This is for the November 2012 Carnival of Aces. Here is the introduction.
So I have been talking a lot about Yang Guo … what about the other main character, Xiaolongnü?
Well, at a very young age she was trained to kill her feelings. Now, it turns out that she didn’t actually kill them, she merely repressed them very deeply. Nonetheless, the process went so far that, when she’s introduced, she doesn’t care about her own death – it makes no difference to her whether she dies old or dies young.
Usually, I dismiss the ‘asexuals aren’t really asexual, just repressed’ trope. But Xiaolongnü’s feelings in general are so repressed that I have to seriously consider the possibility her sexual feelings might be included.
This, by the way, is the opposite of Yang Guo. Yang Guo wears his heart on his sleeve so much (except when he’s consciously trying to deceive someone) that the absence of sexual feelings is … noteworthy.
What evidence is there for Xiaolongnü?
In the novel, Xiaolongnü generally does think more about sex than Yang Guo … but thinking about sex is not the same thing as experiencing sexual attraction. When she mistakenly thinks that Yang Guo is pursuing sex with her, she’s happy – but it’s not clear to me that she’s happy because she’s sexually attracted or because it’s a sign that he likes her (actually, it could be both).
That’s not a lot of evidence for sexual attraction … but in the context of Xiaolongnü being repressed in general and the fact that she still manages to display more interest in sex than Yang Guo, I can’t really make a case for her being asexual.
But you know what? It’s also hard to make a case for her being heterosexual.
Okay, I know we live in a hetero-normative society. Without evidence to the contrary, everybody is heterosexual. I get that.
But let’s remove the heterosexual assumption for a minute.
I can’t find any evidence that Xiaolongnü is heterosexual either.
Sure, there are very, very light hints, but without the heterosexual assumption, I wouldn’t build a house of cards on that. And I don’t necessarily want the heterosexual assumption in my foundation either.
So my conclusion is that, I don’t know what Xiaolongnü’s sexual orientation is. And that’s okay, I don’t have to know.
I also think that you don’t know either.