Asexual Character Spotlight: Dexter Morgan

What with the relatively few updates this month, compared to last month, I suppose I might be vain enough to suggest that some of you might have been wondering what I’ve been up to, or perhaps wondering whether I’ve rambled myself hoarse (figuratively speaking, of course) and have been starting to run out of steam. Alas, no such luck; in fact I still have a pretty long list of subjects to blog about in the future, whenever I get around to it.

The truth is, this past month I have finally taken one of my (fellow asexual) friends up on a promise I made too long ago to even remember when exactly it was that I made it—that is, to start watching Dexter.

Since then I have been absolutely engrossed in the stories of our Darkly Dashing friend, both on-screen and in-print. His narration is witty, dry, and refreshingly clean of all silly human sexual urges. He is most certainly, as he claims, a “neat monster” and I find it easy to relate to him because his clear-headed logic is so strikingly similar to my own (minus, of course, the part about killing people).

For any of you who aren’t following, Dexter is a serial killer. Not just any ordinary serial killer, but one trained by a cop to follow a strict code of clean, ordered, “moral” killings (that is, he only kills fellow killers). Blood spatter expert by day, vigilante by night, this is one killer who knows how not to get caught.*

I should warn you before we go any further that there will be some spoilers (for every incarnation of the story) in this entry; however, they will be in white text, so you will have to highlight it to read. I will try to indicate what the spoiler is from so you can only highlight the parts you’ve already seen/read.

There may actually be some (admittedly small) debate about whether Dexter is really asexual. It is almost certain that he is, but his traumatic past leaves room for one to argue that he is actually sexually repressed. This argument is more valid when considering the television series version of Dexter (season 2: especially in light of his relationship with Lila). Considering that the book version and the television version are significantly different from one another, I would approach them as two separate alternate-universe incarnations of the same basic character. I have to say, I am of the opinion that the writers of the TV version of Dexter tried to make him more relatable in more ways than one, and that includes (sadly) sexualizing a character who is basically not. From a purely moral standpoint, I would say it’s a bit easier to sympathize with TV!Dexter because he follows the Harry Code a bit more stringently, even going so far as to (season one finale) kill his own long-lost fellow sociopath brother, as well as (season two finale) his psychotic ex-girlfriend (though by that point she had revealed herself as a total manipulative bitch who went way over the line by attacking Astor and Cody, and so I very much doubt whether he still felt any connection to her at all), despite the personal connection he felt for them. In the book version, by contrast, (Darkly Dreaming Dexter) he let his brother kill LaGuerta, helped him to escape, and then even added a drop of LaGuerta’s blood to his slide collection, despite the fact that she never really did anything wrong. TV!Dexter also goes through a period of questioning the morality of Harry’s Code, whereas book!Dexter does not; the former is much more ambiguous whereas the latter is more clear-cut (even to the point, I think, of being a little bit a stretch when it comes to believability—case in point: (Dearly Devoted Dexter on) Deborah’s simple, easy acceptance of Dexter’s dastardly deeds).

When it comes to Dexter’s sexuality (or lack thereof), it’s important to consider his actions towards Rita. (Since this is fairly early on and not a major spoiler, I won’t do the highlight-text. Fair warning.) In the book version, when Dexter crosses her boundaries, it’s only a kiss; in the TV version, he also fondles her. Subsequently, there is a significantly greater number of sexual encounters than in the books, and an even more significant increase going into the second season. While it is still easy enough to interpret him as asexual early on in the TV series, as the story progresses Dexter is shown in more and more sexual situations, and his reactions to them lead me to draw the conclusion that the writers of the television series have decided to subtly (re)interpret the character as a damaged, repressed sexual person. Most likely the sex is in equal parts an attempt to draw ratings, and to further “humanize” the character (from a mainstream standpoint anyway—does nothing for me, except disappoint). In the books, however. There is only one sex scene, initiated by Rita, which Dexter is distracted during and reacts to with pure puzzlement, and doesn’t seem to otherwise think or care about after. Really, he cares much less about Rita in the books; she is only a disguise, and it’s just her kids he’s attached to (for very interesting reasons!). He is quite clearly only going through the motions, whereas the TV series intentionally raises questions about whether or not he isn’t, after all, truly getting attached. I suppose it’s possible to interpret book!Dexter as someone who’s sexually repressed, but it seems to me much more reasonable to interpret him as someone who simply never developed a sexuality (or strong emotions, for that matter). Of course, since in the event of disparities like these, I always choose to acknowledge the original creator’s vision, I consider book!Dexter to be the truest in interpretation.

And because it’s hilariously similar to my own reaction to losing my virginity, I simply have to share this quote:

“I believe Rita looked up at me. I am also reasonably certain that I looked back. And yet somehow it was not Rita I saw but a neat stack of cool and bloodless limbs. And it was not Rita’s hands I felt on my belt-buckle, but the rising unsatisfied chorus from the Dark Passenger. And some little time later—

“Well. It’s still somewhat unthinkable. I mean, right there on the couch.

“How on earth did that happen?”

~(Darkly Dreaming Dexter, page 79)

One other question worth raising is this: since Dexter is a mostly emotionless, sociopath serial killer, do we really want people to associate him with asexuality? Well… yes and no. Obviously there’s potential to perpetuate certain stereotypes, most notably: 1) that asexuals are repressed and probably all have traumatic pasts, and 2) that we’re incapable of of love (yes, I have actually had people assume this about me before! Appalling, isn’t it?). On the other hand, people obviously find Dexter quite charming despite the fact that he might under any other circumstance be considered a villain, and so I think there’s great potential for him to spread positive awareness about asexuality. And it’s wonderful to have a character out there that we can actually relate to, for once! I really can’t wait to see what happens next.

* Although, in season two of the television series, he certainly came close!

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