Monday, July 28, 2008

New Zealand: Advanced Society

I'm not sure how far this news has penetrated the asexosphere, but this is major, so I'll talk about it:

A New Zealand soap opera called "Shortland Street" is currently featuring an asexual character. This is huge, because the character, Gerald, actually self-identifies as asexual. He looks it up on Wikipedia and everything! It's set in one of those television hospitals where no one ever does anything remotely medical. Apparently, Gerald is currently dating his first girlfriend and finding that he isn't interested in sex. A way-cool New Zealander has compiled relevant clips of the show on Youtube here. I have to say, these videos are among the most awkward things I've ever viewed in my life. I know that asexual awakening can be difficult, but I've never actually seen it occuring outside myself, if that makes sense. I doubt anyone who's not asexual outside of New Zealand will ever see this show, but I hope that it will be enlightening to at least a few folks over there.

Granted, there are plenty of inaccuracies (you don't get "diagnosed" as asexual), although I guess everyone who comes out is faced with some people that have...strange...ideas. However, there are many statements made in the show that are correct ("Most asexuals feel there's nothing wrong with them", etc).

Also, it's interesting that Gerald is so...well...*gay*. You can't really use accurate gaydar over television, and especially not cross-culturally. But if I saw Gerald walking around in San Francisco? TOTALLY GAY. I just hope he's actually asexual; I don't want those "BUT YOU MUST BE GAY" adherents to have any more fodder for their claims.

I also find it interesting that the first representation of television asexuality is male. I just can't avoid thinking about how gender plays into representations of sexuality. Sure, you could say that there was a 50/50 chance that the character would be male. But it's hard for me to imagine this character being female. And I think I know why, for once. We've progressed somewhat in terms of sexual equality between men and women. But when it comes to sex, I think men have an autonomy that women still lack. A man can identify as asexual because his sexuality is identified by himself alone and exists internally. However, a woman's sexuality is identified through her actions and relationships with others. Women are supposed to have a sexual "utility" that men don't need to have. Queen Christina wanted to "die a bachelor" instead of "an old maid" because being a bachelor implies an element of choice that being an old maid lacks. Old maids are seen as hopeless, but "confirmed bachelors" are an intriguing challenge. I'm not saying that asexual men have it easier; we all have our own issues to contend with. I just think that bringing up ideas of inequality anywhere they exist is the first step to true equality. And because theories without action items annoy me, here's what women can do: Start using/reclaiming all male or unisex sexual/relationship descriptors that imply choice. What are some other ones we can use? Is that a strange idea? I hope it makes sense.
And, watch the Shortland Street videos! (But don't say I didn't warn you about the awkwardness.)
Your confirmed (?) bachelor,


rian said...

Wow, the storyline is verrry interesting. I haven't finished watching all the videos yet but I had to pause and say thanks for blogging about them!

pretzelboy said...

I was kind of glad to see that they chose to have the asexual be male. Because of widespread assumptions about how obsessed with sex (all) men are, it is nice to see this being shown to be wrong. I think people assume that if there is a difference is sexual interest in a relationship, it is always the man who wants more sex, and showing this isn't the case is good.

Ily said...

Yeah, I'm pretty glad it was an asexual, period! (Even if he is extremely gay :-)

Chris said...

It is interesting that Gerald is presented so strongly as "gay". In fact I think this is how this storyline actually began, way back at the beginning of the year. Other characters assumed that he was gay and were using various (lame) strategies to find out if that was the case.

I think it's pretty unlikely that the writers will take Gerald down the "he was gay all along" route as that particular path was explored a few months ago. Gerald attempted to have sex with an old friend who had returned to Auckland after coming out as gay in Sydney. The episode was actually quite funny -- I can't believe nobody documented it and put it on Youtube. Gerald was completely clueless about what was supposed to happen in bed and the scene ended with a bloody nose after Gerald kicked his friend in the face following an unsuccessful attempt at oral sex. Quite a risk, I thought, for a programme that screens between 7pm and 7.30pm and has a fairly young demographic.

I'm much more concerned about the old "traumatic incident as a child / abuse" angle that seems to have appeared in the last couple of episodes. Fingers crossed this isn't the case.

Oh, and thank you very much for the "way-cool New Zealander" complement. I'm flattered but fear you are deeply misled...

Keri Hulme said...

Kia ora - AANZ sent me your someone who is an out-front asexual here, may I say that already there is some positive feedback from family & friends? Newspaper interviews are one thing: the national soap quite another (now, if the scriptwriters dont just totally blow it re the 'abused child background' hints...)

MaryCherry said...

This is pretty major, and Shortland Street is actually shown in about 25 countries around the world including Ireland, Fiji, but no longer the UK.

Gerard was actually initially thought to be gay but that moved onto Asexuality - that was something I identified well with; however I have far too many issues with the show to watch it for the A reason only!

Ily said...

Thanks to you all for providing some local context! I'm psyched to get a mention on AANZ. And not to embarrass Keri, but...Ohmigosh! Funny that we were talking about famous asexuals, and then actually hear from one! :-)

Angie said...

Hello Ily,
Sorry, this comment isn't about the post. But rather a book. It's not a book I can recommend b'c I just recieved it. But the author I think will discuss the strong focus on romance in today's marriages. It's called "I Don't" by Susan Squire. Oh, and another cat blog that I like is Thank you for your blog!

Superquail said...

I think your comment about the gender inequality in representations of asexuality is interesting.

If a man were to say, "I don't like having sex," people would think he was weird, or not entirely male. Maybe they would think he was a closet homosexual. In the end, though, he could become that noble bachelor and people would let him be. Possibly.

If a woman were to say "I don't like having sex," well, isn't there a certain fraction of the population that would think she was completely normal? That women aren't supposed to enjoy sex, but they're supposed to do it anyway? And that what they enjoy in any sphere doesn't matter?

Hm. Something to think about.