Finding Asexual Characters

There’s always a lot of discussion around of major TV characters (such as Sherlock and Sheldon Cooper, for example) being asexual. So I thought I’d put together a list of four other, perhaps lesser known characters – from books, movies, TV, web comics – who are either named as asexual (in one case), strongly implied to be asexual, or at least could easily be asexual in my mind. Please feel free to add any of your own!

Hypatia (from the film Agora)

I actually just watched this movie a few days ago, and one of the things that struck me was Hypatia’s representation as quite clearly asexual. Though there’s little historical evidence about Hypatia, her character in the film has dedicated her life to philosophy, learning and teaching, and doesn’t seem interested in sex, romantic relationships or marriage. Despite this, she manages to have a close relationship with Orestes (who is admittedly in love with her, but she doesn’t return his affections). In one scene in particular, Hypatia somewhat wistfully tells Orestes how even her father had a lover once, but that she has never loved anyone. But instead of going on to say that she feels incomplete without love, she looks at the sky and says that if only she could come a little closer to figuring out the stars, she would die a happy woman. I loved Hypatia’s character in this film, and could really relate to her pursuit of learning, and her frustration at not understanding it all.

Poppy (from the TV show Huge)

Poppy is one of the few characters on TV that actually self-identify as asexual. She’s a counselor at a weight loss camp for teenagers (this sounds really bad and un-feminist, but Huge is actually one of the best TV shows I’ve ever seen, and actually portrays fat teenagers as real, multidimensional people – the main character is even proud of her fatness!) The show doesn’t make much of a fuss about her asexuality, which is really great. The scene where she comes out to another of the counselors isn’t melodramatic or inaccurate – it’s just matter of fact, and it’s accepted without drama, for what it is. Poppy is also adorable, caring and somewhat hyperactive, so I like her character a lot. Unfortunately, YouTube doesn’t have a clip of the scene where she says she is asexual, otherwise I would link to it.

Poppy from the TV show Huge
Poppy from the TV show Huge

Antimony Carver (from the web comic Gunnerkrigg Court)

Antimony Carver (or Annie) isn’t named as asexual, but she’s never seemed to show any interest in dating or romantic relationships (unlike her best friend Kat, who has a new crush every few chapters, it seems!). Which means that in my brain, I choose to think of her as asexual. However, Annie does have a lot of really close relationships with all sorts of people and creatures, and some of the recent chapters have made me think of her relationship with Kat as a queerplatonic one. At the very least their relationship is characterised by a strong sense of intimacy and platonic affection, like you can see in one of my favourite panels with both of them below (it makes my heart melt a little). One of my friends think Kat is totally into Annie, but I guess that remains to be seen. I don’t particularly think Annie is into Kat in a romantic way. Now I’ll just have to hope that Tom Siddell agrees with me, because I find their relationship beautiful and meaningful the way it is.

Scene from Chapter 41: Changes
Scene from Chapter 41: Changes

Plotina (From the book Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar)

Plotina (wife of the Roman Emperor Trajan in the early 2nd Century AD) is only a very minor character in this book, but I was struck by one little passage on her, as described by the Emperor Hadrian. The historical record indicates that Hadrian and Plotina got along very well, and Yourcenar imagines their relationship as a very close, intimate platonic relationship, but without a sexual component:

Friendship was a choice to which she devoted her whole being; she gave herself to it utterly, and as I have done only to my loves. She has known me better than anyone has; I have let her see what I carefully concealed from everyone else; for example, my secret lapses into cowardice. I like to think that on her side she has kept almost nothing from me. No bodily intimacy ever existed between us; in its place was this contact of two minds closely intermingled.

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28 thoughts on “Finding Asexual Characters

    1. It sounds a bit iffy to start with, but it’s actually really, really good! it has a few issues, obviously, like everything. but I really enjoyed it. 🙂

  1. Paksenarrion from the Deed of Paksenarrion fantasy trilogy by Elizabeth Moon. The word asexual is never used but she is stated as never wanting/never having wanted to have sex. She is also implied to be aromanic, as she is stated to have no interest in marrying anyone but it’s not really clear if that is because in her world marriage == sex or what. She does have some very close/intense friendships that could be read as queer platonic (Saben, Canna etc)

  2. I hadn’t heard of some of these, that’s great! I’d also like to add the two main characters from my webcomic, Ignition Zero (http://ignitionzero.com). Robbie and Orson are both canonically asexual and have come out in the comic with good reactions, thankfully! I hope your list grows 🙂

    1. I have read some of Ignitition Zero! It’s pretty awesome. 😀 Come to think of it, I don’t know why I didn’t include them to start of with.

  3. I really like Gunnerkrigg Court, and I’ve often speculated about the orientations of the characters. There are two same-gender couples already, so we already know it’s an existing theme in the story. On the other hand, I place a very low prior probability on any characters being canonically asexual (especially for a comic launched in 2005), unless it’s part of an “inhuman” character. Annie/Kat seems highly doubtful to me, but Annie could end up interested in any other number of characters, or in characters who have not yet appeared. Her attitudes towards romance are one of the longstanding mysteries of the comic, and I think it’s been written to keep us guessing.

    Ms. Jones I believe is pretty much canonically asexual, although she’s an example of an “inhuman” asexual. That trope bothers me, but I also think Ms. Jones is super awesome, so that makes up for it.

    1. I adore Gunnerkrigg Court – I started reading it on the page where Jones watches the great fire of Rome, and as an ancient historian… It was awesome. 😀 I really like Jones, and I think there’s definitely some ace-ness going on with her as well! Even though, as you say, she embodies the ‘inhuman’ ace thing. But she can still be legitimately ace, I think.

      Which same gender couples are you referring to? Robot and Shadow as one? I have to admit I freaked out a little when it seemed that Annie got a love letter (which was actually Kat’s). Luckily that didn’t end up happening!

  4. Hello! I know more *explicitly* asexual characters.

    You got Poppy (who may have actually been based on me, weirdly enough!), but here are two you missed from TV:

    A Canadian show called Godiva’s has an asexual man on it. It’s a canceled show though.

    A New Zealand soap called Shortland Street has a biromantic asexual man on it. You can actually watch the whole “asexuality storyline” on YouTube.
    http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=716892EFE9351EEA

    1. How come Poppy may have been based on you, swankivy? That is kinda cool!

      Thanks for the other characters as well – I had heard about the Shortland Street show, but never actually watched it. It’s always nice to find a few characters in unexpected places. 🙂

      1. Oh, because of something one of the creators–Savannah Dooley–said in an interview once.

        Lesley Kinzel, well-known fat activist who loves the show, got to interview writer Savannah Dooley, and on the subject of asexuality, Lesley actually brought it up in the interview. The relevant part:

        Lesley: Another queer character is Poppy, (who explains to George that she identifies as asexual). I’m pretty sure Poppy is the first out asexual character in the history of television! That was such an amazing thing, to hear someone use the term “asexual” in a value-free context.

        Savannah: My mom and I both thought it was an interesting trait to give someone. And I had seen this YouTube video of this asexual girl describing her experience of asexuality and she had this nerdy earnestness that was Poppy-ish. I resisted making one of the campers asexual because that’s already sort of ascribed to fat people in a negative way.

        It may have been my YouTube videos that gave her the idea. Not many asexual girls were vlogging on YouTube about asexuality when this show was being written, and especially since Poppy is described as cheerful and fairy-like (and so am I, haha), I’m not sure who else she could have gotten the idea from. I couldn’t find a way to ask and confirm, though.

        Full interview with Savannah and Lesley is here:
        http://blog.twowholecakes.com/2010/09/this-is-why-your-tv-is-fat-q-a-with-savannah-dooley/

      2. Haha, that’s really cool! And it must be awesome to know that your videos are ending up serving a good purpose and having such a wide effect.

  5. There’s an asexual character, Erin, in Girls With Slingshots. She’s in a romantic relationship with a biromantic, heterosexual character (Jamie), and it’s going pretty great so far. I can’t speak as to the character writing myself, since I’m not asexual, but the asexual folks in the comments seem to overwhelmingly approve. I like how they’re navigating the relationship waters in a healthy, open way; any characters doing that are solid in my book.

    1. I just discovered that comic the other day and was browsing through the Erin parts! I also approve, it’s nice to see an asexual/sexual relationship represented!

    1. I was pleasantly surprised to see that. I had interpreted some of the things she’s been saying lately to indicate that she was ace, but never expected it to be made canon.

  6. Dan Shive, creator of EGS, announced in the early days of the comic that one of his characters was asexual, but he didn’t want to give away which one. Now, the comic’s been running for over a decade, and Dan seems to have forgotten about that announcement. None of the characters have explicitly come out as ace, and we still don’t know which one Dan was talking about, but it’s clear enough that the seyunolus are largely (maybe entirely) asexual, and there’s been plenty of speculation about other characters (Susan in particular).

    Hannelore of Questionable Content is possibly ace, being the only character in the comic with no apparent interest in sex and dating. It’s also possible that her germophobia is overriding any attraction she may be feeling.

    Lily of Leftover Soup is openly ace. Caveat: she’s also a huge misandrist, making her portrayal less than flattering. The positive portrayal of polyamory and the creator’s open-minded opinions sorta make up for it.

    I’ve headcanon’d Fall-from-Grace of the computer game Planscape: Torment as ace. She’s an exiled succubus who doesn’t share the sexual obsession normally associated with her race. In fact, she owns and operates an establishment called the Brothel of Slating Intellectual Lusts, where the ‘courtesans’ engage in conversation, debate, and games with the patrons, and physical contact is not allowed. Best brothel ever, right?

  7. Argh! I forgot to list Shades of A. It’s sort of a serious parody of 50 Shades of Grey (to quote the site itself: “Is it a parody if you’re trying to make a better one?”) in which the protagonist is explicitly asexual.

  8. I do Aquapunk, and so far I’ve yet to imagine any of my main cast of characters being sexual. I may have someone make a passing mention that hints at something more concrete, eventually.

    Now, this may be 10-year-old headcanon talking, but I want to say that Boromir may be confirmed for ace or aro by some obscure passage? Of course, this may just be a residual idea I got from the dozens of fanfics I read about him too. 😛

  9. New headcanon for me: Serenity Rose of Heart-Shaped Skull has said that she’s unsure of her orientation, and it’s strongly implied that she’s only ever been sexually attracted to a single person. Demisexual? I think so.

  10. What about Prior Philip from Pillars of the Earth? (novel and miniseries) I remember Ken Follett having said something to the effect that he was sick of reading about monk characters who were tormented with lustful feelings, and wanted to write a monk who was comfortable with himself and his vocation.

    1. That’s an interesting comment from Ken Follett. I guess it would come down to whether Philip’s comfortableness not having sex etc. came down to his job or more of his own lack of interest/attraction to people. There’s definitely a difference between experiencing desire/attraction and not acting on it and not feeling them at all. But I’d have to go back and read the book again! (Which would not be a chore, I really like that book a lot.)

  11. I know this is really old, but since it’s related to your newest post about The Legend of Korra, I clicked, wondering if I read it before, and well, I probably have but FYI YouTube does have a clip of Poppy coming out as asexual now on the show Huge: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdT8NFTrMi4 😉 You could edit the post even years later, if you want. I find it interesting what the commenters on that vid are saying though. Many people’s reactions seem to be it’s bad representation, or it’s conflating asexuality with aromanticsm, etc, etc.

    1. Oh, that’s handy! Thanks, luvtheheaven. I don’t mind the scene, I liked it’s matter-of-factness, and it’s one person’s experience of asexuality and aromanticism. It’s not exactly my experience, but I can relate to it more than I can to every other character.

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