Look, a sexually active asexual main character!

For discussion of issues pertaining to sexuality. Warning: Topics within this forum may contain frank discussion of a sexual nature.
New Member
Posts: 29
Joined: Wed Aug 19, 2009 8:29 am

Look, a sexually active asexual main character!

Postby Clarity » Sun Jul 31, 2011 7:09 am

I had realized by then that I didn't feel what others called "desire." Something was missing in me. I felt love--the strain and heat of it, the animal comfort mixed up with human fear. I felt it for all the Glovers, for Sammi at the bakery, for Dylan when he sang "Baby Blue." But nothing built up in my groin. Nothing quickened, or struggled for release. I'd made a kind of love with Jonathan because he'd wanted to, and because I'd loved him. I'd had orgasms that passed through me like the spirits of people more devoted to the body than I was. These spirits were pleasant enough in passing but truly gone when they were gone. After Jonathan left town, I was alone inside myself. This lack was probably what had made it possible for me to live my bakery life in Cleveland; to need no sensations beyond the first feathers of November snow and the living hiss of a needle touching vinyl.

From A Home at the End of the World (book version) by Michael Cunningham

"To need no sensations beyond the first feathers of November snow" resonates particularly with me.

I honestly wouldn't recommend the book, in large part because of what I found to be a gruesome rape scene halfway through, when another character decides to force the character whose thoughts are narrated above into a sexual relationship. I don't know whether people who reviewed the book don't mention that often (or ever, from the ones I looked at) because the rapist was female, because the victim didn't fight back (he did protest verbally!), or because he continued a sexual relationship with her and seemed to be happy with it, but, uhh, yeah, he clearly didn't enjoy that scene and it clearly wasn't consensual. In general there's a lot interesting and of value in the book, but it's also dreary and, yeah, consent.

That said, I picked up the book (which was published in 1991 I think) after watching the movie adaptation of it because I was captivated mainly by its nonmainstream portrayal of sex, love, and relationships. A gay character (in both movie and book) falls "in love"--that's the word used--with a woman, though he's not sexually attracted to her. In the movie, the asexual character's orientation is more ambiguous. Three characters live together and raise a baby together, at least until one of them leaves. They're all crazy and dysfunctional, which takes something away from the affirmation of their ways of living (although it also affirms the dignity of people without perfect personalities), but I thought both book and movie were miles ahead of most popular entertainment in drawing a distinction between romantic and sexual love, and pointing out that they can co-occur or not and that romantic love is something people are more likely to want to organize their lives around. It's interesting that, while the author seems to understand this, the characters often don't; I don't know if that's trying to say that there's something missing in their relationships that they need, or just them having been socialized so they can't see/accept the truth.

It's interesting that, while the asexual character is pretty explicitly asexual, and while subsequent events confirm his lack of desire for the woman he ends up in a sexual relationship with the longest, most of the readers don't seem to have picked up on that, judging from the reviews. I didn't see the word "asexual" once, even though people talk about the gay character and themes a lot.

Romantic relationships aren't the only theme in the book; there's a lot of grief and mourning for death, pursuing the "dream life" in terms of employment and location as well as everything else, parent and child relationships, and so on.

Super Member
Posts: 251
Joined: Sat Apr 16, 2011 8:11 am

Re: Look, a sexually active asexual main character!

Postby michaels » Mon Aug 01, 2011 8:38 am

Thanks for the review. It sounds like the character you describe is a romantic ace, which is probably the most common type of ace in existence. I'd love to see a similar book about aromantics. Usually, aromantics are portrayed as cold sociopaths who wreak havoc. On AVEN there was even a poster who said he was afraid that someone who doesn't experience love would commit mass murder! But aromantics can be decent human beings too--I know one in California who's sweeter than sugar, and I do my best to live a decent life myself despite never having loved anyone or anything. The problem with an aromantic ace protagonist in a noval would be marketability. Nearly all fiction is driven by either love or sex, and if both are absent the majority of readers (who are romantic sexuals) are unlikely to want to buy it.