Monday, May 5, 2014

Hubbard the Sexual Creature

Having discussed Mission Earth and sex (noun), we might as well move on to Mission Earth and sex (verb).  This will not be fun.

There's considerable overlap between this topic and the previous one, and for one simple reason: Mission Earth's female characters are largely defined through sex (the verb).  Take away Krak the wife and Babe Corleone the mother figure, and we're left with Hightee Heller on one end of the Madonna-whore spectrum and the rest of the female cast piled on the other.  Pinchy and Candy, Twa and Cun, Bildirjin and Teenie, Tayl and Simmons, all want sex and they want it now. 

Now, is this in itself bad?  Of course not, women are allowed to have sex drives, and sex can be something natural and positive rather than shameful and corrupting.  The real problem is twofold.

First, the male cast members aren't treated the same way (with some exceptions I'll get to in a second).  Heller has sex with Krak, but off-screen - if just off screen, so that we and those eavesdropping guards get to hear it - and aside from that instance in Book One he's busy saving the day and crap.  Izzy and "Twoey" seem asexual.  Aside from that incident during his coronation Lombar Hisst was too focused on taking over the Confederacy to worry about getting any, and fortunately Crobe was more interested in (bleeping) minds than anything else.  Bang-Bang, a character literally named for his sex drive, nevertheless manages to keep his exploits off-screen and play a big part in the story thanks to his other skills.  Gris is a weird case in that he seems to alternate between a misanthropic dumbass spy and a horndog depending on certain chapters - he didn't come to Turkey seeking out sex, but jumped at the chance to own a belly dancer, and likewise the only time he sought to get laid it was his revenge-rape against Candy and Pinchy, so his sex drive is situational and opportunistic.  Men just seem to have much better control over their libidos than those slatternly females.

The second problem is that Mission Earth's women are sexual creatures, and little else.  Yes, Miss Simmons managed to be a laughable obstacle to Heller's progress before her brain-scrambling, and Candy and Pinchy have jobs working for Rockecenter.  But by and large, a female's role in the story is to have sex.  Cun and Twa are otherwise indistinguishable from the rest of Madison's crew, save for the fact that they want to jump his bones.  Candy and Pinchy's role as another arbitrary obstacle for Gris is greatly overshadowed by the chapters spent romping around their bedroom, and more than that their sex lives are what causes them to be obstacles or plot-relevant in the first place.  And then there are all those nameless female extras who get hauled in for a single sex scene, whether in New York or Gris' Month of Limo Rape in Turkey.

In short, men get to have character and have sex.  Women, with a few exceptions, are in the story to have sex with those men.

That said, this rule only applies to straight men.  If you've read this far it shouldn't surprise you that Mission Earth is a teensie bit homophobic.  Gay men are presented as wretched sexual deviants, either slobbering old perverts like Lord Endow, lisping, blubbering wimps like Oh Dear and Twolah, or painted transvestites like Har, all of them promiscuous enough to sleep with any stranger who shows up on their bed.  That last trait is of course shared by the books' women, and so the net result is to turn gay men into women - you can either be straight and masculine, or gay and feminine.  I'm not sure what else I could add to this point beyond a hope that the late 1980's wasn't this bad when it came to depictions of homosexuals.

What's interesting is the book's take on lesbians.  If homosexual males are perverts, Hubbard's lesbians are in a whole separate category.  Candy and Pinchy's pre-rape sex romps were nothing less than misandric torture sessions with cheese graters and Tabasco sauce, followed by... well, we never see it, but apparently all lesbians have figured out to do is a bunch of "biting and scratching and smearing lipstick," with no clue of how to actually pleasure each other, especially when compared to the wonders of heterosexual intercourse.  The overall impression is that lesbians are vicious, but confused, and all it takes is a good dicking to set Candy and Pinchy straight.  That torture must have been their way of dealing with their sexual frustration, and sure enough they stay out of the bondage and sadomasochistic stuff after Gris cures them.  Yes, even when it comes to sex, women are reliant on men to find fulfillment.

And then there's, well, a bunch of stuff.  Statutory rape galore, or if that offends you, a lot of regular rape.  That big underage gay orgy in Book Nine.  Thankfully off-screen instances of bestiality.  Unfortunately not off-screen instances of necrophilia, though at least Hubbard had the decency to have Gris look away.  And in all categories, there's far more of the deviant sex than what you strictly need to establish that Hubbard!Earth is a twisted place... except, of course, that just as much happens on Voltar, rendering the comparison meaningless.

What it does do, however, is add more and more cases to our dataset, so at the end of Mission Earth we're left with a mere handful of examples of sex being portrayed as something natural and mutually-satisfying, buried underneath a ton of sex acts portrayed as deviant based on the author's homophobia, those Gris Sex Therapy chapters that are portrayed positively but are fundamentally twisted, and then even more sex acts that are legitimately deviant, if not outright criminal, but at least the author has the decency to portray them as such, if not the decency to cut them out of the book. 

The moral of the story is that just because a book has a bunch of sex in it doesn't make it sex-positive.

The perennial question is what Hubbard was thinking when he wrote this garbage, and why he thought it should go in his story.  Again, it's either excessive if it's intended to be satirical social commentary, or else doesn't work because the same acts are carried out on both wonderful Voltar and degenerate Earth.  And as I think I've said before, the actual sex falls into a strange category where it's too explicit for non-porn, but not explicit enough to qualify as erotica.  And what does a necrophiliac hitman bring to what's supposedly a humorous satire of modern society, anyway?  What did Gris' Lesbian Deprogramming Class have to do with the plot?  Did Teenie need to be in middle school to get all those young clerks on her side?

Sex in Mission Earth is by and large something ugly and offensive, and yet the author decided to jam as much of it into the book as possible, so it's hard not to conclude that he's just a big ol' pervert himself.  An unfair slander?  According to one of Mission Earth's ghost editors, Hubbard's unpublished writings included drawings of human genitalia.  Maybe they were tasteful artistic exercises, but call me a cynic.

The follow-up question is then, "okay, fine, the author liked to write about underage sex and raping lesbians straight - but so what?  People can write what they want, and if you don't like it, don't read it.  Or what, are you gonna lock up Piers Anthony next?"  And that's a valid answer, I suppose (though Anthony isn't nearly as bad as Hubbard, and at least he admits to being a dirty old man).  If the underage sex, rape, or worse in Mission Earth does push your buttons, good for you - at least you're not seeking such stimulation in real life.  But if you're an author trying to write something that will transform society with your insightful observations on what's wrong with it and your groundbreaking suggestions on how to fix those flaws, you might not want to cram in unnecessary sex stuff that narrows your book's appeal.

As for me, I'm keeping the content warnings on this blog. (editor's note from the future: or moving the most explicit quotes to the Uncensored blog)

Back to Hubbard the Feminist

1 comment:

  1. The late 80s were about the time of my transition from an outspoken 'homophobe' to a supporter of gay rights, so I remember the contemporary portrayal of homosexuals in Western media very well. While people of the late 80s were rather more ignorant of such things than they are today, ME's depctions of Twolah etc. are still very anachronistic. (While reading it, I had to look up the word 'catamite' in a dictionary, and it wasn't there.)

    This is of course part of a the much larger problem involving Hubbard being out of touch with the times, which also shows itself in less offensive ways with New Yorkers wearing still wearing hats, a 6'2" male being unable to source clothes from a non-outsize shop and terms like 'white mule' (there is a White Mule winery, but Crobe's 'white mule' is moonshine).