Euphoria is a lot. We can't claim to be fans of the show, but season 2 questioned whether or not the main character, Rue, could be asexual. However, the way it was handled caused a lot of online harassment aimed at the Ace community.
Courtney: Hello, everyone and welcome back. My name is Courtney. I’m here with my spouse, Royce. Together, we are The Ace Couple. And I… would be lying if I told you that I was excited about today’s episode. But here we are. We’re talking about Euphoria.
Royce: So Courtney, can you remind me, how exactly did Euphoria get onto your radar? Because we didn’t start watching it until after Season 1 was over. I believe Season 2 was currently airing
Courtney: I will be real and say that I did not even know that Euphoria was a thing until a few months ago [laughs]. So yes, how did we get to this point in our life where we’re watching two seasons of a show that we really don’t care about for the sake of talking into our silly little microphone about it? [laughs] Several months ago, I noticed – as happens every so often – there was a sharp, drastic, seemingly overnight uptick in twitter harassment against the Asexual community. And I’ve seen this happen a time or two. So, being my cynical self who has seen this play out already, I thought, “What big celebrity or mainstream show mentioned Asexuality off-handed?” Because that’s pretty much how it goes: someone makes a half-assed mention of Asexuality and all of the twitter trolls come out, all of the Acephobic rhetoric gets spewed all over twitter. And so I did a little digging, because I wanted to know what happened and I wanted to see if my theory was correct. And it was. That is exactly what happened. It was Euphoria. The brief possibility of a main character on this show being Asexual was referenced, and then all of the real-life Ace people who exist on twitter had a miserable few days.
Courtney: And so we have this little podcast where we talk about Asexuality things where we’ve discussed Asexuality in media. So I wondered if this was something worth pursuing. And I found that Euphoria is [laughs slightly] a cultural juggernaut right now, apparently. It really seemed to come out of nowhere for me, but it was already in Season 2. It is starring Zendaya, Executive Producer Zendaya, and she is hot right now. She is a huge, huge thing. So I was flabbergasted that I’d never even heard of this, but I thought, “You know what? Let’s check this out. Oh, we’re in Season 2? Well, I guess, let’s start at the beginning and go to Season 1.” Which was the mistake we made when we were reviewing Sex Education. We heard there was a mention of Asexuality and we thought, “Great, let’s watch the whole thing,” and it was for 5 minutes in the second season. So I feel like we fell into a bit of the same trap this time. Although the Asexuality plotline being pretty small and innocuous in the grand scheme of things, we have more just general cultural things to talk about, I think, in this show.
Courtney: So, essentially, here is the scene in question that set twitter on fire for a good chunk of the Ace community. The discussion is revolving around the main character, Rue, who is played by Zendaya. And the conversation is happening between Jules, who is a teenage trans woman and currently, at this point in time, Rue’s girlfriend, and some other guy named Elliot. I [laughs]can’t figure out why he’s even here, why he exists. I… [laughs] There were so many just unnecessary characters or plotlines for me in the entire scheme of this show. So he’s just a guy who showed up recently. And Jules and Elliot are talking, and Elliott has noticed that Rue doesn’t really seem like she wants to sleep with him. And so already the level of entitlement [laughs]. He is picking and prying to try to find out why she doesn’t seem interested in him, so he asks her girlfriend and says, “I don’t know, she seems gay or Asexual, you know? Like she’s not really interested in sex,” which, who wrote this? He is literally talking to her girlfriend and being like, “I don’t know. She seems gay or something, or maybe Asexual.” Did that not cross anyone’s mind as, like, the obvious first assumption would be that she’s gay [laughs] in this situation?
Courtney: So, I don’t know, already very weird conversation. And Jules is arguing, “No, no, that’s not true. She’s… [flustered stuttering] yeah, she’s… no, that’s not true,” and getting a little bit flustered. And so this guy, this just for-some-reason-he’s-here guy, says, “What, so you think she’s, like, a sexual person?” And Jules is like, “Well, yeah, [hedging] at times, she can be.” And he says, “No, I think you’re full of shit. And I think you have fucked way too many people to look me in the face right now and say that she is some sexual force of nature.” Ooh, the force of nature. And so Jules is like, “Okay. Well, fine. No, she’s not, like, the most sexual person ever.”
Courtney: And so this guy Elliot, again talking to her girlfriend, is like, “So, how does that work? Because you’re sexual, but if she’s not all that sexual, how does that work?” And so… [sighs] the thing here is, in isolation, this could almost be a way to discuss something that doesn’t often get portrayed in media, which is when an Ace person dates allo person – someone who is not sexual is with someone who is sexual – and there is definitely a variety of ways that a couple can navigate that. But they don’t make that part of the conversation, and they do not take it any further whatsoever. Instead, Jules just responds by saying, “Fine. No. Yeah, she’s not the most sexual person. Or, I don’t know, maybe she is but I just haven’t seen that side of her yet.” And then Elliot comes onto her and they start, like, making out. [laughs] It’s very weird. That’s the end of that conversation.
Courtney: And that’s it. That was that episode that made a lot of Aces’ lives a living hell for a couple of days. Because then all of the Acephobes on twitter were so personally offended at just the very notion that this character might be Asexual that they just couldn’t help themselves, they had to go and harass as many real-life Ace people as they could find on the twitter.com. And this is complicated, because they neither confirm nor deny whether or not this character is Asexual in the show. And there’s something that is very, very nefarious about that, because it gets the people who are Asexual, who are fans of this show, excited at the prospect. Especially, you know, the main character on this huge show, one who’s played by Zendaya, who the entire world loves, how groundbreaking would that be? So it gets the Ace fans of the show excited and riled up and talking about how good this is going to be for representation and how good this is for our community. Meanwhile, it has all the people who hate Asexuals talking about how there’s no possible way this character can be Asexual and coming after us actual Ace people online, spreading hatred.
Courtney: And then it gets all the people in between, who maybe don’t have a personal stake in it, to just have a conversation: “Could she be Asexual? No, I don’t think she could be because X Y and Z,” or “I guess it’s possible, if we think about this one line she said three episodes ago.” And so it gets this big conversation going, right? And when these big conversations happen on social media, you start to see the op-eds come out. The articles of, [dramatic tone] “Ooh, what happened on Euphoria this week?” and “What is Rue’s sexuality? Could she be a lesbian? Is she Asexual? Could she be some other third thing? Is she bi? Let’s talk about it!” And then that just drives engagement, which gets more people into the conversation of this show. It worked on us. We are suckers. [laughs] That is exactly what happened.
Courtney: And I did not even like anything about the show. [laughs] The show had no redeeming qualities for me. Maybe, maybe Fez and Ashtray, [laughs] maybe Fez and Ashtray, but no other redeeming qualities. [laughs] I do like that they had a teenage trans character and that they showed her in relationships. I do think that’s good. But I also don’t like a lot of other things that they handled about just everything. We’ll get into it. I don’t want to get ahead of myself. But the thing is, this has become enough of a pattern, especially in the shows that are like teenage sex shows [laughs slightly]. I’m almost inclined to put this in the same camp as Sex Education, because Sex Education is clearly a lot of teen sex, but this one, the vibe is drastically different because it’s an HBO show. So, all the nudity, all of it.
Royce: I feel like HBO had a score to settle or something. Like, they were used to, 15 years or so ago, being the edgy network where you could see high production, expensively-made TV shows, completely uncensored and commercial-free. And then broadcast networks upped their game after Lost, pretty much. And then the streaming sites just completely changed everything. And so there are parts of this show that felt like we were going back 15 years, to when shock productions and comedy were more common.
Courtney: Oh my gosh, yes! And I can’t stand it! The thing is, I really don’t like nudity. I don’t love it, but I’m not going to scoff at it if I think there’s a good reason for it. But at a certain point, there’s no longer a good reason for it. I was seeing articles, when I was researching this show, that was like, “We’re going to break the record for the most number of penises in the same shot.” And I was like, “Why?! [laughs] What is the reason?”
Royce: Probably because an HBO board of older cis-het white men were like –
Courtney: “Feminism.” [laughs]
Royce: Well, they were like, “Hmm. Game of Thrones was really big, back in the day before it went all downhill. What did Game of Thrones have that was so successful?” And someone in the back was like, “Oh! Oh! Penises.”
Courtney: [laughs] See, I pictured it… Because I was seeing this – [laughs] The people working on this show saying things like, “We don’t want there to just be a bunch of boobs. We don’t want a bunch of naked women, because we don’t want to exploit the women. So to not exploit the women, we’re going to have an equal number, if not more, of naked men.” And I just can’t help but think of the butterfly guy meme, like, pointing at a whole bunch of phalluses and being like, “Is this feminism?” [laughs]
Royce: There were a couple of scenes where I think the excessive nature was actually good at making a point, but a lot of it was absolutely unnecessary – both the sex scenes, which could have been just cut earlier than they were, and some of the scenes where someone would get a a dick pic sent to them, and then they would need to show like 40 of them –
Courtney: Oh my gosh.
Royce: – when they could have just advanced the plot, you know? But –
Courtney: No one likes getting a single unsolicited dick pic, so I can’t imagine that the viewers of this show are just happy to see 50 penises flash on screen! [laughs]
Royce: The two scenes that stood out to me that were excessive that I think worked well. One of them happens in Kat’s plotline when she starts camming as a dominatrix, and –
Courtney: Oh, you have to share more about how that happened, though, because it was kind of gross. [laughs] She’s a teenager. She is a teenager.
Royce: That is a point that we’re going to get to.
Royce: Because the whole fact that the “teenage sex show” is a thing, and it doesn’t need to be, for a variety of reasons. You could have aged the characters up one year and basically had the same story.
Royce: But the idea of someone getting into sex work and getting completely in over their head and having to stifle laughter while a very overt person is on the other end of the line, I thought was amusing.
Courtney: Yeah, I can see that.
Royce: If you ignore the fact that the show wrote in an actress who is an adult who is for some reason playing a high schooler.
Courtney: Well, yes. So here’s the thing with that plotline in particular. This teenage girl has her first sexual experience at a party, and she gets filmed. And the film gets leaked out online, so everyone in the school knows that it’s her. She’s humiliated. There are several layers of just horrible about this. But she decides to reclaim her sexuality, and she starts camming. And ugh, she’s a teenage girl! She’s a teenage girl. I am not saying that teenagers cannot figure out how to come into their own and embrace their sexuality, because I know that happens. I am not implying – because too often, when people try to say, like, “Well this show went too far,” you’ll have people come back and be like, [know-it-all tone] “Teenagers have sex, you know!” So I know that’s not the issue. It is not the issue that this storyline involves teenagers who have sex. It’s the degree to which they take it. And in a show like HBO, when we are often seeing these people naked – and yes, the actors are of age, but we are being told that this is, “Oh, this is a 17-year-old girl that you are just seeing completely naked.”
Royce: It’s also, parts of this plot line with the antagonist of the show involve people being blackmailed under the threat of being reported for statutory rape or child pornography.
Royce: And all of these situations that are canonically illegal in the show are being shown explicitly to the audience.
Courtney: That’s what I can’t get past. Especially Jules, a teenage trans girl, who is meeting middle-aged men in motels and having one-night stands with them. I am not going to pretend like that has never happened. I know that it does. But did we need to see a middle-aged man, naked, come skin-to-skin – We saw the skin-to-skin contact. We weren’t seeing organs in that scene, but we saw basically a side profile of two completely nude people, skin-to-skin, not under the covers whatsoever. And we are just seeing this. And we are being told, “This is a teenage trans girl, and this is a middle-aged man.” And that is disgusting. And you’re seeing this from the perspective of a camera that has been hidden in the room, because he is filming without her consent. And this is already several layers of illegal. And then, yes, just like you said, that becomes a plot point of like, “What you did is illegal. This is statutory rape. And now, because you filmed it, it’s child pornography. And so now, oh no, child pornography is so horrible.” They’re trying to make a case that it’s horrible, and yet you showed it to us. You showed it to us. I don’t understand. It seems to be toeing the line of, like, just barely legal. I was honestly really surprised [laughs slightly] that it was legal. I am not versed in pornography laws. I really am not. So I am talking way above my education level here, but I know child pornography is illegal, but do you just get around that by just saying, like…
Royce: It’s the actual biological age of two people involved, not the story or anything like that.
Courtney: But you’re promoting it. [laughs]
Royce: Yeah, I know. I mean there are –
Courtney: It’s adults pretending to be teenagers having sex with full-frontal nudity, on many occasions.
Royce: There are some similarities I was thinking through in the anime and manga community, where someone will create a show and they’ll have someone who is drawn to be 12 and show them uncompromising sexual situations, but then they go, “Oh no no no, this is actually a thousand-year-old vampire in a child’s body.” Well, why did you draw them that way? Why did you make that decision? What were you trying to do here?
Courtney: Mmm. So here’s also… [laughs] I want to tread very lightly because we are not touching the topic of fanfiction – not in this episode, maybe not anytime soon – but I do wonder if I would be more comfortable with some of the show’s themes if it was… Well, see, now as I’m saying it, I’m thinking that’s not the case. I was going to say, if it was animated. Because I look at this show and I think, “They have a lot of heavy topics.” I don’t reject the fact that they’re talking about the topics, but I often don’t like the way they’re handled. And I think about, “Well, what are some heavy shows that I have liked the way they handle it?” And I immediately think BoJack Horseman, which has a lot of really silly, zany, wacky cartoonishness, but they also have – they portray abuse, physical and sexual. They have a plotline where they show a middle-aged man getting in an inappropriate relationship with a teenager. But the fact that we have a degree of separation and a bit of a suspension of disbelief, because we’re looking at animated figures instead of real life ones – it’s a little more palatable, but it’s still difficult to watch in some cases because of how heavy it is. But I also think, then, with animation, they have to rely more on creative writing and clever dialogue to put us in that scene and make us feel what we’re supposed to feel Because they can’t fall back on the tricks that HBO does of just showing it, and sometimes showing a sex scene going on for too long or showing a lot of, you know, physical abuse, and just showing that every time, you know?
Royce: I see what you’re saying. I don’t know if I agree that, in my case, if the same exact scene was done basically frame-by-frame and it was animated instead of live – I don’t know that I would have a different reaction. I think the example that you gave – Bojack cut. We didn’t see anything physical. The implication was done without showing explicit sex, because it was enough. I think what is happening in Euphoria is that the producers of the show are trying to make drama and then take these situations and also turn them into fan-service at the same time.
Courtney: Yeah. Yeah. And that’s why I stopped myself before I came out with that thought, because I was like, “Well if they were doing an exact one-to-one, take everything they’re doing but make it animated, we’re still seeing completely naked animated figures, and it’s like, that’s not better.” [laughs] I changed my mind. I know. It’s just, in some cases, I honestly feel like it’s lazy writing. And I know there are so many fans of this show, and…
Royce: I don’t think the show is particularly well-written.
Courtney: I don’t want them to hate me, but I think a lot of it falls onto lazy writing. Because they can show a lot of nudity, they can show blood and gore, they can show all of this drug abuse – we’ll get into talking about the drugs, because that’s a big component of the show. And the thing that they do is very stylistic. The camera angles, the lighting – [dramatically] it’s very euphoric, a lot of the time. So they try to rely on this very, very stylistic imagery, along with all the shock that the audience gets from seeing these things literally being portrayed, that they kind of already have enough for people to talk about without needing to have especially good dialogue or especially good writing.
Courtney: So let’s back up just a step and let’s talk about Rue. Because we need to talk about Rue if we’re talking about Euphoria. She is a teenage drug addict. Hard, hard drugs. And the thing about the drugs is that they use them in the very next episode. The episode right after they drop the word “Asexual” and question “Hmm, could Rue be Asexual?” They then immediately, the very next episode, use her drug addiction to add a layer of plausible deniability, that, “No, she’s not Asexual because she’s just on drugs.” Which I don’t love, because that’s already what we were seeing people talk about the week before on twitter – people saying, “Naw, she’s not Asexual, she’s just a drug addict,” or, “She’s not Asexual because clearly she’s a lesbian because she’s in a relationship with Jules,” and so on and so forth.
Courtney: But the very next episode opens up. And again with the stylistic nature, which – I get that some people like, but it does nothing for me. If I don’t like the writing, if the writing is not enough to immerse me in this story, I do not care that they are going to go on a montage of Rue and Jules, like, reenacting famous movie scenes. You know, they do the Titanic scene, flying in the front of the boat. They do the… what’s the – Royce, help me. What’s the gay cowboy one?
Royce: Brokeback Mountain?
Courtney: Yes. [laughs] They do the gay cowboy one. It’s just very stylistic version of them recreating these big romantic and/or gay scenarios. They have, like, a Snow White, when Zendaya shows up as the Prince and Jules is Snow White in the glass coffin, like, they’re just doing all of that. And I’m just watching and I’m like, “Please get to the story. This is going on too long.” And some of the shots are beautiful. And Jules is played by a trans actress named Hunter Schafer, and she is beautiful. She is literally a model. And so they have some really gorgeous artistic shots of her. So, I get it. But at the same time, I’m like, “Story, please. Story, please.”
Courtney: But then it gets to the story and I’m like, “Nevermind.” [laughs] Because the story opens up with Jules going down on Rue. They are in bed, and Rue is just very half-heartedly being like, [unenthusiastically] “It feels amazing.” And it has her internal monologue, you hear her thinking, and she’s thinking about how much she loves Jules, and how this might be the greatest thing that’s ever happened to her, and it’s the first time that anyone’s ever gone down on her before. And then Jules clearly can tell something’s up, because she keeps sking, “Are you sure this feels okay?” And Rue’s like, “Yeah, it feels amazing.” Jules’ like, “Yeah, but is there anything you want me to do differently?” She’s like, “No, it feels amazing.” And then you hear her internal monologue literally say, “The only problem is, I took so many narcos, I literally can’t feel a fucking thing.” And then Jules is like, “I’ve been doing this for, like, 25 minutes. [laughs] Are you close to orgasming? What’s going on?” And Rue’s just like, “Yeah, it feels amazing. Oh, wait, did I already say it feels amazing?” And then her internal monologue again, like, “I’m so fucking high. Don’t tell anyone, but she might as well be going down on my ankle.” And then she gives the world’s most pitiful faked orgasm in probably the history of cinema. I don’t know. I haven’t seen many shows with faked orgasms [laughs], but it was bad.
Courtney: Intentionally. And that’s it. That’s the end of the Rue Asexuality plotline. We’re told, “Maybe she’s Asexual. Let’s think about that and talk about it.” And then, “No, she’s just too high to feel anything.” Great, love that. Love that for us. And the thing is, the thing is, I don’t want my personal dislike of the show to get in the way of what could be meaningful representation for somebody. Because personally I wouldn’t love to see an Ace character in a show like this – where everything is so hypersexual, there is so much nudity – because I wouldn’t want to watch it for fun. Even if there was a solid Ace plotline, that would be the only thing I like about it and then I’d just be suffering through all of these needlessly long and borderline illegal sex scenes. However, I honestly have not quite figured out yet who the target demographic is for this show. [laughs] I really don’t know.
Courtney: But whoever the show is working for, the people who have it trending on twitter every time a new episode airs, people saying, “Yay, it’s Euphoria day,” the people who are super hype about this show? I was seeing some of them who are Asexual and I was seeing tweets, after that very first episode dropped the hint that maybe she is, I was seeing people say, you know, “Rue being Asexual would mean the world to me. Having this character on this show be Asexual would be amazing and groundbreaking, and having Zendaya play an Ace character, having an Ace character be the main character on an HBO show – this would just be everything!” And so I would not even be that mad about it. I could still say this show is not for me, but also say that there was an opportunity for doing Ace rep well. But they didn’t. Because we didn’t even get an answer. We got teased. We got told, “Maybe, but also probably not. And then let’s never talk about it again. And we will just let the fandom discuss it until they’re blue in the face because that gives us more word-of-mouth. It helps us trend on twitter. It leads to more op-eds about ‘Ooh, what really is Rue’s sexuality?’ because people love that.”
Courtney: And it’s so gross, but people just gravitate to questioning sexualities. I’d love to say that we as a society are past that, but we aren’t, not even on a show who has a main trans character. There’s kind of a… There are other not-straight characters in this show, but I I don’t know how to talk about… them. [laughs] This joke is so… mmm, a lot. It’s so a lot. But even in a show like this, if there’s a question of, “I don’t quite know this person’s sexuality,” people are going to run that plotline down. So at this point, I almost think it’s purposeful. I think writers for big shows like this know what is going to drive the gossip, what is going to get people talking and questioning, and I think this is one of those things.
Courtney: So let’s talk about the evidence directly from the show that people use for an argument as to why this character is Ace. At the end of the day, I don’t think it matters because we’re going to talk about what the real-world implications of these are, and right now they’re not good. But for the sake of the argument, this isn’t the first time that the word “Asexual” – literally just the word – has been brought up in the show. But the first time was totally unrelated to any character whatsoever. We had two characters, Kat and Maddy. Kat was the teenage girl who started camming, and Maddy… Oh, Maddy. Here’s another really gross one that just like – I don’t hear enough people talking about this, and I feel like I’m the old crank on the internet here who doesn’t want the kids to have their fun, but like, I also sometimes feel like, “Am I the only one who realizes how messed up this is?” They literally said about Maddy, “When she was 14, she met a guy on vacation who was, like, 40, which in retrospect sounds kind of rapey and weird, but honestly, she was the one in control.” Are you kidding me? There is nothing about that that’s okay. Adding the “Yeah, it sounds kind of rapey and weird” has – it’s giving me vibes of, like, “No offense, but I’m going to say something really offensive.” It’s like, saying “It sounds kind of rapey and weird, but…” doesn’t ignore the fact that you’re like, “Yes, this 14-year-old girl who slept with a 40 year-old-man, and that’s how she lost her virginity? She wanted – Yeah, she was in control. That was her choice. There was no weird power dynamic there at all. Totally normal.” And again, this is also the show that is holding a count of statutory rape over a middle-aged man’s head and talking about how wrong it is. But this other character, they’re like, “Yeah, but that one was okay.” Why? [more intensely] Why?! [laughs] I don’t understand.
Courtney: So, we have Kat and Maddy. They’re just at the mall. Maddy has reason to believe that maybe her boyfriend is not 100% straight, and she seems a little concerned about that. So she just asks Kat, and she says, “Do you think people are 100% straight or 100% gay?” And Kat’s just like, “No, because obviously there’s, like, bi people, Asexual, pan. Sexuality is like a spectrum, you know?” And, like, that’s it. They’re like, “Oh, well, you got Asexuality in there. Good, well done.” And that’s it. Those are, as far as I recall, the only two times the word “Asexual” has ever been used in this show.
Courtney: But people like to cite one scene where Rue talks about her, quote, “My super brief and horrifying sexual history.” Because she’s talking to Jules, who – Jules has had a lot of sexual encounters. Many of them have been one-night stands with grown-ass men. But Rue’s definitely feeling this whole, like, “Well, this is really embarrassing, because I don’t have a lot of sexual experience.” And so she says, “Well, I haven’t slept with many people,” and goes on to say that her first kiss was at 12. It was a boy that she didn’t like, but she wanted to get her first kiss over with. She gave four hand jobs and two blowjobs, one of which was coerced. And then she and her best friend, Lexi, tried to kiss, to just practice after Lexi got invited to a school dance. And Lexi asked, “Is this, like, really weird and uncomfortable for you?” And Rue said, “No, not really.” And both of them were kind of unconvincing.
Courtney: And I see a lot of people reading into that too much. Like, I have seen some people be like, “Clearly, Lexi has a thing for Rue, but Rue didn’t like Lexi, and so that’s why she was asking if it’s weird.” But I did not get enough from either of their inflections. And some people are like, “Oh, Rue was really uncomfortable there, because Rue is Asexual, clearly.” And I couldn’t even tell if her “No, not really” was, like, sketchy enough to mean anything deeper, because we saw her fake an orgasm, and her fake orgasm was overtly faked, like she’s not good at pretending to be interested, so I’m not going to read too much into it. But I’ve seen the internet read a lot into it.
Courtney: And then she said at 15, she had two zanie bars and a beer and lost her virginity. And it shows that scene where she’s just lying there, clearly not into it. She is monotone. She looks bored. She is rolling her eyes. And she’s fully clothed and the guy is not, because feminism, I guess. [laughs] I did see a lot of people saying, or at least speculating, that Zendaya has explicitly said that she does not want any nudity, because she does seem to be, like, the only character that has not gone there, which is fine. I personally think it’s refreshing to have one character that I have not seen unclothed. [laughs] What a show, what a show. So yeah, people try to cite that as like, “Well, yeah, clearly she can be Asexual, because she didn’t want to kiss the boy, and, you know, she wasn’t into her first time, and now she’s not really into it with Jules.” But then there was one scene at one time where it showed Rue’s character masturbating and she was thinking about how her favorite thing in the world is drugs – “The best thing is fentanyl, but Jules is a close second to fentanyl” – and apparently that’s what she was thinking of while she was masturbating. So some people try to cite that as, like, “But she masturbated, and she was thinking about Jules, so, clearly…”
Royce: Oh, is that what you got from that scene? I guess I was in and out of the room.
Courtney: I didn’t get anything from that scene. I’m saying the internet got things from that scene. [laughs] I’ve seen people specifically say, “She was masturbating while thinking about Jules, so clearly, she’s sexual.” And it’s like, hmm, that’s…
Royce: Not exactly how that works.
Courtney: Not exactly.
Royce: But again, I was in and out of the room for that scene, but I thought she was just masturbating while high because feeling different under the effects of a drug.
Courtney: Well, she was mostly talking about the drugs and how fentanyl was the best, but she also was like, “But I like Jules and Jules is the second-best.” I don’t think she was high during that scene, actually, because if I recall, she said, “The best thing would be if I could have Jules and fentanyl, but Jules won’t be with me if I do fentanyl, so I’m just sticking with Jules right now,” or something.
Courtney: So she’s gone through brief periods of time where she’s gotten clean or gone through withdrawals or been in rehab. But of course, in a show with a drug addiction plotline, we see a lot of relapsing, hitting rock bottom, et cetera, et cetera. But yes, so, the thing is, this is why people in queer communities are so passionate about having named representation – representation that cannot be disputed or debated. Because if there is a shadow of a doubt, people will use that and people will debate it. And at the end of the day, that doesn’t really help any of the real-life queer people. Jules is unequivocably a trans character. There is nothing to be debated about that. Rue, on the other hand: “Hmm, what’s her sexuality?”
Royce: Well, I think the main talking points, at this point in culture, are that you don’t attempt to assume someone else’s gender – that’s just not something you do – whereas sexuality is kind of open. It is seen as that. And I don’t think – I agree with you that having these situations and shows where someone’s sexuality is a revelation, it’s a part of the plot that you reveal or keep mysterious, encourages people to guess, and it’s not a big jump to go from guessing fictional characters’ sexuality to guessing real people’s sexuality –
Royce: – or trying to disprove or redefine or whatever.
Courtney: Exactly. And let’s add a little layer to this. Because that’s pulling from the show, and those are some things that I’ve seen from the show people to use for and against this argument of whether or not Rue’s Asexual. But I’ve also seen people cite Zendaya, who, out of character in an interview once upon a time, stated that Rue is a nonbinary lesbian. I don’t recall anything in the show explicitly naming her nonbinary. I don’t know if that’s going to come down the line or not. Lesbian could theoretically be implied by the fact that she is in a relationship with Jules. But the issue comes when people use that line, “She is a nonbinary lesbian; therefore, she cannot be Asexual.” Because oh, do people use that argument.
Courtney: And oh, I fear we have to tread a little lightly when we talk about the word “lesbian.” I don’t like that the internet has made “lesbian” a very contentious, possibly dangerous word lately, but it kind of has. Because there are a lot of people who have a lot of very firm opinions on what “lesbian” means and who is allowed to use the title of “lesbian.” There are many people who consider themselves to be Asexual lesbians, and there really shouldn’t be any issue with that. Because there can be gay Aces. There can be straight Aces. Bi Aces. Aromantic Aces. There are all kinds of Aces. Being one does not preclude you from the other. And when you think in terms of the Split Attraction Model, which often many people in our community do, you can say, “Well, there’s sexual attraction and romantic attraction.” You can experience one without the other.
Courtney: So most people would say a lesbian is… a gay woman? “A woman who is attracted to women,” for the most part, as a base definition, and what I would say the average person would think if you asked someone in real life off the street. But there’s very much a camp of people online who are quite adamant that in order to be a lesbian, you must be sexually attracted to women, and you must be a woman who is sexually attracted to women. So if an Ace lesbian comes along and says, “Well, I am a woman. I am romantically attracted to women, just not sexually, and therefore, I’m a lesbian,” there’s a camp of people who are not going to consider that a, quote, “real lesbian.” And I think that’s a problem. But that has been a very, very contentious component of this conversation, because when we have all of these people who just straight up hate Asexual people and are going to to see that Asexuality was mentioned on a show that everyone likes, they’re going to use that to start coming after people online and on social media. Some of it’s just, “Oh, Asexuality isn’t real.” Some of it’s really genuinely aggressive and violent, and they try to make up slurs for us, which I actually kind of think is funny. [laughs slightly] It’s not funny that they hate us so much that they think we need a slur. But…
Royce: It’s funny how bad their slur-crafting abilities are.
Courtney: It’s such a bad slur, and I see it all the time. And when I see it on twitter all the time, I do report those accounts for hate speech. And right now, I think twitter is starting to learn that there’s actually a pattern of hate speech here. Because before, it was like, “We didn’t see anything wrong,” and 100% of the accounts we’d report, nothing happened. But now it’s like 50/50, so it’s like, they’re getting there. But if you take the good old-fashioned F-slur and replace the first three letters with “ace” – they are literally out here calling us “ace-gets” or “ace-gots.” I don’t even know how you would pronounce it because it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. And excuse me, if you’re gonna invent a slur for us, at least make it a good one. My god. [laughs slightly] It’s bonkers to me. Because there are people out here who are, like, “Oh, Asexuals don’t actually get hate. Nobody’s discriminating against Asexuals.” And meanwhile, there’s a group of people who hates us so much that they’re like, “We need a slur. We need a slur [laughs] that has the word ‘ace’ in it.” Well, hmm, alright then.
Courtney: So here’s… [sighs] here’s why this is an issue. Here’s why there are real-world ramifications to this. Because we still have no confirmation in the show as to whether or not this character could possibly be Asexual. They teased it and then gave you a really good reason to say, “No, not actually, though.” And yet, what has that spawned? The people who are just outright Acephobic and just hate Asexual people started having a field day, because more people are talking about Asexuality, so it’s easier to find the accounts that are talking about it. You can search the Euphoria hashtags. So they’re just spewing hatred. And then you have the really exclusionary camp of people who have a very, very narrow view on what a lesbian is and who is allowed to use the “lesbian” title, who are then saying, “You cannot be Asexual and a lesbian. Here is our argument. And look, Zendaya said she’s a lesbian. Therefore, you cannot be Ace.” And that is going to harm all of the people who are Ace lesbians. And then you just have all of the people who are just a little bit ignorant about what Asexuality is who are chiming in on, “Ooh, now this is a conversation. Let’s debate. Let’s theorize about this.” And so you also have a lot of misinformation starting to go around about what Asexuality is or isn’t or can be or what it looks like or how to identify it or any of those things.
Courtney: And so at the end of the day, we have real-world people getting targeted harassment at worst, and having their orientation invalidated at best. And we still don’t have a really good solid case of representation to point to and be proud of. So that’s why you need to either do it well and not give all of the people who have so much hatred in their heart any ammunition to hold against us – you either need to not go there at all or just do it well. And they could not pick a lane, and in my eyes, that only does harm. And again, I personally don’t feel like I especially want to be able to point at this show and be like, “There’s a good Ace character in that show,” because I don’t like the show. I don’t want to recommend it to people. [laughs] But as I said before, I could not deny it being good Ace rep if they actually did it well and if that actually means something to Aces who are a fan of the show. But they did not give us enough. And they care too much about the buzz and the gossip and the controversy and the questioning than actually doing right by our community.
Courtney: So on that note, let’s let’s just briefly rehash the things that are sexual in nature that I don’t like how they did, because there are a lot of them. Obviously there is the motel room scene with Jules and a middle-aged man. I don’t love that. I really don’t love the line implying that a 14-year-old girl with a 40-year-old man has any control or that that was in any way justified. That was a disgusting line. How does one explain the Nate situation and his father? [laughs] That’s a… that’s a big one.
Royce: Ugh, [sighs] that’s a whole thing, because Nate is…
Courtney: A whole thing. [laughs]
Royce: Yeah. I mean, he’s… Would you call him the central antagonist of the entire series?
Royce: Or predominantly just Season 1?
Courtney: It’s weird because they did this thing where he was clearly the bad guy. He was the bad guy to a couple of different people for a couple of different reasons. But last we left off, they kind of put him on this, like, “But actually he’s a really traumatized person who had a horrible dad, and now you can empathize with him more, right?”
Royce: That was – it was – I feel like while we were watching the show, there were a couple of points in times where one episode would come on with a very different premise and point and plot structure than a previous one. And we kept asking, “What is the show trying to be?”
Royce: “What are they trying to do? Where are they going? What is the point?” And yeah, Nate is set up to be, very initially, as the somewhat dangerous, unstable jock character that is usually the main villain of a teenage sex show.
Courtney: “Somewhat dangerous”? He beat a man within an inch of his life!
Royce: Well, I was trying to genre-define.
Courtney: Ah. Okay.
Royce: Like, echoes of Nate’s character are present in other shows –
Royce: – that are dramas that are depicted in high school settings.
Courtney: Yeah. He’s the jock bro.
Royce: Yeah, the unstable violent manipulative jock bro. His dad is the one who has sex with Jules in the motel and records it.
Royce: And there is a lot of internalized homophobia in that family.
Royce: And Nate’s trauma is pointed to being him as a, I believe, a preteen – I think he was like 12, maybe even a little younger – finding his father’s stash of recordings.
Courtney: Which, were they all trans women or just predominantly or did they not really say?
Royce: I don’t remember, actually.
Courtney: Yeah, it’s a whole thing. [laughs slightly] And to your point with the shock value of the show, I mean, trauma’s a beast, and it manifests in people in all kinds of ways. And I understand that very well, in fact. But I definitely didn’t love showing this middle-aged man naked in bed with a naked trans teenage girl. I also didn’t love that they had to show the teenage boy naked in bed with his own father during, like, a dream. That was…
Royce: Oh, I forgot that happened.
Courtney: You forgot? How did you forget that happened? [laughs]
Royce: A lot of this show is a blur.
Courtney: That was like… Yeah, I don’t even know. I don’t even know. Because yes, now the end of the second season has happened. It was only two, right?
Royce: Yes. It was two.
Courtney: Yes. So the end of the second season happened, and they kind of did, like… It felt more like a series wrap than anything, but apparently it’s not, because they’re doing another season. But it kind of recapped the entire show, because one of the characters was putting on a play, which was based off of everyone’s real lives. So, we’re seeing a play version of things that we’ve already seen. And they definitely made fun of Nate for probably definitely being gay, and he storms out. And it was so weird, because I can’t tell what story they’re actually trying to tell, or what they’re trying to do. Because they also have him say the line like, “That play was so homophobic.” And it was? He’s not wrong? [laughs slightly] But there were also people who were like, “Yes. This is what I’ve been waiting for. This guy is such a jerk. He’s abusive. He’s violent. And we’ve been waiting for his comeuppance, so to speak. And to see him humiliated in front of the whole school – we love that. We’re eating that up.” And it’s like, but then you’ve got the camp of people who are like, [quietly] “But actually, it was a little homophobic.” And it’s like, where is the actual, actual consequence for all of the fucked-up shit you’ve done and all of the people you have abused?
Royce: Yeah. Why is somewhat insensitive public embarrassment your option instead of jail time for all of the illegal things he did?
Courtney: Yeah! And the thing that people were relishing in it – like, it’s kind of petty, and we all like to be a little petty now and then, but that’s why we occasionally watch, like, really trashy reality shows. [laughs] But the people online being like, “Yes, I loved seeing them do that to Nate!” But now the argument is like, “Oh, but Nate’s actually right. That was a little homophobic.” [laughs slightly] And it’s like, now we’re debating whether or not it’s okay to be homophobic to someone who is a criminal, and I don’t want to be having that conversation [laughs] when there are so many better conversations that we could be having instead, like why this whole show is terrible. [laughs]
Courtney: They did eventually have a consequence for his dad, I think. He got, like, arrested. But that was also just, he was the one they were, “Oh, well, we know what you did with Jules and we know she’s a minor. So you don’t want that getting out, do ya?” And nobody actually just went right to the cops. Everyone was like, “Let’s just hold onto this. Let’s keep this information in our back pocket. Oh, you actually filmed it? We found out that you filmed it! So I’m just… I’m going to keep that in my back pocket. We’re not going to go to the police yet. We’re just going to hold it over you.” It’s very wild. While they’re trying to make the argument that this is very bad, and yet showing us, the viewers, the thing that they’re telling us is bad. I can’t understand what mentality you have to be in to write something like this.
Royce: It just seemed like there were so many ways that the things that irritated us could have been avoided.
Courtney: Yes. [laughs]
Royce: Like, you could have aged everyone up, like, a year and made them freshmen in college and and still had the scenes, for the most part, that you had, because you could have people still living at home instead of in dorms.
Royce: And you could have found drama without the statutory rape plotlines or the child pornography plotlines.
Courtney: Or you could have had those plotlines and not been showing us –
Courtney: – the very thing we’re told is a problem.
Royce: You could have cut a little early. I actually find that the long – I wouldn’t say “long”; they’re a number of seconds – but the drawn-out sex scenes actually detract from the drama.
Courtney: Oh gosh, yes.
Royce: Because now you have a period of time of uninterrupted sex that splits the tense dramatic moments and more dialogue.
Courtney: I am told on good authority that some allosexual people actually like [laughs] watching sex scenes on TV. I’m sure there might even be some Aces out there.
Royce: That’s –
Courtney: But I can’t get it. I can’t get behind it at all.
Royce: Even if you do, though, like I said earlier, this is fan-service. Fan-service is filler content. It doesn’t make a show better.
Courtney: No, I do not think it does. And I mean, honestly, that’s why I couldn’t watch Game of Thrones either. Because there was unnecessary sex and nudity and unnecessary gore. I’m not at odds with any of those things, but I want it to be there for a reason and I want it to matter. I don’t want to just be shocked by it. It kind of takes a lot to just shock me, [laughs] but I don’t want it there just to push the envelope. I want there to be, I don’t know, a really good meaning behind it. [laughs]
Royce: Yeah. I think one of the other – we got distracted earlier, but one of the scenes that did have an egregious amount of nudity that I thought was actually justified was the locker room scene with Nate, where he is clearly shown to be struggling with something. And it’s not clear at that point, but he’s shown being very reserved in how he’s carrying himself, and the other locker-room-full of boys, they’re, like, jumping around fully naked and gyrating their hips and windmilling in the background, and it is so absurdist.
Courtney: “Windmilling”? [laughs] That’s terrible. [laughs] Did you just make that up or do people actually say that?
Royce: I… don’t know.
Courtney: [laughs] Oh no!
Royce: But that… Being someone who has existed in a boys’ locker room, that was so absurdist –
Royce: – that I thought that it drove home the point of how insecure or uncomfortable he was feeling.
Courtney: I can see that. If – Sometimes absurdism works, but –
Royce: Absurdism has a point.
Courtney: It has a point, but this show occasionally will bleed into absurdism, but sometimes in weird ways that don’t completely land. And I don’t know, a lot of people really like the writing of the show and the format. But it seems they started with, like, “We’re giving each character kind of a spotlight and we’re going to have Rue narrating this character.” They just dropped that at one point. And sometimes Rue’s narrations would come back. Sometimes they wouldn’t. But then also sometimes her narrations would get kind of campy, because instead of just hearing her internal monologue, all of a sudden, she would, like, pull down a whiteboard and be, like, giving a lesson in a classroom and it’s like, they don’t keep that consistent either. There is no consistency in this show for their style.
Royce: It’s like they had different writing or producing teams and they just didn’t cooperate.
Courtney: Yeah, it’s… it’s something else. It is something else. So no, the the egregious amount of sex and nudity is not my only issue with the show. And I don’t want to talk too much about this because not my area of expertise, but I’d be remiss if we didn’t at least mention the controversy of the depiction of drug use. Because there is a lot of it, and there is a lot of monologuing about, you know, how to cheat a drug test and how to do drugs and what substitute drugs you can get if you can’t get your hands on this other thing. And so there’s definitely an argument that has been made that the show is actually really reckless by showing all of this and showing a bunch of teenagers doing this. To which, the rebuttal is often like, “Some teenagers do drugs, though, actually, and this can be a real problem.” And, yeah, I know. When I was a teenager, I knew people who did hard drugs. I literally sat in a room with someone overnight helping them through withdrawals. So, I know, I know that that is a thing. And I know that teenagers have sex. But it is the very glamorized depiction of it. Because I mentioned the stylistic framing of the shots and the colors and people wearing very glittery, sparkly makeup, wearing clothes that most teenagers do not wear, especially things in school, where I’m like, “Where’s your school dress code?” [laughs] Like, school dress codes exist, you know. So it’s the fact that there are these, you know, really sexy, really beautiful people. And clearly Rue is struggling with her drug use, because that is her plotline, is that she is an addict. There are a bunch of other people doing a bunch of other drugs where they do not show it being a problem, and in some cases show it like actually looking kind of good. [laughs slightly]
Royce: Yeah. It’s interesting that… Well, I guess to go back to the commentary, yes, there is a culture of drug use in a variety of different demographics, and –
Courtney: And alcohol, also.
Royce: Alcohol is a drug, even though people like to ignore that.
Royce: And yes, also, we as a society are probably, hopefully, going to get to a point where more drug usage is legalized and regulated.
Royce: And that would solve a bunch of problems. The issue I think some people are looking at with the show is that in these party scenes, the situations – this is a show that a lot of the community is saying is so beautifully compelling –
Royce: That the visuals and the audio are very compelling, and that’s, like, the highlight of the show, and a lot of those scenes show a lot of drug use.
Royce: Combined with the audio visual effects that a lot of people are really feeling.
Courtney: Yes. Yes. And yeah, and I’ve definitely seen people make an argument that, you know, they’re talking about real things but this isn’t real life. They’re trying to put a layer of suspension of disbelief, like the outlandish costuming. I know people aren’t literally wearing this at school. And so they’re saying, like, “It is real, but it’s not real.” And…
Royce: That thought didn’t even occur to me.
Courtney: Didn’t even occur – Yeah. Yeah. It’s an argument people make to try to defend the show.
Royce: I just don’t think that you can hide behind Rue’s problems with drugs and still showcase everything else and say that the show is making a point against drug use.
Courtney: Yes. Yeah. That’s fair. And the thing is, I know there are plenty of people out there who can watch a show like this and feel no different about drugs than they did before watching it. There are also people who are going to watch it who have a worse opinion of drugs, because they really empathize with Rue, and now, “I don’t want to even think about doing drugs, when before I was more neutral.” But there’s also – we cannot be kidding ourselves – there’s going to be a class of people who are like, “Well, I probably won’t get addicted.”
Royce: Yeah, I mean, by virtue of marketing and advertising industries existing, this is going to promote drug use.
Courtney: Yeah. Yeah yeah yeah. And I – early on, when I started seeing people say, like, “Oh, well, this is glamorizing drug use and it’s dangerous,” I couldn’t help but think back to 13 Reasons Why. Because the big argument when that came out was, “This is glamorizing suicide.” And I, at the time it first came out, I did not see that. I did not think that was a thing. I was like, “How could you watch this show and think that this is glamorizing it? If anything, it’s showing you…” [sputters] I don’t know what I was thinking. “Suicide bad.” So I was very much on the other side where I was like, “This isn’t glamorizing. What are you talking about?” And you know, as someone who has, in my past life – no longer, thank goodness – have dealt with suicidal ideation, I’ve known a lot of people who have as well, I know that mentality. So, being now sort of recovered from that depression, from that ideation, I could still feel very sympathetic to what they were portraying while also seeing that this is not a good thing, this is not an aspirational thing.
Courtney: But I mean, what do I know? I’m not a mental health professional. I started seeing actual mental health professionals talk about the exact reasons why this was harmful and that they should not have shown the actual scene, for example, being one thing where they’re like, “That is not something you should do. That is reckless.” And I started seeing people make claims that there actually was a sharp uptick in, you know, sort of copycat behavior. And so once I started seeing that, it’s like, “Well, if there are actual numbers and there are actual experts who are saying that this is a problem, I have no choice but to change my mind.” And then I was like, “Well, darn, I mean, I still enjoyed it and it didn’t affect me, but I’d rather not have a show that I like than have, you know, a teenager throw their life away, you know? People are more important than that to me.”
Courtney: And I wanted to look and see exactly – I wanted to cite a professional who really has credentials, who really knows what they’re talking about, about whether or not this is glamorizing. I don’t like that word, “glamorizing,” anymore. I think just “reckless.” Is this reckless media? Is it potentially destructive? All the headlines right now are saying that it’s DARE. I didn’t even know DARE still existed. And I’m not going to sit here with a straight face and be like, [laughing] “We should listen to DARE,” because, absolutely not. I’m going to need anyone other than DARE to make a claim, because DARE has lost all of their credibility. Oh. Silly lion mascot, all those ridiculous t-shirts. [melodramatic] “DARE to resist drugs and violence!” I can’t stand it. What a failed project that was. Probably billions of dollars wasted. [laughs] And for what? For Euphoria to come along and [laughs] show the kids that drugs are fun.
Royce: Oh, I thought you were gonna say mass incarceration or something.
Courtney: Ah, mass incarceration. No. [laughs] It was just, ugh, DARE. DARE is bad. It was horrible. It was the worst. I’m honestly shocked that it still exists. I thought that got thrown out the window long ago, but apparently not. Did you have DARE in your school, Royce?
Royce: Yeah, we did.
Courtney: And did they make you sign the contracts as an elementary school child that you will never touch drugs even once in your life? Because I definitely remember signing one of those contracts. [laughs]
Royce: I honestly don’t remember.
Royce: I don’t think so. But a lot of things that don’t have some sort of implanting tie in my memory are just kind of vague.
Courtney: Sure. So, at any rate, I’m not educated enough to say whether or not this is a harmful portrayal of drug and alcohol usage. I don’t know if it’s a harmful, portrayal of sex, teenage sexual behavior. I’m inclined to say it is, but I don’t know if it’s going to have an any real-world ramifications, you know?
Royce: Yeah, and I’m speculating, but I think that one of the more harmful aspects of it was probably just the flippant way of handling minority orientations.
Royce: Because I don’t even mind all of the drug use. It’s just, we’re probably going to increase drug use at a time when it’s not regulated, and therefore, the chances of someone going out and getting access to harder substances could mean that they end up buying something that they – of an unknown chemical.
Courtney: Mmm. Mhm.
Royce: And not being able to dose properly.
Royce: The sex part, there’s already so much of that everywhere.
Courtney: [laughing] There is a lot of it.
Royce: I did appreciate at least a quick deep dive into a little bit of kink culture, even if that was just played up for shock value. There’s the whole, “Why did you shoot this as high schoolers?” thing. Like, you could have just bumped it up and so much of it would have been – at least you wouldn’t have had to dance around the underage aspect.
Courtney: The kink culture thing is like… I don’t want to be mad at you showing kink culture. I want to support this! I want to be happy that you’re showing a good, healthy depiction of this, but there is one glaring… issue. One huge red flag that you wrapped the whole scene in.
Royce: The whole series in.
Courtney: The whole series! You wrapped the whole series in a red flag! [laughs] Why? And again Hunter Schafer, as a trans actress, is fabulous. And I love seeing a teenage trans woman in a relationship with a Black woman. I want to love that so bad. I want to love it.
Royce: I thought their role was also, from conversations that I have had with trans women personally, or when I’ve read about or watched people detail their own personal experiences, I thought that Jules’ character felt genuine.
Courtney: It did! I mean, her character is probably the best part of the show.
Royce: Mhm. With Fez and Ashtray coming in next, as just like the most interesting part of the show.
Courtney: [laughs] Fez and Ashtray! We just mentioned that we kind of liked them and just did not ever talk about them again. [laughs]
Royce: They were the interesting plot line.
Courtney: [laughs] Oh Ashtray. RIP in peace. So, yeah, at this point, I mean, purely on the “Can Rue be Asexual? Is she Asexual?” level, do you think there’s anything they could theoretically do in an upcoming season that would forgive them all their past sins? Do they have a way to redeem themselves? If, of course, as we all know, the executive producer, the director, I mean, they’re all listening to this right now. The whole writing team.
Royce: Right, we’re going to have a really big episode week when we release this.
Royce: I don’t really believe in redemption, because –
Royce: I don’t think that redemption is something that can realistically be done, and I don’t think it’s the point. Because once you do something, that is a part of history forever. Like, nothing you can do can ever change that. It’s always been something that has happened. You can get people who you may have harmed to forgive you, but that’s not the same thing. I think Rue’s character currently is unspecified. We’ve seen her date. We’ve seen her say that drug use has a certain effect on how she experiences things. But at this point, it’s been unconfirmed what her orientation actually is. And so they could absolutely – particularly if Rue actually gets sober for a significant length of time, which may be the first real time that she’s done that as a teenager, I forget how long she’s been using drugs consistently – maybe she does go through a period of self-discovery when she’s off substances and learns a few things. They could potentially write in a well-thought-out exploration of that. But the first two seasons still happened.
Courtney: Interesting points. And so then for you, do you care at all or put any stock into, like, “Oh, Zendaya has said in an interview, she is a nonbinary lesbian” – do you care about that at all? Does that change the story at all for you, or…?
Royce: Not really, because even that is vague. I mean, the word –
Royce: One thing I think you didn’t mention when you were speaking about the word “lesbian” is that this isn’t a thing as much for smaller orientations or identities, but there is a definitive, distinct gay and lesbian culture. And if the first thing you experience as a queer person is aligning with a group of gay or lesbian people and sort of assimilating or adopting that culture, you’re going to feel a strong tie to that word.
Royce: Even if you later discover that your actual identity is a little bit more complicated than that.
Courtney: Yes, absolutely. And there are definitely – [laughs slightly] I wonder if we’re going to get any hate mail – there are definitely bi lesbians – I can feel them, I can feel them coming for us! – that culture is so important. And the thing is, we’re usually, in the context of culture, talking about real-life communities and sometimes underground communities that have developed either during times or in conservative places where it hasn’t been safe or comfortable to be out and open. And there are absolutely women who, by the book, by the textbook definition if you were to nitpick, probably bisexual, could go either way. Maybe they do have a preference toward women. Or if we were, again, to split attraction, maybe sexual attraction is equal, but you only experience romantic attraction to women, for example. So there are all kinds of different ways to be. But to me, we should never look at someone who says, you know, “I am comfortable and at home in the label of ‘lesbian.’ I have been involved in lesbian communities.” And to just look at that person and say, “No, you’re not a lesbian” – what right have you? What right have you?
Courtney: But unfortunately – and it’s not a perfect circle, but there is a Venn diagram, so to speak, of people who are very exclusionary lesbian and people who are trans exclusionary radical feminists. There’s a bit of a Venn diagram there. Because there are people who, online specifically – and again, I have never met anyone in real life who has made these claims to someone’s face, I’m sure they’re out there, maybe here and there – but online this is a massive heated conversation that happens, and people get strongly attacked for it. So online is… a whole thing. Very online culture that we are observing right now, who… there are some trans exclusionary lesbians who will say, you know, “You must be a cis woman who loves cis women, and to me, that is my definition of ‘lesbian.’ And if you don’t fall within that parameters, you are not a lesbian.” And it’s just wrong. It’s exclusionary. It’s gatekeep-y. It is also just factually incorrect, because it is discounting all of the nuances of attraction – sexual attraction, romantic attraction, love, and all the forms that love can exist. Queerplatonic partnerships. And to tie back to the show, the fact that there are Asexual lesbians! [laughs]
Courtney: But wow. Yeah, so it’s… yeah, online culture. And please do, if anyone has ever encountered real-life people like this, who have made this claim to your face, I’d be curious in hearing that story if you’d be willing to share, because I’m still trying to get my brain around this online queer community. Because I kid you not, I’ve I’ve been observing this lesbian discourse online for quite some time, and I have seen people be absolutely lampooned for saying, like, “Yes, Ace lesbians do exist” or “Bi lesbians do exist.” I have seen people… ugh, it gets bad. It gets ugly.
Courtney: We actually… Our twitter account, which is very low right now – we are under 2,000 followers; when this happened we were probably half that, what we are now – we had someone just tag us at one point because we were apparently following the account of someone who thinks that bi lesbians are valid, and we got tagged that, like, “Just so you know, this account thinks that bi lesbians are a thing.” And I saw that and I was like, “Um, okay. [laughs] What’s the problem here?” But that entire thread just blew up in this very, very hateful community. So, I was not about to respond. Because I was definitely, like… I was pulled into their turf. I was not part of this conversation whatsoever. And all of a sudden, our account is dropped and tagged in this just thread of hatred, by hundreds of accounts, who do not agree with us and were acting very aggressive. So I was like, “I’m just gonna ignore that.”
Courtney: But then some Ace people saw that we got Tagged in that thread and saw that we did not make a response, so we had people calling on us, like, tagging us and being like, “Make your statement on this. We want to know your statement. You got tagged in this thread. We need to know if you believe in it or not.” And it’s like, I don’t think anyone who has actually listened to our podcast – which is the reason why we set up the twitter account – can go back to our, for example, our ageism episode when we were talking about language and queer terminology, and going back to our very, very first episode where we were talking about titles and labels that may seem complicated or contradictory to people who are outside of our communities – I don’t think anyone can listen to our podcast and actually think that we’re gonna be like, [mock aggressive] “No, you can’t be a lesbian if you’re bi! [laughs] You can’t use that word! That word’s not for you.” That’s just not who we are. But the fact people we don’t know, people we don’t even follow, just dropped us into this conversation and all of a sudden people think that they’re entitled to, like, our PR statement on it… [laughs] I was like, “What is this?”
Royce: Something about forced participation really irritates me.
Courtney: Yes! [laughs] It was very, very odd. It’s like, we are putting out an average of an hour worth of content every single Wednesday. We have already lightly discussed this topic. We probably will in the future. We’re doing it again today. It’s like, if you don’t even follow us, if you don’t even listen to our podcast, then you do not actually care about our stance on this situation. You’re just looking to see if we have the right answer – for whatever side of this you fall on. And it’s like, “I don’t know what side of this all of you guys fall on either, but I don’t know you people. We live in Kansas! [laughs] We’re just a married couple who haven’t left our house in two years, [laughs] sitting in Kansas with our menagerie of pets, and that’s about it.” [laughs] So, sometimes I’m just baffled by the internet. I really, really am.
Courtney: But yeah, and then terms like “lesbophobic” get thrown around, like, “Oh you can’t say that she can be Asexual because Zendaya said she’s a lesbian, and if she’s a lesbian, she can’t be Asexual. And if you’re saying she is, you’re lesbophobic.” It’s like, oh… my goodness. That’s a lot. So then we have queer in-fighting also, on top of the people who are just outside the community who just hate us for no reason, on top of the people who are just ignorant and saying things because they don’t understand it, and it’s like, ugh, layers on layers.
Royce: “You disagree with me; therefore, you must be bigoted” is an argument that I’ve seen a lot in discussions.
Courtney: It’s getting more and more frequent. Yeah. I’ve seen the steady growth over the last few years on the internet, for sure. So, Royce, we watched two seasons of Euphoria. What did we learn?
Royce: To stick to Netflix shows for entertainment?
Courtney: No more HBO for us. [laughs] Nailed it.