Thursday, January 20, 2011

More Sex in the Future?

This thoughtful letter to the editor is from Planet Stories (Summer, 1949) of all places, which is kind of surprising given that it has the reputation of being the least serious of the old pulps.  It would be decades before the New Wave broke and this fans hopes were realized.

New Brunswick, N. J.

Dear Editor:

These letters squawking emotionally against the inclusion of sex in science-fiction stories leave me disappointed, disturbed and more than a little disgusted. They seem to be the work of inhibited, repressed personalities. I am not placing myself in the position of endorsing smut or pornography, but I believe the subject of sex deserves some straightforward, adult handling.

If science- fiction has anything to offer other than mere escapism, its value lies in promoting a receptive, questioning attitude and freeing the mind from the narrow, superstition-bound, taboo-ridden ruts of accustomed thought channels.

Nearly every science-fiction story is a glimpse into some writer's conception of a possible future, and as change is the one certainty in this universe, the future will be different from the present. How different? Our present-day patterns are neither perfect nor static. Some of our better brains have concluded that if we don't rapidly learn as much about our own psychology and social structures as we already know about the guts of a uranium atom, we are heading for disaster on a grand scale.

Anyone not entirely prejudice-blinded can see that the conventional standards of sex conduct of today are irrational, hypocritical, and simply are not working. The Kinsey report indicates clearly that a socially dangerous schizoid gap exists between "moral principles" and actual conduct.

Our self-appointed "moral leaders" have decreed certain rules, to which everyone is supposed to adhere unquestioningly on blind faith alone. And they insist in the face of contrary evidence that these rules are eternal and immutable and unchanging. They carefully ignore the fact that other civilizations have done as well or better than our own in promoting human welfare, using an entirely different set of standards of conduct.

Polygamy has been successful in many places, until our own civilization intervened with superior military and police forces. (And the present Hollywood concept of marriage is nothing but legalized serial polygamy.) Many cultures, those of Crete and Athens and Bali, for instance, accepted costumes which left female breasts fully exposed and yet have not lapsed into unbridled lewdness. Many civilizations have experimented, some quite successfully, with premarital and extra-marital sexual freedom.

And, if our own civilization doesn't radioactivate itself into oblivion or sterility, increasing biological knowledge will surely give us complete control of reproduction. Children will be born only when they are definitely desired. That too will alter the social patterns.

Sex will probably remain one of the basic human drives as long as homo sapiens is recognizable as such. So let's quit trying to hide that fact beneath a mound of taboos. Whether the authors see the future patterns as puritanism or libertinism, monogamy or polygamy or polyandry or eugenic mating controlled by bureaucrats, that
makes little difference. To each author his own dreams. But a writer can't very well depict the social structure of a hypothetical future world without including man-woman relationships — and in these sex will be a basic factor.

So I contend that discussions of sex have just as legitimate a place in science-fiction as nuclear physics and military technology and synthetic foods and the eternal struggle of dictatorship vs. freedom. If science-fiction can persuade people to look openmindedly at themselves and their emotion-dominated attitudes, it can do us all a great service.

So let's start jettisoning the taboos!


John Higgins

[via Gerard Arthus & The Internet Archive]

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