Asexual Character Spotlight: Data

So, I’m a nerd. And I’ve been rewatching Star Trek TNG lately because the gf hasn’t seen it yet, which is just not acceptable for someone as space-nerdy as her. She seems to like it, while I am rediscovering my love for my favorite asexual character.

When I still browsed AVEN a lot, I saw a few people who had avatars or quotes of Data, and seemed to identify with him like I do. Data is very much a classic character, so I expected as much. I feel like, if anything, I’m just going to be rehashing things people already know. But after doing a quick google search, it doesn’t seem like it’s anything that’s been discussed a whole lot, so I thought I might as well talk about him a little.

Like most asexual characters currently out there in the media, Data is not human, though he desperately wants to be. The very fact that he is not human is one reason why asexuals, as well as other people who feel alienated or outside of society in some way, are more likely to identify with him. But the anatomically correct android takes it several steps further than a cute, appliance-like robot character like WALL-E could, for one because he is in a show that is much more adult and thus has the possibility of actually exploring sexual themes; and two, because his goal is to become as close a facsimile to humanity as he possibly can. He fervently explores humanity and tries very hard to understand “the human equation” as best he can.

I particularly identify with this attitude because that is exactly my attitude towards sexuality. Like Data (who engages in sexual activity with Lieutenant Yar, telling her that he is “programmed in multiple techniques”–and taking into account his performance at every other task, we can be sure that he functions more than adequately), I can and have engaged in (enjoyable, even) sexual activities, but I still fail to understand the human urge or “need” to have sex, because I do not experience it. I’ve had people go so far as to tell me that I cannot possibly be human and still feel this way, though obviously since I am human, those people are mistakenly twisting the facts to fit the theory, and not the other way around. Clearly human sexuality is in actuality more varied than most people would like to think, but my main question (unanswerable though it may be) is why do other people feel this way? How does it affect their perspective on love, the way they feel towards their crushes, and so on? I have a tendency to drive people crazy asking them endless questions about how they think about love, sex, intimacy, and other related topics, which I think is frustrating to them mainly because they’ve never thought about it before, or certainly not in such detail as I request.

Essentially, I want to know what other people feel. It’s not that I want to change myself to feel the same way they do, because I’m perfectly happy with my own lack of… not interest, because I am certainly interested in human sexuality. From a distant, analytical perspective. Sound familiar?

If I were denied the full range of human emotions, I would yearn to be human, too. But I already am human, and I have those emotions. Why should I want to feel a form of desire that would only continue to frustrate me?

One very intriguing thing that Star Trek implies about sexuality is that it is contingent on having emotions. Anyone who hasn’t seen First Contact and doesn’t want to be spoiled, please refrain from highlighting the following text: Remember that creepy scene with the Borg Queen? She turned on Data’s emotion chip and then tried to seduce him, and seemed to be succeeding. In effect, before the emotion chip is activated, Data is asexual. After? He may well become borderline sexual, and able to experience sexual attraction, although he would still have no particular need to have sex.

This implies that sexual attraction itself is an emotion. Is that an accurate presumption? I’m not sure. It could be. Or it could be that the emotion Data was experiencing was purely his intense desire to be human, channeled through a sexual circuit. Is this not similar to what many people do with regards to intimacy?

This is merely an observation, but it seems to me that many sexual people do channel their emotions through the act of sex, as a sort of release for them. I don’t really understand this behavior, (and again, I feel like Data because of it), but I do see that it happens. It seems I’m just not wired to experience sex from an emotional perspective. Would I be, if I were sexual? I wonder.

And so I continue to ponder the puzzle of human sexuality, seeking answers that I will likely never be able to attain. In a way, I think the search is more important than the ultimate conclusion.

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4 thoughts on “Asexual Character Spotlight: Data

  1. One thing about Data that I’ve always found a bit ironic, and I’m not sure if the scriptwriters were aware of it, is that during his incessant striving to “become more human”, he displays quite a range of human emotions and longings already, only perhaps not exactly in the same way that others would display or experience them. And so he continues to convince himself that he’s not quite as complete as humans, and continues to defend his image of himself as being “merely” a machine, while I see him experiencing pride, sadness, confusion, longing, curiosity, loss, hurt, wonder, appreciation, caring… Yes, before any emotion chip. Yet he has no one of his kind as a model, to reflect to him that it’s possible to experience feelings in an android way, too, so he continues to tell himself that he’s incapable and deficient in that respect. Yes, I identify with Data. :-)

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    • Oh yes, Trix, that’s definitely true. The closest thing he has is Lore, who only tries to make Data even more insecure by flaunting his “superiority” with regard to emotions and speech patterns, in order to manipulate him into doing whatever he wants him to do. If you wanted to take the comparison to asexuality a little bit further, you could say that the way Lore behaves towards Data is similar to the way the media, particularly advertising, functions towards asexuals, trying to make them (and everyone else) insecure about their sexuality so that they’ll be more easily influenced to buy their “sexy” products. Or in our case, perhaps shell out money to have a sex therapist fix the “problem.”

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  2. True. Another andriod really similar to Data is Rem (Latin for thing) from “Logan’s Run” TV series. The only difference is he’s less swayed by the desire to be human than Data is. He’s the asexual who says, “stuff sex, stuff being like anyone else, I’m me and I’ll find my own way.” Sometimes I take that attitude. Other times, I’ll be Data and just want to belong.

    Heck, one could identify with androids just because one feels different.

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  3. Pingback: Asexuality in Star Trek by Emma Filtness | Trekfanproductions

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