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Sherlock Holmes (literary asexual)


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#1 Guest_lupincanis_*

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Posted 06 June 2008 - 09:07 PM

I know plenty of people who try to perscribe a sexuality for Sherlock Holmes, the fictional character created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In recent years people have hypothesized that he was homosexual, citing his relationship with Watson as something more than platonic. Others have said that Irene Adler was proof that he was heterosexual. I say he was meant to be asexual. Any fans have any thoughts? He's always been my literary asexual hero.

#2 Shockwave

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Posted 06 June 2008 - 09:55 PM

I can see why people would make the assumption that he was gay, based on his relationship with Watson. I agree that he comes across as asexual though. He just didn't seem to have any interest in sex with anyone. I think that if he did have any sexual relations Conan Doyle would have said so, he mentions the relationships of other characters in his stories.

I really liked Jeremy Brett's portrayal too. That was classic Holmes to me.
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#3 cijay

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Posted 07 June 2008 - 04:07 AM

Trying to guess a fictional character's orientation seems kinda'...blank...to me. Perhaps Sir Arthur Conan Doyle purposely skipped it out because he knew how boring and immaterial it is.

To compare it to something else -there was this kids' TV show (for all you Canadians, I refer to Mr. Dressup) and on that show was a puppet called Casey. My friend and I used to argue all the time (she doesn't remember this but I do) as to whether Casey was a boy or girl. I always assumed he was a boy and when the argument came up, I insisted he was a boy. There was nothing that made him 'boyish' (he was a child) but I just called him a boy. My friend, on the other hand insisted she was a girl. There was nothing 'girlish' about her (she would've been a tomboy but then so were we) and because Casey was a child, the voice gave no clues.

Many years later, I watched an interview with the puppeteer and they asked the big question. I had NO idea Casey was the topic of conversation amongst other people! Judith (the puppeteer) said people always asked her if Casey was a boy or girl, and she just asks the person "do you think Casey was a boy or a girl?" Whatever answer the person gave, Judith would tell them they guessed correctly. So maybe Holmes' orientation is a reflection of a person's own orientation. Or, if the reader is het/gay and develops a crush on Holmes, then the reader will decide. So maybe it was purposely left out.
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#4 jr1

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Posted 07 June 2008 - 05:44 PM

I never thought of him as asexual but I suppose he was

#5 Shrine Maiden

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Posted 07 June 2008 - 06:28 PM

Well, Holmes' author could not have known about asexuality since the term didn't even exist back then--nothing that was not related to religion anyway--but it is probable he had some vague idea of it in mind when he created his character. I get the feeling that it wasn't so much abstinence that he wanted to portray but rather a superhuman being, untouchable by all commonplace emotions, relying on only his cold logic. As for homosexuality, which might seem likely if one watches only the movies, is not really much of a possibility after reading the books. I mean, Holmes doesn't seem to care much about Watson anyway, most of the time he just seems mildly amused to have an audience as he explains his thoughts.

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Posted 07 June 2008 - 06:56 PM

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#7 Alumni

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Posted 07 June 2008 - 08:06 PM

Shine I have to disagree with you on Sherlock not caring about Watson. And yes I am talking about the books. If I had my books next to me I could give you quote after quote, but simple the fact that Sherlock even talked and was around Watson is proof that he had some form of attachment toward him.

But seeing as this is not a debate on his feeling for or about Watson. Its fine.

As to him being asexual I think the idea of it was known but there was no label for it. Doyle was a doctor as well as a writer who turned spiritualism. To add the time he was living in the world was rapidity changing, new idea, sciences and all things away from the old ways. So he was around open thinker and I could not see him not being one him self.

There are many reasons why Doyle could have had no romance for Sherlock. The two I could see being the strongest would be.

1) Because he just did not want it. : Being as it his stores he could do what he wanted and he felt romance as not in the program for Sherlock.

2) The focus. : I think Doyle in his stories of Sherlock seemed to want to keep them nice and neat. No lose ends and adding romances would have made things very messy. Adding a third party would take away from what the story is about.

As for the asexual vs, homosexual. I think if Doyle wanted Sherlock to be a homosexual it would not have matter since he could not have openly shown him as one nor much like him being as heterosexual would if matter since Doyle seemed to like to keep Sherlock as single unit only pairing him with Watson who one could have many debates on.

In the end if Sherlock's sexual identity is a whatever. I think Doyle wished to make a story about two men who worked together to solve crimes.

Anything deeper is one own personal opinion.

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#8 Shrine Maiden

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Posted 08 June 2008 - 07:47 AM

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Shine I have to disagree with you on Sherlock not caring about Watson. And yes I am talking about the books. If I had my books next to me I could give you quote after quote, but simple the fact that Sherlock even talked and was around Watson is proof that he had some form of attachment toward him.

I should have said romantically speaking, shouldn't I? They are friends of course (which is the part I liked overall, next to the mysteries) even considering Holmes' nearly emotionless character.

Really, this all goes to show how society itches to prescribe a sexual element to any story. I mean, why shouldn't it be okay if we only had a clever detective story about two friends? In a hollywood-story-infected public mind there just has to be some romance or the show is a dud. -_-

#9 Haunter

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Posted 08 June 2008 - 09:36 AM

Doyle was a good friend of J. M. Barrie, so I think he had a pretty coherent idea of what lack of sexual interest / attraction meant or felt like...
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#10 cijay

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Posted 08 June 2008 - 10:13 AM

Well, Holmes' author could not have known about asexuality since the term didn't even exist back then--nothing that was not related to religion anyway--but it is probable he had some vague idea of it in mind when he created his character. I get the feeling that it wasn't so much abstinence that he wanted to portray but rather a superhuman being, untouchable by all commonplace emotions, relying on only his cold logic. As for homosexuality, which might seem likely if one watches only the movies, is not really much of a possibility after reading the books. I mean, Holmes doesn't seem to care much about Watson anyway, most of the time he just seems mildly amused to have an audience as he explains his thoughts.


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Just because the term asexuality didn't exist in everyday vocabulary, the concept is probably as old as time and people could have been using the term themselves. I used it before I came here.
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#11 Crazy_Badge_lady

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Posted 08 June 2008 - 11:26 AM

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#12 Shrine Maiden

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Posted 08 June 2008 - 05:01 PM

Just because the term asexuality didn't exist in everyday vocabulary, the concept is probably as old as time and people could have been using the term themselves. I used it before I came here.


There certainly must have been asexuality since way back. After all, there was homosexuality in ancient Greece, socially acceptable too.
However, the time period we're talking about had moral codes of much repression and I doubt it people would be okay with an asexual like they are (?) today. Or even like to think of themselves in those terms if they happened to be asexual. The only acceptable--even applauded--way to be asexual would be religious celibacy. But social asexuality? It would have unpleasant connotations for the person in question. Men, I suppose could get away with the bachelor lifestyle but women were absolutely brainwashed into the marriage market idea-they couldn't even own property after all!
So even if Doyle meant his character to be asexual and understood the meaning as we do today, he had good reasons to keep it to himself.
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#13 rotifer

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Posted 13 June 2008 - 06:41 AM

I am certain the sherlock holmes is asexual. He is the most asexy character there is. I have read all the novels and short stories and there are only possibly 3 other arguments made for him not being so.

He gets engaged to be married to a maid. ( this is only to gain access to the masters house and he regrets using her so)
He admires irene adler ( this is never implied to be sexual, more a respect for her intelligence )
SOme people say he loves watson ( They are never shown to be more than close friends who care deeply about each other, why does a relationship like that have to be sexual)
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#14 Sigh...

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Posted 06 September 2008 - 08:17 AM

I've read all the stories too (the Doyle ones, not the ones made after he died when Holmes became free for everyone to use).
I don't know how many people will take this as proof of anything, but in one adventure (they were more than boring ol' stories!!) Watson asks what he thinks of some young woman client (I think that's what it was).
And Holmes answers that he couldn't care less or something.
Watson is like "Wtf??" and Holmes explains that he thinks (quite rightly) that if he were to form some romantic relationship with anyone, it would ruin his objectivity if a case were to involve her (at the time it would presumably have been a her).
And if he lost his objectivity, it would mean his failure at upholding justice or something.
Thus he chose not to chase after woman or become a womanizer.
Though some might argue that you don't /choose/ to be asexual or gay or whatever else, but in this case it's for a different reason than the rest of us.
I think we all have some kind of reason that makes us asexual or gay or whatever. Not that it has to be a huge reason that makes everyone go "of course of course", and sometimes people believe that they've been like that since they can think of, it varies from person to person (which is good).
Point is, whether he was straight, gay, or asexual, he chose the last one (whether forcing it on himself or not).
Remember, just because someone is gay doesn't mean they have to date the same sex. It just means they would probably prefer to (as well as arousal and so on so forth).

Point is he forced himself if he wasn't already.
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#15 NagiNaoe101

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Posted 08 September 2008 - 03:40 PM

I believe that Sherlock Holmes is an asexual person simly out of the fact that he does not seem to have with a woman, mostly since he is really more focused on a case than he is on the opposite gender. Though I do remember reading some books, one where Holmes met Sigmund Fraud and discussed the relationship problems, though this was a work of someone other than Doyle, but there was some insight on why Holmes was the way he was, he is not really traumatically scarred for life, but he has no interest in either gender in general because he wants to keep an objective mind. I found that was quite insightful, when I read latter works including the works of one lady who wrote, Bee Keeper's Apprentence, Holmes was discribed as a more fatherly persona which meant he does have the ability to care about people.

So even if he is asexual he is still capable of loving and caring for people, but he is very much not interested in what was normal for the people of his time. Being asexual in England at the time is like saying he is gay, that is because if you think about it, there was no clear definition of asexuality during Doyle's lifetime. We have to remember that, Holmes might have been thought of as homosexual because he preferred to live without the company of a woman. (Just food for thought, I guess).

#16 The Student

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Posted 08 September 2008 - 05:03 PM

He would appear to be a classic example of an intellectual asexual whose life is fully engaged with mental work. I've wondered if I'm that type myself. Not a private detective of course, but an intellectual asexual who ought to dedicate his life to a full engagement with mental work. If so, I'm in a position to realise that particular fantasy.

#17 Amcan

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Posted 08 September 2008 - 06:12 PM

I did read a fascinating book postulating he was a woman....
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#18 Ankh Ascendant

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Posted 10 September 2008 - 04:45 PM

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.



That's the opening paragraph of the first story of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, the first series, A Scandal in Bohemia. He admired her because she outwitted him,to clarify why she is the woman, but Doyle makes a pretty convincing statement there.
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#19 je_suis_napoleon

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Posted 10 September 2008 - 07:49 PM

I know plenty of people who try to perscribe a sexuality for Sherlock Holmes, the fictional character created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In recent years people have hypothesized that he was homosexual, citing his relationship with Watson as something more than platonic. Others have said that Irene Adler was proof that he was heterosexual. I say he was meant to be asexual. Any fans have any thoughts? He's always been my literary asexual hero.


Oh, Lordy, yes. It's one of my pet peeves.

It seems like everybody who's written a post-ACD Sherlock Holmes story has tried to shoehorn romance for Holmes into it, even though ACD could not have made it any clearer that that was out of character for him. It annoys me to no end. Ditto to the people who can't take Watson's word for it when he explicitly says that there was nothing romantic between Holmes and Adler. They insist he was just being coy about it, or that he didn't really mean it, or that Holmes was keeping it well hidden from Watson.

#20 Porygon

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Posted 26 May 2009 - 09:23 AM

Cocaine and morphine, both of which Holmes used, can reduce a persons' sex drive. Doyle, being a doctor, could have known about those side effects, as he obviously knew about the other problems associated with them. This, of course with Holmes' insistence on keeping an objective mind, could be a factor or his apparent asexuality.

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#21 Geoff Vader

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Posted 30 May 2009 - 03:37 PM

Welp, if he was intended to be asexual, Guy Ritchie appears to have completely missed that -

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#22 veronicasummers

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Posted 31 May 2009 - 01:38 AM

Another way of looking at it is that Watson gets married later on and Holmes doesn't seem particularly hurt or saddened that he has fallen in love with someone else. Though Doyle never explicitly says Holmes is asexual, I think this is pretty solid evidence that he doesn't feel any homosexual love or attraction to Watson. I would suggest that Doyle was so focused on logic and reason that he couldn't be bothered to weigh down his mind with bodily desires. I'm sure he would pick up far fewer clues if he was staring down the blouse of a woman randomly passing by.

#23 heatdissipation

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Posted 31 May 2009 - 01:51 AM

He would appear to be a classic example of an intellectual asexual whose life is fully engaged with mental work.

Something along those lines feels right. Not to dehumanize our dear Sherlock - he did have his petty whims and strange moods - but in the context of the stories themselves, sexual relationships seem completely irrelevant.

Great thread, by the way. :)
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#24 Wings of a Dream

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Posted 31 May 2009 - 09:08 AM

Funnily enough, I had a conversation like this with my mum once. I remember mentioning that old S.H. must be asexual because he never has a love-interest. My mum then went on to quite rightly point out several things. The one thing she said that stuck in my mind the most was that Sherlock is a pretty unrealistic character to begin with (very few people are so intense about their line of work) and that he's really just meant to be a detective. The stories are focussed on the mysteries, they're detective stories, and no doubt adding in a romance plot would be too distracting.

Having said all that though, unless there is a kiss or a declaration or some other obvious form of evidence, I will continue to think of Mr Holmes as asexual XD
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#25 Henny

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Posted 31 May 2009 - 10:17 AM

I can't help thinking that trying to figure out what sort of sexual orientation Sherlock Holmes has is as fruitful as trying to figure out the length of Gandalf's beard.
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#26 sinisterporpoise

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Posted 03 June 2009 - 04:52 PM

I can't help thinking that trying to figure out what sort of sexual orientation Sherlock Holmes has is as fruitful as trying to figure out the length of Gandalf's beard.


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#27 Bob32

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Posted 09 July 2011 - 07:39 AM

On the bbc sherlock series he is.
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#28 Prokriteya

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Posted 09 July 2011 - 09:07 AM

he is a self-imposed asexual. conan doyle did not know anything about asexuality, if he did, he might have made holmes a born asexual. in stead he portrayed holmes as someone who is not intersted in sexual attraction (whether or not he experiences sexual attraction is never specified in the original books)

another thing, irene adler appeared in only one short story of the original writing, ans she and holmes never met each other directly as far as i remember. and, while she was "the only woman holmes ever admired", tht's as far as it goes

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#29 Antares

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Posted 09 July 2011 - 09:14 AM

I don't think he's straight-up uninterested in any sexual/romantic relationship whatsoever; like Wings of a Dream said, I think his disinterest is due to the demands of the original stories - they were about the crimes, so why would ACD write romance in because who cares?

But! I am part of a lot of fandoms. And the thing I enjoy about fandoms is the opportunity for them to go far beyond the context of the original canon. Turning Holmes into an overtly sexual character would still be incredibly weird to me, of course, but giving him a bit of a romantic life doesn't strike me as inherently contradictory to his character.

As far as identity specifics: I see him as panromantic/sapioromantic, and very very very demisexual.

#30 FedoraMan

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Posted 09 July 2011 - 11:34 AM

To my recollection, while Holmes was never exactly stated to be one thing or another, a few descriptions of him given in the books sound like a description of an asexual person. At the very least, it's established that he has no interest in "the softer passions". To quote Doyle/Watson in the very first short story: "as a lover he would have placed himself in a false position". So while, yes, it would have helped the demands of the format as Antares points out, it was also definitely an intended character trait.
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