Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
David Peavy

[dkstories] Rider's Pride & Sexual Orientation/Discrimination

Recommended Posts

I recently read Rider's Pride and while I enjoyed the story, it highlighted some aspects of McCaffrey's Pern that I had not realized existed. It has been several years since I read my last Pern novel, but I had read all of them to that point. I remember some brief innuendos about Green and Blue Riders in her books, but as she never had any gay protagonists in her novels (that I know of) it was never really fleshed out.

 

However, in reading Rider's Pride, looking at Pern from a gay man's perspective, it made me realize how heteronormative is the society, not only in the larger Pern world, but in the Weyr culture. I think because McCaffery has focused on the gold, brown, bronze riders in her novels, I did not realize the pervasiveness of the oppression for gay men in Pern and the Weyr.

 

Before I begin, I am making a couple of assumptions. 1) Green Riders are predominantly, if not exclusively gay men. 2) Blue riders are predominantly, if not exclusively bisexual men (at least during mating flights). 3) Brown/Bronze Riders are heterosexual men, and 4) Gold riders are heterosexual women.

 

The basis for my observation is the implied fact that gay men can only impress green female dragons. Given the societal structure within the Weyr, this does not allow them any opportunity to assume any leadership positions. Why gay men, who can impress on female green dragons, cannot impress on a gold queen, is never discussed (maybe you can't have 2 queens? :) ). This hierarchal system implies that gay men do not have the characteristics needed to be Weyrleaders, just because they only impress on green female dragons.

 

Another revelation in your story is the implication that all Green Riders are passive gay men (bottoms), while the Blue/Brown Riders are the tops. Dan's story implies that this relationship occurs during the mating flight, but does not suggest that there is any role reversals outside of the mating flight. This leads one to the position that Green Riders are always bottoms because they are riders of female dragons, just like female riders are penetrated because they not only fulfill that gender role, but are riders of female dragons. A very patriarchal, heterosexual point of view.

 

If you take the two together -- the subjugation of gay men to non-leadership roles, and the relegation of gay men to passive partners in a sexual relationship -- then the Weyr is not as transgressive of the heteronormative society found in the Holds or the Halls. Dan's story, and Pern's other novels, imply the different values found in the Weyr, as opposed to those in other cultures on Pern; however, when it comes to gender roles, there is no difference.

 

One could argue that at least in the Holds and the Halls gay men can define their personal sexual relationships without having them dictated by others. Additionally, while they might have to hide their relationships, at least there is no bar to leadership in the Holds or the Halls. Being a gay man in the Weyr could be very difficult, unless one agreed to live according to the Weyr's rules of behaving like a proper gay man.

 

I would be interested in others take on this issue.

 

David

Share this post


Link to post

I've been thinking about this for a while, before I even saw your post. While superficially, what you've said appears correct, I don't think it is.

 

Firstly, I would say that a reasonable percentage of brown and blue riders are gay, not bi. The examples of brown/blue riders establishing longterm relationships with green riders show this (at least to me). I have also noticed that some bronze dragons will join in a green mating flight, so some bronze riders are probably bi, too.

 

Next, while there is a strong implication that green riders are "bottoms" in a mating flight, extending that theory outside of the mating flight is unwarranted. It is not stated anywhere, and to extrapolate from one relationship (and even there, we don't "know" -- we're guessing) is a really bad practise.

 

I also have to ask the question as to how much the rider's desires are driven by the dragon. We know that green dragons are sexually active, and that in a mating flight the dragons emotions tend to overwhelm the riders, so does a green dragon influence the sexual behaviour of her rider?

 

Finally, the story of the first fall made it clear that the original designer of the dragons include strong sexual roles in their behaviour. Some of this has propagated throughout the history of the Weyrs, but there has also been a lot of social evolution. Remember, leadership roles in fighting wings are determined largely by the DRAGONS, not the riders (the leadership of the Weyrs, in particular).

 

On a side note, I can't see why there can't be a male rider of a queen dragon, but that decision would be up to the weyrling dragon, not the rider....

Share this post


Link to post
Firstly, I would say that a reasonable percentage of brown and blue riders are gay, not bi. The examples of brown/blue riders establishing longterm relationships with green riders show this (at least to me). I have also noticed that some bronze dragons will join in a green mating flight, so some bronze riders are probably bi, too.

 

As I mentioned, I have not read any of McCaffrey's Pern novels in many years, so I can't recall any specific examples of long-term male relationships in the Weyr. Do you know of anyone who has extracted this information from her novels? Regarding bronze riders and mating flights, I think for this discussion it is irrelavent. My thesis was focused on gay-identified men, not bisexual men, or even heterosexual men who engaged in homosexual acts because of the sexual desires of their dragons.

 

As to the sexual orientation of the brown/blue riders, I've already assumed from Dan's story that many are probably bisexual, but leaning more towards heterosexuality than homosexuality There is another, and maybe larger group within these riders -- using the CDC classification, MSM. For example, I would not classify K'mer as bisexual, rather he is heterosexually oriented but open to having sex with men during mating flights. Bisexuality implies a sexual/emotional attraction to members of both sexes. K'mer would not be bisexual, just a heterosexual who engages in homosexuality situationally. B

Share this post


Link to post

This is reportedly an excerpt from the "tent peg" interview McCaffrey gave: (http://www.lake-desire.com/newlanding/forums/viewtopic.php?t=4&sid=ea861348920ab6ad1e9e206d17208098)

 

Tent peg is taboo in most fan circles because it is really, really offensive. Still, it was an actual interview, even if the Anne McCaffrey team has been working their little tails off to see that all copies are destroyed. Which is why I keep a copy of the most offensive snippet. Education is important, so here it is:

 

Anyhow, it's a combination of this section of an interview transcript between Anne McCaffrey and somebody (the full transcript has been pretty systematically removed from the 'net-- I wonder why):

 

A: The situation will arise where two males will enagage in sexual activity. Greenriders, have to be homosexual.

 

Q: Some fandom Weyrs choose to seperate sexual tendencies and flight related sex experiences...

 

A: Let me stop you right there, there is no seperation. Two men engaging in sexual activity with one another are gay. The dragons choose based on their own drives.

 

Q: *audible pause* *sounds of paper rustling* But, uh, some people say one experience, especially under the control of outside forces dosen't really make you *emphasis* gay.

 

A: It's not a matter of the rider *emphasis* becoming homosexual. Green and blue dragons choose people who are already homosexual. And even if circumstances arose, and a green dragon chose a heterosexual lifemate... Well, he would become homosexual. It's a proven fact that a single anal sex experience causes one to be homosexual. The hormones released by a sexual situation involving the anus being broached, are the same hormones found in large quantities in effeminate homosexual males. For example, when I was much younger I knew a young man who was for all intents and purposes, heterosexual. He was mugged, and involved in a rape situation involving a tent peg. This one event was enough to have him start on a road that eventually led to him becoming effeminate and gay.

==============

Share this post


Link to post

You are using references that I'm not familiar with and not able to investigate properly. I am aware that there is reference material I have not read, so my understandings have been based purely on the published novels I own. I have read Dan's story in that context, and because the role of green and blue dragons in the Weyrs is not something that is well expounded in the original novels, I haven't found any significant issues with what he has written. Only Anne McCaffrey (and maybe Todd McCaffrey) can say if Dan's story is fully consistent with the world of Pern -- I'm certainly not in a position to do so.

 

Dragonquest had a brown/green pairing that Dan mentioned was one of the first times that he realised that same-sex couples were not exceptional in Pern. F'nor was told that keep his brown dragon away -- Canth's comment was that the two dragons were "a couple", and F'nor stated that Canth wasn't a poacher. That same story has the following enigmatic statement from one of the Weyrleaders: Weyr-breed are best for dragons -- especially greens. After Dan had alerted me to the same-sex relationship, I found the "especially greens" comment interesting.

 

Todd McCaffrey's Dragonsblood novel has an old blue rider who's male partner had passed away recently. He was a central character at the start of the story.

 

There may be other references, but I can't think of them at the moment. Blue and Green riders as significant characters are fairly scarce in the original set of novels.

Share this post


Link to post

Graeme,

 

I must apologize for not really doing my homework before I posted this topic. While I was composing my reply to your initial post, I started to do some research on-line about Pern and the sexuality of its dragon riders. Having read McCaffrey's comments on this subject, it seems some of my assumptions/questions have already been answered.

 

Accordingly, McCaffery has created a world where a person's sexual orientation determines to a large extent their place in Weyr society. Additionally, for gay men there is even a rigid delineation between tops and bottoms (or as she describes it, effeminate and masculine men). In Dan's story, I can see how J'shon's being described as "sensitive" would fit in with McCaffrey's effeminate categorization of gay men who prefer to be passive in anal sex.

 

Since blue riders are gay men, while brown riders are predominately heterosexual (with the possibility of a bisexual man getting impressed by a brown dragon), it leaves the Weyrs to be lead by the stalwart heterosexual men and women who impress upon bronze and gold dragons. Yes, McCaffrey does allow gay men (and to a lesser extent bisexual men) to be characters in her world; however, they are regulated to background characers for the vast majority of her stories. In fact, the design of her world precludes a gay man from being a major, much less a main character in her stories due to the fact that gay men are barred from leadership roles in Pern's society.

 

Back in the 70's, a fantasy writer mentioning that a society acknowledges and recognizes gay men was empowering for many gay teens. But over 30 years later, I think gay readers demand that gay characters be allowed to sit at the lunch counter and not to have to take a seat at the back of the bus.

 

Personally, I think having a story about two gay men, one impressing on a bronze dragon, while the other impresses a gold dragon, would be one I'd love to read! Not only would it be a love story of the two, but it would demonstrate to Pern readers that gay men can't simply be thought of in terms of "masculinity," or sexual positions, but that gay men are able to assume the responsibility to lead others in society. It certainly would cause the Holds and Halls to sit up and take notice.

 

David

 

PS - This it NOT an attack or even a critique of Dan's story, rather a realization that while McCaffrey's Pern was open-minded in the 70's, it is not so in the 21st century.

Share this post


Link to post

Thanks, David.

 

I appreciate what you are saying. However, the world was effectively created back in those 70s so consistency requires that the situation that was described then persists in new stories today. It would require the creation of a new universe to do what you are saying. To be fair to Anne McCaffrey, it is a situation where she is not able to easily do what you request.

 

The best bet would be in the post All the Weyrs of Pern world -- information from Aivas would help promote a societal change that allows different leadership models to evolve. This would probably be easier outside of the Weyrs, unless the Weyrs change the way they determine their leaders.

Share this post


Link to post

Graeme,

 

I would respectfully disagree. An author who creates a world, can change it. Besides, McCaffrey herself has deviated from her "rules," when she created a white dragon and originally only women impressed green dragons. My suggestion was not that gay men would supplant heterosexual men in leadership roles, but just be given one chance to break down the heteronormative world view present in Pern via two characters in one novel!

 

I think that if McCaffrey's estate wishes to continue publishing Pern-related novels after her death, they will need to jettison her antiquated and stereotypical view of gay men in future Pern novels. That will require a change in the portrayal of gay men within the Weyr, otherwise they run the risk of publishing books that will be rejected by readers if they depict one dimensional characterizations of gay men based on their proscribed sexual positions.

 

Prior to Stonewall, there were many mainstream novels that contained gay characters. In almost all of them, those gay characters were stereotypes and were killed off by the end of the novel. Most gay men (and others) today have never read those books, and in 10 years, unless there is a redirection in the Pern universe, I think the next generation of gay men (and others) will have no desire to read a Pern novel.

 

Given the vast number of novels I've read over the years, I rarely find myself wanting to spend my leisure time reading a book that contains a stereotype of a gay man, much less a rejection of gay men as being equal to heterosexual men, as McCaffrey does in her Pern novels. While I have almost all of her Pern novels on my shelf, I am reluctant to re-read them (even if Dan's story has me strongly inclined to do so), because I have recently learned of her negative view of gay men. Similarly, while I have read several novels by Orson Scott Card, I have not read any of his novels after I learned of his published homophobic views.

 

McCaffrey has had the means to make changes to her world (and she did with the female green riders), since the 70's while the gay community has fought for its civil rights. She has chosen to continue to propagate her view of gay men as being inferior to heterosexual men (especially effeminate gay men) through her Pern novels. As readers, we each need to decide how best to respond to her decision.

 

David

Share this post


Link to post

I am not able to get into a discussion as to what Anne McCaffrey's view on homosexuality may or may not be. I also consider that irrelevant to this discussion, which is that of sexual orientation in Pern universe.

 

I see your point regarding the white dragon and female green riders. The white dragon is described as a sport -- a one-off mutation or genetic freak. As such, I don't think it applies to this story (that could have changed if it turned out he was fertile, but it is clear Ruth is not).

 

I don't know when her views on female green riders changed. There have been some recent stories that indicate that there were green riders in the past, but this stopped due to an excessive number of pregnancies (there are a lot more green dragons than gold, and hence more scope for pregnancy). This then evolved into a tradition, which explains why the last past thought a female green rider was so odd. This is an example of how an author can show changes, while still maintaining internal consistency in her universe. To do the same with a gay character is, I concede, possible, but unlikely. The main question I would raise, from an authors point of view, is WHY? What does it add to the story? I have also noticed that there is no real comment on skin colour in the stories -- should she also introduce racial minorities as otherwise someone who is a racial minority might be offended that they aren't represented? I personally think that this is unnecessary. Unless a story makes it relevant, details such as these do not need to appear.

 

A dragon is a character in its own right. There has never been reasons in the stories as to why they pick who they pick. I've never read anything except the stories, so I don't know what has been said in essays and interviews, and whether they can be treated as binding.

 

To me, the early books did NOT show gay characters. I didn't spot the reference in the second book until Dan pointed it out. She built same-sex couples into her universe in a quiet and unassuming way -- as something that was normal and not needing to be pointed out (at least in the weyrs). Later stories have explicit descriptions of same-sex couples, without any stereotyping that I can find. To dismiss the entire universe because ONE social structure (the weyrs) have same-sex couples but do not appear to allow them to have any obvious position of authority, that appears to be shortsighted. I certainly don't agree that the stories imnply that homosexuals are inferior.

 

I think we'll have to agree to disagree on this. To me, these are STORIES, not social/political documentaries. If anything, I would be more likely to object to the strong (though not rigid) class system that prohibits someone who has the wrong parents from becoming a social leader (eg. Lord Holder). However, I accept that this is just part of the complex social tapestry that the stories take place in. They don't make a commentary as to whether this is a desirable social structure -- just that that is the way it is in this totally fictional universe.

Share this post


Link to post

Here are some things to think about in this:

 

1. Pern is, despite its origins, a largely agricultural world. Worse, it's a world under siege every 50 years. When it was first colonized, it was a lot more 'liberal' in a lot of things, but that changed as Thread, Plague, and a struggle merely to survive overwhelmed the population.

 

2. Dragons were designed by a character who had very clear ideas about the 'proper' roles of men and women. It is remarked several times in Dragonsdawn that Kitti Ping specifically engineered the dragons with certain traits. The golds would only bond with women, etc and etc. If you read the book, you'll see certain of the original dragonriders complaining about her...opinions on what is and is not proper.

 

3. Pern, Pre-AIVAS, is a very rigid society. In many ways it is hard for those of us accustomed to democracy to understand such a society. Everyone has their place, whether they are Lord Holders, Minor Holders, Crafters, or dragonriders. A Harper CAN become a holder if he chooses, but he'll never be a Lord Holder. In the time of Lessa and F'lar, this is starting to change, but in the setting of Seventh Pass Pern, this is still very much a fact of life on Pern. So, there is some fluidity, but not much. Again this is in part due to the nature of the planet, and the struggle its inhabitants must face in order live. By the time of Less and F'lar, and with the riddance of Thread as a constant threat, there might very well be some changes (for instance, the Green rider Mirrim pretty much runs Monaco Bay Weyr even though she isn't the Weyrwoman.

 

4. Graeme's last point is a good one...this is a societal structure that is far different than what we have here, in our world today. It would not work here, in our world.

 

5. Not everyone needs to be a leader in order to be a happy person. In fact, I think our society places too much importance on 'success' and 'leadership' and not enough importance on being happy with your own accomplishments, whatever they may be. I don't have to be President of the United States in order to be happy. Nor Speaker of the House. Instead I can be happy with being one of countless thousands of political operatives whose work creates changes in our world. In some ways, people might call that leadership, even though the Pern equivalent might have me as a blue or a green rider.

Share this post


Link to post

Apologises for making a correction, but it's a world under siege for 50 years in every 200 (with a handful of long intervals thrown in).

 

I was thinking about it on my way home, and there's even more to complain about, if you want to picky. Based on the desired maximum of five queen dragons per weyr, and six weyrs (for most of the stories), that's a total of 30 weyrwomen. These are the ONLY positions of power assigned to women. The early books clearly showed a male-oriented society. If you took this as being the author's views of what's right-and-proper, you would have to think she hates women and women's rights... :P Lessa would have a fit :D

 

Also, I was trying to work out dragon-riders vs the other branches of society (crafthalls and holders). I would say that ANY dragon rider (and there are only a few thousand, of which a very significant percentage will be green riders) out-ranks a holder and probably any journeyman, and everyone below them. This means that all those green riders that may not be in a position of authority within a weyr, still outrank most of the people on Pern. Only the master crafters and lord holders would outrank the green riders.

Share this post


Link to post
I am not able to get into a discussion as to what Anne McCaffrey's view on homosexuality may or may not be. I also consider that irrelevant to this discussion, which is that of sexual orientation in Pern universe.

 

As you mentioned, we seem to disagree on a number of points. As to an author's view on homosexuality, I personally think it is very important to a discussion of an author's books, especially given that her personal view are incorporated within her works. In this discussion, her personal views and the views expressed within her Pern novels are the same

 

I don't know when her views on female green riders changed. There have been some recent stories that indicate that there were green riders in the past, but this stopped due to an excessive number of pregnancies (there are a lot more green dragons than gold, and hence more scope for pregnancy). This then evolved into a tradition, which explains why the last past thought a female green rider was so odd. This is an example of how an author can show changes, while still maintaining internal consistency in her universe. To do the same with a gay character is, I concede, possible, but unlikely. The main question I would raise, from an authors point of view, is WHY? What does it add to the story? I have also noticed that there is no real comment on skin colour in the stories -- should she also introduce racial minorities as otherwise someone who is a racial minority might be offended that they aren't represented? I personally think that this is unnecessary. Unless a story makes it relevant, details such as these do not need to appear.

 

My impression was that green dragons were genetically designed to impress upon female riders; however, when the human population started declining, it was felt that it was too dangerous for fertile women to go between, as that caused death to the fetus. So, while green dragons were designed to only impress with women, the Weyr was able to circumvent this hardwiring. Additionally, McCaffrey's dragons are based on her prejudical view of gay men -- all gay men who are passive in anal sex are effeminate men, in fact, if a heterosexual man is penetrated, he becomes an effeminate gay man, which means he can only impress on a green dragon -- what if there is a "masculine" gay man who impresses a gold dragon just because of the individuality of the gold dragon, regardless of genetics, which has already been shown to be subject to change?

 

As to race, my understanding is that the majority of the original crew members of the ship were white Anglo-Saxons. Many authors of McCaffrey times, with the exception of LeGuin, rarely included non-whites in their novels.

 

As to why an author should write a story, that is up to the author. Given McCaffrey's views, I sincerely doubt she could bring herself to write a positive story focusing on a gay character. However, my comments were directed at stories written after her death. While a novel focusing on a gay protagonist would be great, IMHO, I doubt we'll see it; however, future novels that portray gay major characters not in "black face," to borrow a euphemism, would do a lot to redress past issues.

 

To dismiss the entire universe because ONE social structure (the weyrs) have same-sex couples but do not appear to allow them to have any obvious position of authority, that appears to be shortsighted. I certainly don't agree that the stories imnply that homosexuals are inferior.

 

Again, my impression is that societal condemnation of homosexuality is severe in Holds and Halls (with the possible exception of the Harpers). In this case, the ENTIRE Pern society condemns homosexuality and prevents openly gay men from participating in society. The only exception to this societal rule is in the Weyr, but that society, which allows them to exist in the open, does so with severe restrictions. From my readings, it seems that 80% of the dragon riders are gay men (50% of the dragons are green and 30% are blue), but not a single gay men in the millenia of human existence on Pern is capable of being a leader. That would be like saying that only Mormons can occupy political offices in the USA. Does this make any sense? It does if you think that non-Mormons do not possess the qualities needed for such positions.

 

If McCaffrey had treated all gay men equally, it might have not been as unpalatable, but her view that if a man is penetrated once, he is automatically an effeminate gay man for the rest of his life, was too much. It reminds me of a debate on the Texas House floor on sodomy being included in the Texas Penal Code. When one conservative representative wanted to outlaw homosexual sodomy, he had to do the same for heterosexual sodomy. A representative questioned him if it would be illegal if a man "slipped" when having intercourse with his wife and his penis touched her anus! (for a clip of this, see: http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_...and_sex_a.html)

 

If McCaffery was not so focused on defining sexual orientation as to who is penetrating whom, then it might not be so bad.

 

David

Share this post


Link to post
I was thinking about it on my way home, and there's even more to complain about, if you want to picky. Based on the desired maximum of five queen dragons per weyr, and six weyrs (for most of the stories), that's a total of 30 weyrwomen. These are the ONLY positions of power assigned to women. The early books clearly showed a male-oriented society. If you took this as being the author's views of what's right-and-proper, you would have to think she hates women and women's rights... :P Lessa would have a fit :D

 

Let's be picky! :2thumbs: From my understanding, there is one Weyrwoman (heterosexual woman) who leads the Weyr

Share this post


Link to post
5. Not everyone needs to be a leader in order to be a happy person. In fact, I think our society places too much importance on 'success' and 'leadership' and not enough importance on being happy with your own accomplishments, whatever they may be. I don't have to be President of the United States in order to be happy. Nor Speaker of the House. Instead I can be happy with being one of countless thousands of political operatives whose work creates changes in our world. In some ways, people might call that leadership, even though the Pern equivalent might have me as a blue or a green rider.

 

Dan,

 

I am a bit surprised that I would use this analogy on this forum, but here it goes . . . . If, instead of gay men, we have black men being discriminated against in Pern, would a reader find the stories to be as palatable? If 80% of the dragon riders are black men, but none of them are permitted to occupy any leadership positions because they are inferior to white men, would that be a story one would find interesting?

 

The issue is not one of happiness or success. I am sure that there are many people who can find happiness in manual labor. But the question I raised had nothing to do with happiness, rather with an imposed glass ceiling for gay men in Pern. Using yourself as an example, what if the glass ceiling imposed on you by society was that you could not receive any higher education and could not be employed in any white-collar positions

Edited by David Peavy

Share this post


Link to post

For those interested enough, I've found some on-line discussions of the various issues I've raised. One thread

Share this post


Link to post

I don't believe this discussion is going anywhere.

 

I politely disagree with many of the points being raised. The main one I have a problem with is that Anne McCaffrey is homophobic or considers gay men to be inferior. I have a completely different view on the subject and nothing that has been raised changes that. She may be woefully ignorant on homosexuality (at least at the time of the interview that was quoted -- I don't know how long ago that was), but I don't see how that makes her homophobic -- ignorant, yes, homophobic, no. She has created a society that, in part, reflected the society she lived in at the time of writing, but had it more open and accepting than her own was at that time. So, it's not ideal? -- no society is. She also praised her son's book, Dragonblood, which has a gay man as one of the main characters. That doesn't sound like a homophobic author to me.

Share this post


Link to post
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

Our Privacy Policy can be found here. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue..