The Asexuality Of Gore Vidal

Last year, I did a little story on what it means to be asexual and how the identity fits into queerness.

It was a cool, enlightening story that sought to investigate and explore how the LGBTQ+ community can expand and explore itself all by way of getting back to basics, to how people are sexually attracted and how people land (or unland) their gender on a plane. It’s interesting! And it’s the type of subject that, once exhumed, cannot be put away.

But are there any asexual celebrities? Few, if any, and the asexual community is starving for representation. In reflecting on this – and reading various subjects for school – I might have found someone who might be of interest: Gore Vidal.

So how does this literary figure and beloved intellectual fit into this landscape? A few things, first from an asexual Tumblr: he is responsible for a beloved quote that the community identifies with, saying, “Sex is. There is nothing more to be done about it. Sex builds no roads, writes no novels and sex certainly gives no meaning to anything in life but itself.” Vidal was noted to have a rich sex life but did sleep in separate bedrooms from his partner, Howard Austen.

This is where his potential asexuality reveals itself. While romantically gay (or queer), he didn’t identify sexuality and was one to shun the act within a relationship. We’ll turn to the “trusted” source Wikipedia for more information.

In 1950, Gore Vidal met Howard Austen, who became his partner for the next 53 years. He said that the secret to his long relationship with Austen was that they did not have sex with each other, “It’s easy to sustain a relationship when sex plays no part, and impossible, I have observed, when it does.” In Celebrity: The Advocate Interviews (1995), by Judy Wiedner, Vidal said that he refused to call himself “gay” because he was not an adjective, adding “to be categorized is, simply, to be enslaved. Watch out. I have never thought of myself as a victim… . I’ve said – a thousand times? – in print and on TV, that everyone is bisexual”.

Interesting. While not an admission of asexuality, it does pass the buck away from any identity which is very, very interesting.

The most interesting part of all of this is a letter that he wrote to essayist Anaïs Nin about a potential relationship. This, which I read in school recently, revealed to me that he is asexual, that his preferences are for people but without the sex as he offered Nin a “sexless partnership” as a form of proposal. While that may seem absurd, this may have been Vidal’s biggest reveal. Sadly, it doomed their relationship and caused Vidal to resent Nin.

Alas, the sexual frustrations never end. There is no word if Vidal was ever, truly asexual which may be the fault of a lack of language to capture how he fit into the spectrum. Or, he very well could have been a guy who liked a little bit of everything and only on the occasion was sexually active: we may never know. We can assume, sure, but we also do know that Vidal was very open about not having sex – and that has helped some people feel seen and heard.

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