and must face the very real possibility that this is the way they’re going to spend the rest of their lives.
- Asexual character is on the receiving end of someone else’s sexual advances and feels: awkward, intrigued, flattered, scared, bored, surprised, etc. Potential for comedy here.
- Cue asexual angst about loving someone romantically or platonically and not having a chance in hell at actually forming the kind of relationship they want with that person.
- Asexual gets into mixed romantic relationship and is eventually left, left for someone else, cheated on, pressured to have sex, etc. Fights about sex. Angst, conflict, etc. When they seek consolation in friends, friends don’t get it. More angst, more inner conflict, maybe some self-doubt, internalized hatred, etc.
- Asexual has sex and doesn’t mind and then must defend their identity when other characters find out about it.
- Asexual has had a lot of sex in the past for any number of reasons, then comes out, then is totally dismissed as lying, attention-seeking, etc.
- Asexual pretends not to be asexual in social settings. Internal conflict.
- Asexual wants to be platonic life partners with someone but can’t even bring themselves to say it to their friend because they know they won’t be understood or accepted.
- Asexual goes on dates with somebody sexual, comes to that point where they want to tell them about their asexuality and/or celibacy…. Could go badly. Even if it doesn’t go badly, there’s tension leading up to that reveal.
- Asexual is in so much pain over being alone in life, they go down some self-destructive path: drugs, alcoholism, self-harm, suicide, etc.
- Asexual is raped. Whether correctively or otherwise.
- Asexual watches other people pair off and feels the wistful sadness of someone standing outside a window alone, looking in to someone else’s Christmas.
I could probably go on.
My point is twofold: there is nothing easy or simple about being asexual in today’s world, especially if you’re celibate.
And last time I checked, as a writer, the most important kind of conflict in a story is usually emotional. Trust me: being a celibate asexual does not take away from a person’s emotional conflict in life or from the potential richness of their relationships with other people. Being a celibate asexual can actually increase the emotional conflict in your life, or at the very least, it creates unique conflict.
And as for nonsexual relationships? You have no idea what depths you could mine in those because you’ve never tried. Most people don’t. Most writers, especially in TV and movies, keep those pretty superficial and simplistic, in comparison to the The Super Important, Super Dramatic Romantic-Sexual Couple Relationship. But I’ve had no problem writing nonsexual relationships in story after story that come with their own drama, their own conflict, their own emotional rewards.
And hey. The relationship central to Sherlock, by your own admission, is devoid of sexuality. You’re already doing it. And no one’s bored. If we were bored by asexual!celibate!Sherlock, we wouldn’t be as obsessed with this show that only has six damn episodes, and for the longest time, actually only had 3! (I know a shitload of fans think there’s sexual tension between Sherlock and John, but for the sake of argument, indulge me for a minute.)
Asexual Relationship Tension:
- Asexual lucks out and scores a nonsexual romantic relationship or a primary platonic relationship but still feels consistently insecure that the other person (most likely sexual) will leave them one day for something better, something more normative, a typical romantic-sexual relationship
- Asexual is totally misunderstood by outside world because of having some kind of a partner. “I thought you were asexual. Doesn’t that mean you have no interest in serious relationships?” “Are you two having sex?” “You’re not having sex? So you’re just friends, then.” “You’re not having sex? How can your partner stand that?” “Platonic partners? That’s not a real thing.”
- Asexual has ordinary fights with romantic or platonic partner, just like any sexual person would in a close relationship.
- Asexual in loving relationship with other asexual: misunderstood by the outside world in various ways.
- Asexual in loving relationship with other asexual: standard emotional/personal conflict over issues that have nothing to do with sex or even love.
- Asexual in nonsexual open romantic relationship with sexual person feels threatened by the other (sexual) partner.
- Asexual in primary platonic partnership with sexual person feels threatened by partner’s sex life.
- Asexual in primary platonic relationship with sibling: unique issues.
- Asexual in primary platonic relationship with cousin: unique issues.
- Asexual desperate for love but unable to trust in sexual person (whether the relationship is romantic of platonic) and is the one to leave, in an act of self-protection. Angst in the asexual, angst in their partner, fights over it, etc.
And you know? Even if there’s no major conflict (or sexual tension) in a nonsexual character relationship involving an asexual, that doesn’t make it any less compelling or interesting. The degree of emotional substance in a character relationship isn’t directly tied to sexuality or romance. I’ve never written a sexual relationship in my life and I’ve also never written an emotionally flat or superficial relationship in my life.
There is nothing easy or simple or boring about my life, sir. Being a celibate asexual—who doesn’t even date, I might add!—hasn’t bought me a one-way ticket out of emotional or relational conflict. It hasn’t destroyed my desire for love and intimacy. It hasn’t removed tension from my existing relationships, even though none of them have ever been sexual. It hasn’t spared me pain. It’s created pain. The only thing celibate asexuality has bought me is a bunch of social desires that are totally misplaced in this world and a life that may be spent entirely, unhappily alone, surrounded by people like you who just don’t get it and probably never will.
So. Before you, as a writer and artistic creator, dismiss the dramatic potential of an asexual character’s life…. why don’t you stop for a moment and actually imagine what it means to be such a person, in this world.
Your comments ultimately come from an attitude that privileges sex over love (and romance over nonromance, for the record). I’m not surprised you would feel that way, but I must say: sexual tension is ultimately fleeting. Emotional tension can be endless. If you seek to write great drama, it’s the latter you want to pay attention to. And emotional tension doesn’t need sex as a crutch.
737 Notes/ Hide
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