The BBC’s Sherlock series is different on a number of levels. For one thing, they’re the first really popular modern reboot of the concept of Sherlock Holmes that has stayed mostly true to Conan Doyle’s canon (as opposed to shows that draw on the stories’ ideas like House). Secondly, as the title of this clip points out, it is the first Holmes series to ever discuss sexuality within the canon of the show.
This clip is a large part of the evidence people use to argue that Sherlock (at least the BBC’s version) is asexual. (Now, many Doyle afficionados have speculated that Sherlock is asexual before based on the original source material. But this is the first time Sherlock’s sexuality has been an explicit part of the discussion.) Other evidence people point to is his complete obliviousness to come-ons from various people from Molly to Irene and his lack of interest in forming relationships with other people (besides John).
He can’t be called a straight-up ascetic, because he indulges in other sins of the flesh – most notably ‘recreational’ substances. The most difficult part of trying to box up Sherlock’s sexuality is that he’s also often described (both within the show and by the writers in interviews) as being “Aspergerish”. I’m no expert on the autism spectrum, and a character can certainly be both Aspergers and asexual, but a lot of fans find it hard to judge whether Sherlock’s disinterest in sex is related to his asexuality, his mental state, or both.
There is a whole meme for Sexually Oblivious Sherlock.
It’s interesting to note that the biggest sexuality-related backlash I’ve seen to the ‘Sherlock is asexual’ line of thought is ‘NO HE’S GAY WITH WATSON’, not ‘NO HE’S STRAIGHT AND YOU’RE WEIRD.’ And that’s not just within Sherlock/John shipping communities. I have friends who have never actually heard the word ‘shipping’ in their lives that point out the pair’s slashy, UST-filled moments every time we watch an episode together.
Here’s the thing, though: I wouldn’t argue that Sherlock is aromantic. Consider, if you will, this actual commercial edited together and aired by a Korean network that was broadcasting the show.
Sherlock has said numerous times that he cares for John in a way that he cares for no one else, and he goes to extreme efforts to help John in the same way that John does drastic, reckless, and sometimes illegal things to help Sherlock. (I do hold that John is in love with Sherlock and hasn’t come to terms with the fact that he’s bi yet, but that’s a story for another Saturday.)
And I’ve already expressed my opinions on how tired I am of the constant recycling of the Irene Adler character and subsequent romantic developments between her and Sherlock in my Game of Shadows review, but given the lengths to which Sherlock goes to help her in “A Scandal in Belgravia,” it’s hard to argue that he doesn’t care for her in some way.
So we arrive at a theory: that Sherlock is a biromantic asexual. But I think that needs one more tweak. Sherlock as I understand him doesn’t really see gender. I’d posit that he’s panromantic rather than biromantic. So there you go. Only Sherlock himself can give the definitive answer, and I’m not sure I trust showwriter Steven Moffat (with whom I have a very complicated relationship) to stay true to the character in the end. But you heard it here: Lady Saika thinks that, given the evidence and if you force her to label his sexuality, the BBC’s Sherlock Holmes is a panromantic asexual.