Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Sex and Health


Here I'm connecting some dots -- maybe eventually they will form a picture.

Margaret Carter wrote in a previous blog entry here:
Almost as wild a fantasy is that sometime the day will come when our entire population will be entitled as a civil right to the kind of excellent and almost-free care I received at the Walter Reed army hospital. But that is politics, and I suppose a no-no for this space. :)

For my June 2008 column, I review Stewards of the Flame, an adult SF novel by the famous SF writer Sylvia Engdahl. Sylvia tackles Margaret's subject with a straight line extrapolation in true SF style -- AND adds a flaming romance laced through the entire discussion of the philosophy of medical practice.

If you're interested, see http://www.simegen.com/reviews/rereadablebooks/2008/
And scroll down to JUNE. These columns will become available on this page sometime after publication date when they appear in print in The Monthly Aspectarian.

And with all the political noise lately, I have been thinking again about the health care delivery system -- and how we define "health."
Then Rowena Cherry wrote in her Sunday blog:However, if "sex-driven" were to be officially as important as plot and character, I'd also want to include action-driven, idea-driven, world- driven... and life (and literature) would get complicated. Some will say "action" is "plot".

And instantly I thought of a thousand things to discuss with regard to sex-driven plots. I learned a LOT about that topic from Marion Zimmer Bradley. I point the student at MZB's novel CATCH TRAP -- the car racing scene is a sex scene but you have to know how the writer constructed it that way to see it. Her Darkover novel, World Wreckers has the BEST alien sex scene I've ever read, and the entire plot of that novel is sex-driven.

She taught me how it can be that sexuality is actually the basis of all Art. Of music and dance, and imaginative story-telling, too.

Poul Anderson taught us how it is that all cultures, even non-human galaxy-spanning cultures, are rooted in the basic biology of sexuality (or at least of reproduction).

Our mores and religious and philosophical notions always take reproductive imperatives into account. How creatures reproduce determines the parameters of the cultures they can build to allow them to live together - even determines how large the groups can be and how much territory they require (population density).

So here we are in a world on the brink of plague (bird flu or otherwise), famine (bee hives dying off mysteriously), war (every direction you look), and death (an aging population). The Four Horsemen ride, and other than antacids, the most popular medication being counterfeited today has to be for various perceived sexual dysfunctions.

With all today's emphasis on pharmacological masking of sexual dysfunction, it's a wonder more romance novels don't tackle that philosophical conundrum.

What is the philosophical connection between physical sex, health, reproduction and love?

Where does the sexual experience come from? If it is primarily physical, of what value would such an experience be with a non-human partner? Or turn it around: what value would a non-human partner get from sex with a human?

Again, if sex is primarily a reproductive act, why mess around with a member of a different species?

It seems to me that the "aliendjinnromance" title of this co-blog implies that romance, as we discuss it here, is at least partly "magical" -- i.e. a thing of the spirit at least as much, if not more, than of the body.

So why is "aliendjinnromance" related to Science Fiction?

Perhaps romance, and its consequential full, ripe love, is primarily of the spirit. The healthy spirit seeks, and often finds, the true mate regardless of the body.

Thus, as soon as travel on earth became possible for large populations and people began mixing, intermarriages among different races became common.

Using a straight line extrapolation, as Sylvia Engdahl did for her medical novel, we definitely see that dispersing humans throughout the galaxy where they would encounter non-human people would produce intermarriages.

The science fiction premises possible in such a galactic civilization could explore issues of health, but most especially sexual health. What if an organ size mismatch could be fixed by medication or surgery? (would he?) What if frequency or volume adjustments had to be made to accommodate -- would he? Would she?

What about a human who was sexually dysfunctional falling for a non-human who didn't notice any impairment? But what if the impairment bothered the human who tried to fix it pharmacologically?

What would the non-human's opinion of pharmacological masking of sexual dysfunction be?

Oh, just think of the inter-galactic spam!

Jacqueline Lichtenberg


  1. Wonderful speculations. I agree that sexual fulfillment is an essential part of emotional health. (That doesn't have to mean conventional intercourse.) Even the more advanced of the "lower" animals use sexual contact for bonding and other social purposes, not just for reproduction. If the primary purpose of human sex were reproductive, our desire for our mates would be limited to fertile heat periods. The book of Genesis (in its second version of the creation of humanity) says woman was created, not to bear children, but because it wasn't good for the man to be alone.

    James Tiptree's story "And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill's Side" explores the irresistible human urge to reach out erotically to beings different from ourselves -- but in decidedly more negative terms than Jacqueline uses.

  2. I'd like to read more novels with all this in it. Sure, there's some great Romance novels out there. However, nearly all of them are about a white man and a white woman (whether they're supposed to be alien or not) meeting, making fantastic noookie, and living happily ever after. Like I've said before, Fantasy is nice, but I've got to be able to relate. Real Life is very different. Sometimes, our real heroes break their jaws (right, Margaret?) We mothers get stretch marks (hello, Susan and Mr. Star King.) Some of us are brown. Sometimes we fall in love with African American men or Vulcans. Sometimes, our humanity seems to be stripped away and we're perceived as part-machine (sound familiar, Linnea?) Sometimes, the love of our lives is no longer able to perform the physical act. How love and sexuality is handled then is a testement to the author, I think.

    I've seen stories like these in Science Fiction more than any other genre, which is one of the attractions. I'd like to see more.

    Now, I'll pop over and reserve a copy of CATCH TRAP.

  3. Margaret and Kimber An

    That's a good point about woman being created because it's not good for the man to be alone. We shouldn't lose sight of that.

    So if there are "aliens" out there on other planets, why were THEY created? hmmmm.

    Kimber An, let me know what you think of Catch Trap. To me the book is about the true nature of Art, where it comes from, what it's for, and what it means to be an artist. To others, (including MZB) it was about something else entirely.

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg

  4. Will do, Jacqueline. I'll undoubtedly review it on my Enduring Romance blog and just let you know when. I'm having a hard time tracking a copy down here in Alaska, but there's always Amazon.com. I haven't read any MZB, but have been intending to for a long time.