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Asexuality in Sherlock - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Asexuality in Sherlock
Steven Moffat gave an interview about BBC Sherlock  in which he managed to undo much of the good that has been done regarding asexual awareness in that series.  I mean the first episode made it pretty clear that (this) Sherlock is just not interested in sexual/romantic relationships: "Not my area." and "I consider myself married to my work."  That was terrific.  Contradicting that after the fact, not so terrific; it's lousy publicity and inexcusably sloppy storytelling.  Once a character trait is established, it must not be changed without showing the process of evolution and plausible reason for it; inconsistent characterization is a serious flaw.  

An ace-friendly deconstruction of the more obnoxious lines in the interview is online.  This one really caught my attention:

“Moffat is not saying that Sherlock, like Austin Powers, misplaced his mojo. ‘It’s the choice of a monk, not the choice of an asexual. If he was asexual, there would be no tension in that, no fun in that – it’s someone who abstains who’s interesting. There’s no guarantee that he’ll stay that way in the end – maybe he marries Mrs Hudson. I don’t know!’”

Is sex really the ONLY thing some people can rate as interesting?  What is this, high school?  Let's leave room for some variety in storytelling.  No matter how much popular a given motif is, a steady supply gets boring and people want something else.  We really need more positive portrayals of the full range of human sexuality, including asexuality; and while we're at it, also more nonsexual intimacies.  Mix it up.  And do your research.

I am suddenly extra glad that I have a fishbowl coming up that features Hart's Farm, a setting with two asexual characters, lots of other sexualities, and a penchant for showing affection outside of sex.  I'm tired of dysfunctional families, uncommunicative relationships, and characters whose people skills all suck.  We do not need any more of this kind of thinking.  Stab it with pencils and beat it to death with merry bundles of cash.  Meanwhile -- The Odd Trio and Path of the Paladins also feature some asexual characters, available on the Serial Poetry page.

I haven't seen season 2 of Sherlock  yet.  I loved season 1.  I do plan to watch season 2 when I have the chance, but I have mixed feelings about it given what I've heard so far.  Perhaps if I throw my expectations down the basement stairs before watching, I'll be pleasantly surprised.

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Current Mood: frustrated frustrated

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Comments
impishtubist From: impishtubist Date: June 16th, 2012 04:13 am (UTC) (Link)
The first episode of series 2, when I watched it without listening to anyone else's commentary or reading interviews, came off to me as very much upholding Sherlock's asexuality. It was only after, when I read others' interpretations and some frankly appalling interviews from Moffat & Co., that I realized not everyone came away with that impression. Nonetheless, I do believe he can safely be interpreted as such, despite what the actors might like to say. Hopefully you will be pleasantly surprised, as I was upon my initial viewing. :)
impishtubist From: impishtubist Date: June 16th, 2012 04:14 am (UTC) (Link)
... And I just realized that you linked to the Tumblr post that Jey and I kind of put together. So... never mind. You know all this already :)
estaratshirai From: estaratshirai Date: June 16th, 2012 06:02 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I'm perfectly happy with asexual Sherlock and don't need him thrown at some girls (or Watson, for that matter) to spice him up, thanks. It may be ironic coming from someone who has written so many thousands of words of erotic fanfic, but sometimes one does like to watch characters focus on something other than where they can stow their genitals. Especially when everything else about the character tells one that genital-stowing is not high on their list of priorities.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 16th, 2012 06:06 am (UTC) (Link)

*laugh*

Well put. I like many different flavors of Sherlock, in this and other renditions. But I'm especially partial to ace!Sherlock a la BBC Sherlock, because episode 1 did such a fine job of supporting that and there's very little else in the way of ace heroes. I think we need characters who can prioritize something other than "desperate for a shag."
(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 16th, 2012 05:35 pm (UTC) (Link)

*sigh*

You're flying through time and space in a phone booth and all you can think about is sex? You! Out of the genre pool, now! The romance hot tub is over there.
fenm From: fenm Date: June 17th, 2012 02:52 am (UTC) (Link)
I've said this elsewhere, I'll say here too: Not only is the "asexuals are boring" thing bullshit, I can think of at least one scenario in which Sherlock being a romantic asexual would be MORE interesting. Imagine he fell in love with someone who was sexual. If he was just "abstaining", he could just decide to have sex--problem solved. But if he doesn't like or want sex, that creates an issue that needs to be dealt with. Which of those two scenarios sounds more interesting to you?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 17th, 2012 03:49 am (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>> Not only is the "asexuals are boring" thing bullshit <<

Well, yes. Though to be fair, many asexuals find sexual stuff boring.

>>I can think of at least one scenario in which Sherlock being a romantic asexual would be MORE interesting. Imagine he fell in love with someone who was sexual. If he was just "abstaining", he could just decide to have sex--problem solved. But if he doesn't like or want sex, that creates an issue that needs to be dealt with.<<

That does seem to be a common experience, mainly for romantic asexuals, but sometimes even the aromantic folks find someone they really like ... who wants to have sex, which is awkward. Which is a story.

>> Which of those two scenarios sounds more interesting to you? <<

Both as a writer and a reader, I tend to be attracted to stories that haven't already been done to death. Finding something new to say about sexual relationships is hard, because it's an overwhelmingly popular topic. But asexual relationships, sheesh, people haven't even finished naming the kinds yet, let alone mapped out the common and uncommon variations. There's a lot of potential to get in there and tell NEW stories ... to an audience that wants something other than two bodies humping on a bed and is therefore bored and annoyed with a majority of mainstream media. So it's a low-competition as well as high-potential field. Writer candy. That's one reason I've been writing more about asexual characters recently, though I've had some all along.
moonvoice From: moonvoice Date: June 17th, 2012 02:53 am (UTC) (Link)
‘It’s the choice of a monk, not the choice of an asexual. If he was asexual, there would be no tension in that, no fun in that – it’s someone who abstains who’s interesting. There’s no guarantee that he’ll stay that way in the end – maybe he marries Mrs Hudson. I don’t know!’”

Aaaargh. I've long had a problem with Steven Moffat's sexism and his various attitudes towards non-normative sexuality (don't get me started on his recent spate of offensive tweets about bisexuality), so the only thing that really surprises me about his offensive comment here is that it took him so long to actually to say something like this. D:

The idea that asexual people can't generate conflict or tension or hell, even sexual tension (if they're libidoist asexual, for example, or simply an ace person who has sex because they enjoy sensations of physical arousal sans sexual attraction) is just ignorant and harmful and perpetuates this idea that ace people deserve to be othered or invisibilised in the media.

Angry-making, that's for sure. D: Steven Moffat has this habit of appearing to go two steps forward and then a short time later taking three steps back. His attitudes towards women overall are pretty shitty too, imho. He's said some truly dreadful crap about women, including the *wonderful*:

“I don’t know how well women come out of Coupling,” says Moffat, the son of a headmaster, who taught English in Greenock before following his original writerly instincts and scoring his first success with Press Gang. “There’s this issue you’re not allowed to discuss: that women are needy. Men can go for longer, more happily, without women. That’s the truth. We don’t, as little boys, play at being married - we try to avoid it for as long as possible. Meanwhile women are out there hunting for husbands.”

So... yeah. I can enjoy Moffat's storytelling and scripting. But as a man, I mostly think he's a bit of a privileged dick.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 17th, 2012 03:35 am (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>>I've long had a problem with Steven Moffat's sexism and his various attitudes towards non-normative sexuality (don't get me started on his recent spate of offensive tweets about bisexuality)<<

Now you've got me wondering. And tapping my cluehammer against my palm.

>>The idea that asexual people can't generate conflict or tension or hell, even sexual tension (if they're libidoist asexual, for example, or simply an ace person who has sex because they enjoy sensations of physical arousal sans sexual attraction) is just ignorant and harmful and perpetuates this idea that ace people deserve to be othered or invisibilised in the media.<<

Yeah, two minutes on any asexual forum or blog will turn up a whole bunch of situations where aces encounter conflict and/or sexual tension. There really needs to be an article on this, listing common experiences and conflicts, though I don't know if I'm the best person to write it.

>> Men can go for longer, more happily, without women. <<

*blink* That is the opposite of what I have observed. Men tend to really want sex. Women may or may not enjoy it (perhaps because not all men know what to do with a clitoris) and crave it. A good description I've found is that men use relationships to get sex, while women use sex to get relationships. Though none of that is absolute.

firecat From: firecat Date: June 17th, 2012 09:29 am (UTC) (Link)
This was discussed in a panel at Wiscon and we decided anyone who thought that there can't be any tension with an asexual character wasn't a very imaginative writer. Which, well, I do think Moffat is an imaginative writer. But not about that, I guess.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 17th, 2012 05:33 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

>>This was discussed in a panel at Wiscon and we decided anyone who thought that there can't be any tension with an asexual character wasn't a very imaginative writer.<<

... and doesn't know much about asexuality or asexual people, because it only takes a glance to find the conversations about life challenges due to sexual disinterest.
tuftears From: tuftears Date: June 18th, 2012 01:28 am (UTC) (Link)
Not having seen the show but having read most of the Holmes stories, I curiously wonder if Irene Adler has made her appearance?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 18th, 2012 01:42 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

The Woman is in season 2, which I have not yet seen, but my parents are planning to pick up the DVDs for us.
labingi From: labingi Date: June 19th, 2012 03:27 am (UTC) (Link)
Here via .

Is sex really the ONLY thing some people can rate as interesting? What is this, high school?

Hear, hear. Moffat makes a decent point that stories and characters need tension, but his point falls apart at the assumption that only abstaining from sex to concentrate on work creates tension. Being asexual in a world that 1) doesn't think you exist and 2) if it does admit you exist, can't start to begin to understand anything about you (QED Steven Moffat) is plenty tension-generating, as Sherlock shows quite well.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 19th, 2012 06:08 am (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>> Moffat makes a decent point that stories and characters need tension, but his point falls apart at the assumption that only abstaining from sex to concentrate on work creates tension. <<

One classic set is:
* man against man
* man against nature
* man against himself

There are very many different types of conflict. A story is just what happens when somebody wants something and it isn't within easy reach.

>> Being asexual in a world that 1) doesn't think you exist and 2) if it does admit you exist, can't start to begin to understand anything about you (QED Steven Moffat) is plenty tension-generating, as Sherlock shows quite well.<<

I agree. I loved that initial scene in the diner with John trying to figure out Sherlock's orientation.
paka From: paka Date: June 19th, 2012 10:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
I dunno, this sounds like less of an official character description so much as an official attempt to quiet questions. Sort of a "write fanfic all you want, guys, but we are not having the character run off and get it on with anyone within the series."
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