This is for the November 2012 Carnival of Aces.
If you don’t know what’s what, the introduction can get you up to speed.
I think Yang Guo, the main protagonist of Shēn Diāo Xiá Lǚ, is asexual. I don’t know whether that’s intentional, but the novel makes more sense to me that way.
The novel starts when Yang Guo is a young boy, and continues until he is well into his 30s.
What are distinctly absent are his sexual feelings.
First of all, in spite of many years of celibacy, he doesn’t display the slightest bit of sexual frustration.
He spends years living alone with Xiaolongnü, the love of his life, without showing any sexual attraction to her. There are scenes where Yang Guo is alone, naked, with a naked Xiaolongnü … and not a single sexual thought enters his head. Short of Yang Guo jumping up an yelling ‘I AM NOT SEXUALLY ATTRACTED TO HER’, I cannot think of any clearer evidence that he is not sexually attracted to Xiaolongnü.
But just because his romantic and sexual attractions are not aligned doesn’t mean that he’s not sexual attracted to anybody else.
In the entire novel, this is the very closest thing I can find to sexual attraction on Yang Guo’s part:
By the time Yang Guo woke up, it was already daylight. He saw Ji Qingxu leaning on the table, deeply asleep, and Lu Wushuang’s fine nose, and her two slightly rosy cheeks, and her two pink lips poking up. He couldn’t help but feel a great heartthrob, and thought ‘if I softly kissed her a little kiss, she would never know.’ The heart of young man who had never kissed a girl was entering first bloom, and at this moment felt the rising sun. At the climax of this yearning, he thought of how lovely her breasts are, making him even more restless. He stretched out his tongue, to meet her lips. But before they touched, he caught a whiff of fragrance, which shook his heart, and his hot blood bubbled up. He saw her lightly knitted brows, and then felt a dream-like bone-crushing pain. Yang Guo noticed what was happening, and he suddenly thought of Xiaolongnü and the promise he made to her ‘for my whole life I will only have gugu in my heart, and if my feelings change, gugu will not need to kill me, for I will immediately kill myself.’ His whole body broke out into a cold sweat, dripping for a while. He slapped himself twice, then leaped off the bed.
Apologies for the mediocre translation. It reads much better in Chinese.
Based on this passage, I will grant that Yang Guo has some kind of physical attraction to Lu Wushuang. It might even be sexual attraction (which would put Yang Guo in gray-asexual territory). But Yang Guo spends quite a bit of time with Lu Wushuang, and this is the only time he experiences anything like this. While his promise to Xiaolongnü might prevent him from acting on sexual attraction, I don’t think it would stop him from feeling sexual attraction, so the fact that this only happens once indicates that the attraction isn’t that strong.
And if this was the most sexual feeling that somebody over the age of 30 had ever felt, I would think that person is asexual.
But maybe Jin Yong (the writer) is not writing about Yang Guo’s sexual feelings because he’s a prude or something. I’ll address that argument in Part 3.