Avast! Thar be spoilers ahead!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Science Fiction and Sex: Dismbiguation

Sex and science fiction are strange but frequent bedfellows. Science fiction has been compared to pornography, in that it is difficult to define both but you know it when you see it. Kurt Vonnegut once said that what pornography and science fiction had in common wasn't sex but fantasies of an impossibly hospitable world. Actually, he was referring to his surrogate Kilgore Trout, in God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater. And he was wrong, about science fiction at least. Which I suppose means that I am wrong since I always remember the quote incorrectly.*

Sex is inescapable in science fiction . . . rather like reality, I suppose. It is complicated, consuming, distressing, satisfying; it can bring people together and tear them apart. Nothing new. But just about everything is up for debate and change. Before we begin exploring anything, I want to set up some terms. I will probably slip back into using regular connotations, but I will try my best to keep these terms true for this exploration.

Sci-Fi Sex Ed
Sexual Intercourse and Behaviours
I will try to use the proper terms for sexual acts, reproductive or otherwise.

In species which reproduce sexually, sex describes the characteristics that distinguishes reproductive roles.

Sex and gender are not the same and do not have a 1:1 correlation.

Reproduction is the process in which offspring is created.

Sexual Mores
All societies have standards and expectations the govern sexual behaviours. These standards include consent, sex as it relates to marraige, fidelity, number of partners, identity and status of partners, diseases, incest, rape.

Sexual dimorphism is the difference between sexes. It includes both physical (size, color, pattern, etc) and behavioural (aggression, investment in parenting).

*I sometimes wonder if this is true, even if I got the quote wrong. A universe that includes numerous sentient species, capable of reaching each other, communicating, etc, seems impossibly hospitable to me.

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