Today is the 5th Day of Asexuality Awareness Week. If Asexuality Awareness Week is like the Working Week, then today is also the Final Day of Asexuality Awereness Week. I believe that a week ends on a Sunday, and a new week starts on a Monday, so therefore, as far as I’m concerned, today is the 5th Day of Asexuality Awareness Week, but it isn’t the Final Day. That’d be Sunday.
And now we’ve got that trivial matter out of the way, I am free to share more pearls of wisdom with you concerning Asexuality.
So what’s on the cards today? The Portrayal of Asexuality Within Popular Culture.
I’m going to be honest here, we don’t get much representation on TV. I can think of three well known people who are said to be Asexual, and two of them are fictional.
The first is Sheldon Cooper, the super genius from The Big Bang Theory who is riddled with autistic-like behaviours and obsessive compulsive disorders. In the first two series, he was shown as not having any interest in anyone on a romantic-based relationship level. Considering the way he treats his friends, it’s sometimes hard to believe he’s maintained friendships. From what i’ve noticed, he sees things as “Scientifically Relevant”, “Relevant to his interests or well being” and “Irrelevant”. He has changed over time and now he even has a “girlfriend”, who from where I saw upto, he referred to as “a friend who was a girl”.
Now, I know that asexuals can have relationships. Some asexuals even have sex. I have said this. Sheldon being in a relationship isn’t the problem. It’s the attitude towards him being in a relationship and the rest of his character. At first, I really liked Sheldon and then, I don’t know, as the series went on, I just felt more and more like he was giving Asexuals a bit of a bad name. Or at least helping bad stereotypes.
It’s his idiosyncracies that might not be related to Autism, it’s his problems understanding people and relationships and it’s this idea that if he is and since he has been in a relationship, he’ll “get more normal”. It’s the idea that, because Sheldon is alone in his quirky little world, he’s missing out on something and this relationship with Amy, that’s the character’s name, is going to make him realise that and “fix” everything. I really like the actor who plays the character, but even he has said some things in interviews that have got to me. I just feel like all these things, together, make Asexuality seem like some sort of disorder.
Isn’t it bad enough that people think that a lack of interest in sex and relationships is an indicator of depression?
The second is Sherlock Holmes. ACD never used the word “Asexual”, to my knowledge, but he very much said that Holmes showed no interest in people in a romantic sense. He had no time for them. People were tools to get to the important thing, the crimes and the understanding of how and why crimes were done. He was pretty much an early day Criminalist with a love of Chemistry. The only people who “caught his attention” one way or another, even outside of the cases and the drug use, were John Watson, the only person who Sherlock Holmes considered close enough intellectually to him for him to be considered a friend and a colleague, and Irene Adler. The One Woman who bested him. People can see this as a romantic thing, and it is up for interpretation. I see it this way:
In the era Sherlock Holmes is set, Women were still second class citizens. Adler was your average woman, who just happened to be a common criminal. She wasn’t a mastermind. There is cleverness in the incredibly simple, and someone so smart like Holmes was bound to overlook the simple things. He is so used to people trying to best him by raising the bar higher than he has set himself, he never anticipated someone reaching lower. So someone of average intelligence getting the upper hand was a big punch to his ego, the fact that it was a woman doubly so. So she became The Woman. The only one worth his attention.
Yes, it’s such a cliche that arch-enemies of opposite gender are just so full of hatred for each other, it’s actually pure attraction. But Sherlock Holmes? I don’t see that trope, myself.
Now there’s a modern remake of Sherlock Holmes and I have to say, I absolutely love it. And moreso, Sherlock implies right in the first episode that he holds no interest in romantic relationships. His actual words are “Girlfriends? Not really my area”, he doesn’t have a boyfriend, and he considers himself “Married to his work”. Later on he says he’s a High Functioning Sociopath, but I honestly reckon that’s a misdiagnosis, self-diagnosis, and/or a complete great wall of China to keep people away. You’d be surprised at how often people of high intellect see a pattern and develop one of their own in reaction to protect themselves. When you’re a genius who probably got mocked and ostracised by everyone, have enough understanding of people to manipulate them but have no personal experience to uphold relationships, you’re probably going to find it difficult to work with people. People who seem to direct their intelligences in different ways. (Apart from John Watson, who can just about keep-up)
And honestly, some of the facial expressions and pauses pretty much shoot the idea that he’s a “high-functioning sociopath” right out the window for me.
Now, I have been asked what the difference is between Sheldon and Sherlock for me to like one portrayal of Asexuality and not the other. The simple answer is this:
Even Sheldon’s friends try to change Sheldon, and Sheldon doesn’t seem to do himself any favours in that respect. There is a lot more focus on how weird, quirky and riddled with disorders he is, it makes me feel like they’re saying “Sheldon is asexual BECAUSE of the rest of the way he is.” Where as with Sherlock, I don’t get anything like that from those portrayals. Sherlock doesn’t abhore company, touch or even other people, he just hates idiots and stupid mistakes and people who can’t see what is obvious to him. Watson might try and help ground Sherlock, he is certainly a liason between The Rest of The World and Sherlock Holmes, but rolls with the punches. Holmes says something callous, and Watson understands WHY he’s said it. He probably won’t agree, he might try to tell Holmes it’s not acceptable behaviour, but he still treats Sherlock with respect and kindness. And most of all, when relationships become a focus within the stories, the films and the shows, I get the feeling that they’re saying “Sherlock is a genius who can’t stand idiots. He is ALSO Asexual.” They are not connected. It somehow, very subtly, seems to have a very good positive look on Asexuality, without explicitly saying so.
The third person I know of that’s said to be is Lady Gaga. I have no opinions what so ever on her portrayal of an Asexual to the public eye. If she is asexual, then she seems at least to be a sex-positive one. The problem I have, to be honest, is… she’s a very big attention seeker and she says a lot of stuff in interviews that seem to be said just for shock value. Here is this provocatively dressed singer, sings about relationships with people… saying she’s asexual. It doesn’t add up, but maybe that’s a good thing. Stops some stereotypes or pre-conceived ideas in their tracks. But she reminds me of this friend I once had who was a compulsive liar. He always wanted attention and he would come out with the thing that would give him the most attention at that time. For a while, he was openly gay. Asexuality is something that is gaining in visibility. I wouldn’t say it’s an “In-thing”, but more and more people are becoming aware of it and though they might not know anyone, they recognise that it is something that a lot of people are and know that it’s sometimes considered a “controversial issue”, due to people being disbelieving about it.
So being a famous singer who thrives on getting attention for being “out of the oridnary”, what could make you seem more out of the ordinary? Why, being part of a minority that is just gaining awareness. It’s passed the “Whaaaaat is that?” phase, it’s moved onto the “We’ve heard about it, but we don’t believe it” stage and it’s just the perfect time for someone to voice their asexuality without too much of a backlash. If you’re a famous person anyway. There’s always good lawyers on their side…
And if she isn’t really asexual, I think we as a minority sexuality could face a very big backlash. We are, comparitively, in the stages homosexuality was in the 70s and 80s.
And that’s all I have to say for today. I welcome discussion on this entry and anything I’ve said, but I can’t actually reply to comments individually, so please keep checking back for responses on future updates.