This post will get a little personal, simply because I don’t know any other way to explain what I am attempting to share here.
So. . . This topic may seem a little bit strange – after all, an asexual’s insights on sexuality in fiction? Fair enough. I have to say, though, I have come to realise over the past few years that the way I read sexuality (and sex) in stories can be very distinct from the way, well, almost everyone I know reads the same things.
Before I show you my perspective on sexuality in fiction, let me tell you where that perspective is coming from – I am grey-asexual, which, in my case, means that I do experience attraction (though never purely on aesthetic appeal) and I do have a sex drive, which can focus on other people, not purely hormonal.
That said, while on some levels I can understand the views and impressions and attraction discussed by other people, by characters, easily enough, there are some ways in which I am simply left baffled.
Because it is not merely the specifics of sexuality as one might think of it – the amount of motivation for characters, plotlines, and all manner of complications you can find in a novel of almost any genre, not only romance and its cousins, that is based somehow on sex, or someone’s related impulses and decisions, can be truly amazing.
But then again perhaps not – after all, sex and sexuality are a very large part of human motivations in general, and have been throughout history, even at times and for persons who did not wish to admit such a thing. It’s human nature. It is human nature even for people whose sexuality is more like mine – in some ways, very akin to the near-universal ways it affects someone’s thoughts and actions, and in others, incredibly different.
Those differences can at times make it difficult to understand our fellow people in our own world – the confusion can grow exponentially when we are placed in a character’s head, as is the case with so very many stories, and there is a difference in my brain somewhere. When I have hit a point in the plot, and it is clear that somewhere there is a connection, a slant, a view, that simply doesn’t quite translate well to me.
Particularly when a character’s motivation may be entirely due to attraction – an entirely physical attraction. I have on occasion been so confused as to have to reread entire chapters searching for something that made sense about a character’s choices only to figure out (often not until speaking to someone else who has made the observation) what was behind them was simply outside of my experience.
Outside my experience may be too mild a term – after all, I write about many, many things that are outside my personal experience, including writing characters who are not asexual through attraction, relationships, and beyond. But beyond ‘outside my experience’ and into things that I simply cannot fathom.
I know people think this way – or so I guess, from being told, from watching friends and schoolmates and co-workers go through life, from reading stories and watching movies. I just have never understood it from the inside, as it were.
In some ways it is almost like reading a story told in a language other than my native tongue – a new dialect, perhaps, rather. All the words and many of the phrases I know are there, but somehow they mean things that I know only from reading them, not from growing up and learning them as I go.
At times it is frustrating – either due to pure confusion when I simply can not decipher a motivation or reasoning, or because I can see the motivation – what I assume to be the motivation – but I cannot understand it. I see it, I know why it works, but it leaves me cold and unable to put myself close enough to the story to make sense of it beyond that cool remove.
On the reverse side of things, however . . . looking at motivations and plotlines that incorporate such things from my special little perspective, sometimes it feels like a puzzle. A delightfully tricky puzzle, but one that I can pull apart and examine.
It can even, at times, seemingly be easier to separate out the threads of attraction and connection and desire between characters when they are viewed as something less immediate to oneself. An academic sort of view of things.
The remove of not being able to understand intrinsically – looking at a character and wondering . . . why do you . . . like that man? make those choices? take this path? – in some cases makes it easier to understand the larger pattern – the choices of characters slotting together, manipulation or naïveté, temptation and denial and refusal.
At the very least, at times it seems I have a very different view of characters – at least some characters – than someone who is not asexual.