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We're Not Broken: Asexual Characters in Pop Culture

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Asexuality pride signs at a 2012 Pride Parade in Stockholm. Photo by Mikusagi, Creative Commons.  

The asexual visibility movement has grown over the past few years—many asexuals are starting to come out of the closet and demand respect. Unfortunately, asexuality remains a relatively invisible orientation in our pop culture. That leaves many asexuals still feeling as if they are somehow broken.  Think about it: Romance and sex saturates practically every narrative in television, books, and movies.  Platonic bonds are continually devalued compared to romantic relationships, especially sexual ones.

Over the past few years, a couple asexual characters have popped up in films and on TV. That’s a great step. But whenever asexuality is explicitly shown onscreen, it almost always follows a “fix-it” plotline: Asexuality is portrayed as a problem that’s fixable. That’s an incredibly dangerous message.  Perhaps the most frustrating wall asexual activists have hit is how the media-makers who are allosexual (not on the asexual spectrum) misunderstand and misconstrue our orientation. The following three examples are just a sample of the mainstream media’s concept of asexuality.

The Olivia Experiment: This 2012 film revolves around Olivia, a 27-year-old grad student who's beginning to suspect she's asexual. She decides to accept a friend's offer have sex her own boyfriend. The tagline for the film is, “A comedy about sexual (dis)orientation.” The titular character’s asexuality is constantly questioned and doubted: She’s not really asexual, she’s just shy. Here, asexuality is presented as a temporary condition, not an orientation.  It’s an issue that needs to be remedied.  There is no possible way a woman could be happy outside a romantic, sexual bond. Instead of highlighting the satisfying platonic bonds many asexuals have, Olivia needs to experiment until she finds the right way to fit into an allosexual narrative.

House: “Better Half” (Season 8, episode 9):  An asexual couple comes to see Dr. Wilson.  He’s intrigued by asexuality and mentions it his friend Dr. House, who promptly dismisses it as not real.  Throughout the entire episode, Dr. House denies the existence of asexuality. At the end of the episode, it’s revealed that the husband has some sort of tumor that was inhibiting his sex drive.  The wife was just faking asexuality for the sake of her husband.

Sirens: This USA network TV show about paramedics had an openly asexual recurring character, Voodoo (at far left in the above photo), during its two seasons. Her asexuality is presented in one of two ways: As a joke or as an obstacle that a fellow paramedic, Brian, needs to overcome in order to get sex.  Voodoo is always romantically paired with a man and the script's discussiong of her asexuality is usually less about her life and more about how frustrated men are about it.  At one point, she’s questioned about whether or not she masturbates (an incredibly inappropriate question to ask anyone but one allosexuals regularly confront asexuals with).  Voodoo also takes Brian to a strip club when he thinks he has transcended sexuality where she has a stripper perform a lapdance on her in order to titillate him. Her plotline was headed towards her consummating her on/off relationship with Brian, before the series was cancelled.

There are a couple other asexual characters who have appeared in film and TV over the past couple years, but these three plot lines make clear the challenges asexuals face in getting realistic representation. Aside from the message that asexuality is a fixable condition, there are a few commonalities throughout these examples:

  1. Asexuality is a temporary condition/issue only experienced by attractive, cis, white women
  2. The women are lying and/or somehow confused about their feelings and desires. The tagline for The Olivia Experiment reinforces the idea that asexuality is just another word for “confused.”
  3. Asexuality is a problem because it’s a barrier to allosexual people who want to have sex. 

The dangerous message that comes out of “fix-it” narratives is that sexual orientation and consent is something people can debate. Convincing or shaming an asexual person into having sex even though they say they don’t want to isn’t a fun game—that’s corrective rape, with the goal of “fixing” asexuals. Allosexuals often make the mistake of thinking sex is a necessary part of happily ever after.  They can’t see asexuality as anything other than a horrible condition that dooms those suffering from it to lives of loneliness.

Imagine being a young asexual, unsure of your orientation and constantly being bombarded by these messages both from the people in your life and from your favorite shows, movies, and books.  Imagine constantly being told you don’t exist, or if you do, you’re fixable.  But as the years go on, you still don’t experience the kinds of desire you see everywhere.  It would be lonely, wouldn’t it?

Not welcoming asexuals to participate in shaping the portrayals of asexuality in mainstream media has resulted in grossly inaccurate and damaging depictions of this orientation.  Most allosexual people can name a fictional character who can be interpreted as asexual, but very few can name a single real-life asexual writer, director, actor, or other artist. The beautiful art and contributions asexual-identifying people make to society will continue to be suppressed as long as these negative portrayals and beliefs continue to go unchallenged. But asexual writers, artists, and performers are out here. I put together a whole Tumblr highlighting contemporary asexual artists—you check out Asexual Artists on Tumblr and WordPress

In the meantime, here’s to hoping we see an asexual character soon whose orientation is treated as normal—not a problem to fix.

Related Reading: Why Do People Keep Calling My Sexuality "Noble"? 

Lauren Jankowski is an openly aromantic-asexual feminist fantasy author from Illinois. She can be found at laurenjankowski.com and on Twitter: @Lauren_Jankowsk


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angelchrys
10 hours ago
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Overland Park, KS
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Sure, It May Be August 3rd…

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Squirrel…and it’s hot as blazes out there. But- this guy is here to remind you…Old Man Winter is not so far away! (Nothing To Do With Arbroath.)


Filed under: Uncategorized Tagged: Sqwerl, The White Death is upon us
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angelchrys
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Overland Park, KS
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Malcolm X on "Progress"

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angelchrys
12 hours ago
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Overland Park, KS
bibliogrrl
12 hours ago
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Chicago!
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By Eyebrows McGee in "a guy who's giving 150 percent, and yet you're not sure if he means it" on MeFi

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jaguar: "I've always loved him as an actor, but the guy berated Brooke Shields for her post-partum depression, saying she should have managed it with vitamins. "

I was not such a fan after the break from Nicole Kidman and the creepy dating of much younger co-stars, and the part where Nicole Kidman wasn't allowed to wear heels for their entire marriage because he has a thing about being short, but the part where apparently Katie Holmes had to take an acting hiatus to be his less-famous, less-tall, 20-years-younger wife who talked about how she had Tom Cruise posters on her wall as a little girl (creepy!), and then the part where Katie Holmes had to secretly line up her divorce through middlemen, secretly rent an apartment, secretly contact her parents, and drop the divorce bomb after she disappeared with their daughter -- I'm noped out. And then all the legal documents that have come out since, about how Holmes left to protect Suri from Scientology, and how Holmes has full legal and physical custody and Cruise is forbidden from teaching Suri about Scientology or taking her to Scientology stuff -- there's a REASON the court restricted just Holmes to making those decisions, and that reason is basically that Katie Holmes spent six years in a ridiculously controlling, emotionally abusive marriage where her every action was controlled by Cruise's religion. He has also fought Kidman, a "suppressive person," having any contact with their children and has allegedly actively worked to estrange them from Kidman.

So I'm noped out. I won't see anything with Cruise in it. I don't care how good an actor he is. He is a TERRIBLE PERSON and he uses his fame to manipulate and abuse women who have the misfortune to get romantically involved with him, and then uses it to attempt to manipulate and abuse his children.

Going to a Cruise movie is like voting for Donald Trump because he makes politics more entertaining. Do not encourage the terrible people.
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angelchrys
12 hours ago
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Overland Park, KS
bibliogrrl
12 hours ago
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Chicago!
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Texas Tom's on Troost closes after two months

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Well, it seemed like a good idea: Two months ago, restaurateur Ali Nazeem, who owns and operates the Texas Tom's franchise at 6950 Prospect, took over a vacant storefront at 3360 Troost to open a second location of the fast-food venue.

There is now a "For Rent" sign taped to the front window.

When The Pitch reported on the opening of the restaurant, Nazeem said he thought the location, next to a busy liquor store, would have a lot of potential. Two months later, he has changed his tune.

"I didn't realize that the other Texas Tom's on Linwood, which is less than a mile away, would take so much of the business.…
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angelchrys
16 hours ago
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Gee, ya think?
Overland Park, KS
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The Rent is Too Damn High: San Fran Residents Pay $1,000/Mth To Live In Shipping Containers

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Submitted by Mike Krieger via Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

There’s nothing quite like a grotesquely lopsided “economic recovery” in which a handful of cities boom, while the rest of the nation stagnates. Even worse, millennials living in such chosen cities face one of two options. Either live in mom and dad’s basement, or face a standard of living far more similar to 19th tenement standards than the late 1990’s tech boom.

With that out of the way, I want to introduce you to what a $1,000 per month rental in the San Francisco Bay area looks like. Shipping containers:

Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 10.41.45 AM

Don’t worry, there’s a lovely garden out back:

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 10.41.59 AM

We learn more from Bloomberg:

Luke Iseman has figured out how to afford the San Francisco Bay area. He lives in a shipping container.

 

The Wharton School graduate’s 160-square-foot box has a camp stove and a shower made of old boat hulls. It’s one of 11 miniature residences inside a warehouse he leases across the Bay Bridge from the city, where his tenants share communal toilets and a sense of adventure. Legal? No, but he’s eluded code enforcers who rousted what he calls cargotopia from two other sites. If all goes according to plan, he’ll get a startup out of his response to the most expensive U.S. housing market.

 

“It’s not making us much money yet, but it allows us to live in the Bay Area, which is a feat,” said Iseman, 31, who’s developing a container-house business. “We have an opportunity here to create a new model for urban development that’s more sustainable, more affordable and more enjoyable.”

 

As many as 60,000 San Franciscans live in illegal housing, according to the Department of Building Inspection.

 

Iseman collects $1,000 a month for each of the 11 structures parked in the 17,000-square-foot warehouse he rents for $9,100. Tenants include a Facebook Inc. engineer, a SolarCity Corp. programmer and a bicycle messenger.

It’s not even San Francisco proper either, this is in Oakland. You could probably catch $2k per month for a cargo box in the Mission.

Iseman used to pay $4,200 a month in San Francisco’s Mission District for a two-bedroom apartment with a slanted floor and mosquito-breeding puddles.

He bought his metal box for $2,300, delivery included, then cut out windows with a plasma torch and installed a loft bed, shower and bamboo flooring. He estimates his all-in cost at $12,000, and plans to sell refashioned containers for about $20,000 through his company, Boxouse.

 

“What we’re doing is converting industrial waste into a house in a couple of weeks,” said Iseman, who also founded a pedicab fleet. Meanwhile, he doesn’t plan on seeking city approval for cargotopia, whose location he asked not be identified. “I’d rather ask forgiveness than ask permission.”

I want to be clear that I’m not knocking Mr. Iseman for starting this project. He seems to be a well-meaning, entrepreneurial guy trying to make the best out of a bad situation and solve a very real problem on his own. What I am knocking is the criminally corrupt American oligarchy, which left this legacy to our youth due to their unfathomable greed, cronyism and nearsightedness.

Of course, I’ve covered this trend several times over the past several years…

NYC Residents Will Pay $2-3k a Month for “Micro-Apartments” as Luxury Car Sales Outpace Regular Car Sales

Coming to San Francisco…Tenement Sized Apartments!

Back to 19th Century Living in NYC: Bloomberg Proposes “Tenement Sized” Apartments for $2K a Month

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samuel
17 hours ago
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Was reading the new recommended blog when I hit this story. It's my friends Luke and Heather! Both of them were part of the Pulse and Bloom team at Burning Man.
The Haight in San Francisco
angelchrys
16 hours ago
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Overland Park, KS
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WorldMaker
9 hours ago
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Hashtag William Gibson's novels are historical fact part one too many.
Louisville, Kentucky
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