Benedict Cumberbatch reading R. Kelly lyrics [x]
I BET MONEY SOMETHING LIKE THIS WOULD HAPPEN
tHANK You now I can die happily bye bye my friends
By request. BC reads R Kelly on Jimmy Kimmel.
Image credit (x)
He sounds almost Shatner-esque in the middle
WTF I WAS NOT PREPARED FOR THAT GIF THO.
(Full episode - Finnemore’s bit)
it just keeps getting better
Owl you can fly
but he can’t knot.
How to tie a scarf
Note before I begin: asexuality is a fluid spectrum that includes grey-ace and demisexual folks. This is also not a post about aromanticism – honestly, that deserves its own post, and possibly from someone more qualified to comment. Asexual people have a lot of different experiences with and feelings about sex. What follows is how I feel about how asexuality has been represented in the fics I have read based on my own experience of my asexuality. Your thoughts and experiences will, probably, vary a great deal.
Also, other issues of representation - including the dearth of ace fics including female aces, aces of colour, trans* aces… basically aces who aren’t white cis men - are extremely important and I couldn’t even attempt to do them justice here. I will attempt to address them at a later date, but as a white, cis woman I’m not sure I could talk about them properly. If anyone would like to try - or to talk to me about these issues so I can make a more educated attempt, that would be amazing.
This has been a PSA.
Open up a fanfiction, one of those rare breeds that has an asexual character.
Meet Character A. Let’s call them Sam.
Meet Character B. Let’s call them Jo.
Sam is asexual. Sam doesn’t experience sexual attraction. Sam doesn’t want to have sex. However, Sam is a romantic person who enjoys physical closeness.
Jo is a sexual person. Jo experiences sexual attraction towards some people, and Jo enjoys sex. Jo wants to have a close, romantic relationship, and to Jo that involves sex.
Sam and Jo meet. Sam experiences romantic feelings for Jo. Sam wants to be close to Jo, emotionally and in a physical, non-sexual way.
Jo experiences romantic and sexual feelings for Sam. Jo wants to be close to Sam, emotionally, and in a physical, non-sexual way. Jo also really wants to have sex with Sam.
What happens now, in 90% (not a scientific statistic) of fics I have read, is that sooner or later Sam and Jo will end up in bed together. Sam will realise that sex is important to Joe. So Sam, because they love Jo just that much, will go about bringing Jo sexual pleasure, and Sam will enjoy doing this because Jo is enjoying it.
Then they will cuddle and everything will be fine.
Cut to me, clicking out of the fic, feeling utterly dispirited. I thought that maybe this time the fic wouldn’t fall into the narrative that romantic relationships must, in some way, include sex in order to be legitimate. That the asexual character wasn’t required, in some way, to compromise on their identity.
Often in the fic they aren’t doing this, by the way. In fics as written, the asexual character is totally happy with this arrangement. In real life, many asexuals are in sexual relationships and they are happy and fulfilled - some asexuals, whilst they don’t experience sexual attraction, do have libidos and can experience sexual desire. The problem isn’t with this narrative by itself. The problem is when this is the dominant representation of asexual relationships in fandom.
I’m an asexual person who has been in sexual relationships. I felt that sex was a required part of a romantic relationship, so I compromised with myself. Sometimes it was fine, and I could navigate it without a particular problem, in the same way that I watched “Band of Brothers” because my boyfriend enjoyed it, even though I didn’t like it much (apart from playing “spot the actor”). Other times it left me feeling vulnerable, upset, anxious, violated, panicky, miserable, guilty and a whole swathe of other emotions. It was consensual, but unwanted. Since the end of my last long-term relationship at the end of 2010, I have been so much more comfortable with myself. I know now that I will never, ever be able to compromise myself in that way again.
I have very, very rarely seen a depiction of an experience that comes even close to my own, but I know I’m not a rare person in the asexual community. I have come to terms with the fact that I will probably never see a decent portrayal of an asexual character in mainstream media. My hope, then, rests in fandom, and fandom - the ones I follow, anyway - still subscribes to a rather narrow version of asexual representation.
In writing about romantic relationships in fandom, authors are often building up to the moment when characters first sleep together. That is The Thing that people want to read about, The Thing that says, “Yes, these characters have reached the point of being in a Real Relationship.” They’ve navigated their way to admitting their feelings to one another, and now they must do The Sex. There are a few problems with this (particularly in m/m ships, where the “One True Sex” is penetrative sex, because it is very difficult to break out of a heteronormative relationship model), and there are especially problems with it when writing an asexual romance.
I want fic writers, when they want to write an asexual character, to look for other ways to demonstrate the emotional and physical attraction between their characters. Consider this quote, from the essay “Asexual Scripts” by Carol Haefner (link at the end):
"The heteronormative paradigm, with its prescriptive model of what a romantic relationship is and how individuals should engage in romantic relationships, affects asexuals at many levels including experiencing themselves as different from the norm, engaging in or choosing not to engage in romantic relationships, and perceiving themselves as asexual beings.”
In the same way that fanfiction often queers heteronormative relationships (and yes, I am aware that there are a lot of problematic areas there – there’s scope for a whole PhD on it, I’m sure), it should also break out of the prescriptive model of romantic relationships when it comes to depicting asexuals.
I’m not saying I want people to stop writing asexual characters into sexual relationships entirely. I don’t. It’s still amazing to me that people write ace characters at all. What I want is for there to be more diverse representations. For every fic that follows the above model, I want one where Sam refuses to have sex with Jo. I want one where Jo and Sam explore bringing one another physical pleasure outside of sex. I want one where Jo is the one compromising their sexuality because they love Sam just that much. I want one where it starts off with Sam being able to have a sexual relationship, but eventually just can’t do it anymore, and they have to re-examine their relationship and make it work again. And that’s for the fics where asexuality is a focus – there should also be more fics with “incidental” asexuality, where the characters are in an asexual relationship that has no bearing on the plot of the story, where it just is.
By writing asexual characters that must engage in sexual acts in order to validate their romantic relationships, writers are – unintentionally, I am sure – prioritising the needs of sexual people, and insisting on a very narrow definition of what constitutes a romantic relationship. It contributes to asexual erasure by making sex a fundamentally, immovably important part of a romantic relationship. It places sexual desire and sexual components in relationships as normative, and the asexual character must ‘fit in’ with this in order to drive the relationship to its apex. Fanfiction, whilst it can radicalise notions of gender and sexuality, still often buys into the internalised cultural scripts about sexuality and relationships.
A couple of things to note, and here seems like a good place to do so, before I bring this ramble to a close:
Not all fics that follow the “Sam and Jo” formula above leave me dispirited. Some of them manage it admirably. If you’ve read fics that follow this model and enjoyed them, that’s fantastic. If you’ve written fics that follow this model, I am not saying you shouldn’t have done it. These fics absolutely have their place and, when it rings true for the characters and their situations, can be absolutely amazing. I can think of a couple of examples of that right off the top of my head.
It’s also important to point out that the situation of Sam and Jo in most fics could very easily fit into a fic about demisexuality. If Sam were demi rather than ace, for example, then a development of sexual attraction towards Jo would make perfect sense. From what I understand from demisexual folk I’ve spoken to, it would be a gradual shift, with Sam’s feelings altering as they grow closer to Jo. That would be a really interesting fic, if Sam has never experienced that before! Someone learning something new about themselves, re-evaluating their identity… that could be fantastic. Demi-sexual and grey-aces need more visibility and representation in fandom too.
As asexuality is becoming more visible in fandom spaces, as more and more people are learning about asexuality, as more and more people are beginning to identify as asexual, now is the time to develop our portrayal of asexual characters and asexual relationships, and to begin to redefine the boundaries of what constitutes a romantic relationship.
Links! Everyone loves links!
Asexual Scripts: A Grounded Theory Inquiry into the Intrapsychic Scripts Asexuals Use to Negotiate Romantic Relationships (Carol Haefner) – a really, really interesting PhD paper on how asexual people navigate romance.
But what about “The Sex”? – on asexual relationships and the metaphorical cake.
The Pirates at the Top of the Escalator – on normative models of the relationship narrative.
Physical Boundaries Checklist – a really great idea, and one that could spark some ideas for ace fic.
great read on ace representation in fanfiction!
John… was never the same after Sherlock died.
that comment omfg
I loved this so much
The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier
Remember that time that the Sherlock Holmes Canon featured a blatant same-sex love story? And it was one incredible parallel after another to the relationship between Holmes and Watson? And Holmes spends a considerable amount of time on the case complaining about how much he misses his Watson?
"Do you have to be so vulgar about men, like they’re pieces of meat?"
I HAVE WAITED SO LONG FOR THIS GIF SET
I want Tessa to know that I play this every time she posts it and I’ve never regretted it.
Cos Ben cracking up is the sweetest thing.
Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain c. 1851, when the author was just sixteen. This daguerreotype graces the cover of the second volume of Twain’s autobiography, which will be published on October 5, 2013.
I would pay good money to see this.
finally a sport i’m interested in playing