Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Left Hand of Darkness Round Three: The Issue of Sex

While reading this book sex has been brought up quite a few times, but in a context that I am not very used to. It was talked about in passing, and in a way that was not how I am used to it being talked about. Many times sex is a very taboo subject, somethign that you only talk about with close friends. However, in this book it seems to be talked about quite a bit and without limitations. Just because they called it something else really does not change what it is: sex.

That being said there is a quote that related to this that I wanted to talk about. Page 177:
"Abstinence is entirely voluntary; indulgence is entirely acceptable. Sexual fear and sexual frustration are both extremely rare. This was the first case I had seen of the social purpose running counter to the sexual drive. Being a suppression, not merely a repression, it produces not frustration, but something more ominous, perhaps, in the long run: passivity."
passivity - the trait of remaining inactive; a lack of initiative (
Just for those of us who were not really sure what that word meant! I think it is very interesting that Le Guin has brought up the fact that in this world abstinence is entirely voluntary. I find this interesting because this world seems to have many more limitations than our modern world, and yet they seem to have more freedom with their bodies. While one can say that the choice to remain abstinence or not is a choice, I would have to disagree.

I was raised religious, and this country was founded on religious freedom. That be said, there are very few religions that make abstinence a choice rather than a requirement. Also, the choice of these people remaining abstinent is also interesting in the context that these people cannot even join in the kemmering until they are 17 (i believe that is what it said...). That means if you consider a 17 year old basically an adult: there is no underage sex. There is no sex before marriage since in this world you can not have promiscuous sex like you can in our world. So abstinence is a choice in the purest form of the word. When looking at how many religions are against birth control, that is one way to see that abstinence is not a choice. Some religions believe that birth control should not be administered because there is really no basis for it since sex before marriage is unacceptable. Whether that is the case or not is not something that I even want to touch. I want to look at the fact that we do not have freedom with out bodies, as much as we believe that we do. In high school we are given sex-ed, however this is abstinence based sex ed. We are bombarded with situations that show how destructive sex can be when youa re so young/unmarried.

The other thing that is discussed is th fact that "indulgence is entirely acceptable." In our culture it seems that it is the opposite. When people are "indulgent" in sex they are usually labeled with names like "whore" and "slut" especially if you are a woman... does not seem to be a problem in a world with no gender....

The other thing about this quote that I found interesting was the use of the word "passivity". The definition I found states a lack of initiative. I found this interesting... In a world where sex is something that is routine, at a certain time of the month, with no persecution, there is a lack of initiative.... That in a way makes me thing WHY sex is such a big deal in our culture. Is it perhaps because it is taboo? Would sex be as good if it wasn't seen as so bad? I hate to quote Rihanna... but her song says "I may be bad but I'm perfectly good at it." Why is the word bad associated with sex at all? Is sex not something that is used to procreate and used to show deep affection for someone that we love? If it was just that instead of this taboo thing, would it be seen as bad still?


  1. This is a situation that I feel like we tiptoe around especially with regards to religious beliefs regarding sex within (or without marriage). I want to say what I really think, but don’t want to offend and totally respect everyone else’s point of view, so please don’t take offense, this is just my opinion. Getting back to the point… I don’t believe that religions requiring abstinence takes away our choice because whether or not to belong to a certain religion is our choice in and of itself. If you don’t agree with the fact that religions say that sex is only okay with marriage, then you shouldn’t be a part of that religion. The interesting thing this regarding the Genthens and kemmer that strikes me in this context is that sex (or kemmer) isn’t ever viewed negatively, but it also doesn’t seem to be viewed that positively either. It really is more of a passive thing, that happens every month and is just a part of life (much like a woman’s menstrual cycle is for us). It feels odd to make that connection, but how can you not when they are in kemmer pretty much once a month for a week or two…sounds pretty familiar. Therefore I think that the reason sex can be viewed so negatively in our society is it has the potential to be viewed very positively as well. All things have an opposite so therefore unless we want sex to live in the passive place that kemmer is for the Genthens, then there must be positive and negative aspects to it.

  2. It seems to me that when it comes to sex, women seem to always be the emotional ones, the ones who usually link sex to deeper levels of a relationship. And when it comes to men, they are the ones who supposedly can have abundant amounts of sex and feel absolutely no emotions whatsoever. Why is it always said that men are more able to JUST have sex without all the strings attached? It’s also interesting how we see this stereotype being brought out in SO many movies. One obvious one is no strings attached, or friends with benefits. All these movies really want to know: is it possible for friends to just have sex without getting attached or wanting a relationship? (Which is something we briefly talked about in class I believe) I have also kind of noticed how if a girl “sleeps around” she is looked down upon and the name slut is often tossed around. But if a guy sleeps around, he’s looked at as being better and is cool. That is something that always makes me wonder too!

    Times have changed so much! Sex no longer means that you are destined to be married and will spend the rest of your life with someone and it is often times not associated with showing deep affection for someone that we love. I think that is something that is really scary. But, also when people do find that special person or “the right one” then maybe that’s when sex will be to show deep affection.

  3. I've really enjoyed reading your discussion here. You all do a good job of discussing a very sensitive subject. I agree that the way Gethians view sex makes one wonder why we get all hot and bothered (as it were) about it. When you think about it, it's funny that its this one part of our interactions that gets soooooooo much drama, press, stereotypes, and rules.