damned_colonial: Sherlock Holmes holding a small, ineffectual hammer. (holmes)
[personal profile] damned_colonial posting in [community profile] queering_holmes
This post is based on a suggestion in the discussion prompt gathering thread, which is still taking suggestions for new discussions if you have them.

[personal profile] melannen suggested:

How about Holmes as asexual, in the context of queer readings of Holmes, modern asexual identities, and the ways previous commentators have used asexuality to refute his queerness?

I don't really have much to add to that, other than a resounding YES. There's a lot to talk about here -- Holmes's behaviour in canon, how we interpret it, whether asexuality is a form of queerness in itself, the co-existence of asexuality with hetero- or homo-romanticism. [personal profile] ilthit had some comments in the suggestions thread, here, which are also worth quoting:

I've been trying to write Holmes/Watson fic and I'm finding it extremely difficult, because any way I play it Holmes turns out to be an asexual. Even if we assume he's asexual and aromantic by choice, having rejected sensuality on intellectual grounds, that doesn't make his asexuality any less legit.

I got no further than positing Holmes and Watson as a couple in love that doesn't have sex or talk about being in love, having it merely tacitly understood, with Holmes as a repressed bisexual rather than naturally asexual and Watson as a healthy sensualist who used to consider himself heteroromantic (though he wouldn't use that word of course) before Holmes.

Do you agree?

If you're interested in finding out more about modern asexual identities, AVEN is a good place to start. There's also [community profile] asexual_fandom here on DW.

Date: 2010-05-14 07:48 am (UTC)
ilthit: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ilthit
Just thought I'd clarify - I don't find sexual/romantic readings of Holmes in any way false or wrong! A character is a collection of statements that are constantly being re-evaluated and interpreted and no reading of it is false as such, and there are certainly going to be ways to read Holmes that make him appear a sexual creature. I'm personally having a bit of trouble finding that angle on the character, but I continue to try and reading other people's romantic/sexual interpretations and stories about Holmes is on the top of my list.

Date: 2010-05-14 07:57 am (UTC)
ten: Naked male torso (Default)
From: [personal profile] ten
I definitely consider asexuality queer, because queer to me is simply short for 'anything not heteronormative'.

The problem I personally have with considering Holmes asexual is that we only know him through Watson's eyes, and thus his behaviour in romantic or erotic situations is always measured by Watson's personal standards. And Watson, disregarding his own sexuality, always stroke me as having a heteronormative worldview, which includes a very deep-rooted expectation that everyone is driven by and focused on romance and desire. With those kind of expectations, chances are that Watson overinterprets Holmes' reservations to express romantic or erotic feelings, which may just stem from his intellectual and ego-centric nature, as some kind of sign for a 'not-normal' sexuality.

Does that make sense? I'm not exactly the best wordsmith out there.
ilthit: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ilthit
"To Sherlock Holmes she is always THE woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind. He was, I take it, the most perfect reasoning and observing machine that the world has seen, but as a lover he would have placed himself in a false position. He never spoke of the softer passions, save with a gibe and a sneer. They were admirable things for the observer--excellent for drawing the veil from men's motives and actions. But for the trained reasoner to admit such intrusions into his own delicate and finely adjusted temperament was to introduce a distracting factor which might throw a doubt upon all his mental results. Grit in a sensitive instrument, or a crack in one of his own high-power lenses, would not be more disturbing than a strong emotion in a nature such as his. And yet there was but one woman to him, and that woman was the late Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable memory."

Holmes expresses distaste for romance - which doesn't mean he's incapable of romantic feeling, and in fact Watson here assumes he has felt the sting re: Adler. Could Holmes' professed derision simply arise from intellectual vanity, without being fundamentally true? Is a person aromantic if he makes exceptions (not that we should assume Watson necessarily guessed right)? He certainly feels other "strong emotions", whatever he says (despair, excitement, self-satisfaction). His derision may still be genuine, or at least he would believe it genuine.

Could we find quotes about how Holmes feels about sex?

I may have stooped to nitpicking. No character interpretation should hang on a few words. Apologies. ...Carry on.
recessional: bare-footed person in jeans walks on log (Default)
From: [personal profile] recessional
To be very nitpicky: Watson never says Holmes loved Irene. Indeed, he says explicitly the opposite: It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind.

Rather, he says that to Holmes refers to her as THE woman, and extrapolates/implies some kind of connection with the "but one woman to him".

However, none of that means "but one woman to fall in love with to him"; rather, it simply means - as stated - that there's one woman worth notice. Jumping from there to love, or romantic interest, is something Watson might do (he's very heteronormative), but isn't necessary.
ilthit: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ilthit
He said Holmes didn't love her, but also included that "And yet", which sounds to me like he suspected there was some feeling there. And I agree - it's quite likely all in Watson's head. It might be difficult for Watson to appreciate a man's deep, non-romantic appreciation for a beautiful woman.

We hear also that Holmes does not want to feel great emotions, which isn't the same as not feeling them, and that's the only basis I can find for any potential romantic configuration for Holmes.

Date: 2010-05-14 04:44 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] spacefall
I've considered this topic a few times in the past. I hope I won't be considered hideously lazy if I link to the threads on LJ rather than re-posting here :)

Discussing attempts to conflate 'asexual' with 'not gay' [temporarily un-flocked]

A thread in which several of us discuss Holmes and asexuality

Discussing Queer Holmes and asexuality in Holmes fanfic, including longish comments about what being asexual might mean for Holmes

Comments in the asexual Holmes thread on cox_and_co. Mostly my feelings about asexuality being associated with or co-opted by homophobic commentators. note: another commenter and I had very different views on the topic, which did make me think a lot about how asexuality can be put negative (anti-queer) use in certain debates.

Date: 2010-05-15 08:25 am (UTC)
ilthit: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ilthit
Awesome conversations behind those links!

Date: 2010-05-14 05:58 pm (UTC)
my_daroga: Mucha's "Dance" (Default)
From: [personal profile] my_daroga
I've always had a little trouble seeing Holmes as sexually involved with anyone, and I think it's a little akin to the way Bruce Wayne sleeping with Vicki Vale in the first Tim Burton film always bothered me--I sort of like the idea of him being so focused on something else that certain aspects get ignored as less important, or interfering, or what have you. I am wondering how valid that feeling of mine is, because there is a whiff of misogyny there I think if we take it to the point where "women/sex dull the faculties and distract from the business of being a man."

I think I am still interested in that portrayal of Holmes, however, because I find it interesting to wonder why he would be that way and unlike a lot of my other fannish pairing interests, I'm not interested in just hooking anyone up. I'm not sure, for myself, if it's because I think he's disinclined, or there's something in his past, or he has made an intellectual decision, but I feel like I need to do some more reading to solidify my thoughts on the H/W relationship and Holmes' sexuality. (I keep meaning to write an asexual!Spock/Kirk fic because I don't think this is explored in slash very often, for obvious reasons.)

To make this comment have a point, I'll leave a few questions of my own:

Is the oft-claimed asexuality of Holmes a reference to the trope of celibacy as power?

If so, does this offer a negative view of women/homosexuality/sex?

Has recent slash fandom altered the way Holmes is written about in fannish circles?

Date: 2010-05-14 06:13 pm (UTC)
my_daroga: Mucha's "Dance" (Default)
From: [personal profile] my_daroga
Looking at some of the other discussion, I want to add a few words: I have NOT been active in Holmes fandom for 15 years or so, and that was of a rather traditional sort. On the other side, I'm coming from a grounding in fandom and slash and all the rest, so it's a strange position to occupy, trying to get a bead on where H/W fandom is right now.

I hope my ignorance on a lot of these matters in these discussions will therefore be understandable. I am fascinated by all the discussion in this community and it's what's actually drawing me back into Holmes fandom. I'm just terribly outdated and haven't been part of all the discussion that's gone on before. I'll be holding my tongue a bit in future.

Date: 2010-05-14 06:50 pm (UTC)
my_daroga: Mucha's "Dance" (Default)
From: [personal profile] my_daroga
It's funny to be termed an older fan--I got into Holmes via Jeremy Brett when I was 9, read the Canon when I was 13, and joined a Prodigy group made up of actually older fans who were early adopters of the internet but more steeped in the old-school, scion-based, Great Game sort of Sherlockiana. The idea of Holmesian slash didn't really occur to me, strangely, though I wrote stories where he was a figure and read as many pastiches as I could get my hands on.

But of course I'm still young enough (31) that I've been involved in "modern" internet fandom for quite some time, too, and adore crackfic and kinkmemes and all the rest. But my Holmes fannishness and my internet fandoms have never really coincided, hence my fascination with the new breed and how it's different from the older and whether it has its roots in a more generalized internet/slash/fandom sense or in the Holmes-first sense. In the way that "fandom" seems increasingly codified, and tropes/activities/sensibilities seem to get transferred easily from one area to another in a way I did not see as the general habit among my older compatriots in Sherlockiana. At least, they didn't talk that way. And there's been something of a barrier for me, looking at modern internet Holmes fandom, because it seems to be a totally different sort of people. Meaning, of course, it's the same people as other fandoms.

That's not a judgment, at all. I'm just being long-winded about explaining why I'm looking at Holmes fandom and wondering why it looks familiar and not at all. And yeah, I guess this is totally off-topic at this point. Sorry!

I'm going to have to look through some of my old journals and APA things and refresh my ancient memory (I was very young) about the general tenor of the fandom I was involved in--we had our bulletin board, but there was still an active snail mail culture because there was no WWW. And I don't remember slash being a factor. Or even a lot of fic, really.

I very much wonder if the difference you're observing in older H/W fic is similar to way old K/S fic looks sort of absurd to modern eyes, so I'd be really interested in your take on that aesthetic, too, as I'm honestly not too familiar.

I think I'm going to be going back through your journal to re-introduce myself to H/W fandom, frankly. When I tried to dip my toes in a few years ago, all the fic I could find seemed too biased towards a sort of generic slash fan, if there is such a thing--what I found, though I did not look too hard, bore little resemblance to what I wanted out of the characters and owed more to the tropes of slash fiction. From everything you say there is a vibrant and fascinating world sort of in between. And I should stop being scared of the new movie's influence.

I'll try to think of things to contribute on the "older" front, and feel free to ask me stuff.

Date: 2010-05-16 11:56 pm (UTC)
arkady: Close-up of self with red hair. (Default)
From: [personal profile] arkady
I'm in a similar position, though older by 6 years. The modern fandom is a very different creature to the one I left so many years ago and yet feels strangely familiar in parts.

Date: 2010-05-15 04:24 am (UTC)
language_escapes: The main cast of St. Trinian's (2007 film) (Default)
From: [personal profile] language_escapes
I've never, ever understood the idea of arguing "he's asexual!" in order to refute queerness. Because I very much consider asexuality as part of the queer continuum, though I recognize that some other asexual people may not. It just always boggles my mind.

The thing about Holmes behavior in Canon is that I generally presume that we're not actually seeing a lot of it. I don't know if this is considered Watsonian or Forsythian (or both!), but I've generally read Canon as Watson recording Holmes' cases, with some small tidbits about daily life, rather than Watson making a record of their daily life and then mentioning the cases. While as fans we largely read for the relationship (whatever it may be) between Holmes and Watson, Watson was writing cases. Therefore, I don't tend to think we'd see the potential romantic elements- or at least not have them spelled out, which is why we have subtext. :)

I definitely think it is possible to read Holmes as asexual, but when commentators use it as a defense against a romantic relationship between Holmes and Watson, they misunderstand what asexuality is. It's a lack of sexual interest, which doesn't preclude romantic feelings, which I think is fairly well understood by this community. If only we could get the wider audience to understand this.

After all, when I think of the quote from somewhere in Canon, about Holmes regarding romance as grit in a sensitive instrument that screws up the ability to reason and use logic, and then I think about all the times that Holmes said that he overlooked something, that he puzzled something out incorrectly, that he was too slow in realizing something... well. Grit in a sensitive instrument will do that.

Date: 2010-05-18 12:47 am (UTC)
lotesse: (holmes_secrets)
From: [personal profile] lotesse
Coming in a day (or three) late and a dollar short, but - YES. I find it much easier to argue for Holmes as queer - ie not "properly" heterosexual/masculine - than I do to argue him as explicitly homosexual. Queerness is a continuum of non-standard behaviors and identifications, and asexuality imo slides right in beside lgbtq.

Date: 2010-05-15 08:03 pm (UTC)
hradzka: Cassidy, from Garth Ennis's PREACHER. (Default)
From: [personal profile] hradzka
FWIW, my interpretation of Holmes these days involves him performing (and loudly giving voice to) asexuality because it's so much more comfortable for him, emotionally, than being sexually attracted to men. (I also think Watson is totally straight and totally oblivious.)

Date: 2010-05-16 03:42 am (UTC)
lasergirl: puppy with the word "obey" under it, and a heart (Default)
From: [personal profile] lasergirl

Having struggled with this concept for years, I have only recently been grown up enough to actually be able to put it into words. Fortunately I have friends who are just as nerdy and kinky as me, so it hasn't been too painful. But I had no idea there was a community for my people! Wow. I need to not live under my rock all the time.


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