Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Science Fiction

When I was about 12, my paternal grandfather* passed away after a long struggle with Alzheimer's.  The sum total of my inheritance from him amounted to a small, handmade wooden box, a handful of glass paperweights and a stack of science fiction paperbacks.  The box and the glass have sentimental value, but it is the books that have really made an impression on me.

I am sure that if my mother had any idea what I was in those books, she would never have allowed her impressionable middle schooler to read such subversive stuff.  The stack must have seemed innocent enough.  It was a collection of the classic science fiction authors, full of the originators of the field, Issac Asimov, Aurthur C. Clark, Ray Bradbury, etc.  But, the author who's work really captured my imagination was Robert A. Heinlein.

Heinlein, you see, didn't feel constrained to stick with the current model of social and sexual norms when writing about humanity's future.  He wrote about worlds with all sorts of interesting social systems. Mostly, though, I was fascinated by the sexual freedoms that he offered his characters, especially the female characters.  While he didn't exactly seem to think that men and women were equals, he had many, many powerful, happy, sexually adventurous female characters who were celebrated instead of scorned for enjoying sex. 

What a thought!  If all men celebrated female sexuality instead of scorning it (or fearing it or trying to subjugate it), think how much more often everyone would get laid!

Anyway, back to my point here.  Heinlein also felt no need to pair characters off into neat, tidy little monogamous couples.  His books explore open marriages, group marriages, single polyamory, casual sex, swinging, and even topics like spanking, incest and rape. 

I will never know if Heinlein's arguments against monogamy are just so compelling as to be irrefutable to me, or if they merely struck me at a very impressionable moment. 

I know that many people out there would probably say that these writings corrupted my innocent mind, and I suppose they have a point.  In the 15 years since I first read those books I have certainly practised monogamy.  I don't even recall having a problem with it when my partner and I lived in the same city.  But, ever since I read those books, I have just never been able to see monogamy as anything more than a hollow social construct.

*In the process of helping to clean out his house, I discovered what a dirty old man my grandfather really was.  His "library"  (an alcove at the end of the service porch) was full of girly magazines and old fashoined pin-up calanders, and the bedroom had such trinkets as a innocent looking little wooden man figurine that revealed a (proportionally) giant, erect, spring actived  penis when you lifted him from the top.  I wonder what he would think of this blog?

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