Last week I saw In Love and Warcraft by Madhuri Shekar performed by The Custom Made Theatre Company. Overall, I think Custom Made put on a good production. There is a lot I can say about the play, but given the audience of this blog, I think my readers are most interested in an asexual perspective on the play, so that is what this post is going to be about.
For starters, here is the blurb from the Custom Made website:
Evie Malone- gamer girl, college senior and confirmed virgin- has it all figured out. Not only does she command a top-ranked guild in Word of Warcraft with her online boyfriend, she also makes a little cash on the side writing love letters for people who’ve screwed up their relationships. Love is like Warcraft, after all. It’s all about strategies, game plans, and not taking stupid risks.
Well, that’s what she thinks… until she actually falls for a guy. In Real Life. And no amount of gaming expertise will help her out when she finds herself with a non-virtual, totally real, and incredibly cute boyfriend, who wants more from her than she’s willing to give.
Based on this blurb, I thought the ‘confirmed virgin’ bit probably meant that Evie was so heavily geeky that she never got the social skills / confidence to pursue sex, love-letter-writing gig nonwithstanding. In other words, I expected Evie to be like Clive as described in this post about the documentary 40 Year Old Virgins. Nonetheless, I am even older than Evie, yet I have never had sex, nor had an orgasm, and though I have never played Warcraft, I am just as geeky in my own ways, so even though I was not expecting her to be an asexual character, I figured we’d still have common ground.
Instead, Evie is much more like the way Rosie is described in that post about the documentary – someone who genuinely does not want sex, is pressured by her peers to have sex, and feels ‘broken’ because she does not want sex.
[THERE WILL BE SPOILERS FOR THE PLAY IN THIS POST, AND THIS IS THE LAST WARNING]
I honestly did not expect Evie to be so much like, well, a sex-averse asexual. The sex-averse part is ridiculously obvious – she not only does not want sex, it’s really clear that the prospect of having sex upsets her.
It is less clear whether or not she is asexual, but she has an uncanny tendency to say things which sound like they were pulled straight off a list of things asexuals say before they realize that there are people out there who identify as asexual. At one point, when asked about whether she sexually prefers guys or girls, she says (I have to paraphrase because I don’t have a copy of the script) “I’m not really interested in either of them.” Short of actually saying “I am asexual!” that is one of the strongest possible ways to imply that one is asexual. In fact, there were multiple points in the play when I expected Evie to burst out and say “I AM ASEXUAL!!!!” because it seemed liked the most logical next line.
More than anything, it was Evie’s sense of being broken which made me think of my fellow asexuals. I belong to the minority of asexuals who never felt broken, but I don’t think it’s possible to have even a casual connection to the asexual community without being very familiar with other people’s feelings of brokenness. Evie uses the word ‘broken’ to describe herself multiple times. I don’t know that Evie is asexual – I strongly suspect she’s at least under the umbrella, but it’s also possible that she’s not. However, her experience of ‘brokenness’ is so similar to the asexual experience that I am sure she would benefit immensely from contact with either online or ‘real life’ asexuals, even if she ultimately concluded she was not one of us.
Also, I think pretty much every asexual in living in American culture (as well as a number of other cultures) is wearily familiar with the reactions other characters have to Evie’s aversion to sex. There are rehashes of the “Just Try It” argument. Her new boyfriend asks her if something happened to her to make her that way (though he did not explicitly mention sexual abuse, it was implied, and it’s a bad idea to suggest that somebody isn’t interested in sex because of sexual abuse). Her “best friend” roommate suggests that maybe she is just a lesbian and then proceeds to make out with Evie without Evie’s consent to turn her into a lesbian/bisexal. The same “best friend” roommate also tells Evie that a lack of interest in sex can be a symptom of hypo-thyroidism – and it’s pretty clear that the roommate isn’t sincerely concerned that Evie actually has a life-threatening illness, she just wants to pathologize Evie’s disinterest in sex (as longtime readers may know, I have some personal experience with thyroid issues). Evie even goes for a pelvic exam – which clearly distresses her – to find out what is wrong with her (the doctor does not find anything ‘wrong’).
One thing which is embarassingly realistic about the play is the type of ‘love letters’ Evie writes for her clients. Evie is an English-literature major, and she writes love letters based on the literature she’s read rather than her own experience, which, when it comes to romance, she doesn’t have. It’s embarrassing for me because, in fact, a lot of how I think of romance is based on fiction. I’d like to think that I would not write love letters like Evie, but then again, I would not bother writing love letters for other people in the first place.
One of my favorite scenes was where Evie was writing wedding vows for a Christian who has been waiting to get married before having sex. I’m not qualified to judge how accurately it represents Christians who refuse to have non-marital sex, but it is consistent with the things I have read about those Christian communities – that they actually think sex is awesome, and everybody should get married and have wonderful sex lives celebrating God’s gift (here and here are posts by asexuals who grew up as Christians about this). The contrast between the bride’s eager anticipation of her wedding night and Evie’s wish to not have sex at all makes it clear that she is not holding back her sexual desires, she does not have sexual desires to hold back.
And then there is Raul, Evie’s “real life” boyfriend, and the relationship they have. I will get into that in Part 2.
SPECIAL NOTE: I don’t plan to post Part II until the San Francisco run of this play is practically over (the final performance is on December 19), so if you are considering seeing it, I have this to say – it’s a good production, and it’s overall a very entertaining show, and as someone who has seen and read an awful lot of plays, I can say that it’s rare to see a character who is as much like a sex-averse asexual as Evie is. That said – and I plan to expand on this in Part 2 – it supports compulsory sexuality, and encourages people who feel broken because of sex-aversion/lack of interest in sex to continue feeling broken unless they can stop being sex-averse/start wanting sex. Overall, I recommend seeing it if you are in the region and have the means, but with the reservation that I think the play has a harmful message.