Asexuality in Popular Media

I love seeing asexuals represented in the media, unfortunately it literally never happens.

The three main examples of asexuals that we have right now are Dr Who, Sherlock Holmes and Sheldon Lee Cooper from the Big Bang Theory. These three are the only asexuals that I’ve been able to find. (I’ve excluded cartoon characters, since their young audience tends to mean that their inherently asexual.) It is possible that there are other asexual characters out there, but these are the only ones that I see on a daily basis.

One of the main problems here is that asexuality is largely constructed as being something absurdly different. According to TV, normal people can’t be asexual. So the only examples we have are either alien (Dr Who) or possibly aspergic (Sherlock and Sheldon). Asexuals also can’t be female according to the medias representation, because god forbid a woman wouldn’t want to have sex. What a terrible message that would be to send out.

There’s also a massive issue in that although these characters were originally created to be asexual, recent writers and directors have ruined the characterisation.

Dr Who:

The Doctor started off as an asexual. His relationship with his companions was strictly platonic. It can be argued that since Susan is his granddaughter, then he must have had sex at some point however, he also had a daughter by accidently using a progenation machine, so anything is possible.

Matt Smith has been reported as saying that he deliberately played the Doctor as asexual, however the recent episodes have made it clear that the Doctor is very into kissing, regardless as to whether or not he has consent. In fact, this goes so far that it can easily be argued that he sexually assaulted Jenny (a queer, married woman) in the episode Crimson Horror.

Sherlock:

Sherlock is an asexual/aromantic character, regardless as to what the fanfiction tells you. Unfortunately, a lot of adaptions misinterpret his relationship with Irene Adler. In the story, Irene intrigued Sherlock purely because she was the only person to outsmart him. Here’s an extract from the beginning of Scandal in Bohemia;

To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind.

And equally, Irene has no interest in Sherlock and at the end of the story, she escapes with her husband Norton.
The BBC series tries to keep in aspects of Sherlocks original characterisation, but they were waaaay off base with Irene.

However, that’s not nearly as bad as the portrayal in the American series ‘Elementary’. In Elementary, they make it incredibly obvious that Sherlock has an incredibly active sex life, and he even refers to Watson as a “prude” after she questions him exchanging erotic letters with a woman he’s never met.

There’s a fine line between developing a character and going overboard with the development. The writers of Elementary appear to have missed this line completely.

Big Bang Theory:

At the start of this post I mentioned that there are no female asexuals in media, which is a shame, because we used to have a great one.

When Amy Farrah Fowler was introduced, she and Sheldon made the perfect couple because they were equally uninterested in physical contact and equally uninterested in social interactions.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t interested enough, and in the space of one episode Amy suddenly developed a sex drive. Now, watching the new episodes, there are an average of about five ‘Amy is frustrated’ or ‘Sheldon doesn’t understand sex’ jokes every episode.

Asexuality isn’t being represented as a liveable life choice. It’s being represented as a joke. And in an episode that hasn’t aired in the UK yet, the couple kiss. Now, I haven’t seen this episode yet, but I really hope that it isn’t going to be the case that Sheldon finally understands Amy’s nagging and gives in to placate her. If it’s the case that Sheldon develops his own desire to have physical contact, then that’s not quite as bad. But I still don’t see why these characters need to have a sexual relationship to be ‘normal’.

EDIT: Never mind. Big Bang sucks.

Let me know what you think. Are there any asexual characters that I’ve missed off? Is there a decent depiction out there? I’d love to find any other adaptions.

EDIT:

Shortly after writing this blog post, I came across this tumblr post about the tv show Sirens which includes a female asexual character. This hasn’t come over to the UK yet, but I’m really hoping it does as it appears to go against everything that I’ve written about in the post as it includes a female asexual character, whose asexuality isn’t linked to any social disorder. If you have access to it, go check it out and let me know if it’s as good as it seems.

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19 thoughts on “Asexuality in Popular Media

  1. rescatooor

    I always considered Mr Bean an asexual character, although a bit older one. Sure he has a girlfriend but they don’t appear to be anything like lovers. I guess he falls for the aspergic category you described. The asexual females don’t really exist, do they? They usually melt for the charm of some male character in the end. It seems the characters only try to repress their sexuality to appear tougher and more accepted among men.

    Reply
    1. kellisina Post author

      That’s a good point! I never even thought about Mr Bean. He would definitely fall under the aspergic category, although I’m pretty sure the opening started with him being allegedly dropped from a UFO so he could be an alien…

      Reply
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  4. Joy

    From what I’ve read kissing isn’t necessary sexual, and Asexuality is a spectrum so hunch one Asexual can be fine even liking kissing while another doesn’t.

    Reply
    1. kellisina Post author

      Thats very true.
      But for the purposes of this blog I used that definition because the character all displayed a dislike for any kind of contact ranging from hand holding to sex.

      Reply
      1. joy

        Okay that makes sense, I’m glad you are not upset I have anxiety so I normally fear on upsetting others.

        According to the creator of the show Spongebob is Asexual he didn’t specificity on what he meant(people pointed out he could have meant in biology as sponge’s make babies though making bubbles), but Spongebob being Asexual makes a lot of sense, as he never shown a psychical attention(other then one joke), and he’s far from your stereotype asexual.

      2. kellisina Post author

        Of course I’m not upset 🙂

        I think the trouble with kids cartoons is that they have to be asexual. The creators aren’t exactly going to make a kids character who shows interest in sex. The best they can really show is aromatisim.
        Its interesting that you mention spongebob, because I recently saw a comparison between the the characters and the seven deadly sins. The used the word lust to mean the desire for love and affection and thought that spongebob was the one who symbolised it.

      3. kellisina Post author

        It didn’t upset me at all! I just got around to replying because I’ve been pretty swamped lately and hadn’t had a time to check my wordpress. I’m sorry if I had you worried D:

  5. joy

    Don’t worry about it-I have Generalized anxiety and slight social anxiety so upsetting others is just something I’n normally afraid of.

    Reply
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  7. Kathryn W

    Hey! Just wanted to note that I think Elementary’s Sherlock is probably not asexual but definitely aromantic or at least gray-aromantic (Irene being the one exception). He’s very keen on sex, sure, but whenever romantic love comes up he always goes out of his way to remind everybody that as far as he’s concerned it’s purely a social construct and a waste of time. The Conan Doyle section you quote is about romantic attraction, and though I haven’t read all of the canon I’m guessing that nothing in it either confirms or denies Holmes’ ability to feel sexual attraction.

    You could probably consider BBC Sherlock aromantic with an exception, too, but considering co-creator Steven Moffat has gone on record as saying asexuality is “boring,” and it’s only “someone who abstains [despite their desires] who’s interesting,” you’re going to get betrayed by the show sooner or later.

    Also I started watching Sirens because I saw the same post about Voodoo and it was indeed pretty great. They get into some of the difficulties of being ace in a relationship with an allosexual person, and I’m pretty heartbroken that we won’t be getting more seasons because I definitely got the sense that Voo’s story wasn’t supposed to finish like it did. Plus it was just a really nice, warm fuzzies kind of show with a lot of adorable people.

    Reply
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