Single-gender world

A relatively common motif in speculative fiction is the existence of single-gender worlds or single-sex societies. These fictional societies have long been one of the primary ways to explore implications of gender and gender-differences in science fiction and fantasy.[1] In the fictional setting, these societies often arise due to elimination of one sex through war or natural disasters and disease.[2] The societies may be portrayed as utopian or dystopian, as seen in pulp tales of oppressive matriarchies.

Female-only worlds

There is a long tradition of female-only places in literature and mythology, starting with the Amazons and continuing into some examples of feminist utopias. In speculative fiction, female-only worlds have been imagined to come about, among other approaches, by the action of disease that wipes out men, along with the development of technological or mystical method that allow female parthenogenic reproduction. The resulting society is often shown to be utopian by feminist writers. Several influential feminist utopias of this sort were written in the 1970s;[2][3] the most often studied examples include Joanna Russ's The Female Man, Suzy McKee Charnas's Walk to the End of the World and Motherlines, and Marge Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time.[2] Utopias imagined by male authors have generally included equality between sexes, rather than separation.[4] Female-only societies may be seen as an extreme type of a biased sex-ratio, another common SF theme.[5]

Such worlds have been portrayed often by lesbian or feminist authors; their use of female-only worlds allows the exploration of female independence and freedom from patriarchy.[3] The societies may not necessarily be lesbian, or sexual at all—a famous early sexless example being Herland (1915) by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.[3]

Themyscira, the home island of DC Comics' Amazon superheroine Wonder Woman, was created by William Moulton Marston to allegorize the safety and security of the home where women thrived apart from the hostile, male-dominated work place. It is governed by "Aphrodite's Law", which states: "Penalty of death to any man attempting to set foot on Themyscira."[6]

British sci-fi writer Edmund Cooper explored the subject in several of his novels, including Five to Twelve (1968) and Who Needs Men (1972).

Some lesbian separatist authors have used female-only societies to additionally posit that all women would be lesbians if having no possibility of sexual interaction with men, as in Ammonite (1993) by Nicola Griffith. The enormously influential The Female Man (1975) and "When It Changed" (1972) by Joanna Russ portrayed a peaceful agrarian society of lesbians who resent the later intrusion of men, and a world in which women plan a genocidal war against men, implying that the utopian lesbian society is the result of this war.[7]

During the pulp era, matriarchal dystopias were relatively common, in which female-only or female-controlled societies were shown unfavourably.[1] In John Wyndham's Consider Her Ways (1956), male rule is shown as being repressive of women, but freedom from patriarchy is only possible in an authoritarian caste-based female-only society.[8] Poul Anderson's "Virgin Planet" depicted a world where five hundred castaway women found a way of reproducing asexually—but the daughter is genetically identical to the mother—with the result that eventually the planet has a large population composed entirely of "copies" of the original women. In this female-only world, human males are considered mythical creatures—and a man who lands on the planet after centuries of isolation finds it difficult to prove that he really is one. An example of a contemporary dystopian female world is Y: The Last Man, which features one male human and monkey who survive a cataclysmic event killing all other males.

James Tiptree Jr., a woman writing secretly under a male pseudonym, explored the sexual impulse and gender as two of her main themes;[9] in her award-winning "Houston, Houston, Do You Read?" (collected in Her Smoke Rose Up Forever), she presents a female-only society after the extinction of men from disease. The society lacks stereotypically "male" problems such as war and crime, but only recently resumed space exploration. The women reproduce via cloning and consider men to be comical.

A Door into Ocean is a 1986 feminist science fiction novel by Joan Slonczewski. The novel shows themes of ecofeminism and nonviolent revolution, combined with Slonczewski's own knowledge in the field of biology. The water moon Shora is inhabited by women living on rafts who have a culture and language based on sharing and a mastery of molecular biology that allows them to reproduce by parthenogenesis.

In Elizabeth Bear's Carnival (2006), a matriarchal, primarily lesbian society called New Amazonia has risen up on a lush planet amidst abandoned alien technology that includes a seemingly inexhaustible power supply. The Amazonian women are aggressive and warlike, but also pragmatic and defensive of their freedom from the male-dominated Earth-centric Coalition that seeks to conquer them. Distrustful of male aggression, they subjugate their men, a minority they tolerate solely for reproduction and labor.[10][11]

In other media

The 1984 Polish film Sexmission deals with a dystopian women-only society where all men have died out. Women reproduce through parthenogenesis, living in an oppressive feminist society, where apparatchiks teach that women suffered under males until males were removed from the world.[12]

Lithia, Episode 17 of the fourth season of the 1995 remake of The Outer Limits, features a man who was cryogenically frozen and awakens in a world populated only by women. They reproduce by artificial insemination using frozen sperm left over from the time when there were men (they died due to a war, then a subsequent virus that affected males).[13]

The 2010 German vampire film We Are the Night explores the idea of feminist separatism In the film, the female vampire committed a genocide against male vampire somewhere at the end of the 1800s after many of them already had been killed by humans. The female vampires agreed among each other never to turn another man into a vampire.[14]

In the Mass Effect universe, the Asari are a monogender-pansexual "female" species.

Male-only worlds

Men-only societies are much less common. Russ suggests this is because men do not feel oppressed, and therefore imagining a world free of women does not imply an increase in freedom and is not as attractive.[15]

Cordwainer Smith's 1964 short story "The Crime and the Glory of Commander Suzdal" portrays a society in which all of the women have died out. A. Bertram Chandler's A Spartan Planet (1969) features the men-only planet Sparta, which is dedicated to the values of militarism loosely modeled upon the ancient Greek city state of Sparta.

Ethan of Athos (1986) by Lois Bujold, inspired by the real world male-only religious society of Mount Athos, shows a world in which men have isolated their planet from the rest of civilization to avoid the "corrupting" effect of women. Children are grown in uterine replicators, using ova derived from tissue cultures; the novel's plot is driven by the declining fertility of these cultures. The titular "unlikely hero" is gay obstetrician Dr. Ethan Urquhart, whose dangerous adventure alongside the first woman he has ever met presents both a future society where homosexuality is the norm and the lingering sexism and homophobia of our own world.[16][17][18]

The gay fantasy book series Regelance by J. L. Langley depicts a world where men are able to reproduce via replicative technology. While there are still women amongst the lower classes, who reproduce in the traditional manner, there are none among the upper classes which the series focuses on.

Sexless or hermaphroditic worlds

Some other fictional worlds feature societies in which everyone has more than one sex, or none, or can change sex. For example:

Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) depicts a world in which individuals are neither "male" nor "female" but at different times have either female or male sexual organs and reproductive abilities, making them in some senses intersex.[9][19][20] Similar patterns exist in Greg Egan's novel Schild's Ladder and his novella Oceanic or in Storm Constantine's book series Wraeththu about an oogamous magical race that arose from mutant human beings.

John Varley, who also came to prominence in the 1970s, also often writes on gender-related themes.[9] In his "Eight Worlds" suite of stories (many collected in The John Varley Reader) and novels, for example, humanity has achieved the ability to change sex at a whim. Homophobia is shown to initially inhibit uptake of this technology, as it engenders drastic changes in relationships, with homosexual sex becoming an acceptable option for all.

In the Culture series of novels and stories by Iain M. Banks, humans can and do relatively easily (and reversibly) change sex.

Sex segregation

Segregation of the sexes is another relatively common trope of speculative fiction—physical separation can result in societies that are essentially single-sex, although the majority of such works focus on the reunification of the sexes, or otherwise on links that remain between them, as with Sheri S. Tepper's The Gate to Women's Country, David Brin's Glory Season and Carol Emshwiller's Boys. Even an episode of Duckman tried this.

Sometimes the segregation is social, and men and women interact to a limited extent. For example, when overpopulation drives the world away from heterosexuality in Charles Beaumont's short story The Crooked Man (1955), first published in Playboy, homosexuals oppress the heterosexual minority and relationships between men and women are made unlawful.[21]

See also


  1. ^ a b Attebery 2002, p. 13.
  2. ^ a b c Bartter 2004, "Momutes", Robin Anne Reid, p. 101.
  3. ^ a b c Brulotte & Phillips 2006, "Science Fiction and Fantasy", p. 1189.
  4. ^ Bartter 2004, "Momutes", Robin Anne Reid, p. 102.Incorrect summary from Reid's article; citation needed
  5. ^ Majerus 2003, p. 4.
  6. ^ Wonder Woman vol. 1 #216 (March 1975)
  7. ^ Landon 1997, "Writing Like A Woman: Joanna Russ", p. 129.
  8. ^ Larbalestier 2002, "Mama Come Home; Parodies of the Sex-War", p. 72.
  9. ^ a b c Clute & Nicholls 1995, "Sex", p. 1088.
  10. ^ Newitz, Annalee (6 May 2008). "Environmental Fascists Fight Gun-Loving Lesbians for Alien Technology". io9. Retrieved 19 January 2016.
  11. ^ Kincaid, Paul (2007). "Carnival by Elizabeth Bear". SF Site. Retrieved 19 January 2016.
  12. ^ "IMDB - Seksmisja (1984) synopsis". Archived from the original on 17 November 2014.
  13. ^ "Lithia". The Outer Limits. Archived from the original on 6 February 2009. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  14. ^ Barrett, Michael (22 May 2016). "'We Are the Night': The Female Vampire Quartet". Pop Matters. Archived from the original on 4 April 2018. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  15. ^ Romaine 1999, p. 329.
  16. ^ "Reviews: Ethan of Athos". Buffalo & Erie County Public Library. Retrieved 7 September 2014.
  17. ^ Walton, Jo (2 April 2009). "Quest for Ovaries: Lois McMaster Bujold's Ethan of Athos". Retrieved 7 September 2014.
  18. ^ Gerlach, Nicki (2011). "The SF Site Featured Review: Ethan of Athos". SF Site. Retrieved 7 September 2014.
  19. ^ Stanton, Michael N. (12 October 2007). "Le Guin, Ursula K. (b. 1929)". glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,Transgender, and Queer Culture. Chicago, IL: Archived from the original on 24 February 2009. Retrieved 25 November 2008.
  20. ^ Garber & Paleo 1983, "Ursula K Le Guin: Biographical note" p. 78.
  21. ^ Dangerfield, Katie (28 September 2017). "How a controversial sci-fi story put Hugh Hefner on the map for human rights". Global News. Retrieved 24 December 2018.
  • Attebery, Brian (2002). Decoding Gender in Science Fiction. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-93950-8.
  • Bartter, Martha A. (2004). The utopian fantastic: selected essays from the twentieth ICFA. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-313-31635-7.
  • Brulotte, Gaétan; John Phillips (2006). Encyclopedia of Erotic Literature. CRC Press. ISBN 1-57958-441-1.
  • Clute, John; Peter Nicholls (1995). The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2 ed.). New York: St Martin's Griffin. ISBN 0-312-13486-X.
  • Garber, Eric Garber; Lyn Paleo (1983). Uranian Worlds: A Guide to Alternative Sexuality in Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. G K Hall. ISBN 978-0-8161-1832-8.
  • Landon, Brooks (1997). Science Fiction After 1900: From the Steam Man to the Stars. Twayne. ISBN 0-415-93888-0.
  • Larbalestier, Justine (2002). The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction. Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 0-8195-6527-X.
  • Majerus, M. E. N. (2003). Sex wars: genes, bacteria, and biased sex ratios. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-00981-0.
  • Romaine, Suzanne (1999). Communicating gender. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. ISBN 978-0-8058-2926-6.

External links

Feminist separatism

Feminist separatism is the theory that feminist opposition to patriarchy can be achieved through women's separation from men. Because much of the theorizing is based in lesbian feminism, feminist separatism is often thought of as simply lesbian separatism, but many aspects of the feminist movement utilize and have been influenced by feminist separatism.Author Marilyn Frye describes feminist separatism as "separation of various sorts or modes from men and from institutions, relationships, roles and activities that are male-defined, male-dominated, and operating for the benefit of males and the maintenance of male privilege – this separation being initiated or maintained, at will, by women."

LGBT themes in speculative fiction

LGBT themes in speculative fiction include lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) themes in science fiction, fantasy, horror fiction and related genres. Such elements may include an LGBT character as the protagonist or a major character, or explorations of sexuality or gender that deviate from the hetero-normative.

Science fiction and fantasy have traditionally been puritanical genres aimed at a male readership, and can be more restricted than non-genre literature by their conventions of characterisation and the effect that these conventions have on depictions of sexuality and gender. However, speculative fiction also gives authors and readers the freedom to imagine societies that are different from real-life cultures. This freedom makes speculative fiction a useful means of examining sexual bias, by forcing the reader to reconsider his or her heteronormative cultural assumptions. It has also been claimed by critics such as Nicola Griffith that LGBT readers identify strongly with the mutants, aliens, and other outsider characters found in speculative fiction.

Before the 1960s, explicit sexuality of any kind was rare in speculative fiction, as the editors who controlled what was published attempted to protect their perceived key market of adolescent male readers. As the readership broadened, it became possible to include characters who were undisguised homosexuals, though these tended to be villains, and lesbians remained almost entirely unrepresented. In the 1960s, science fiction and fantasy began to reflect the changes prompted by the civil rights movement and the emergence of a counterculture. New wave and feminist science fiction authors realised cultures in which homosexuality, bisexuality and a variety of gender models were the norm, and in which sympathetic depictions of alternative sexuality were commonplace.

From the 1980s onwards, homosexuality gained much wider mainstream acceptance, and was often incorporated into otherwise conventional speculative fiction stories. Works emerged that went beyond simple representation of homosexuality to explorations of specific issues relevant to the LGBT community. This development was helped by the growing number of openly gay or lesbian authors and their early acceptance by speculative fiction fandom. Specialist gay publishing presses and a number of awards recognising LGBT achievements in the genre emerged, and by the twenty-first century blatant homophobia was no longer considered acceptable by most readers of speculative fiction. There was a concurrent increase in representation of homosexuality within non-literary forms of speculative fiction. The inclusion of LGBT themes in comic books, television and film continues to attract media attention and controversy, while the perceived lack of sufficient representation, along with unrealistic depictions, provokes criticism from LGBT sources.

Men Going Their Own Way

Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW ) is an anti-feminist, mostly online community advocating for men to separate themselves from society, and particularly to eschew heterosexual marriage and cohabitation, as they believe it is exploitative of men.The community comprises websites and social media presences as part of what is more broadly termed the manosphere. MGTOW purport to focus on men's self-ownership rather than changing the status quo through activism and protest, which to participants differentiates the community from the men's rights movement.Associated with the alt-right,, the MGTOW community has been called a misogynistic male supremacist group; the Southern Poverty Law Center places it "on the borders of the hateful incel community".

Sex and sexuality in speculative fiction

Sexual themes are frequently used in science fiction or related genres. Such elements may include depictions of realistic sexual interactions in a science fictional setting, a protagonist with an alternative sexuality, or exploration of the varieties of sexual experience that deviate from the conventional.

Science fiction and fantasy have sometimes been more constrained than non-genre narrative forms in their depictions of sexuality and gender. However, speculative fiction also offers the freedom to imagine societies different from real-life cultures, making it an incisive tool to examine sexual bias and forcing the reader to reconsider his or her cultural assumptions.

Prior to the 1960s, explicit sexuality of any kind was not characteristic of genre speculative fiction due to the relatively high number of minors in the target audience. In the 1960s, science fiction and fantasy began to reflect the changes prompted by the civil rights movement and the emergence of a counterculture. New Wave and feminist science fiction authors imagined cultures in which a variety of gender models and atypical sexual relationships are the norm, and depictions of sex acts and alternative sexualities became commonplace.

There also exists science fiction erotica, which explores sexuality and the presentation of themes aimed at inducing arousal.

Single gender

Single gender may refer to:

single-gender world, a fictional society in which only one gender exists

sex segregation, the practice of only allowing members of one particular gender into an institution

gonochorism, a system where individuals have a specific gender

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