24 August 2010

The Galaxy Express Reviews The Antaren Affair

This is totally exciting news--Heather Massey of The Galaxy Express discussed The Antaren Affair as part of a longer essay that explores the intersection of sex and SF.

One reason I'm so psyched is that Heather picked up on some of the gender politics that I hoped would come across in the book. While I was working on it, I wondered whether readers would accept the idea that a submissive heroine could also hold feminist ideals--a desire for equal recognition and treatment of all persons.

To get at this issue, I created a semi-mythic woman called Tanat who had a relationship of equality with her male partner earlier in the history of the planet Antares (her role was sexual, her partner's was political). Tanat's life became a sort of cultural exemplar for later Antaren women, including the heroine, Meraya.

The problem is that over the years, the principle of equality in male-female relationships was lost to Antaren society, with women limited to second-class sexual roles, while all the power accrued to men. [Digression--Tanat lived in some misty mythic past, which is what made her life such a malleable thing in Antaren gender politics.]

Avar, the hero of The Antaren Affair, comes from a culture that values equality in human relationships. Meraya recognizes the concept--she's familiar with the mythic Tanat--but she has never experienced it. While intellectually and emotionally, Meraya creates a relationship of equality with Avar, I purposely don't translate that equality into any specific sexual role.

In other words, in my imagined world, Meraya can be submissive and still have equality, because equality is about respect for personhood, not about who's on top in the bedroom. (I would actually argue that true equality must, by definition, embrace a diversity of sexual behaviors.) This perspective, of course, allows me to have my alpha-male cake and equality, too.

I did consider giving Meraya a stronger role in the sexual relationship, but I decided that such a role would require her to abandon all of her ingrained physical and sexual behaviors (habitus, anyone?), which I thought unrealistic for a woman with her background.

This has been a lengthy post, but my point is that SFR is an amazing arena in which to explore gender politics. Since SF erotic romance focuses on sexual relationships and identities--critical components of gender politics--almost by definition the (sub)genre has something to contribute to discussions of equality, diversity, and identity.

So thanks, Heather, for a really provocative blog post.

1 comment:

  1. hey, my pleasure! Thanks for your art. I agree it made sense to not have Meraya suddenly abandon all of her ingrained physical and sexual behaviors. That would have been too much change, too quickly. It also would have been a value judgment on Antaren society. Like you said, submissive sexual behavior and equality aren't mutually exclusive.

    Thanks for the further insight into your story!