In Part 1, I introduced the play and Evie, an obviously sex-averse protagonist who may possibly also be asexual. Of course, much of the play revolves around Evie’s relationship with her new ‘real life’ boyfriend (as opposed to her World-of-Warcraft boyfriend).
Raul is originally one of Evie’s clients – he commissions her to write a love letter to his ex-girlfriend so they can get back together, and then decides, based on the letter, that he would rather have Evie as his girlfriend instead.
Evie, on her part, seems to genuinely like Raul, and is happy to start dating him. Sex happens to be a red line for her. However, her “best friend” roommate Kitty keeps on pressuring her to have sex (hmmm … this reminds me of how my mother “lost her virginity” at the age of 22), and Raul is clearly unhappy about not having sex with Evie.
At some point, Evie makes it explicit to Raul that she does not want sex, and he nominally accepts it … but it’s clearly not okay with him. He is also upset that Evie spends so much time playing World of Warcraft. They strike the bargain that, if Evie stops playing Warcraft, the Raul won’t have sex with her.
That is a disturbing bargain, isn’t it? The bargain basically says “If you refrain from this activity which does not involve me at all, then I agree to not do this activity which involves your bodily autonomy.”
Okay, I get it, having someone spend an excessive amount of time playing a computer game instead of investing in a personal relationship can be a problem. That said, it is much less of a problem than trying to violate someone’s personal boundaries. They should not be treated as equivalents.
And the fact that Raul asks Evie to quit Warcraft completely rather than just asking Evie for more time to spend together or to not play Warcraft in his presence … is worrisome. Why does Raul care if Evie is playing Warcraft when he isn’t around anyway? EDIT: Actually, Evie also has an (ex-)boyfriend in World of Warcraft. Even so, I think if that is what’s bothering Raul, he should be content with Evie breaking up with Warcraft-boyfriend, not tell her to stop playing Warcraft altogether. If he does not trust her … well, that is something they need to address.
A real-life example of a geeky sex-averse young woman who dated a young man who did want sex is luvtheheaven. Her boyfriend was very respectful of luvtheheaven’s personal and bodily boundaries, and never pushed her into sexual activity she had not consented to.
I cannot say the same of Raul. He never goes as far as Kitty – who had made out with Evie without her consent – but he definitely does start small sexual things with Evie which she clearly did not consent to. Raul only makes brief apologies, no apologies along the lines of “I crossed your boundaries and bothered you, and it’s not cool that I did that.” Then again, Kitty never apologizes for what she did to Evie, so I guess that puts Raul on ethically higher ground.
Kitty, of course, keeps on telling Evie how lucky to is to have such a boyfriend, and that most boyfriends would be gone as soon as they heard the no sex part, and she shouldn’t throw away her great opportunity and have sex with him already. Never does Kitty ask whether sex would make feel Evie happy.
The Evie-Raul relationship can be seen as an embodiment of one of the most common ways to invalidate asexuality or sex-aversion in young people – “you haven’t met the right person yet”. “You haven’t met/been with the right man” is the most common way that people try to invalidate my asexuality and disinclination to pursue sex (I am not sex-averse). People like me who don’t even try are told we should try, even if we reckon it’s unlikely to be worthwhile. People who do try this type of relationship and find it doesn’t work out / does not “fix” them are told they tried it with the wrong person, and they should keep
banging their head against a wall trying until they find the “right” person. Raul is supposed to be Evie’s “Mr. Right” who will “fix” her sex-aversion. Except he does not, which is consistent with the experience of most asexuals and/or sex-averse people who enter potentially sexual relationships.
Like many of the characters who are cast in the “Mr. Right who will teach Geeky Girl who Does Not Want Romance/Sex that She Really Wants It After All” role, Raul is depicted as a mere ‘Generic Nice Guy’. Compared to Evie, Kitty, Evie’s online boyfriend, the gay Latino barber, the Christian bride, or even the guy with the girlfriend whose ass is “uhn uhn uhn”, Raul’s personality is blank. It not until very near the end of the play that we find out that he is a closet cross-dresser, which is the first sign that he is not in fact a Generic Nice Guy. By the way, there already is a fictional story about an asexual who gets a heterosexual cross-dressing boyfriend.
At one point, after Evie finds that a) Raul has an erection and that b) he thinks of her sometimes when he get erections, she suddenly tells him that it’s okay if he has sex with other people. Later on, Evie walks in on Raul right after he’s had sex with Kitty, and she’s upset, and she accuses him of cheating on her. Raul, reasonably, points out that Evie gave him permission to have sex with other people. This is one instance where I have to agree with Raul – he didn’t do anything wrong by having sex with Kitty under these circumstances.
The fact that this incident of Evie telling Raul that it’s okay for him to have sex with other people, only to get very upset when he does have sex with somebody else, is a sign of a serious problem in their relationship skills. She did not give ‘permission’ to Raul after proper reflection on her boundaries, feelings, and insecurities – she gave permission out of fear, fear that she will lose Raul if he doesn’t let him have a sexual outlet. This jump-into-nonmonagamy-because-of-fear reminds me of how these characters from a webcomic started an “open” relationship (spoiler: it leads to this and then this). Though Evie is ultimately responsible for this incident, all of the pressure Raul and especially Kitty put on Evie to have sex encouraged her to feel this fear in the first place.
On his part, Raul should have been more honest about how not having sex made him feel, rather than passive-aggressively hiding it and then pushing Evie to do things like give up World of Warcraft.
So, how do Raul and Evie resolve their communication issues? Answer: They don’t. Even though at the end they decide to stay together, nothing in the play indicates that they have learned how to communicate with each other better, or even that they know that they need to work on their communication skills. Okay, Raul does start playing World of Warcraft, and understands Evie better in that sense, but the whole incident about whether or not it was okay for Raul to be nonmonagamous and, for that matter, whether or not Evie is comfortable having sex, isn’t about Warcraft. Intimate relationships between sex-averse people and people who consider sex an important parts of their lives can work, but I can think of no instance when it worked without really good communication skills, including a high degree of self-awareness. Without that, I cannot see how Evie and Raul’s will work out any better than it already has.
Near the end, when Evie said that she used to think that love was all about using the right words, and that it’s not about words after all, I cringed inside. Perhaps they don’t need to use more words, but they definitely need to use better words, not less words. Bad communication is the path of hurting each other and hurting themselves.
I thought I could finish this in two parts, but it turns out that properly unpacking what this play has to say about sex-averse (and potentially asexual) people and their relationships takes more effort than I originally thought, so in part three I will address how this play says that sex-averse people are broken and shouldn’t respect their own boundaries.