Are asexuals in fandom communities missing out on an integral part of the experience?
Editor’s Note: This post was submitted by Luvtheheaven for the May 2014 Carnival of Aces.
The theme of the May 2014 Carnival of Aces was “Obstacles in Being Asexual.” One of the prompt questions they provided to help get us thinking about how this topic they’d chosen for this month was:
Have you ever had problems relating to others because you’re asexual?
And I thought, Hmm. Maybe. That’s kind of a hard question to answer, in some ways. But I began to think of it in terms of “Can I as a fangirl/shipper relate to other shipper fans even without experiencing sexual attraction?”
Sexual attraction often plays a key component in story lines on TV shows and movies, as well as in “shipping”, and as a vidder and fanfiction writer/reader, I am seeped in the concept of shipping up to my ears, and I myself am also a passionate shipper as well.
Lately, I’ve been wondering, as an asexual and even possibly aromantic (still identifying as WTFromantic, btw) person, if maybe I’m missing something important when I watch my many TV shows and/or when I participate in the fun fandom event that is “shipping”.
I have been a shipper for about 8 years – since I was 16-years-old, since long before I’d ever really considered doubting the idea that I was just heterosexual but completely inexperienced, since long before I’d even heard of asexuality as a concept. (I first heard of asexuality around age 20, I had my first kiss less than 2 years ago at age 22, etc.) I’ve always loved love stories on TV shows. But I don’t exactly wait for the characters to consumate their relationships with sex. I don’t fantasize about them ripping each other’s clothes off. I only care if they finally “kiss” in certain cases, even. What it means for me to “ship” two characters is pretty different than what it means for other people to. I have come to really analyze all of my thoughts and feelings regarding romance and sex, including my shipper thoughts and feelings.
Obviously, we can’t all relate to every character on a TV show, and we’re not expected to. When a character is going through something that the writers know not everyone is familiar with going through, the writers can still find a way to make the character’s feelings accessible, understandable, relateable. I don’t need to be a doctor to get how it might feel to kill a patient—or to stressfully try my damnedest to save their life, unsure of if I’ll succeed. “Saving Hope,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “ER,” “House,” “Scrubs,” and “Emily Owens, M.D.” were all shows that conveyed how this feels quite well to me (I’m a big medical show junkie lol).
I also don’t need to have a terminal illness to get how it feels to go through it, when the show pulls off that kind of storyline right. I don’t need to be a football player (or even a football fan at all!) in a small town in Texas or a basketball player in a small town in North Carolina to understand that culture and what is involved in playing sports at the level where your goal is to “go pro”. I don’t have to be an alien from Krypton who has superpowers to “understand” what Clark Kent goes through, and I don’t need to have experienced transitioning into a werewolf or a vampire in my own life in order to feel connected to the character who is doing that on the show.
But when everyone in the world is expected to understand what sexual attraction and even romantic attraction feels like, sexual desire and various things like that which I do not feel, sometimes I wonder if I am missing a key underlying aspect to a story.
When someone is compelled to cheat on a partner, or to continue a romantic relationship with a teacher even though they’re just a high school student… I’m not sure if I understand the feelings the characters are supposed to be feeling on the correct level. I just watched all of season 1 of “The Fosters” on Netflix, and as a wtfromantic person, I’m having trouble understanding why—spoiler alert!—Brandon and Callie can’t love each other as adoptive siblings and get their sexual needs taken care of with their other partners (Talya and Wyatt, respectively), because is there really so much of a difference between romantic love and platonic* love anyway?
I also sort of don’t “get” jealousy, I think. It might be that I’m more aromantic at heart than I realize and jealousy is something that only makes sense for romantic people to feel. But as a wtfromantic, I’m not sure that’s the explanation.
Many TV shows centering around teenagers or even co-workers who are mainly not related to one-another are able to have them date each other and then over the course of the show, become close friends as exes. They don’t always take the route of “he’s still pining over her but she still wants to be friends”—sometimes it’s mutually “I’m happy with someone new and you and I are just friends,” and I wonder, am I missing some lingering sexual attraction subtext? When the show doesn’t explicitly have the camera pan from one character’s eyes to the other’s sexual body parts (lips, boobs, butts, whatever), am I expected to be constantly thinking about it anyway, because I know these two characters have had those feelings in the past?
Shippers are less afraid to beat around the bush about sex than a TV show itself often is (especially if it is one rated TV-14 or lower). Slash shippers tend to enjoy lovely platonic friendships—or even enemies—becoming all about “the romance”, which always ends up including “the sex”.
Did you see that scene where Sylar and Peter on Heroes were having “eye-sex”?
Morgan and Reid on Criminal Minds don’t love each other merely like a big brother loves a little brother, like two cop partners care about one another…Nah, that has to be more.
Kalinda, who mainly likes sex with women more than with men, is clearly “in love with” Alicia on The Good Wife, and that must be why she was so upset.
Why would Derek on Teen Wolf be violently pushing Stiles up against the wall unless he wanted to be touching him? Getting his face extra close to his so that they maybe could even kiss?
I think sometimes shippers over-sexualize things, but then other times I wonder if my feelings are only because of my asexuality. I want to be a part of the shipper community. I am a part of it, a huge part of it. I have thousands of people subscribed to me on YouTube. I am on the “author alert” list of 52 members of fanfiction.net, meaning 52 people see whenever I post any new fanfiction story or chapter at all. I love being a fangirl and being obsessed with fandom. I named my blog “From Fandom to Family” for a reason, and I hope to write more on various completely non-asexuality related topics soon, including various meta things on fandoms.
But I also wish that sometimes I could better relate to the other people involved in my fandoms. I wish when having a healthy and reasonable discussion about why I don’t like a certain ship, my mind didn’t jump to “well maybe if I wasn’t sex-averse, I’d like this hyper-sexual couple who never has any meaningful scenes ever since they became ‘more than friends’ and now they only have sex” or “maybe my asexuality is making me miss the ‘obvious sexual tension’ between these two friends, sorry”. The weird thing is, there are ships where I fully believe that they feel sexual attraction for each other and that helps me to ship them.
I just…I feel like I never can know if my lack of being able to relate is hurting me, because unlike when a writer is well aware that not all viewers of a show are people who were on death row but then got kidnapped into a secret underground assassin training program and yet they want you to still relate to the characters, when it comes to characters experiencing sexual feelings, maybe it is all assumed to be obvious how/why/what the characters are thinking and feeling.
*Sorry. I think I’m gonna keep using the word, for now, to describe that vague, wishy-washy place between friendship and family love or where the two overlap, but I respect people not wanting to use it. Sometimes I might say “non-romantic” love but for now I feel like continuing to use “platonic.”