10 Famous Asexual Figures from History

Literary titan George Bernard Shaw showed no interest in sex or sexuality. The Irish Times.

George Bernard Shaw

The Irish literary giant George Bernard Shaw had many interests. As well as musing on religion and the nature of man, he also had a keen interest in politics, weighing in on fascism and even flirting with both Nazism and socialism in his writings over the years. But sex? Well, that was a topic that hardly came up in Shaw’s many works, though this is hardly surprising. Shaw himself was far from a lady’s man, and there’s no evidence to suggest he was homosexual either. All things considered, he was either willingly celibate, preferring his work over sexual matters, or asexual.

Born in Dublin in 1856, Shaw moved to London 20 years later. For years, he struggled to make a name for himself as a writer. However, he persevered, and little by little became a respected music and theatre critics. Then, after joining the Fabian Society, he developed a skill for drama, penning several politically-themed plays. Spurred on by his initial success, Shaw worked every hour he could, and when he was not at his typewriter, he was busying himself in local politics. Soon, the stress and heavy workload took its toll and he had a breakdown. In 1898, a lady by the name of Charlotte Payne-Townshend agreed to nurse him back to health.

Due to the severity of his illness, Charlotte soon moved into Shaw’s London home. Well aware of the scandal this could cause, Shaw proposed marriage, which Charlotte accepted. However, despite now living together as man and wife, the playwright and his partner never lived as a real couple. By all accounts, the union was never consummated. Indeed, while Shaw himself seemed to show no real interest in sex – after all, he had several books to finish! – Charlotte was actively repulsed by it. Despite this lack of physical intimacy, the couple stayed together and, in 1906, moved together to the English countryside to live out the rest of their lives.

On several occasions, Shaw admitted to friends and acquaintances that matters of the flesh simply held no interest for him. He preferred to occupy himself with matters of the mind. Of course, there is the distinct possibility that he was celibate rather than asexual. Some biographers even posit he might have been a celibate homosexual. However, he died childless and a virgin, promoting many scholars to theorize that he was both asexual and aromantic.