Asexual Themes in Shēn Diāo Xiá Lǚ (Part 5): A Frighteningly Familiar Scene

Rather than discussing asexuality specifically in this post, I am going a look at a scene which, in my opinion, reflects on GSM relationships in general.

TRIGGER WARNING: Receiving death threats due to non-normative bonding

Note: This has been abridged for brevity (and this translation is merely mediocre)

Guo Jing’s tone became warmer as he said “Guo’er, everybody has gone too far at some time. People can know and fix their mistakes. Not respecting seniority … that would be a big mistake, so think a little bit.”

Yang Guo said “If I’ve done anything wrong, of course I’ll make up for it. But my relationship with gūgu is completely pure. I respect and love her, is that a mistake?

Guo Jing’s words could not counter Yang Guo’s, what could he say? But his heart knew that Yang Guo was making a great error, and didn’t know how to make him understand. He just said “This … this … you’re wrong…”

Huang Rong said “You want a clear answer? She is your shifu, and your senior. Romance and carnal activity between seniors and juniors is absolutely forbidden.”

Neither Yang Guo nor Xiaolongnü knew about this rule. And he couldn’t accept it. Just because gūgu had taught him martial arts, she couldn’t be his wife? Why couldn’t even Uncle Guo Jing believe that they had done nothing illicit? This made his chest burst with anger. He was a fiery and forthright person, and now that he had been falsely blamed, he could control himself even less. He shouted “What have I done to hinder you? Who have I hurt? Gūgu taught me martial arts, but I want her to be my wife. Even if you cut me with a thousand knives, ten thousand knives, I would still want to marry her.”

These shocking words startled all present. To hear such defiance of the ways of the Song Chinese hurt the ears. Guo Jing had respected the title of shifu all his life, and just hearing this made him boil with anger. He stepped forward and grabbed Yang Guo’s chest.

He yelled “you monster, you dare utter something so outrageous?”

Yang Guo under his grasp lost all of his physical strength, but his heart was still steadfast, and said with a full voice “Gūgu loves me with all her heart, and I the same towards her. Uncle Guo Jing, if you want to kill me, then strike. I will never change my mind.”

Guo Jing said “To me, you are just like my own son. I cannot let you do something so wrong.”

Resolutely, Yang Guo replied “I have done no wrong. I have done no evil. I have hurt no one.”

This chilled everybody. They felt that these heartfelt words had reason. If these two had said nothing, and went to a far corner of the world, or settled in a remote village as husband and wife, without anybody the wiser, then this would have harmed nobody. But to so publicly commit such an outrageous act, it was against human decency.

Guo Jing raised his hand, and furiously said “Guo’er, I cherish you, care for you, love you, do you understand? I would rather have you die, than let you do such evil, you understand?” He was already choking down his tears.

Hearing this, Yang Guo knew that he could not take back his words, and that Uncle Guo Jing was going to kill him. Though he was often so clever, at this moment he did not yield, and clearly said “I know that I have done no wrong. If you don’t believe me, then go ahead and kill me.”

Guo Jing’s left hand was raised high, ready to crash down on Yang Guo’s pressure points. Everybody’s breath was stopped, and hundreds of eyes were fixed on that hand.

Now, in the Jin Yong universe (which is where this novel takes place), sexual or romantic relationships between shifu (teachers/masters) and tuer (students/apprentices) are even more strongly taboo than homosexual/romantic relationships. If Yang Guo had said that he wanted to marry a man, Guo Jing would have been upset, but probably not so much that he would have threatened to kill him. In this context, Yang Guo saying that he wants to marry his shifu is about as taboo as saying that he wants to marry his aunt, in fact, gūgu DOES mean ‘paternal aunt’ (in the context of Chinese culture, sexual relations with paternal relatives are considered more incestuous than those with maternal relatives).

That said, most Chinese-speakers nowadays would say that Yang Guo and Xiaolongnü’s relationship is okay. This specific novel influenced many people’s opinions about this issue, and probably encouraged them to rethink certain traditional Chinese values.

Now, while US culture does not approve of sexual/romantic relationships between teachers and students, they are not targeted with anything near the same level of hate as, say, lesbian relationships. I have a hard time imagining somebody receiving a death threat specifically because they want to marry their teacher. Unfortunately, I have no trouble imagining somebody receiving a death threat because they want to marry someone of the same gender.

When I first read this scene, I immediately thought that this scene could play out almost exactly the same for many other kinds of non-normative relationships. Threatening somebody with death just because they want to marry their teacher or someone of the same gender is both ridiculous and wrong, for reasons that I think Yang Guo explains pretty well. And the fact that Yang Guo’s arguments could work just as well for same-gender couples, or genderqueer people, or a whole array of non-normative relationships, demonstrates part of the value of intersectionality.

Go to part 6.

1 thought on “Asexual Themes in Shēn Diāo Xiá Lǚ (Part 5): A Frighteningly Familiar Scene

  1. Pingback: Where Are the Passionate Aces in Fiction? | The Notes Which Do Not Fit

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