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A character who does not understand the concept of sexual attraction

This work is a proposed Trope, Tropers can vote and offer feedback in the comments section below.
Proposed By:
Chabal2 on Mar 10th 2010 at 2:43:31 PM
Last Edited By:
Pichu-kun on Jul 4th 2018 at 6:47:40 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: Trope

Grabbed by Andrea Tx; Rolling Updates in Progress

This is an adult character who understands the physical mechanics of sex, but doesn't seem to have a conceptual understanding of sexual attraction. If they see or overhear a sex act, this character does notice what's going on and may even be able to call it what it is ("What I am seeing/ hearing is sex"), but they can't contextually understand the implications or importance of the specific act or why someone would engage in such acts. This character is not stupid or deficient. They're likely capable of understanding other "social" situations, and may even be an expert in a variety of fields of discourse, but when it comes to sex, the topic goes completely over their head.

This character may be too spacey or they've never found a reason to think about sex, like growing up isolated from other members of their own species or they may just be beyond sex. Other possibilities include being celibate from a young age or being anti-social. Whatever the reason, they just don't get it and other characters may feel too awkward to properly explain the act.

Common questions this character may have is "Is he hurting her?" or "Why are they fighting if they keep agreeing?" Possible statements this character may make include "She prays every night, enthusiastically and loudly."

This can also apply if the character sees an animal trying to attract a mate — such as birds dancing and singing loudly — and makes an innocent comment about how they're "playing" or "chasing one another."

This may be a trait of a Chaste Hero or NaÔve Everygirl. Parents use The Talk with their children to avoid this if possible.

Compare What Is This Thing You Call Love?, when the character understands sex but doesn't understand the emotion of "love."

Contrast Asexuality where a character understands sex and feels emotional attraction but not sexual attraction. Contrast Paralyzing Fear of Sexuality where the character understands sex and is very afraid of it.

May overlap with Not Distracted by the Sexy.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Film 
  • "Children Of The Revolution": Joe gets arrested for refusing to be drafted, and he and his girlfriend Anna, a policewoman, have sex in an interrogation room. Outside, his mother hears the thumping noises and thinks he's being beaten by the police. Somewhat justified in that, as a Communist, she sees the police as stooges of the oppressors, and can't consider that her son might be romantically involved with a policewoman.

    Literature 
  • The dog protagonist of A Dog's Purpose has no concept of sex, human or animal. This is in part because he's always neutered before he can mate. Bailey describes humans as "wresting" together at several points. When he starts feeling attraction to female dogs he doesn't understand why their smell attracts him so much. At one point Bailey (then called "Toby") tries to mount his female friend, but he doesn't understand the significance of the gesture and simply considers it a game. He gets jealous of other male dogs copying his game and stealing Coco's attention from him. Even when he's reincarnated as a female dog, she doesn't understand her heat and is just embarrassed by the scent.
  • In The Giver, no one is allowed to have sex in their society. Certain girls are used for breeding and then their offspring are given to couples. When someone hits puberty they're given medicine to eliminate their sexual desires. Thus, no one has any grasp of sex.
In Ken Follett's novel The Man from St. Petersburg, British upper class young lady Charlotte Walden, despite being about eighteen years old, has no idea what sex is. Being that the novel takes place just before World War I, this can be seen as Truth in Television.
  • According to many stories, many women in the "Victorian" era knew nothing about sex. Their mothers would tell them a little just before their wedding night. The infamous quote "Lie back and think of England" reflects the idea that women knew nothing but to just allow their

    Live-Action TV 
  • Supernatural: Castiel is an angel who has been around since nearly the beginning of time. He understands the physiology of sex, but doesn't really get the true concept of libido and why humans behave the way they do sexually. Importantly, it is implied that Castiel experiences physical arousal through his vessel but does not connect that to any particular sexual attraction.
    Castiel: [while watching porn] That's very complex
    Dean Winchester: M-hm
    Castiel: If the pizza man truly loves this babysitter, why does he keep slapping her rear? [pauses] Perhaps she's done something wrong...

    Visual Novels 
  • Due to Memetic Mutation (google "You lost me" meme), Shiro from Fate/stay night became this on the internet, despite having healthy amounts of sex in the original game.

    Web Comics 
  • Looking for Group: Richard in overhears Cale and Benny going at it and calls out encouragement, thinking he is torturing her.
  • Somewhat surprisingly, Norman the Anarchist from S.S.D.D. He seems to understand virtually everything else related to it, including pregnancy, but somehow manages to just not get it. Picture this: Richard's girlfriend, Anne, is visiting, and the two have withdrawn to their chambers for a while. Then Richard shows up in the living-room, naked except for a collar, and asks if he can borrow Norman's police-baton (why does Norman own a police-baton? Because his cattle-prod sometimes runs out of batteries, that's why.) Norman agrees with a shrug, and then muses "I wonder what he needed it for..." to a disbelieving Kingston. He also at one point wonders about how Richard's gotten more mature since meeting Anne, thinking "I dunno what they were doing when he went to study with her, but he always had the weirdest smile when he came back..."

    Web Original 
  • In Dragon Ball Z Abridged, Goku had no understanding of sex upon getting married. When he and Chi-Chi first made love, he thought she had "cinna-buns" hidden in her shirt. Even after having a son he still did not understand that sex resulted in children being conceived. It took his wife getting pregnant a second time before he finally came to learn that "SEX MAKES BABIES!"

    Western Animation 

Rolling Updates, since it seems we don't have it.

Feedback: 75 replies

TJ
Mar 4th 2010 at 4:03:07 PM

I don't know whether we have this, but I think it needs a different name. The current title made me think Asexuality.

Mar 4th 2010 at 11:36:32 PM

I originally wanted to call it Doesn't Get Sex, but then realized it meant a guy who never gets laid. Ever.

Mar 5th 2010 at 1:44:44 AM

"Why is that dog playing piggyback with that other dog?"

Mar 5th 2010 at 2:14:58 AM

Somewhat surprisingly, Norman the Anarchist from SSDD. He seems to understand virtually everything else related to it, including pregnancy, but somehow manages to just not get it. Picture this: Richard's girlfriend, Anne, is visiting, and the two have withdrawn to their chambers for a while. Then Richard shows up in the living-room, naked except for a collar, and asks if he can borrow Norman's police-baton (why does Norman own a police-baton? Because his cattle-prod sometimes runs out of batteries, that's why.) Norman agrees with a shrug, and then muses "I wonder what he needed it for..." to a disbelieving Kingston.

He also at one point wonders about how Richard's gotten more mature since meeting Anne, thinking "I dunno what they were doing when he went to study with her, but he always had the weirdest smile when he came back..."

Mar 5th 2010 at 5:06:26 AM

This seems to overlap a lot with the Chaste Hero.

Mar 5th 2010 at 7:01:01 AM

Happens from time to time in Crayon Shin Chan, though the only one I can think of off the top of my head was when he walked in on his parents doing it, thought they were wrestling, and wanted to join in the fun.

Mar 5th 2010 at 7:55:16 AM

Due to Memetic Mutation (google "You lost me" meme), Shiro from Fate Stay Night became this on the internets, despite having healthy amounts of sex in the original game.

Mar 5th 2010 at 10:57:38 AM

^^Stewie.

On The Simpsons when Santa's Little Helper was in heat.

Lisa: What's Santa's Little Helper doing to that dog?
Marge: Uh oh...
Bart: It looks he's trying to jump over her, but he can't quite make it. Come on, boy, you can do it!

And when Ralph Wiggum got in the adult video section of the comic shop.

Everybody's hugging!

Mar 5th 2010 at 11:27:52 AM

See also Harmful To Minors.

  • In Watchmen, young Walter Kovacs does not understand what he sees in a flashback when he walks in on his mom servicing a client.

Mar 10th 2010 at 12:58:21 PM

In the film Children of the Revolution, Joe gets arrested for refusing to be drafted, and he and his girlfriend Anna, a policewoman, have sex in an interrogation room. Outside, his mother hears the thumping noises and thinks he's being beaten by the police. Somewhat justified in that, as a Communist, she sees the police as stooges of the oppressors, and can't consider that her son might be romantically involved with a policewoman.

Mar 10th 2010 at 3:41:34 PM

Mar 10th 2010 at 4:36:54 PM

To add to The Simpsons example: In one episode he thinks that "birds want to make love with bees... or something like that". In another he thinks he impregnated a girl by kissing her.

Mar 10th 2010 at 5:28:10 PM

Stewie from Family Guy doesn't even know what sex is. Despite constantly making sex jokes, when asked what sex is, he answers "Um, it's some kind of cake?".

Apr 26th 2011 at 7:31:42 PM

I could have sworn there was a YKTTW for this, since I remembering giving an example. Maybe that was something else. . .

Apr 26th 2011 at 9:07:40 PM

In Ken Follett's novel The Man from St. Petersburg, British upper class young lady Charlotte Walden, despite being about eighteen years old, has no idea what sex is. Being that the novel takes place just before World War I, this can be seen as Truth In Television.

According to many stories, many women in the "Victorian" era knew nothing about sex. Their mothers would tell them a little just before their wedding night. The infamous quote "Lie back and think of England" reflects the idea that women knew nothing but to just allow their husbands to do what they wished so as to have children.

Feb 22nd 2012 at 12:46:45 AM

Sexually Innocent might be a more straightforward title.

Feb 22nd 2012 at 10:54:51 PM

Stormtroper, you may want to look at Miss Conception.

Jul 7th 2017 at 12:32:46 PM

Wow, look at this! I feel like someone interested could easily write it into a comedy trope, any takers?

Jul 8th 2017 at 3:10:40 PM

One advert for Flora has two children making toast for their parents on their anniversary. When they take it upstairs, they find their parents having sex. One of the children says "Mummy won't let us watch wrestling on TV, but she seemed quite good at it with Daddy".

Jul 9th 2017 at 1:04:56 AM

This proposal is suffering from the TLP bug that prevents edits from showing up in the display.

Zero Context Examples have been marked as such. They need more information to show how they fit the trope. Please don't remove the marking unless you add enough context.

Jul 9th 2017 at 1:20:38 AM

^fixed bug, you can add edits

Jul 9th 2017 at 2:55:27 PM

Folderized, the unsorted examples are lacking the proper namespaces.

Jul 10th 2017 at 9:21:59 AM

Ordering the Unsorted examples to their respective categories. I was tempted to add some examples I found, but I wasn't sure about it

Dec 2nd 2017 at 4:48:03 PM

Revised the description to take out the This Troper stuff. I get the joke, but this isn't a forum post we're making...

Dec 3rd 2017 at 4:55:09 AM

Fan Works:

Dec 7th 2017 at 2:24:19 PM

Supernatural: Castiel is an angel who has been around since nearly the beginning of time. He understands the physiology of sex, but doesn't really get the true concept of libido and why humans behave the way they do sexually.

Castiel: [while watching porn] That's very complex
Dean Winchester: Mm-hm
Castiel: If the pizza man truly loves this babysitter, why does he keep slapping her rear? ...Perhaps she's done something wrong...

Dec 2nd 2017 at 9:51:10 PM

I second Sexually Naive as a name. Or Oblivious To Sex (Sexually Oblivious ?).

This seems related to Not Distracted By The Sexy. I think the name should denote that sex goes over their head rather than they're bad at sex or asexual.

Dec 2nd 2017 at 11:29:58 PM

"Oblivious" wouldn't work because they do notice the sex; they just don't realize what it is.

It doesn't look like there are many takers for a name with "naive" in it, so what about Green Sexuality (like "green recruits")? That would suggest inexperience, naivete, and youthfulness.

Dec 3rd 2017 at 7:26:32 AM

I kinda like Green Sexuality. Something along the lines of Doesnt Get The Sexy although that sounds like Buffy Speak.

Dec 3rd 2017 at 11:52:08 AM

The title Green Sexuality is growing on me. I'm still voting for that one.

Also, I think this is a bit of a stub. I'm gonna suggest the following revision for the description:

This is a character who is so inexperienced in the world, or so child-like and innocent, that when they see or overhear people or animals having sex, they can't understand it for what it is. This character does notice what's going on, but they don't realize the implications or importance of the specific act. That is not to say this character can't understand anything else, though. They may be capable of understanding other "social" situations, and — depending on, say, their age — they may be an expert in a field of discourse, but when it comes to sex, the topic goes completely over their head.

This character may be too young to understand, or they may simply be too stupid. Another possible explanation is they've never found a reason to think about sex, like growing up away from members of their own species. Other possibilities include being celibate from a young age, or being anti-social. Whatever the reason, they just cannot get it. Other characters may feel too awkward to properly explain the act, whereas this character is too naive to keep their mouth shut about it.

Common questions this character may have is "Is he hurting her?" or "Why are they fighting if they keep agreeing?" Possible statements this character may make include "She prays every night, enthusiastically and loudly."

This can also apply if the character sees an animal trying to attract a mate — such as birds dancing and singing loudly — and makes an innocent comment about how they're "playing" or "chasing one another."

This may be a trait of a Chaste Hero. Compare What Is This Thing You Call Love, when the character understands sex but doesn't understand the emotion of "love." See also Harmful To Minors. May overlap with Primal Scene if this is a child walking in on their parents in the act.

wdyt

Dec 3rd 2017 at 11:23:03 AM

Nice! I really like your version of the description. You might add a line along the lines that it's possible for this character to be completely intelligent or astute in other areas, but sex and the social interactions around it go over their head.

Dec 3rd 2017 at 11:52:54 AM

^ I edited the suggestion in the quoteblock markup (first and second paragraphs).

Dec 3rd 2017 at 2:22:01 PM

I didn't realize this was Up For Grabs-territory. I've added my suggestion to the description.

Dec 3rd 2017 at 4:24:31 PM

I think the "too stupid" part was actually kind of important? If we think it should be changed, I'd think saying "too uneducated" would be better than totally changing it to be about Cloud Cuckoolander. It should be potholed to Virginity Makes You Stupid.

Also, potholing Celibate Hero is incorrect. A Celibate Hero understands sex but doesn't engage in it. A Chaste Hero is the one who just doesn't understand it.

Also, I'm adding Naive Everygirl to the see-also section.

Dec 3rd 2017 at 4:31:20 PM

Looks good. I worked in some trope links for your phrasing.

Dec 3rd 2017 at 4:35:12 PM

You undid some of the stuff I just added. I think it may have been both of us editing at the same time. Is it okay if I re-add them? I think Cloud Cookoolander is fine to be in the description but Virginity Makes You Stupid also should be there. And I still think Celibate Hero shouldn't be included at all even if we use the word "celibate."

Dec 3rd 2017 at 4:37:10 PM

Moreover, Naive Newcomer is not the right pothole for the first line. That person isn't "naive" in the same sense as what we're talking about, I think.

Dec 3rd 2017 at 4:52:15 PM

^^how would not knowing what sex is mean you're uneducated? Animals are not educated, and they instinctually know what sex is. What about the first humans, surely they knew what sex was, but education didn't exist. I think Cloud Cuckoolander makes more sense.

Dec 3rd 2017 at 4:56:48 PM

^ Because I was trying to compromise. Not knowing what sex is could be from the person being stupid. I would not say that the "first humans" or "animals" are "not stupid."

Dec 3rd 2017 at 6:51:07 PM

I kinda shy away from "too stupid" because something going over your head doesn't make you stupid. Disney movies are full of adults jokes that go over kids' heads. Doesn't make the kids stupid. Furthermore, not knowing something because of age or limited experience doesn't make you stupid, it makes you uneducated or inexperienced. I just think stupid is too harsh a word for the tone of this particular trope, which I personally think should be slightly on the humorous side (Like we smirk at a kid suggesting that one animal is giving another animal a piggyback ride.)

Sorry about the simultaneous editing! Didn't mean to undo your work. I'm used to the trope pages locking when you're working on them. I agree with the Chaste Hero vs. Celibate Hero. I'm not sure about Cloudcookolander. I was thinking of it as someone who interacts with the crowd, but understands the world and society in a different way than everybody else. I would agree with the Virginity Makes You Stupid, but word it as a comparison rather than saying they're the same thing. I'm cool with kicking out Naive Newcomer. There's a line about being the only member of their species and I feel like we have a superman-type trope about that but I couldn't find anything that fit the way it's needed.

WDYT?

Dec 3rd 2017 at 7:12:46 PM

Agree, agree, agree.

I hadn't thought of that for the "too stupid" phrasing. I was thinking more along the lines of "is an adult but somehow doesn't know about this." Maybe change it to...:

This character may be too young to understand, or they may be a Cloud Cookoolander who "understands" the act too differently to actually get it. If this character is an adult, then it may be an extreme case of Virginity Makes You Stupid. Yet another explanation [...]

Dec 3rd 2017 at 7:36:10 PM

"An adult but somehow doesn't know about this". But I'm not sure that's what this is. I was understanding it more like, sexual Weirdness Censor, where everybody can see it but this one person because it doesn't fit in their world view. Maybe something like:

This character may be too young to understand, or they may be a Cloudcuckoolander who just sees the world differently, which causes them to miss the subtext of sexual behaviors that everyone else sees.

If this character is an adult this may lead to Virginity Makes You Stupid although not every character who Doesnt Understand Sex will be an actual virgin.

WDYT?

Dec 4th 2017 at 12:32:58 AM

If anything, if the parents bring back a sibling, assumptions of storks or cabbages can pop up on the naive person's mind. The obliviousness about sex can be truly broken if one or both parents tell the person The Talk.

Dec 4th 2017 at 7:39:54 AM

I mean, there's "seeing it" and then there's "seeing it." I think they do "see the sex" in the sense that they actually see these people getting it on, but I don't think they "see the sex" as sex but rather as something more innocent. If they didn't actually see it, then they wouldn't react to it with questions or statements.

Regarding Weirdness Sensor, I don't think this character has the capacity to deny they see the sex. They really don't understand it or see it as "sex," which is why an adult not knowing about this would be kind of dumb... or probably a virgin.

What about...:

This character may be too young to understand, or they may be a Cloud Cuckoolander who sees the world too differently to understand the implications of the act that everyone else sees. If this character is an adult, they're probably a virgin and too dumb to get it, though they aren't necessarily a virgin. Yet another explanation [...]

Also, I agree that the description should include something about The Talk, thanks for bringing that up! What about...:

Other characters may feel too awkward to properly explain the act, whereas this character is too naive to keep their mouth shut about it. A parental figure may broach the subject and start The Talk, which may or may not lead to Character Development for this character.

Dec 4th 2017 at 12:41:21 PM

I think it might be worth considering what age this particular trope is for. A kid not understanding sex is completely different from an adult not understanding sex. Kids don't understand sex because they don't have the life experience or education to know what's going on. An adult who sees sex but is like "Is he hurting her?" is completely different. Perhaps, a kid would be Doesnt Understand Sex due to age and inexperience and an adult would be Sex Without Subtext because for whatever reason they don't get the social cues surrounding sex and libido.

Dec 7th 2017 at 1:53:14 PM

I brought this up on the workstation thread. Right now, it's mostly just Andrea Tx and me discussing this so hopefully this'll help.

Dec 7th 2017 at 1:57:19 PM

I agree that it's distinct in meaning when kids don't understand sex compared to adults.

Dec 10th 2017 at 11:07:05 AM

  • I think at one point in The Simpsons, Homer remembers seeing two mating monkeys as a kid and thinking they're fighting, but then the zookeeper whispers, "They're having sex".

Dec 19th 2017 at 10:51:42 AM

Did we ever decide if this is all ages or specific to adults who don't seem to get it?

Dec 19th 2017 at 5:26:24 PM

  • In Dragon Ball Z Abridged, Goku had no understanding of sex upon getting married. When he and Chi-Chi first made love, he thought she had "cinna-buns" hidden in her shirt. Even after having a son he still did not understand that sex resulted in children being conceived. It took his wife getting pregnant a second time before he finally came to learn that "SEX MAKES BABIES!"

Dec 20th 2017 at 5:44:23 AM

Not quite. I suppose we can just split one off from this.

Dec 22nd 2017 at 8:55:12 PM

  • The Loud House: After rescuing the 2 dozen frogs originally destined for dissection, the school puts them in a tank as a colony. One child points and asks, "what are those two frogs doing?" in response, the teacher and principal step in front of the tank together and block the view, then change the subject.

Mar 1st 2018 at 5:46:03 AM

Anime and Manga:

Dec 23rd 2017 at 2:38:27 AM

  • In Alexander Afanasyev's Russian Forbidden Tales, one of the stories is about a woman who hires a worker on the condition he says nothing obscene, so he thoroughly plays the part of that trope. The employer is by no means fooled, but content regardless.

Dec 23rd 2017 at 8:39:06 AM

^^ - "parents teached" > "parents taught"

Feb 27th 2018 at 11:24:54 PM

  • The dog protagonist of A Dogs Purpose has no concept of sex, human or animal. This is in part because he's always neutered before he can mate. Bailey describes humans as "wresting" together at several points. When he starts feeling attraction to female dogs he doesn't understand why their smell attracts him so much. At one point Bailey (then called "Toby") tries to mount his female friend, but he doesn't understand the significance of the gesture and simply considers it a game. He gets jealous of other male dogs copying his game and stealing Coco's attention from him. Even when he's reincarnated as a female dog, she doesn't understand his heat and is just embarrassed by the scent.
  • In The Giver, no one is allowed to have sex in their society. Certain girls are used for breeding and then their offspring are given to couples. When someone hits puberty they're given medicine to eliminate their sexual desires. Thus, no one has any grasp of sex.

Apr 30th 2018 at 10:55:53 AM

Please take the "too stupid" out of the description. We went over that in the comments earlier, see what Andrea Tx said.

Apr 30th 2018 at 11:09:05 AM

The Talk is specifically used to avoid this.

Jun 3rd 2018 at 10:58:26 AM

  • Took out references to children since trying to apply this trope to both children and adults was causing Trope Bloat and children not understanding sex can be covered by Children Are Innocent.
  • Removed the phrase "Too stupid" as it was agreed that someone not contextually understanding sex does not make them mentally deficient.

Jun 3rd 2018 at 5:40:52 PM

The description confuses me...

1) This is an adult character who understands the physical mechanics of sex, but does seem to have a conceptual understanding of sexual attraction. 

2) Contrast Asexuality where a character understands sex and feels emotional attraction but not sexual attraction. 

So this trope is Asexuality?

Jun 3rd 2018 at 6:18:58 PM

Ooh! You caught a simple typo that made the whole thing non-sensical. Thanks!

This trope is not asexuality because in reading the established Asexuality trope we have, asexuals both understand and enjoy romance and some forms of physical contact.

Jun 3rd 2018 at 9:05:45 PM

So here, the characters doesn't know what "sexual attraction" is, while for Asexuality, the character doesn't feel sexual attractions (but may understand what it is, if only academically)?

Another thing is that the title sounds a bit too broad. "Doesn't understand sex" may refer to many aspects of sex, from either genitalia, sexual act, sexual attraction, etc. (just to be clear, which one of those does the character not understand about?)

Jun 4th 2018 at 11:49:40 AM

^Okay. What might you suggest? Since I grabbed it, I don't want to just unilaterally change the name without feedback.

Jun 19th 2018 at 4:05:57 AM

In Family Guy, Chris masturbates a lot and in the episode "Farmer Guy" he has his sock take a pregnancy test. He also thinks babies come from the Child Welfar Office.

Jun 19th 2018 at 9:17:40 AM

The only western animation example is from fan art, and thus should be deleted. Also, the film example does not indicate that she doesn't understand sex, just that she thinks violence is the more logical conclusion in this scenario.

Jun 19th 2018 at 9:16:51 AM

So if "no sexual attraction" equals Asexuality, then this trope-to-be can be called... I dunno, "Not Getting The Meaning Behind Sex"?

Jul 4th 2018 at 2:26:52 PM

  • None of the he-cats in Cat Pack know where kittens come from (even Texas Jake, who is old enough to have greys).

Jul 4th 2018 at 4:31:15 PM

I still think the title needs to be changed.

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