Sunday, 27 October 2013

A Public Performance?

In Poul Anderson's "Virgin Planet," the all female colony on Atlantis has been reproducing by parthogenesis for three hundred years. This has more consequences than just a single sex society. It also means that there is a limited number of genetic templates so that society becomes caste-ridden as types with different aptitudes adopt specific roles. They expect "the Men" to arrive but have mythical ideas about what this will be like.

Fortuitously, local animal species do not include mammals, in which sexual differences are easily discerned. Finally, the women do know about what they call "Monsters," non-human intelligent species that might also arrive in spacecraft. Therefore, when one man does arrive alone, he must prove that he is not a Monster.

He is put naked in a cage with a Maiden, a women who has not yet been fertilized, in front of a crowd and told to fertilize her. She gives him her permission so this would have been consensual sex with an adult!

Individuals and mores differ. Like many of us, he is unable to function in these circumstances. (In "Rammer" by Larry Niven, an inability to have sex in front of witnesses was interpreted as evidence that the viewpoint character would be able to handle the isolation and celibacy of a long solo interstellar journey at relativistic speeds.) My only comment here is that, although our hero's predicament is understandable and expectable, it is not inevitable. I  have known men who would willingly and gladly prove themselves in these circumstances... But then Anderson's story would have been over very quickly, as Hamlet would end quickly if its hero could just do what he thinks he ought to do in the first place!

(Arnold Shwarzenegger's Hamlet rewrite: "You killed my father, Claudius! Big mistake!" Gun fire. Curtain.)

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

I had to smile with a certain rueful sympathy for our hero in VIRGIN PLANET. I am convinced, that like him, I would have been UNABLE to, ah, "perform" in public like that!

And I was amused by the cover illustration of VIRGIN PLANET showing a brawny male bound and led captive by beautiful women. A dominatrix's dream! (Smiles)