The Adventure of the Consulting Woman

They were most of the way to Asda by the time Sherlock finally stopped studying him and spoke up, and though he’d been dreading it, John felt himself ease slightly as Sherlock deliberately cleared his throat and put his thoughts into words.

“You are aware, John, that Kirsty is biologically male?”

“I’m a doctor, Sherlock, I know what transgender means. She never said if she’d had the op or not, but it doesn’t really matter.”

“You’ve no objection to your potential girlfriend having a penis?” Sherlock asked, in the deliberately blunt tone John hated.

“No,” he replied tersely. They were at the supermarket now, and John led Sherlock through the entrance, picking up a basket as they went by the stand. “For the record, I’ve no objection to my boyfriends having them either,” he added, not looking at Sherlock’s face as he spoke.

He actually felt the wave of intrigued delight that rolled off Sherlock, could picture perfectly the expression of gleeful surprise on his face without even having to look. “John!” Sherlock cried with joy, jigging along at his side as they walked among the shelves of fresh vegetables, and John knew what the rest of that sentence would have been if Sherlock had bothered to voice it; ‘Well done, you’ve managed to surprise me,’ or words to that effect. It didn’t happen often, John would readily admit.

“How did you hide it from me?” Sherlock asked, grinning, as John perused the onions.

“Well I wasn’t trying to hide it, was I. There’s usually no point,” John admitted. “Until recently I…I thought you knew about my sexuality.”

Sherlock frowned, then reached over John’s shoulder to pluck one of the onions he was about to put into the bag from his hand, turning it to show a miscoloured spot on the skin. John picked out another one. “You’ve never dated a man since I’ve known you,” Sherlock said. “And given the energy with which you persue women, I’m quite surprised that you haven’t taken the opportunity to do so. Is it due to some desire to have children?”

“No, it’s just…okay, are you familiar with the Kinsey Scale?” John asked, and Sherlock gave him a dirty look for daring to suggest there was any subject he wasn’t well informed about. John became suddenly aware that he was discussing a sensitive topic in the middle of the supermarket and glanced around, but there was hardly anybody nearby. It was only about four o’clock on a Sunday and it appeared to be a low point in the supermarket day.

“Well,” he continued, “I’d say I’m maybe a one, possibly verging on a two, on that scale. Do you understand?”

Sherlock nodded. “So you are predominantly heterosexual, with slight leanings towards homosexuality,” he announced, his penetrating voice a little too loud for John’s liking. A couple of heads turned towards them slightly but nobody was seriously looking.

“I don’t often find myself attracted to men,” John replied quietly. “I like going out with people, being in a relationship. It’s just the case that since I’ve known you, all my relationships have been with women.”

Sherlock hmmed at this, nodded his head vigorously, then wandered off. John glanced around again and shook off his feeling of unease, turning his mind back to the shopping. He picked out apples, remembering which type Sherlock prefered, then added a bunch of bananas to the basket. There was already half a bunch in the fruit bowl at home, but he’d caught Sherlock doing something to one of them with a pipette the other day and, even though he said they were fine, John didn’t trust him with food. Not anymore.

He felt something drop into the basket, and looked to find that Sherlock had added an extremely phallic looking butternut squash, having placed it so that it stuck up.

“Oh come on, that’s just childish!” John exclaimed, pushing it to lie flat.

“It’s not childish in the least. Mrs Hudson says they make good soup. Is Mrs Hudson childish?” Sherlock was smiling as he spoke, probably still high off the novelty of John having surprised him. John gave him a glare and set off across the shop floor, picking up some cartons of milk before turning down the dried foods aisle. Sherlock caught up to him, studying his face from one side.

“What attracted you to Kirsty?” he asked thoughtfully.

John shrugged. “She’s pretty, bright, cheerful…” he thought about her reactions to Sherlock and added; “Patient. I just liked her.”

Sherlock nodded. He stayed quiet for a while, watching half-interestedly as John selected bags of pasta and rice, then moved on to the aisle of tinned food.

“John, are you aware that there is a definite ‘type’ of person that you are attracted to? I’ve noticed, you know.”

John stopped and thought about that one, his hand halfway to reaching for a tin of soup. Did he have a type? He thought back over his more recent girlfriends and tried to compare them to one another…

“I suppose it says a lot about how badly your emotions colour your observational skills that you haven’t noticed,” Sherlock announced smugly, reaching up to adjust John’s hand away from the mushroom soup and over to his preferred tomato and basil. “Would you like to know what your type is John?”

John sighed. “I supose you’re going to tell me whether I like it or not?”

“Yes indeed,” Sherlock replied, entirely too pleased with himself. “You like women who are roughly as tall as you, or taller for preference. Ideally they should be of a slim build, but not too thin and preferably physically fit. You don’t necessarily choose women who are typically beautiful, but you prefer those who make an effort to present themselves well. In personality, you are drawn to women who are intelligent, forthright, and have a sense of social responsibility, which is usually reflected in their job or hobbies about which they feel passionate. Finally, your partners should be dignified, with a strong sense of self respect, though they should not be averse to allowing you to look after or coddle them on occasion. Does all of this sound familiar John?”

John nodded wearily. He hadn’t really registered these similarities at the time, but Sherlock was right, as bloody always.

“Kirsty fits all of these requirements quite neatly. The question is,” Sherlock continued as he strode along at John’s side, “Are your preferences the same for male partners?”

At Sherlock’s querying look, John shrugged and distracted himself by reading the nutritional information on a packet of dried cheese sauce. “My tastes have changed over the years. Like I say, it’s a long time since I’ve gone out with a man.”

Sherlock gave him a suspicious look. “Are you saying that you don’t even know what kind of man you’re attracted to? You can’t even summon up an idea?”

“Not…not really,” John replied. “Why do you want to know?”

“Oh good heavens, John. What a question! Naturally I want to know everything!”

John chuckled a bit and turned into the bakery aisle, deliberately keeping his gaze away from the display of fresh doughnuts. Bread only, he told himself. Sensible, low fat bread.

“I know practically everything else about you,” Sherlock pointed out with a frown.

“Whether I want you to or not,” John agreed. It was discomfortingly true, but John had become used to it. As long as he could keep a few small, unimportant things from Sherlock, he would be okay. He wouldn’t go insane, really.

“Well then, are your tastes in sexual activities similar when with men and women?”

John closed his eyes for a minute and sighed with frustration. Was Sherlock really never going to learn a sense of propriety? It seemed not. When he looked around again, an elderly lady was standing at the end of the otherwise empty aisle, glaring at them as if their eavesdropped conversation had personally offended her. John sighed again, unable to stop himself.

“Look Sherlock, I don’t think this is the time or place-“

“It’s a simple enough question, John. Do you like to perform the same acts in bed with a man as you do with a woman? You don’t have to give me details, I’m not that insensitive.”

Yes you are, you bastard, John thought.

“I wonder if you are actually bisexual,” Sherlock mused, picking up a cottage loaf and regarding it like Hamlet looking at Yorick’s skull.

“I more or less just told you I was,” John hissed at him. The old lady was still giving them evils.

“Yes, but I wonder if the term ‘pansexual’ wouldn’t suit you better. After all, many bisexual men and women may hesitate or become uncomfortable at the prospect of sexual relationships with transgender persons, but you-“

John tried to tune his flatmate’s voice out, but couldn’t. There were now two old ladies at the end of the aisle, both glaring, and the effect of two was far greater than simply the effect of one doubled in strength. John was starting to feel really uncomfortable. Like his skin was starting to smoulder.

“Sherlock, I promise I’ll talk to you about this at length when we get home, and you can ask me as many questions as you like, but only on the condition that you shut up here and now.”

Sherlock paused to consider this, then gave John a sinister smile and mimed pulling a zip cross his mouth. John breathed a sigh of relief. The old ladies followed them into the next aisle to continue glaring with their laser eyes, but gave up when they realised no more salacious conversation was forthcoming.

Amazingly, Sherlock was quiet all the way through the rest of the shopping, and through the checkout too, even though the young man serving at the conveyor belt had awful grammar and asked John if he wanted to ‘pay wivva card’. He was even almost completely silent, and apparently quite content about it, as they began the walk home, and John was beginning to wonder if he had any other personal traits that he could use to bargain with, perhaps to keep Sherlock quiet when he had journals and such to read.

That said though, it did give him time to think, and that wasn’t always a good thing.

Despite his earlier denials, John had been aware of at least some of the details of his ‘type’ that Sherlock had announced. And most of the time he didn’t go for people with those traits consciously or deliberately. It had been true also, that his tastes had changed over time somewhat. But all the same…

Tall, slender, a-typically beautiful and well presented.

Intelligent, passionate, forthright, strong sense of self-respect.

Likes to be coddled?

He glanced uncomfortably at his flatmate as they walked, his occasional paranoia that Sherlock would abruptly develop psychic powers rearing its head again. Because there was a reason his tastes had recently been skewed in these particular directions, and a damn good reason that he’d had no interest in men since living with Sherlock.

Or rather, no interest in other men.

He awkwardly shifted his carrier bags in his hands, the familiar want-can’t have-want-can’t have rolling depressingly through his mind.

It was only once they were nearly back to Baker Street when an unpleasant thought occured to John.

“Sherlock, you know when you go off playing a battered wife?”

“Mmm?” Sherlock responded pleasantly, lips still zipped.

“Who…who is going to be playing your evil husband?”

Sherlock grinned and hooked his keys out of his pocket. “You will John, obviously. You’ll be the perfect bait.”

“Oh for fuck’s sake,” John sighed.




One thought on “The Adventure of the Consulting Woman

  1. I thought this passage was particularly interesting because of the conversation between Sherlock and Watson. They first begin with a conversation about how Watson’s potential love interest is transgender which opens the conversation about gender and gender presentation and soon after Watson informs Sherlock that he is not exclusively attracted to women. They spend the majority of this passage discussing Watson’s love life––who he’s attracted to, why he is interested in Kristy, and what his “type” is for both men and women. Like we discussed in class, this kind of conversation is stereotypically female––it is commonly referred to girl talk; and yet, here are two men engaged in this conversation. It is also interesting to note that they are discussing this in the supermarket––shopping is a traditional female task. Even the title, The Adventure of Consulting a Woman, suggests that their actions and conversation are traditionally female. I think this relates back to Judith Butler’s idea of “performing gender” in that both of these characters are still clearly men; but Sherlock and Watson, in this moment, are performing femininity. An example of this performance is when the author writes, “Sherlock cried with job, jigging along at his side.” This delight that Sherlock is showing is very much akin to a squeal of delight (stereotypically female) that might come from a woman who has just learned that her friend is now dating someone [again, very stereotypically]; and yet, this is a conversation between two men. The notion of “gender trouble” also comes up with this passage, “When he looked around again, an elderly lady was standing at the end of the otherwise empty aisle, glaring at them as if their eavesdropped conversation had personally offended her.” With their stereotypically unmasculine conversation in the grocery store, Watson and Sherlock are troubling gender and causing this woman discomfort because they are not acting “as they should.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s