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Alternative Sexual Norms in Speculative Fiction

Alternative Sexual Norms

Today’s topic comes from QSFer Michael Barnette:

In my fantasy setting – Pearls Like Rain over with Torquere is the only one out right now in this world – it’s considered abnormal to be totally gay or straight. Almost everyone in the setting, excepting in two of the more isolated cultures, is bisexual. So this would make for a great topic. Alternate sexual norms.

I like this one – it’s not just “what if everyone were gay”. How would a society function if the man-woman thing weren’t the norm? Maybe it’s normal for people to wait until 30 to have sex. Or for parents to dissolve their unions after the childbearing years to be sexually active with others. Maybe young men and women go through a period of same sex attraction to learn how their bodies respond before having sex woth the opposite sex?

What are some of the other possibilities? What implications would they have for the make-up and structure of a society? And how can we use these stories to shine a light on our own cultures?


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2 thoughts on “Alternative Sexual Norms in Speculative Fiction”

  1. From what I’ve read, I think Iain M. Banks and Jack L. Chalker probably play with this the most. In the Culture novels by Banks, polyamorous relationships are standard, sex changes are common, and there are so many genders that they very idea of heterosexuality is kind of ridiculous. As for Chalker, he has bodyswaps or genderswaps in just about everything he writes, bisexuality is very much the norm, and a lot of his alien or mythical races are hermaphroditic.

    Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series, of course, takes things even farther. I thought it was brilliant the way she transformed BDSM and prostitution into a religious experience, with open bisexuality pretty much expected.

  2. When writing sci fi, we as writers can let our imagination run wild, and by doing so we can create everlasting worlds and characters that might influence readers. In every instance I chose to write from the alien’s POV, which I have been told is near unheard of when dealing with alien/human relations, but it allows me more flexibility in how my main character perceives everything. It also pushes my human characters into situations they normally wouldn’t experience. I have a YA book where the alien is both male and female but presents as male. He’s also a throwback on his home planet and has had to deal with certain characteristics considered less than desirable by even his own parents. As a result he keeps them hidden, ashamed of who he is. I believe your world, your characters are only restricted by the walls within own mind.


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