[LMB] Betan control of pregnancy

Lois McMaster Bujold lbujold at myinfmail.com
Sun Nov 8 19:58:12 GMT 2015

[LMB] Betan control of pregnancy
Lois McMaster Bujold lbujold at myinfmail.com
Sun Nov 8 17:12:45 GMT 2015

ES:  Anyone who turns herself (Kareen between Memory and A Civil 
Campaign) or is turned by others (Tej in Captain Vorpatril's Alliance) 
to an institution for an officially impelled first sexual experience 
creeps me out. Neither girl showed a need for therapy.

LMB:  It occurs to me, belatedly, that some of ES's problems with the 
scenarios presented by the books may be in how she is constructing her 
idea of "Betan therapy".  Since the books don't stop the tale being told 
to circle back and present chapter-and-verse on that backstory -- which 
in Kareen and Mark's case, would take a novel in its own right (and 
unpublishable at that) -- any reader naturally pulls up their own 
associations to imagine what went on between the lines/scenes/book.

The phrase "need for therapy" is a clue (also "impelled", but we'll get 
back to that.)  What _Mark_ was going through was of course full-on deep 
therapy, and I think his need is abundantly clear, or at least, no one 
is saying he didn't need it.  What _Kareen_ signed up for was some 
really good, thorough, accurate sex education (College 101 level, at 
least), with all the knowledge that the human race has accumulated in 
the millennium between now and then.  With labs.  Plus added private 
tutorials specific to her relationship with Mark, because, Mark.  (And 
possibly more added tutorials/remedial coursework to catch up foreign 
exchange students with what every Betan knows coming out of high school, 
to avert unfortunate misunderstandings with their new classmates.  Come 
to think.)

What at least some responders (including myself) seem to be hearing ES 
say here is, "It is nicer and much more romantic to be ignorant, with no 
idea of what one is doing, how, or why -- just fling yourself on your 
nearly-equally-ignorant partner's penis, sure, it'll be fine!" (which, 
at some point in the process, is what one _does_, when you come down to 
it) -- rather than making informed and educated choices.    Naturally, 
this tends not to fly with an SF-reading crowd.

I also note that in both scenarios, the actors have the same agency, so 
that's not what is in play, here; but one applies that agency in 
isolation, fear, and secrecy (and, incidentally, pain and bloodshed), 
the other with all the help and reassurance she cares to absorb, 
pain-free.  (And, natch, free of all other medical consequences besides 
pregnancy -- honeymoon cystitis, anyone?)

I'm not actually sure _what_ ES is imagining Betan sex-ed to be -- I am 
picturing her picturing some dire cross between what is taught (or fails 
to be taught) in current US high schools crossed with scenarios from 
_One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest_, perhaps.  Not the author's intent, to 
be sure, not that that counts for much in the rough-and-tumble world of 
actual humans reading actual books.

... Another undefined term kicking around in this debate is 
"fulfillment".  What is that?  Certainly, despite their very different 
starts -- one repaired with great effort, the other not needing repair 
-- ten years down the line for both Kareen and Fawn, both are leading 
busy, differently-rich, autonomous adult lives.

Ta, L.

The below left for context:

ES:  While LMB is responding to what I think is a real dliemma -- the
15-year-old +/- girl overwhelmed by hormones and conditioning into
having a lousy experience of sex the first time -- I prefer Fawn's
(Beguilement) and Iselle's (Curse of Chalion) handling if it. Fawn
suffers initially while Iselle finds love. Fawn's unsatisfied curiosity
keeps her going until she finds much greater fulfillment on her own than
she would ever get from Betan therapy (okay, it's hard to imagine Betan
therapy in the Wide Green World). In fact, the tradition among the
Lakers that a woman invites a man to bed is a particularly satisfying
end of Fawn's quest.

LMB:  While both young women were volunteers for their choices, the
notion that Fawn's first experience (with Stupid Sunny, may I remind,
starting a chain of disasters that blew up her life utterly) was better
in any way or measure whatsoever than Kareen's Betan Driver's Ed course
boggles me.
It's the difference between taking a nonswimmer and throwing them over
the side of the ship into the ocean, in a storm, among sharks -- and
taking the same person, giving them swimming and diving lessons, a
course in meteorology and the physics of ocean waves and currents,
lessons on the anatomy, physiology, and behavior of sharks, a life-vest,
and shark repellent, and doing the same thing. The dangers are
identical; the variance in outcome is in the preparation.


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