Obsessed? Disappointed.

CW: This post discusses sexual identity and various aspects of human sexuality. If this is not something you want to read about, please steer clear.

My dearest Louise,

As you know, some of the discourse around Mr A’s latest project Obsession has been rather tiring to me, so to save my own sanity, I was gonna keep well away.

I personally have zero issues with xplicit material, so I don’t get the uproar. He’s played far more controversial characters (nazi, serial killer, rapist anyone?) than an adulterer (he played those several times!) who discovers a penchant for what sounds like light bondage. Sex always seems the one to cause issues. Violence, not so much. And not wanting to watch that is valid. I just wish people didn’t yell at him or fellow fans for not having these reservations regarding sex. And that’s all I’m gonna say about that.

And then I read that Guardian interview. Hoo boy! It made me feel Feelings with a capital F. And since Mr. Kate is all talked out on the subject, I decided to write down my reaction.

Here are the tl;dr quotes I will be referencing, highlighted for convenience.

I have issues. Man, do I have issues.

First of all, how someone’s sexuality expresses itself is not a choice. As someone who has hinted broadly that he does not tick all the “standard” cishet allosexual boxes of what many societies still consider the “norm” for sexual identity, I had expected a more reflected comment from Mr. A here. Allosexual patterns should be the norm for everyone and people who don’t fall under that description (like people who identify as asexual) are pitiful? Everyone should feel physical obsession? Oof!

Forget for a second that obsession does not necessarily carry a positive connotation. Just because person A thinks that a particular thing is the greatest thing since bread came sliced doesn’t mean they have a right or reason to pity people who don’t enjoy it. Or tell them what they should and shouldn’t feel. Pity by and large is not a feeling anyone wants to inspire.

Previous interviews suggest Mr. A is himself not part of the heteronormative majority. Should people pity him? Imagine that. Imagine telling a queer* man you pity him for not being straight. The uproar would be rightfully deafening. *(I use queer as an umbrella term because he hasn’t labeled himself publicly afaik, so I don’t feel comfortable doing it.)

The other problematic declaration for me is that an “all-consuming orgasm” is not only part of the human experience, but a large one at that. Even if someone wants to feel what is considered standard big IF and that’s before we consider if this is an intrinsic desire or informed by feeling pressure to meet the norm!!, they may not be able to for a variety of reasons. Any number of physiological and psychological factors can influence how someone experiences sexual desire. Would you tell a cancer patient you feel pity for them?

This assertion that not mere orgasms, but these particular orgasms, are an essential part of what make us human reads as extremely problematic to me.

Do even the most basic research on sexuality and you will find that orgasms aren’t a given. Certainly not spectacular, partnered ones. Just as a ballpark figure, only between 50 and 70 % of women report having orgasms during heterosexual sex.

Some people never orgasm from partnered sex, some people don’t ever experience orgasms at all (according to some research up to 9 % of women have never experienced an orgasm in their lives) and some of those people still enjoy intimacy and even sex. A self-proclaimed research enthusiast should read up on these things before making potentially hurtful proclamations. There are a lot of experts out there who talk about these topics and who are trying to dispel the stereotype that an orgasm (in popular culture from partnered penetrative sex) must be the end goal of sexual intimacy.

Not everyone can have that and, more importantly, not everyone even wants that.

Take me, for example. I’m afraid of heights. Terribly. I don’t need pity because I will never rock climb. I have zero desire to rock climb. Never have. I don’t feel like I’m missing out at all. I could care less. So if you, an avid rock climber, tell me that I’m “missing a large part of being human” when I actively don’t want to do it, I would kindly ask you to take your pity and scram. Some people feel about sex the way I feel about rock climbing.

Yes, sex is more basic than rock climbing (sorry, I don’t have a better example from my personal experience), but is a massive orgasm really “a large part” of the human experience? I’m pro orgasm myself, but I would put a whole lot of other things far ahead of that.

Telling asexual/ not allosexual people that you feel pity based on how they experience life when they are perfectly happy with themselves and their lives strikes me as problematic.

And since we’re apparently getting down to what’s what in sex, let me just say again that great sex (if you want it) doesn’t have to be partnered sex. You don’t need someone else to “step[…] into your life” to give you physical pleasure. It’s unattainable for some people and undesirable for others. Some people don’t even like being touched by others. Everyone gets to define what great sex looks like to them.

The spectrum is vast. All experiences involving consenting adults are valid. Kink is valid. Vanilla is valid. Lots of sex is valid. No sex is valid. Partnered sex (with one or multiple partners) is valid. Solo sex is valid. Hetero-, bi-, pan- and homosexual sex are valid. We are all valid and human and we should try to live our lives to make ourselves happy while not hurting others. That’s how I see it.

Throwing a whole group of people under the bus for PR purposes? Less valid.

I’m going back to my crafting cave.

xo, Kate

31 thoughts on “Obsessed? Disappointed.

  1. Dear Kate, I fully agree with you but I wouldn’t trust Richard’s words 100%. I noticed long ago that when he talks about his (new) projects he always talks as if he is still partly in the character, from his character’s point of view, defending/explaining him. That’s my opinion.
    Thank you for your post ❤️

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I often get the feeling that he wants to say what fits best with the current project. Of course he has to promote his work, but especially with a topic that is (as we can see from the discussions around the show) somewhat sensitive, I wanted a sensitive approach. Whether this is his actual opinion or not, we’ll never know. I take anything he says in interviews with a large grain of salt (or 5). But those statements are on the record now. I just wanted to go on the record as saying that we’re all valid as we are. ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Ooh, that is an interesting observation, Olga. RA still has William’s hat on, so to speak. That would explain some of the more controversial declarations in the interview.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. I thought this interview had a lot of bizarre moments (to the point that I wondered if it was edited down somehow). I mean, the interviewer concludes on the basis that Armitage elaborates on a question she asks in a publicity interview that he is “very submissive”? Really? I wonder if whatshername who did the awful Crucible interview in 2014 thought that? (And yes, at the time we wondered if she had talked to John Proctor and not Richard Armitage. Although he’s been done with this project for several months, no?”

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes, he’s already filming the next show and has done book promo in between, I believe. I agree that the interview feels edited and I can’t get a feeling for what was said in which context. Are they speaking off the cuff or answering questions? What were the questions? The “submissive” comment is very strange. It feels like it was thrown in as a catch phrase to fit with the BDSM element. I’m actually more confused after reading this rather than enlightened. The section I found interesting and helpful was about the choreography of sex scenes and how that’s helpful to actors and creates a safer environment.


  2. Thank you for this post, summarising exactly the same responses that I had to what RA said in that interview. I was taken aback by his pronouncements on the vital importance of all-consuming orgasm for the human experience. It is for some – but not for others, for whatever reason. How problematic such absolute pronouncements on an emotional and highly individual part of the human existence become, can easily be seen if you replace the term “all-consuming orgasms” with something that is equally personal, emotional and private as sex, and also *can* but doesn’t *have to* be a choice. Take for example “motherhood” or “being a parent” (which is laden with as much emotion and convention as sex). And then read this: “I’m sure there are people in the world who have never been parents. You’re missing a large part of being human.” *scoffs* Would anyone accept such a sweeping generalisation? Absolute statements just don’t sound fair, can really easily come across as smug or patronizing, and their validity is questionable. There is an element of “othering” in them, too, implying there is something wrong with those who are not conforming to the lifestyle choices of the majority, and that rubs me the wrong way. As a mitigating factor I’ll give Mr A that he said this in the context of promoting a show at whose core is said “all-consuming orgasm”. Was he speaking from his character’s POV? Or following the lead of the script-writer? I think it could’ve been phrased better, but yeah, maybe it was just said in the moment and came out the wrong way…
    BTW, I felt that the first quote you are mentioning was intended as a description of the show’s premise from the character’s POV, so not necessarily Mr A’s own opinion. If not, I’d also feel somewhat miffed by the choice of words here. “Pity” is problematic. As you said, active choices do not need to be pitied. And if it’s not a choice, then pity is not what people need, but sympathy. I think that Mr A is usually quite sensitive to issues of othering, whether from own experience or his strong capacity for empathy. It doesn’t really come across here, though.
    Glad you came out of your crafting cave for this, though. We are currently having some interesting conversations, thanks to this upcoming show. All irritation aside, it feels great to be back at intense discussion of fascinating topics. That had been missing for a while. Thanks for leaning into the topic!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. It’s interesting that you mentioned parenthood because that was another thing that went through my mind as I was trying organize my thoughts. And you are absolutely right—othering is the right keyword to use here.
      And I agree, these interviews that are written in summary style rather than straight up Q & A format are tricky. They’re always an amalgamation of what the interviewee(s) said and commentary from the interviewer and the line can be hard to draw. We don’t know how much of an answer might have been left out or if ideas have been rearranged chronologically by the writer while crafting the article thus changing the effect of what was said. I reread that first passage several times to see where that pity comment originated and am none the wiser. But it doesn’t fully make sense to me to read this as a straight forward quote from William ‘the character’ either: “If they haven’t, I pity you.” Which *you* is the *I* addressing and is *I* William or Armitage? And the later statement about the orgasms seems clearly attributed to Mr. A.
      All in all I guess I just really don’t like this style of interview. Too much uncertainty and reading between the lines. I most certainly wouldn’t want to be the interviewee. You’re putting your credibility and reputation wholly into someone else’s hands.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Agreed. The format of the article could easily lend itself to misinterpretation. And the first quote is totally mixed up. Like you, I re-read it several times because it was a real low-blow, somewhat out of character for a usually very sensitive (and also slightly wishi-washi) RA. The use of the personal pronouns (as quoted and highlighted in your comment) is completely messed up. Hence I assumed he was quoting William, not speaking for himself. But yeah, the other statement is clearly his own opinion (why else would he initially stop himself).
        I usually like such articles because they flow better and are an easier read, with additional information, than pure Q&As. But this case shows how unreliable such write-ups are.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. These articles absolutely make for better prose than a Q: A: type of interview and in the right hands they can be informative and do the subject matter justice. Here it’s either deliberately confusing or the author relies too much on her background knowledge of what actually happened and didn’t recognize how this would be to read for an outsider. Neither is great for a professional journalist.

          As for his usual wishy-washi approach, I actually had a thought while reading some comments this morning. The weird quotes almost sound like silly taglines a PR campaign for the project would come up with. Is he maybe overcompensating? Until now I had the impression that he was Mr. “Don’t Get To Close” about anything personal let alone sexual (Guy fanfic anyone?) and suddenly he’s the sexpert? Is he maybe so uncomfortable talking about this that he is saying things that he thinks he should say or that aren’t his actual feelings but cribbed from somewhere? Sort of like Charlie Murphy saying she wants choreography for a sex scene because she doesn’t want it to be informed by her personal life? I dunno. I remain baffled.


          1. In defense of the writer I have to say that I found some passages of her article really good. She put her finger on why the original film was a product of the 1990s. It’s hard to say who is responsible for the comments coming out as absolute as they are. He could’ve said and meant them that way, or she could’ve misrepresented them.
            Your interpretation could be right. I think he is generally very good at adapting his commentary to the project he is promoting, his (possibly more outspoken) colleagues and his audience. If it also serves the purpose of concealing his private life, it makes sense.


            1. Yes, parts of the article were really good and both CM’s and the writer MLM’s quotes seemed logical. Maybe it’s internalized APM and I just don’t want him to have said and meant that. 😂


            2. I’d certainly also rather have him not say that. (But I also feel somewhat protective of the female writer – because it is too easy to seek for blame on her part 😁)


    2. I agree that parenthood is a (the?) relevant comparison. Honestly, I have gotten so sick of people’s condescension to the child-free among us. Whatever. The other one that I thought of is the bizarre belief in the absolute benefits of exercise. for. everyone.


      1. I deliberately used that comparison because it is *so* emotionally fraught. And even though I *am* a parent, I join you in being sick of the inherent condescension in that argument. It is rude and ignorant. And in reverse it is also condescending to parents. As much as I love my children, I *hate* being reduced to my state as a “mother”. It is *not* the be-all and end-all of the human experience or the dominant trait of my existence. Full stop.


  3. A useful addition to the debate, thanks, Kate. I’m cautious about the Guardian article. With one -to – one articles, I get the impression that Richard proof reads and checks it before its published, even supplying his own copyright photos when the newspaper doesn’t arrange any, or none are supplied by the publicity company?

    With ref to the ‘all consuming orgasm’, I’d like to point out that he is a man, and all the commentary I’ve read so far has apparently been from women. Women may well experience orgasms differently from men? So I think that is pertinent.

    I do believe sexual orgasms are an important aspect of adult human lives, for the majority. I used to write up psychiatric reports for my Dad for medico-legal ptsd cases. There was always a section on ‘libido’, which can change for many psychological or physiological reasons and if one is emotionally traumatised.

    This Netflix story reminds me that there is a stereotype (don’t know how accurate), that ‘damaged’ people, eg child abuse victims, can often end up in repeat abusive relationships and/or prostitution. So this is what Anna is doing in Obsession, perhaps?

    ArmiD described it very well when she asked if the creators will treat Anna in a mainstream derivative way as a vamp or victim? 🥴🤔

    So far am not impressed with the sensationalist (non-Korean!) trailer. I hope the actual series will be better than that?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, women experience orgasms differently. Which is why I find it even more important to be careful when sweeping proclamations about “being human” are made. Being human includes a whole lot of different experiences. I don’t know what being asexual feels like, but I would never dare look at a person who is and say “you’re missing out on a large part of being human.” That is not for me to decide. I just wish we could make an effort to move on from the idea that being human equals what is considered the norm and embrace all.

      I’m pretty neutral about the show. I’ll watch it and see what they do with it. I’m not scandalized by the sex element, but neither am I all excited. I would really like him to do a project that won’t end in drama and destruction for his character, but despite (because?) of the current state of the world, misery seems to sell. I just hope they treat the themes they deal with with respect (I don’t know anything about the book or film, but if trauma is involved, I hope that’s handled with care).

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Frankly, I personally think that anything obsessive or all-consuming is potentially dangerous and potentially makes you forget what it means to be human. And not all of us want to give up that much self-control.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Yes I quite agree, Kate, and with the points that others have made here. The ‘pity’ comment is so peculiar and inappropriate – particularly from someone who does give the impression of having sensitivity. Perhaps the hapless, submissive, Armitage just blurted it out after a command from the dominant journalist.
    (And aren’t orgasms by their very nature ‘all consuming’ however long they last, like a sneeze? Perhaps he has super ones!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That must be it, J. The journo made him do it. 😂
      And I dunno about the orgasms. Is he an orgasmic overachiever? I’m not sure I need to know.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. You know, it read like ‘entitled, middle class, middle aged mansplaining’. Unusual to be this thoughtless. Aside from the material itself which i don’t find very interesting, this was off – putting. Imho, this role is getting more attention than the material warrants, but that’s just my opinion 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are absolutely correct. It does come across as very much entitled and condescending. I’ll watch this out of curiosity (I was always going to give it a try), but these comments certainly didn’t heighten my excitement. I guess the old adage that “sex sells” is still true, but maybe he should consider he’s going about hawking his wares the wrong way.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. And the article is run of the mill i.e. Guardian does quick reviews of anything Netflix puts out new, probably as part of PR deal; They have weekly reviews of upcoming stuff so people can decide what to watch of all the stuff coming out. Bit tongue in cheek, it’s a TV guide of sorts , nothing special.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, that’s interesting. I did say today that his comments almost sounded like silly PR sound bites. Imagine it said in that cheesy movie trailer voiceover style: “If you haven’t experienced an all-consuming orgasm, you’re missing a large part of being human!” Dun dun dah.

      I don’t follow any TV or streaming at all unless it has someone in it that I’m interested in.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Does not excuse what he said 🙂 Just saying this is a note more like, not a big newspaper article. I don’t actually watch, mostly due to lack of time, but since i work in the industry i haven’t turned off notifications and promo emails, i like to know what’s out there, even if i don’t watch. Funny enough, the stuff i am actually interested in watching i find out about on food blogs or videos, from documentaries etc. N is an endless pit 😀 So is Disney i guess, but maybe to a lesser degree.

        Liked by 1 person

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