I was going to do something different today, but — inspired Opinionated Man’s generalizations about women — I decided to do what all online aces do and talk about Steven Moffat, the infamously-misogynist writer currently in charge of Sherlock and Doctor Who: two television programs featuring main characters who have been frequently interpreted as asexual. At least, that’s how a lot of fans see them. Moffat doesn’t take the same perspective. On Sherlock’s celibacy, he’s said, “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.”
Right. Because no conflicts could possibly arise over asexuality and the choices of asexuals. That wouldn’t be interesting.
Neither the Doctor nor Sherlock Holmes have to be portrayed as asexual, but it’d be nice if the man currently heading the ship for two of mainstream media’s very few possibly-asexual characters* wouldn’t write off the entire possibility as “no fun”.
*Some people count Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory as an unconfirmed ace. Other than that, for the most part, you have to turn to niche YA novels and webcomics to find any aces. This is part of why most people don’t think asexuality exists.
I haven’t watched Sherlock, just Elementary, the American version with the same basic concept. Based on what I’ve read about the former, the latter is a lot better — and not just because Elementary features a trans woman as Hudson and a Chinese-American woman as Watson (although if this were a competition based on the least reliance on straight White cis men, Elementary would be beating Sherlock out of the park).
Elementary is great for a lot of reasons. However, in terms of asexuality, it has its troubling points as well. In the pilot episode, asexual viewers were given a glimmer of hope that this rendition of Sherlock might be portrayed as a sex-repulsed ace. Take a look at this line from his dialogue.
Sherlock: I actually find sex repellent — all those fluids and odd sounds — but my body and brain require it to function at optimal levels.
Later in the episode, Watson accuses him of lying.
Joan: You’re trying too hard. Just like you were the other day with the tattooed lady, all that “sex is repellent” crap.
And in the show, that’s all it takes to dismiss the idea. For some people, sex is repellent; that’s how they actually feel, and that’s valid, but Joan acts like that’s not possible — and Sherlock doesn’t argue. The narrative treats the matter as if Joan is right. In context, whether or not he enjoys sex is being used as a means to prove or disprove whether he can “connect” with other people.
This whole plot thread was obnoxious.
Even though the show as a lot of good components (Alfredo FTW), it’s disappointing that once again, we’re being teased with the possibility of an asexual character only to have it taken away from us. When you’ve only got a handful of sparse representations to begin with, this sort of thing hurts.
Granted, just because it’s implied this Sherlock is not actually sex-repulsed does not mean that he couldn’t still be asexual. However, there are multiple scenes where his behavior suggests that he sees people as sexually attractive, and regardless, it’s disgusting that the idea of being sex-repulsed was so quickly waved off as ridiculous and impossible. Getting society to see sex-repulsed people as human and not broken and irrational is at least as important as achieving acceptance of asexuality. They’re not the same thing, but the two go hand in hand. Many aces are sex-repulsed, and for both, people are harassed and told all manner of invalidating crap like Joan’s comment above.
“No fun”, eh, Steven Moffat?
I’d have to agree with you.