Asexual and Aromantic in Doctor Who Fandom

Asexuality comes up frequently in Doctor Who fandom, usually in the context of describing the Doctor. Unfortunately, the way it is used is often divorced from the actual definition of asexuality and as a result inadvertently dehumanizes asexual and aromantic people. This can make existing as an aromantic asexual Doctor Who fan a difficult experience.

This situation is hardly surprising, considering the messages in the show itself. On one occasion in “The Husbands of River Song,” River tells us that the Doctor is beyond being able to fall in love with her and in “The Family of Blood” John Smith wonders what kind of man the Doctor could possibly be, that falling in love never occurred to him. The message that romantic love is something the Doctor is too alien to understand, or at least that the people around him believe that, is an ongoing theme in the show. It emphasizes how he’s different from the humans surrounding him, how he’s alien, how he’s beyond us.

And fandom has embraced that message. I have seen discussions about how the Doctor’s perceived romantic and/or sexual relationship with this person or other (insert your preferred person here, Rose, Madame de Pompadour, River…) has made him too human, too normal. Discussions that assume that romantic and sexual attraction is an inherent part of human experience, so removing them from a character makes him alien.

Demanding that the Doctor be fandom’s version of asexual, when they really mean that the Doctor is not allowed to fall in love. Never mind that the actual definition of asexuality says absolutely nothing about romantic relationships or romantic attraction.

And I, and people like me, are the collateral damage in this debate. We see the actual definition of our sexual orientation ignored, the word twisted to fit whatever the debater believes. We see the characteristics of our romantic orientation used to indicate a lack of humanity.

And yet we exist, and we are human. Since asexuality and aromanticism are inherently human characteristics, the Doctor cannot be less human because of them.

But often fandom forgets this. I never know if the podcast I’m listening to, the blog post I’m reading, the panel at a convention is going to dehumanize me because of my sexual and romantic orientations, is going to declare that to be properly alien, the Doctor must be like me. I hear constant little reminders that people like me are seen as somehow inhuman, impossible. But we are here, and we are in fandom.

So next time you get involved in a discussion about an asexual Doctor, check the definition of the words you’re using. The Doctor could be asexual and/or aromantic, but remember that these are real words, that apply to real, human people. Make Doctor Who fandom a better place for all of us.

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