Asked by Anonymous
Good one. This ask refers to this post I made yesterday. I will edit it later with the replies to questions (though this is the only one I got so far).
Now to the answer:
Yes, John denies being gay vehemently. That in itself can have several reasons.
- he is not attracted to men at all, including Sherlock.
There is a ton of subtext that refutes this. John may say this, yet his body language betrays him on so many occasions. It is easiest to observe during the drunken knee-grope scene where his entire body language is inviting (both he and Sherlock are leaning in toward the other, John sits with his legs spread, that goofy, flirty grin on his features etc.)
This is a very big subject in itself that could be filled with pages worth of examples, but let’s keep it at that.
- He isn’t gay, but he might be bi (-curious/flexible).
John never says “I’m straight”, he always just denies being gay which easily leaves that option. Whether he has actually acted on his bisexual tendencies before remains a question. However, seeing how his and Sholto’s relationship was portrayed (and how Mary but more specifically Sherlock read it, i.e. with jealousy) there very well might be something there. Further evidence is the “my husband is three people” line that many people have read as referring to Mary, Sherlock and Sholto. Admittedly, this doesn’t need to be the case but it’s a possible reading.
- John is so vehement in his denial because his attraction to Sherlock confuses him.
In ASiB he has the same conversation with Irene. Again, he says he’s not gay, to which Irene responds “But I am. Look at us both [being in love with Sherlock].” He doesn’t deny it there. He doesn’t tell her she’s interpreting things wrong, doesn’t correct her again. In fact, there is a moment of realisation in which he accepts her explanation. He’s not gay. He’s never felt attracted to men before. He loves women. And yet… Look at him and how he’s completely smitten, how everything in his life revolves around Sherlock. It shouldn’t make sense, but it simply is the way it is.
Yet, upon realising this, Jon decides not to act on it. Two possible reasons for this: a) he thinks Sherlock wouldn’t be interested. The first time ever he’s seen Sherlock display a sort of interest in someone is with Irene. So John assumes that, IF Sherlock were to pursue anything romantic or sexual with anyone, it would be Irene. b) He can’t come to terms with it yet. There are too many uncertain factors: Is Sherlock even into that sort of thing? Would he be into that sort of thing? Would it destroy the friendship? And what about women and him loving them, having sex with them? He’s nearly forty and suddenly his world gets turned upside down. All just because of that one man who is brilliant and enthralling but also a bit dangerous and unreliable. And not interested anyway. And John’s just confused and mixing up friendship with more and should better get a grip on himself and forget the whole thing.
'Yeah, no, I'm not gay. Thank you very much. Now stop assuming it all the time because it confuses the hell out of me, and I don't want to be confused because there's no point.'
Now on to the second part of your question (the first half).
Most of us probably squeed like crazy when John actually. told. Sherlock. he. LOVES. him. We never really expected something like this to happen, not explicitly, but it did. And it seemed like it wasn’t such a difficult thing for John to say at the time. Because it’s all just platonic, you say.
Wrong. I say. If we take the latter of the above readings of John’s attitude towards his own sexuality, then he now doesn’t have a reason to doubt himself anymore. He’s with a woman, he’s about to marry that woman. Everything is great and as it should be, and suddenly something that would never ever have happened under any other circumstances does: John feels safe enough to tell Sherlock how he feels because now ‘nobody will talk’ and nobody will assume anything. Because he’s with a woman!
He hugs Sherlock, teary-eyed, in front of a couple of dozen people, because his wife is sitting right next to them. That’s proof enough that this is no homo. Everything is safe and fine.
Think about it. Would John have told Sherlock the same thing if he hadn’t been engaged at the time? Big no, imho. But if it’s all just platonic, then why does he need that ‘safety’ of a heterosexual relationship to shield him from any other allegations?
Also note how John’s denial gets stronger and stronger from every time he utters the words “I’m not gay.” At first, at Angelo’s, he’s rather amused by it and states it calmly. Later, he sounds a bit more annoyed that it keeps coming up, and in season 3 he basically yells at Mrs Hudson “HOW MANY TIMES… […] I’M NOT GAY!”
Would a man who is perfectly confident with his sexuality (and most certainly not a homophobe) be this violent in his denial, as you have put it? Would he, rather than just roll his eyes and chuckle and respond calmly, get so angry? The only reason I can think of that makes any sense is that his vehemence springs from a deep, (subconscious or not) frustration and regret that, no, they never were a couple while, yes, damnit, he would have liked that. But it NEVER happened. So STFU.
Whether John is in love with Mary is another complex question. Simply put: yes, he is. But being in love with one person doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t be in love with another one as well. On different levels.
The interesting bit here is that Mrs Hudson, who has served as a foreshadowing “prophet” several times, tells John about her and her late husband’s relationship as something purely physical. They couldn’t keep their hands of each other. But later, she found out what a bad person he was, a criminal whose death she didn’t mourn.
Now, we don’t see any evidence on John and Mary being very physical (another complex topic in itself; there are two people who are a very affectionate and adorable couple in real life, yet there was hardly any chemistry between them, no affectionate, romantic moments; a much more buddy-like atmosphere between them than anything else while, between John and Sherlock, we see lingering, yearning gazes and sizzling chemistry all the time). However, we later find out that Mary, too, is a criminal and not who John thought her to be.
As soon as John learns this, he immediately switches sides again, literally stands/the sits on Sherlock’s as they confront her like a client. Had Sherlock not gone out of his way to convince John he should accept this fact about Mary and stay with her, I’m convinced John wouldn’t have taken her back. (What Sherlock’s motivation here was: altruism or a long game remains to be seen; there are indicators for both options).
We also know that John never pursued any steady relationships with any woman after the conversation with Irene (and after Jeanette). As if a part of him had accepted Irene’s explanation then, and that was that. The only time he started something new was when, to his knowledge, Sherlock was dead. And it took him one and a half years until he finally had been over Sherlock’s death enough to open up to someone new.
What is interesting here is how the moustache can be interpreted. We all know that it is a common phenomenon that, once your life changes drastically or you want to start a new chapter, you often go and change your looks. John tried the moustache as something new about the time he got together with Mary (we know from her that it was six months of bristly kisses, but in Many Happy Returns he didn’t have the moustache yet, which can’t have been much longer before Sherlock’s return because Anderson points out Sherlock is getting closer and coming back).
The moustache also ages him, makes him look more ‘boring’, so it can be seen as a symbol for an ordinary, boring, age-appropriate life. As soon as Sherlock comes back, though, he gets rid of it. For Sherlock (as I’ve pointed out before, he interestingly uses the same wording as Molly when she gets rid of her lipstick to impress Sherlock) And he becomes the John Watson from before, again.
Anyway… woah, this got a lot longer than expected and I feel I haven’t even covered half of it.
TL;DR: Reading John’s vehement denial of being gay as nothing but what it textually is is unlikely for many reasons, most of all that he wouldn’t have anything to be angry about if there was nothing to it, since John isn’t a homophobe and such assumptions shouldn’t bother him. He tells Sherlock he loves him because it’s safe, and he only fell in love with Mary because Sherlock was dead.
Asked by Anonymous
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