This is a Carnival of Aces submission I was asked to post for someone, in case the title didn’t make clear who the author is.
So Spy x Family came out in 2022 and became a massive overnight sensation among anime fans. For those of you who know what I am talking about, you have probably watched it already because it’s freaking everywhere. For those of you who don’t know what I am talking about, Spy x Family is a comedic spy thriller. The countries of Westalis and Ostania are locked in a state of cold war, their delicate peace constantly under threat. One of the invisible forces keeping the precarious peace is the cutthroat game of spies and assassins. Ostanian psychiatrist Loid Forger is actually a spy for the country of Westalis, tasked with securing a connection to the secretive, warmongering politician Donovan Desmond. With his adoptive daughter Anya and unbeknownst-to-him assassin wife Yor Forger, Loid plans to infiltrate Ostanian high society by enrolling Anya in a prestigious prep academy, all in order to protect the peace that he wants the world to enjoy. Think James Bond meets Mr. and Mrs. Smith meets family sitcom. Hijinks ensue. Given my current tastes, if anything was going to drag me kicking and screaming back into watching anime—something that I moved away from in undergrad as my tastes shifted to more Western media—it was going to be this. Expect spoilers.
The Asexual Lavendar Marriage of Loid Forger and Yor Briar
To get everyone up to speed, lavender marriages were marriages of convenience that LGBTQ+ people, especially those under high public scrutiny, would often employ in the early to mid 20th century. These marriages granted a respectable cover for closeted persons to project to society, and allowing them breathing room from persecution and even the space to be their true selves discretely.
Loid Forger and Yor Forger (née Briar) have a textbook lavender marriage. In the socially conservative I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-East-Germany nation of Ostania, where being a social misfit gets you ratted out to the secret police, having a lavender marriage is essential for the two moonlighters. Loid needs to be married because Ostania’s upper crust will be suspicious of a single father, undercutting his infiltration mission. Yor Briar needs to be married to divert scrutiny from her personal life, and thus her assassination work. While both consent to a marriage of convenience, neither knows about their spouse’s secret double life of murder and espionage. Loid and Yor both need the other to maintain the public image of totally-ordinary-heterosexual-marriage-and-family, so that they may facilitate their true selves in secret, while being closeted to each other. Regardless of authorial intent, this reads as very queer, at least symbolically.
Even beyond the generic queer cred, their lavender marriage is very asexual. Their marriage is shown to be chaste, to the point where Loid and Yor sleep in separate rooms. But the framing of their separate rooms is not that of a 1960s sitcom, where spouses sleep in separate beds because God forbid sex be so much as hinted at on public television. Pragmatically, Loid needs to hide his spy equipment and a separate bedroom enables that. But more crucially to my point, Loid offers Yor her own room to sleep in as a matter of courtesy and respect, because sex was never an expectation he would impose in the first place. Neither party, especially not Yor, seems to be down for sex and this lack of interest is respected within the couple. Further, their marriage is never delegitimized by the story. Their marriage, despite being out of convenience and despite their mutually-hidden jobs, is consistently sweet and loving and emotionally genuine, far more than a lavender marriage needs to be. They are living the aro ace dream of being roommates with a long-term, platonic companion. This all is honestly so refreshing to see.
But that doesn’t stop other characters from challenging their relationship for its nonsexual nature. In episodes 8 and 9, Yor’s brother Yuri (a member of the Ostanian secret police), comes to visit the Forger residence, but is deeply suspicious of his sister’s out-of-the-blue marriage to a man Yuri’s never even heard about. Cue hilariously awkward family dinner. Cue a panicked back-and-forth between Loid and Yor about how to deal with this. Cue Loid, over-prepared superspy that he is, revealing that “picked up a bunch of lovey-dovey couple’s stuff” in case the marriage ever came under scrutiny (it involves a revolting amount of pink). Cue Loid and a deeply uncomfortable Yor having to stage a romantic kiss to prove their marriage is real, else Yuri will expose it as fraud. Time to be blunt: Yuri blackmails Yor and Loid into performing a socially-expected gesture of hetero, alloromantic allosexuality against their wishes to convince him of the relationship’s authenticity (don’t worry too much—despite my description, it’s all more farcical than anything and Yuri chickens out of having to see his sister smooch someone before any follow-through). The only way this could be more asexual is if they were wearing the ace flag colors and eating a piece of cake as this happened.
Is Yor Forger Asexual?
You could make a plausible case for Loid Forger being an asexual man, on the grounds that he never pursues sexual relationships for the pleasure of it, but only ever as a means to an end on missions. I’m not too convinced on that, because his spy work requires that he avoid the entanglements that romantic and sexual relationships entail regardless of his orientation. Instead, I think the stronger case for asexuality is Yor Forger. Her lack of romantic and sexual connections makes her suspicious to her coworkers at city hall (reminiscent of the Lavendar Scare), and Yor acts both uncomfortable and baffled by this scrutiny, as if her lack of relationships never even occurred to her as a problem, but suddenly other people care and she doesn’t get why. Sex is rarely, if ever, on our radars of things to even begin to care about, but allosexual keep creating external pressure, forcing us into shaming and ridiculing confrontations. So Yor caves to social pressure and gets a fake marriage to get her peers off her back. See every fake girlfriend or boyfriend an ace has ever made up to save face. Further, Yor’s deep discomfort with any romantic or sexual attention pops up multiple times throughout season one, which reads as sex-repulsion, another common asexual feature.
Obviously the big problem with my asexual interpretation is that I can’t future-proof it. As of this writing, season two is only in development and I haven’t read ahead in the manga. The story carries many of the hallmarks of Slow Burn Heterosexual Romance™, where Loid and Yor will realize their true (romantic, sexual) feelings over time, and I would not be surprised if it evolves into that down the line. I hope it doesn’t, but I won’t let that ruin the show for me even if it does, because Loid and Yor have a compelling, well-written dynamic regardless of their orientations. Besides, if that happens then that just means Yor is demisexual instead, so it still counts as asexual-spectrum. Less important to me is the question whether or not it fits asexuality perfectly, and more important is whether an asexual audience can engage with and benefit from it in general.
So at least for now, regardless of whether Spy x Family should be counted as asexual representation by accident or by design, it is undoubtedly an ace-friendly work. If you are ace and a fan of spy fiction and noir or a fan of anime, but can’t put up with how oversexed those media often are, then Spy x Family is a great way to scratch that itch. Asexual representation and friendliness are both all well and good, but my free time is precious and I won’t go for something just for that. I require more from my fiction, so seeing a well-crafted, enjoyable work of asexual-friendly material in a genre that I like is something that I am always going to treasure.