Who Framed Roger Rabbit’s Jessica Rabbit may be considered a sexual icon, but could she actually be an asexual icon?
This week, from October 22 to October 28, is Asexual Awareness Week, which, true to its name, helps promote awareness about asexuality, as well as demi-sexuality and aromantic relationships.
While I myself am not an asexual — I’m simply not getting any! — many of my favorite internet personalities, and even a close real life friend of mine, identify as asexual.
As such, I wanted to do my part in spreading asexual awareness by writing an article on the topic. And what better topic than one speculating which Disney characters are asexual?
While Disney doesn’t have any official asexual characters, that hasn’t stopped fans within the asexual community from speculating about the potential asexuality of many characters like Belle and Elsa.
But perhaps the most interesting speculation has to be about a character whom would be the least likely to be considered an asexual: Jessica Rabbit.
I know what you’re thinking: Jessica Rabbit? Asexual? Are you kidding? Just look at her!
She’s voluptuous, curvaceous, and flirtatious. From the way she walks to the way she talks, she’s clearly as “sexual” as you can get. She’s practically the unofficial sex symbol of Disney. She can’t possibly be asexual. Can she?
To answer that question, we first have to properly define asexuality and debunk several mis-characterizations about it.
Asexuality, as its name implies, is the lack of sexual attraction. This means that people who identify as asexual are not sexually attracted to other people.
However, while this means asexuals are not interested in sex, it doesn’t mean they are incapable of having romantic relationships. (Though there are people who identify as aromantic, or who lack romantic attraction.)
As such, people who identify as asexual can still dress and act sexy, have romantic relationships, get married, and — yes — even engage in sexual activity. (Through their experiences are much different than that of their sexual partners).
A good example of someone who identifies as an asexual and exhibits all of these traits? Elisa Hansen.
Better known as “Maven of the Eventide”, Elisa is an internet reviewer (from the former Chez Apocalypse) who reviews vampire-related media.
As you can clearly tell from her appearance, she loves to portray herself as a vampire seductress, dressing in the most alluring gothic attire and talking and acting most seductively. She’s also starred in other reviews by her friend, Lindsay Ellis, where she often plays the part of the seductress, such as with her sexy scientist character.
However, despite her sexy appearance, Elisa also identifies as asexual. Even then, she maintains a romantic relationship with fellow internet reviewer, Paw Dugan, with whom she married and even had a child with.
So if a real life person such as Elisa is capable of being asexual while also being sexy, a fictional character like Jessica Rabbit could very well be the same.
The question then is not whether or not Jessica could be asexual, but rather, whether or not she really is. To answer that question, we can consider many clues about her within her own movie.
Anyone with two pairs of eyes can tell that Jessica Rabbit is sexy. Her bust-to-hip ratio is so over-exaggerated that it makes Barbie look healthy in comparison. She uses her good looks to perform as a lounge singer and has even been solicited into performing certain “acts” with other people like Marvin Acme — even if it’s played off in a subtle undertone like “Patty Cakes”! So if she looks sexual, acts sexual, and even talks and walks sexual, then she must be sexual, right?
First of all, as we previously discussed, “sexy” does not necessarily mean “sexual”, as people who are asexual are capable of acting and dressing sexy. Even if that weren’t the case, her appearance alone would not be argument enough for her sexuality, because, as it has been pointed out many times, dress does not equal consent. Just because someone acts and dresses sexy does not mean they are interested in sex. (No still means no!)
And that’s the thing about Jessica Rabbit: everything about her sexuality is based upon assumptions. Both the viewers and other characters assume her sexuality based upon her appearance alone, and as she goes on to prove in the movie, it’s not a fair assumption to make about her.
Of course Jessica Rabbit looks sexy. She’s a cartoon character. As she famously said herself: “I’m just drawn that way!” She works as a lounge singer because that’s the only job she’s capable of holding down, and she needs it to help support her struggling actor of a husband. And as for her alleged “sex life”, such as her games of “Patty Cake”, those were things she were coerced by others into doing to keep her husband safe.
Aside from all that, she doesn’t really show romantic interest in anyone else with the exception of Roger — and as we’ll discuss later, that interest is purely romantic, not sexual. If Jessica Rabbit comes across as “sexual”, it’s only because other people, both in and out of the movie, perceive her to be that way. It’s a classic case of sexual objectification, and in her case, it’s quite literal: she’s literally a sex object created to be a sex object and objectified by other people.
And it’s fairly clear that she finds this level of objectification quite uncomfortable. She even goes so far as to put a bear trap in her cleavage to prevent other people from groping her, which not-so-subtly hints how much harassment she suffers on a regular basis. She even says that much when she tells Eddie Valiant: “You don’t know how hard it is being a woman looking the way I do.”
One Tumblr user, Gaslight Gallows, mentioned how Jessica’s restraint amidst such sexual harassment and objectification was quite empowering: “I’ve idolized the character since I first saw her as a child. She has so much power and CONTROL when she chooses to wield it, working with what she’s got, but also just happens to show absolutely no sexual interest in anybody. You use that system to your advantage, girl! It’s your turn! And you don’t have to be part of it to do that if you don’t want to!”
Perhaps the strongest piece of evidence in favor of Jessica’s asexuality is her own relationship with Roger. As a human woman married to a rabbit, it’s safe to assume that she’s not “doing” anything with him, or if she is…well, I’d rather not contemplate those implications.
But we don’t really need to imply anything about their relationship when the two of them are more than open about it. For Roger, you’d assume that being married to the hottest woman in Toontown would be a bragging right for him; and yet not once during the movie does he comment about how hot she looks or how lucky he is to be married to someone as good-looking as her. His affections for her are purely romantic, not sexual.
And as for Jessica, well, when she was asked by Eddie what she saw in him, she famously replied, “he makes me laugh.” It’s pretty clear that she loves him for his personality, with his love for her being equally mutual and reciprocal.
That’s probably the strongest point about their relationship: while everyone else sees her as a sex object, Roger sees her as a person, something that she in turn appreciates about him and likewise, along with his humorous personality, attracts her to him.
One Tumblr user, Disney Princess Defender, said it best: “Out of every Toon in Toontown, Jessica falls in love with Roger. Why? Because he makes her laugh. Because whereas everyone else saw her as being a sex symbol, he saw her for her personality. He unconditionally loved her and she unconditionally loved him….Long story short, she’s an amazing character because she has a great personality, undying love for her husband, and the ability to fight when the time comes.”
It’s pretty clear that her vampish looks and demeanor, along with her romantic relationship with a cartoon rabbit, doesn’t detract from the theory Jessica is asexual. If anything, it does more to support that argument.