Where Are the Passionate Aces in Fiction?

Some people have commented that most ace-spectrum characters tend to be very logical and relatively unemotional (or disconnected from their emotions). Two of the characters who are held up as examples of asexuals the most are Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who.

There is nothing wrong about having characters who are ace-spectrum and very logical and/or dispassionate … it is the lack of passionate, irrational ace characters which bothers me.

The underlying meme seems to be that, if you lack sexual/romantic feelings, it means you lack feelings.

That is not my experience. I consider myself overall to be full of powerful feelings. I manage my feelings to maintain my psychological balance, so it does not always show – but they certainly require management.

Looking back at my blog, I have discussed Shēn Diāo Xiá Lǚ in the following posts:

Asexual Themes in Shēn Diāo Xiá Lǚ part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, and part 8.
My Favorite Wedding Scene in All of Fiction
Yang Guo as an Asexual and Disabled Character

Is it debatable that Yang Guo is asexual? Yes. Is it debateable that he can be super happy, super sad, super angry, super silly, and spontaneously does creatively ridiculous things? Nope.

I think I end up talking about that novel so many times in this blog because that is the only major work I can think of which features a character who I headcanon as asexual who has powerful feelings which drive his creativity and irrationality. I want to discuss this type of character, in no small part because I consider myself to be a bit like this.

I also hope that I can get other people in the ace community to read/watch Shēn Diāo Xiá Lǚ and get it a place in ace culture. I realize the fact that the novel has never been published in English is a problem, but a) some people active in the English-language online ace community can read Chinese/Japanese/Indonesian/Thai/Vietnamese/Korean/etc. and thus can read a published form of the novel and b) some of the adaptations have been published/subtitled in English.

And I want more. I want more characters on the ace-spectrum who, without expressing sexual/romantic feelings, are fantastically creative, irrational, and passionate. Some of us are like this, or at least fantastize about being this way.

I want a diverse range – stories about many different kinds of passionate ace folk, in many different situations.

And I would like some character like this to, eventually, be considered as representative of ace pop culture as Sherlock is now.

If you know of any other fiction stories about characters who can at least be headcanoned as being on the asexual spectrum who are also creative, irrational, and passionate, please comment.

Otherwise, I suspect I am going to end up talking about Shēn Diāo Xiá Lǚ even more.


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Takarazuka for the Women

A poster for “The Rose of Versailles: Oscar Version” (2014)

In Osaka, I met a Japanese man who is a fan of the Takarazuka Revue. I commented that the vast majority of fans are women, and a fellow American asked what the Takarazuka Revue is. I explained that all of the performers are young women, and she (the American) was surprised that it mainly appeals to women. I talked about how, since all of the performers are female, all male characters are played by female performers, and my fellow American said she still did not understand why it does not have a large male audience.

An aside: to observe the gender ratios in Takarazuka audiences, just look at the bathrooms on the first floor of the Takarazuka Grand Theater. The women’s bathroom is huge … it has about 50 toilets … and yet there are still epic lines at intermission. The men’s bathroom is quite small, yet I never see any lines outside it.

Now, I think the American’s line of thought was 1) all of the performers are young women 2) young women = sex for straight men 3) therefore men come to enjoy the ‘sexiness’ of the young women.

This goes back to this assumption built into our culture that a young woman’s raison d’etre is to supply sex to men. If I describe a show as consisting entirely of young male performers, people generally do not assume that the audience primarily consists of straight women who want ‘sexy’ entertainment (in fact, ignoring what entertainment women are interested in is also a feature of mainstream American culture).

However, as can be demonstrated by the composition of the audience, that is not how the Takarazuka revue works. I have no doubt that some Takarazuka fans are queer women, but I also have no doubt that many are straight women.

In Japanese theatre, actresses have traditionally been forbidden, and all female roles were played by male performers. That meant that female performers could not express themselves publicly, and that female audiences could not see people of their own gender in public performances.

Granted, there are exceptions – for example, geiko and maiko sometimes put on public performances (I went to one, and I saw a lot of women in the audience, though there were also plenty of men).

But in Takarazuka, not only can women see women express themselves, but they can see women express non-femininity. This is hard to come by in Japan, particular in the relatively conservative space in which Takarazuka Revue exists. Since the Takarazuka Revue is conservative, it is ‘safe’, and it does not demand the same level of boldness as, say, radical feminism.

In other words, women can watch women step out of rigid female gender roles, with society’s blessing, even if it is just for the duration of a song and dance. I think might be part of the Takarazuka Revue’s appeal.

I know this is part of Takarazuka’s appeal to me. I appreciate the relatively low level of male gaze. As far as other reasons it appeals to me … well, that would be a subject for another post.


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My Pleasures Do Not Actually Have Much to Do with Asexuality

So the theme for this month’s Carnival of Aces is ‘pleasure’.

For me, asexuality and pleasure do not have anything to do with each other.

Right now, I am drinking a ginseng drink, and that is a source of pleasure. But lots of people who are not asexual get pleasure from ginseng drinks, and the pleasure I am getting from it has nothing to do with me being asexual.

Right now, I am in a hostel on Hong Kong island (that’s right, Hong Kong island, not Tsim Sha Tsui, I would not want to stay in Chongking Mansions), where I am meeting many other budget travellers, and I get pleasure from meeting different kinds of interesting people. But I do not think the pleasure I get from this has anything to do with asexuality.

The header for this blog shows an upside image of the hills of Jinguashi covered with silvergrass. Jiufen and Jinguashi are a top tourist magnet in Taiwan since it was an inspiration/location for both one of the most famous Taiwanese movies ever (A City of Sadness) AND one of the most famous Japanese movies ever (Spirited Away). On top of being very cinematic, this is one of the finest places to go hiking in northern Taiwan, and the fact that I put that photo as the header on the blog is a pretty big hint that hiking is a significant source of pleasure in my life. I love the endorphin rush, I love beautiful scenery, I love finding history and culture, and basically I love seeing new places and things. But I think that has basically nothing to do with me being asexual, since there are lots people who love hiking around Jinguashi, and I bet the vast majority of them are not asexual.

I do get some pleasure from participating in the asexual blogosphere … but I get a similar kind of pleasure from my not-about-asexuality blogging as well. I do get some pleasure from meeting other ace-spectrum people, but it is not unlike the pleasure I get from meeting people who I have certain others things in common with.

The only other way in which I think ‘pleasure’ and ‘asexuality’ could be connected is that, when it is revealed that I do not experience sexual attraction AND I abstain from sex, the question ‘but what do you do instead of sex for pleasure?’ emerges. But … pretty much everything that gives me pleasure also gives a zillion people who are not on the ace-spectrum and/or who frequently have sex pleasure.

So, I am an aromantic asexual, and there are many sources of pleasure in my life. But, aside from perhaps pleasure which specifically arises from interacting with others in ace-spectrum communities, nothing about any of my pleasures fit into asexuality in any particular way.


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Is Straight/Queer a Binary? Should It Be a Binary?

Note: The first draft of this post was written on December 19, 2013. Since then, there has been a lot more discussion about asexuality and queerness in the ace blogosphere, which Queenie has conveniently collected into a linkspam.

Though I am not an expert on queer theory, I generally encounter two definitions of queer (with variations of course)

1) Narrow Queer: Only people who have been oppressed with the word ‘queer’ as a pejorative can claim this label, primarily trans-people or people who experience homosexual attraction.
2) Broad Queer: Anyone who does not fit into social norms, particularly but not necessarily norms around sexuality and gender, is queer.

So, is straight/queer a binary i.e. all that is straight is not queer and all that is queer is not straight? Or is it possible to be neither queer nor straight?

If we go with ‘narrow queer’, the answer is a big NO. I am *not* a straight person, and I am definitely not queer per the narrow definition, so either there has to be a space for people who are neither straight nor queer, or I do not exist. I do exist, therefore straight / narrow queer is not a binary.

As far as ‘broad queer’ … this could be in a binary with straightness. But I actually do not like a conceptual framework which says that everybody must either be queer or straight, even if ‘queer’ is defined very broadly.

I think everybody on the ace spectrum – including cis heteroromantic greysexuals who are currently in a sexual-romantic relationship with a cis person of a different gender – should be allowed to claim the ‘queer’ label if it feels right to them (I mean this in the broad-queer sense – though even narrow-queerness is relevant to some aces). I understand that some queer people feel that it is an appropriation of a term which has been tied to their oppression … yet I think that denying anybody on the ace-spectrum a claim on the queer label further entrenches heteronormativity rather than weaken it.

That said, just because I think we all have a claim on the ‘queer’ label does not mean I think we have to adopt the label.

Even if we’re talking about ‘broad queer’, I do not identify as queer. Why not? First of all, I have had a lot of interactions with ‘queer’ communities, and always as an outsider. I would prefer to keep it that way, since I do not think I’ll gain much by being accepted as an insider – I’d rather invest more in communities specifically for ace-spectrum folk. Things like the fact that organizations such as Human Rights Campaign (which focuses on LGBT rights) offer ‘heterosexual’ but not ‘asexual’ as an option in surveys asking about supporters’ orientations does not make me inclined to join them. And even when these ‘queer’ organizations acknowledge our existence, they often act as if we do not exist.

There are queer communities which fully embrace the asexual experience … and I still prefer not to identify as queer. Why? I do not like the notion of the binary itself.

Even if we’re talking about a broad queerness which embraces asexuality … I do not want to use a conceptual framework in which all that is not straight is queer. I do like the idea that one can be neither straight nor queer, and I put myself in that non-straight PLUS non-queer space. It where I feel the most comfortable.


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