I’m sure many of you are wondering what exactly I am going to be researching. Since some of you have probably been so kind as to provide funding for my research, I thought it would be a good idea to explain what it is I am actually doing with your money. All of your generous gifts are going to support my research and dissertation in my pursuit of a PhD in English from Georgia State University.
My hypothesis revolves around one fact and two assumptions, although I would go so far as to say that those assumptions are pretty much fact at this point. The fact is that asexuality wasn’t really defined as a sexual orientation in academia or popular culture until the Kinsey scale was introduced in the 1950’s and adapted in the 1960’s. My assumptions are that sexual orientation is at least in some part if not in totality controlled genetically and the art imitates life. If we accept that sexuality is genetic in nature, and that asexuality was not recognized in popular culture as an orientation until the 1950’s, it would follow that is art imitates life than there are asexual characters in literature prior to the 1950’s that have not fully been examined through that lens.
There are two characters that immediately come to mind as potential candidates for research, Sherlock Holmes and Jughead Jones. In the case of Jughead, we know that he is canonically asexual, but that only became canon after the Kinsey studies. There isn’t much to speak of in regards to his sexuality ion the Pre-Kinsey era. But it is that absence of content that is curious. Archie is primarily a romance comic. To have a main character in a romance series not have any romantic entanglements is more than unusual. Jughead’s lack of romantic attachment bucks the traditional tropes of his genre and he warrants further research.
In the case of Sherlock Holmes, there is no canonical source indicating his sexuality one way or the other. Since Arthur Conan Doyle died in 1930, there is no reason to think he had an insight into the existence of asexuality. But since we are operating under the assumption that asexuality did in fact exist, but there simply wasn’t a word for it, the concept of the confirmed bachelor could easily be used to mean asexual. In the case of Sherlock Holmes, there is such a wealth of work by Doyle that the lack of a romantic interest is indeed a compelling one. There are numerous instances where Holmes makes salacious claims about women in general. This coupled with his lifelong bachelorhood raise serious questions about just how Doyle viewed Holmes and his sexuality. Most modern interpretations of Holmes gloss over, omit, or even directly contradict the canon of Holmes’ lack of attraction to women.
With such clear evidence that asexual characters in the Pre-Kinsey era exist, it begs the question what else is out there? But beyond that, a whole scope of other issues come into play. An entire realm of critical theory could be discovered. I am looking forward to seeing what I find. If you are interested as well, be sure to check out my PhD Research category of blog posts for updates.