Welcome back to the Binge Fringe Digital Pub for another pixelated pint with a Fringe star. Today we’re joined by someone who seems to have covered his face in cake… No doubt there’s something to be explored there! Sit down with me and Eliott Simpson for an 8-bit beverage, over which we discuss asexuality, queer intersectionality, perceptions and baked goods.
Eliott is performing (A)Sexy and I Know It at the Brighton Fringe and Edinburgh Fringe this year.
Jake: Okay. So first thing I wanted to ask is about Cake. What is the link between Asexuality and Cake?
Eliott: It’s a long running in joke within the Asexual community. When the Asexuals first banded together through our online networks, an ongoing joke with saying why have sex when you can have cake?
Cake is better than sex. It’s af very simple in joke and it has spread to the point where it’s become a symbol of the ace community. That’s the one question ask – why don’t you have sex? And we’re like, we’ve got cake.
Why would you want anything else with cake? You can look at it, you can smell it, you can taste it. And from that you can tell you can have a good time and you could do that with a person. And yet the text can still be very bad. So I think cake wins.
Jake: You’re advertising the show as featuring “gender, stakes, queerness and cakes”, what’s the meaning behind that?
Eliott: Gender plays a part because it was kind of thanks to discovering my Asexuality that I discovered other aspects about myself and so I actually now identify as gender fluid. I’m aware I’m very masculine presenting with the beard, which is why I like the term water boy, because again, very fluid.
Realizing that I was Asexual was really liberating. It made me think about the weird constraints and binaries of how we think sexuality is. I realised how a lot of what we associate sexuality with kind of comes from gender stereotypes. If any of you are very masculine or born male, you’re taught from a young age that it’s very important to be very tough and build sheds, drink beer in those sheds and have a lot of sexual prowess.
If you achieve a lot of sexual prowess then you’re seen as an alpha male. When I realised that could be removed, I was like, “I don’t have that pressure anymore!” I don’t think I really identify strongly much with masculinity anymore. I think gender and sexuality coincide. They cross over quite a lot in both good and bad ways. So I kind of investigate a bit of that in the show as well.
Jake: And I suppose that leads us quite nicely into a thought about perceptions of sexuality and asexuality. So, I’m wondering what sort of perceptions you imagine people have of Asexuality coming into your show?
Eliott: Sometimes I do actually get a lot of other Asexuals come to the show, well, because they literally never see themselves represented in any form of media. Obviously, I’m very happy that they come. What I really want to do is to teach people who might know nothing about it. I imagine a lot of people that would come probably don’t know much about it or may have never even heard of it before.
Or maybe their understanding of asexuality is just ‘they don’t like sex’ and that’s it, which isn’t an accurate description. It’s both more complex and more simple than that.
People think that asexuality just means you don’t want sex, or you hate it, or you have a low libido, which is not the same thing at all. There’s nothing like biological about it. It can all work, the plumbing can be plain, but the plumber is in Spain. That’s what I always say!
Asexuality is the lack of sexual attraction. So you could very well have the capacity to want it. And some Asexuals even do choose to have sex for a variety of reasons. There’s lots of intricacies about it which people don’t quite understand, it’s a wide spectrum. That’s why quite a lot of the show really is me just talking about how I combat a lot of the kind of annoying questions I get asked on a daily basis.
People will come to me and say things like, “Oh, you’re asexual, how can you be asexual?” Or “You look so attractive, you’re so handsome” and I just think “You’re straight and ugly as sin, what’s your point?”.
Jake: So what’s the most crazy thing you’ve been asked about being asexual?
Eliott: Where do I start? The weirdest one I got was when I told someone I was Asexual and they literally looked at me and said, “So are you a fish?” I said, please elaborate. They said “Well, because fish don’t have normal sex. Females lay eggs and then the male sprays sperm over it.”
I don’t know quite what they were insinuating. It’s like asking “Are you sitting around waiting for people to lay their eggs in the corner so you can spunk on them?”
It’s the same old story. History repeats itself when these things come about. Obviously, we’ve always existed, the same way all sexualities have always existed. We’ve not really ever had much representation before. People often naturally react with hostility because they don’t understand it.
Jake: I often think that people think of asexuality as a negation of sexuality, perhaps they associate it with something quite clinical or plain, your show’s marketing very much refuses to be limited to that perception. I dare say it might even be perceived as quite sexy. Was that a deliberate choice?
Eliott: There are a couple of reasons why I did that way. One, because I knew it would be quite a striking image. It’s a fun satire of the whole kind of Calendar Girls dress sense, with cake. More importantly, it’s a mixture of subverting sexual tropes that we often times see in media and culture. It was about empowerment as well, because I think one thing I really want to make very clear is that a lot of things we think are links to sex and sexuality actually aren’t.
Sometimes seeing a naked body or seeing someone being happy or proud of their body doesn’t necessarily means they’re inviting sex or that they want to feel sexual. They can just really be comfortable in their own skin. They want to show off that and feel empowered in their own skin. That’s okay. Nothing we assume to be sexy actually is.
And you mention as well, a big negative stereotype people often draw that they again, assume that sanctuary must be a biological or a medical or clinical thing where some kind of disease or something else is wrong with you, essentially, or that you’re broken somehow.
People that I have literally just me will ask “Were you damaged or abused as a child?” No! But like I say, history repeats itself. A lot of the questions we get asked are not too dissimilar from the exact same questions that were given to Gay or Bi people a decade or so ago. History is following in the same footsteps.
Jake: Asexuality is something that is underrepresented even within LGBTQ+ circles, what was the motivation for you to want to raise awareness of it? Did it come from personal experience?
Eliott: Oh, absolutely. There are two main reasons why. A big part of it is personal experience, because I spent many years as a kid, going through puberty, going through High School and University, having no idea what it was. I didn’t know if I was a judge people if I wasn’t, if I actually cared about sex or not. I was bullied for not really caring about sexy things or not watching porn. I never did that. I was bullied for that quite a lot and I have no idea why. I thought that I I was gay.
It wasn’t until about halfway through University that I finally discovered what Asexuality was and it was such a moment of liberation and relief. Like, finally, I know where I am. This makes sense. And it’s not just me. There’s more people. It’s so validating to be like you’re not alone. It’s actually a valid, normal thing, and you don’t feel like you’re broken or wrong at all. So that was really relieving. And I was thinking, but, man, it took me a long time to get to that point.
Our generation understands Asexuality even if it took some explaining sometimes. But it didn’t change the fact that whenever I went out to a regular pub or a club and I was doing, like a normal comedy Fest, there would be plenty of older people or the people who had different experiences. And a lot of the time they didn’t want to get it. They didn’t care. They thought it was stupid and silly.
So I thought, okay, clearly there’s been some resistance to the message I’m getting out. But then that’s when I started doing comedy about it, which I didn’t do originally. But I started doing comedy and doing jokes about being asexual and something clicks. Like people were getting it. It wasn’t just young people. Everyone in the audience I went to, people just got it. They were laughing with their understanding. It’s like, okay, this is interesting.
The sad reality is that when you’re a performer and if you’re different somehow, whether it be queer or autistic or whatever it is, If you’re funny in a freaky way, that’s fine. But if you’re not funny, you’re just a freak. But I thought here I actually have an avenue to communicate and educate people who maybe likewise wouldn’t want to know about it, because the only prerequisite for a comedy show is that as long as it’s funny, people don’t care.
So you can use comedy as a really powerful tool to g spread to any message you want, because if people aren’t interested in the topic, they’re not going to go out of their way to get a lecture for it.
Jake: Have you been to Brighton fringe before? Are you familiar with it? I have done it once before.
Eliott: A few years ago, I did a split show with another comic, of course, Elliot, who is also tall and white and blonde and very weird. We did a show called Elliott and Elliott Need Friends.
And I was just really a fun show just to see what it was like doing a festival, I guess my experience and I absolutely loved it.
Edinburgh this year will be my first year doing the entire run. I did a short version of the show a few years ago, just to get my name out there. I really love the Free Fringe. That’s why the true Fringe is to me. The Fringe was meant to literally be artists on the fringes of culture building on their work. Whereas now it’s kind of become the opposite of what it’s meant to be. It’s so commercialized now. So many big, huge theatre companies that are running everything. I love finding the really interesting artists to do all the really cool things that you wouldn’t see otherwise.
Jake: And how are you feeling about Brighton being just around the corner?
Eliott: If we were mentally well, we would not be doing comedy. Do you think going to a dark room at night to tell jokes to drunken strangers for validation is something normal people do? That’s something we do. We’re all messed up. That’s why we do it.
Jake: And where else can we find you?
Eliott: I run a comedy club in Glasgow called The Diversity Quota. We’re basically a safe space, inclusive comedy night. So we always make sure we put on a very diverse and varied bill of acts every time. It’s very LGBT friendly, but we get all sorts. We have a token straight on every month just to give them a shot. They’ve had a hard time recently. It’s always nice, healthy mix of ethnicities, of religions and of bodies too, of able bodies and disabled bodies.