How sci-fi makes us more open to strange forms of sex and sexuality.
Science fiction knows how to play around with sex and gender. The free-lovin’ of A Stranger in A Strange Land, Commander Shepard’s bisexual proclivities, and William T. Riker’s seemingly universal interspecies compatibility are constant sources of entertainment.
And the fun doesn’t stop with organic entities. Androids, cyborgs, and robots make gender all the stranger. Why is Data fully functional? Isn’t it curious that, of all the characters in Ghost in the Shell the two most heavily cyberized characters, Motoko and Batou, are hyper-feminine and hyper-masculine respectively? And, my favorite: as a robot Bender has no gender, so if Bender bends his gender, what gender does Bender bend?
Sci-fi sex is fun to talk about, of course, but how can all of that help us understand the actual future of humanity? Simply put: we imagine what we hope to see. So the question is: what is it we imagine and hope for? An utter free-for-all of alien-cyborg-A.I. bacchanalia? I don’t think so. Instead, sci-fi is teaching the diversity of our own human sexuality back to us.
A key measure of social progress is how accepting we are of different permutations of sexuality. Sexuality can get extremely complex. For those who think it’s only male or female, gay or straight, think again. Consider the following possible variables:
Male or Female (biological gender) Homo or Hetero (sexual preference) Cis or Trans (gender presentation) Asexual or Hypersexual (libido level) Mono or Poly (relationship structure)
Each of these variables is not an either/or situation, but sits on a spectrum. So, if asked to self-identify, the question is not “are you asexual or hypersexual” but, “on a scale of one to ten, one being no sex drive, ten being perpetual, overwhelming sex drive, how would you rate your libido?” And a number in one variable might have no bearing on another. A binary is just not enough – there is a reason the rainbow is representative of the queer community.
The point is that sci-fi lets us see those variables of attraction and sexuality in action. Even better, sci-fi video games let us experience those variables for ourselves…
Kyle Munkittrick, IEET Program Director: Envisioning the Future, is a recent graduate of New York University, where he received his Master's in bioethics and critical theory.
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