Care to Debate That? The K/S Relationship... Con

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Title: Care to Debate That? The K/S Relationship... Con
Creator: various fans
Date(s): 1977
Medium: print
Fandom: Star Trek: TOS
Topic: Kirk/Spock
External Links:
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Care to Debate That? The K/S Relationship... Con is a series of fan letters printed in R & R #5 in November 1977.

first page

It is an installment in a series of essays and their following the K/S discussions called Care to Debate That?.

There were many rebuttals and responses by fans in other issues of "R & R," specifically #6/7, #8, and #12. See below.

Some Excerpts

Johanna Cantor writes:

...why doesn’t R&R print K/S stories? A fair question. Part of the answer is undoubtedly that homosexual relationships don’t turn us on. Though we don’t deny that the potential for a gay relationship is in each of us as much as in any other woman, our preferences tend in other directions.

The rest of the answer, however, is in the theme of R&R. We are interested in...stories with characters that are a reasonable approximation to or extrapolation from the characters we saw in the live and animated series.... And in the live and animated ST, Kirk and Spock seem to have gotten as far as shaking hands. Occasionally.

Obviously, theirs is a very close and special relationship. But it is not, we believe, a relationship that is expressed sexually....

In most of the K/S stories we’ve seen, the authors seem to want to eat their cake and have it too — to turn the relationship into a relationship of sexual intimacy without dealing with the quite fundamental changes this new closeness would impose. So far, then, we haven’t seen a K/S story that fits our theme.
Lucy writes:
It’s perfectly possible and normal to have a warm caring relationship (with either sex) that is not sexual.... Fantasies are great, but why must warmth and caring automatically mean *S*E*X*? ‘Love’ and ‘Sex’ are not the same thing, and may not even go together.

From Mary S.M.:

I find it a welcome chance to comment on the legitimacy of a homosexual relationship between Kirk and Spock... I suppose it’s mandatory to say that whatever goes on in the privacy of one’s home (or bedroom, in this case) is people’s own affair. I don’t give a damn. However, I do care that some people have taken an extraordinary friendship and put it on a sexual level. I thought the tenet that if men were close friends ‘there must be something else going on’ went out with stone knives and bearskins.

...In order for this relationship to exist, you have to undermine the motivations and reactions of both men. Kirk is a starship captain. His first responsibilities must be to his ship and ENTIRE crew. He cannot give himself the luxury of having to worry about the presence of a lover, and we cannot assume that he would not worry. It is an all too-human response, and Kirk must be acutely aware of this. Neither Kirk or Spock would be able to react and function properly—you can’t expect them to....

...I refuse to accept a sexual bonding to Kirk. I cannot believe that this can happen voluntarily. The Vulcan respect for privacy of the mind would certainly insure that both the bonder and the bondee realize what is taking place and understand the full implications of the act.... I can accept a long term friendship bond, just as I accept the parent-child bond and the intraracial bond, but these, of necessity, must be on a different level than the sex-bond.

On the physical level of pon farr, I cannot see any possibility of this happening either. Sarek speaks of an early pon farr mating between a Vulcan male and human female as, if not fatal, severely injuring ‘both physically and mentally.’...Now this is going to complicate a homosexual relationship even more, since a vagina is designed to be penetrated and an anus is not. This is going to give us a dead or demented Kirk, and can we really believe Spock would allow this to happen? I prefer to think he would rather kill himself, it being the more honorable way out.

In closing, I wish to hell that people would let these two men carry on their friendship as just that.
Vivian M.B. writes:
First and foremost, I must say that I am not against any homosexual relationship between mutually consenting adults on moral, ethical, or religious grounds.... I am against it for other logical reasons. Most important of all, if we accept a Kirk-Spock homosexual love affair (hereafter called K/S), we are saying in effect that the only way two people can have a close, caring relationship is with sex.... and I feel very strongly that sex should not, must not, be inferred from such friendships.

...In my opinion, however, those who postulate that there is a K/S have committed a sin, an unpardonable sin at that; the sin of causing a person to act out of character. Kirk as a homosexual is possible, if not too probable, if we assume that a large number of people in the future are bisexual. But to postulate Spock as homosexual by choice would make him act in a way that we all know would be impossible.

...In Spock, we have a member of a race who is culturally inhibited against even discussing sex. So much so that Spock finds it virtually impossible to talk to his best friend about it. There is no way at all that a Vulcan could have sex if it were not necessary to save his life. It was almost impossible when he was in pon farr. He would have preferred death rather than talk to his ‘Captain, and his friend’ about what would save his life.

It is implied that Vulcans have mind touch with their sex partners, a bonding, ‘Always touching.’ I can’t see Kirk as being faithful to a homosexual lover; I cannot see Spock permitting anything but constancy in his bonding....
Susan M. writes:
The military woman’s response to the K/S premise is that, even given that homosexuality is accepted as a valid form of expression in that society, neither of them as professional military men could tolerate the violation of military tradition in terms of fraternization/favoritism. Such a thing would be deadly to the Commander’s image of fairness. They—especially Spock—would (in my opinion) feel compelled in duty and honor to request reassignment (perhaps together in a non-command relationship). Any such personal, exclusive association across the chain of command would be intolerable.
Bev C. writes:
...Kirk is pretty obviously heterosexual, though his compulsiveness where women are concerned might be a cover for an inner doubt about his masculinity—I have heard that extreme machismo is often a characteristic of men who seek to deny homosexual urges. And to Kirk, masculinity in its traditional sense seems to be important: the hero/jock image, power over situations and people, hard-drinking, hard-loving, etc. Also—and here I am really speculating—he seems to have had something of a Puritan upbringing. Many of his reactions are typically associated with a fundamentalist cultural background, particularly his emphasis on progress and the necessity of it for all humanoids, and his rejection of the possibility of any kind of ‘Eden’ for human beings, or other humanoids, for that matter....

However, I don’t think Kirk’s reactions would be in contention in a possible physical reaction between him and Spock; he is fairly open in his attitudes toward sex, and devoted enough to Spock that the idea wouldn’t be entirely repugnant, particularly if he knew anything about the psychology of interpersonal relationships (there is a certain sexual element in most close friendships), or if Spock were in need....

Now Spock is another matter entirely, and I don’t think he would even consider the possibility of a homosexual relationship with Kirk—under normal circumstances, he has trouble accepting the possibility of a heterosexual one, and at least that one has the virtue of being species-preserving, at least in theory.... The only circumstance in which I can envision Spock as Kirk’s lover is in the final throes of plak tow, when he’s not really aware of what he’s attacking. And I suspect that his emotional state afterward would be unstable, to say the least.

And it’s not just Spock that would prevent him from entering a homosexual relationship with Kirk, in my opinion, but Vulcan itself. Spock is pretty rigid and constrained all by himself, but in the area of sex, the rigidity seems to be culturally conditioned—and what with Spock being more Vulcan than the Vulcans, his inhibitions might be even greater than those of a normal Vulcan. But consider: You have a society which is so close-mouthed about its reproduction that many years after its entry into the Federation, people don’t know anything about it; this seems to indicate that the Vulcans don’t care to talk about the subject. Spock’s major emotion at the pon farr is shame, which he implies is cultural. If the Vulcans—or even this particular Vulcan—feel so strongly about sex when it is a matter of individual life or death...and justifiable and necessary on the grounds of reproduction, can you imagine what they would think of sex that was neither necessary nor conducive to the survival of the species—and in fact would be anti-survival if it existed on a wide-enough scale? If the idea crossed their minds at all, they would probably reject it out of hand as a monstrous perversion. I seriously doubt that, given the Spock we have seen, he would consider the idea of sex with Kirk on his own; he would literally never think of it. Nor would he respond favorably, I think. Most of the stories involving a continuing sexual bond between Kirk and Spock involve a violation of Spock’s character, or a sentimentalization of it.... Spock ends up much too human in most of the stories....

Anyway, my view is that while the K/S stories are interesting to read—when they are well done—the relationship would not work because of Spock’s character primarily, and the way that character has obviously been influenced by his culture.

Comments and Rebuttals in "R and R" #6/7

From the next issue of "R and R," two fans, Leslie Fish and Johanna Cantor, respond:

from R and R #6/7, Gorn art by Amy Harlib

Leslie Fish writes:

...What a joy it is to see people debating the K/S relationship on rational grounds, for a change, instead of hysterically waving Bible quotes....

First off, to Jo: in what way would adding a sexual dimension to an already-existing relationship cause ‘fundamental changes’?...Why should we assume, then, that sex would make such ferocious changes in K & S’s personalities and relationship? Contrary to common religion’s opinion, sex is not demonic possession, nor a brain tumor, not a severe psychosis, nor a form of brainwashing—which are the only things known (or suspected) that can make such profound personality changes. Now it’s true that in our present society...we have a strong ‘sex-negative’ attitude. That is, we regard sex with fear and fascination, see it as dangerous and entrapping, and assume it has all sorts of powers and perils that aren’t really there.... There’s no reason to believe that people three centuries from now, living in an interplanetary society...will have the same sex-fearing ideas that we do. There’s no reason to think that our heroes would believe that sex would make ‘fundamental changes’ in their personalities or relationship—much less that they would act accordingly.

Ditto to Lucy: what evidence is there to suggest that sex and love are totally different and separate thing? Observing behavior in other human and animal societies, once gets the picture that ‘love’ and ‘lust’ are just two ends of a single scale.... Yes, it’s possible to enjoy going to bed with someone whom you otherwise can’t stand, and it’s equally possible to love someone whom you can’t bear to touch, but these tend to be exceptions to the rule; it’s much more common to find ‘love’ and ‘lust’ mixed, in varying degrees....

Since both our heroes (much as Spock tries to repress it) tend to express their feelings physically, one could say that there’s already a sexual component in their affection for each other; the only relevant question, then, is how far it goes.... I claim that the relationship shown in the aired ST episodes is already sexual to some degree; to what exact degree (to bed or not to bed) is wide open to speculation.

To Mary: once again, why would sex necessarily interfere with Kirk’s job? Certainly he would ‘worry about the presence of a lover’—but there is no reason to think he’d let that stop him from doing his job and doing it well; he isn’t the sort to let any personal feelings interfere with that. Note that not even Elaan-of-Troyius’ aphrodisiac tears, nor Omicron Ceti 4’s paradise spores, nor Edith Keeler’s life could make him give up the Enterprise; he wouldn’t do that for Spock, either, no matter what he felt for him.... I can think of a few good reasons why it [being homosexual] would be a logical possibility for Spock: a) Spock has no bondmate now, and must have one or die in his next pon farr; b) even if another engagement could be arranged on Vulcan, there’s no guarantee that the Enterprise will be within reach at the time; c) Kirk has mindlinked with Spock more often than anyone else, they know each other’s minds pretty well by now, and Spock knows that he can trust Kirk with this frightening and vulnerable part of his nature; d) Kirk has the physical strength to survive sexual activity with a Vulcan.... I maintain that if a fragile little woman like Amanda could survive a big, heavy Vulcan like Sarek and come up smiling—for more than 40 years—then a big, strong, physically tough man like Kirk could survive Sarek’s considerably skinnier and smaller son. A human rectum can take a surprising amount of abuse, as any large-hospital proctologist can tell you. Besides, there’s always the possibility...of simply tying the Vulcan to the bed. So much for K/S and pon farr; outside of pon farr, it’s still open to speculation. Of course a Vulcan might see any emotional-physical affection as ‘in bad taste,’ but Spock is already emotionally involved with Kirk to a most indecorous degree...and so might consider that he has little to lose in completing his impropriety.

To Vivian: are we sure that it’s sex that Vulcans ‘do not discuss, even among ourselves’? Or is it the aggressive madness of pon farr?...Remember that in ‘The Cloudminders’ Spock was willing to explain to a hopeful Droxine that he couldn’t oblige her because it was out of season for him.... I take that to mean that Vulcans are not particularly reticent about sex per se—just about their peculiar violent madness that accompanies male fertility. As to the problem of the mind-link, there’s no reason to believe that a permanent bonding is required. Spock was able to dissolve his bond to T’Pring with no trouble...He managed well enough with Zarabeth and Leila without any permanent bonding. There’s no reason to think that a bonding is necessary for mating—only that it’s customary....

To Susan: military regulations against homosexuality are, like the equally ancient rules against ‘fraternizing’ between officer and enlistees, more honored in the breech than in the observance...general consensus is that the only effect of these rules is to make lovers observe some discretion and to prevent officers from sexually bullying lower-ranking personnel.... Now we’ve seen on the aired episodes that two officers on the same ship can marry if they want (‘Balance of Terror’), regardless of rank difference, so it’s unlikely that nonmarrying affairs would be considered much more dangerous to morale.... Kirk and Spock are too good at their jobs, career Starfleet officers, to lapse into favoritism for any reason, though each has taken illegal risks for each other (‘Amok Time,’ ‘Tholian Web’) on rare occasions.... I’ve seen several stories postulating an affair between Kirk and Uhura, and nobody’s suggested that Uhura transfer off for that; why should it be any different for Spock?

To Bev:...Agreed that Kirk is something of a Puritanical culture chauvinist, he’s still too open-minded to be a cultural (or sexual) bigot; his usual reaction to shockingly new social ideas is to jump back, gulp a few times, think for a minute, and then cautiously approach again. Probably his reactions to the idea of being Spock’s lover would follow the same pattern.... Spock is indeed another matter; it’s not that homosexual behavior is impossible for him...it’s a question of under what circumstances he’d have to deal with such feelings. Now he does love Kirk (I don’t think there’s any argument there), and he’s ashamed of it (as he admitted in ‘Naked Time’) but he can’t or won’t stop loving. Furthermore, he was willing to reveal that feeling in front of ‘all of Vulcan in one package,’ even to beg for Kirk’s life, right through the plak tow—something which visibly shocked T’Pau. Now Vulcans have a curious attitude toward motivations; they seem to consider actions themselves neutral—’good’ if motivated by logic, and ‘bad’ if motivated by emotion. The important factor is not the action, but the thought behind it. This seems to apply to sex, too. Note how coolly Spock seduced the Romulan commander in ‘Enterprise Incident,’ and apparently felt no shame for it until the Romulan was accidentally captured. Vulcan culture seems to have reached a point where the activity is less important than its motivation—and if this is the case, then Spock has already become persona non grata on Vulcan for publicly admitting to feeling. Since he’s already committed the really important part of the misdeed, there isn’t much reason for him to refrain from the rest of it.... There is, as I mentioned earlier, some sexual content already in his love for Kirk—as shown by his shy, hesitant but persistent desire to reach toward Kirk, touch him, hold and protect him with his body—and again, the only question is how far it goes. Perhaps Spock would be content to spend the rest of his days at Kirk’s side, offering help and protection, getting no further physical/emotional reward than the occasional warm smile or a held hand—and perhaps not. Of course, if such desires did get to the point where Spock couldn’t repress them, he’d have a terrible time dealing with them; he seems to have no method of dealing with emotions except repressing them, poor thing! No, he probably wouldn’t know how to communicate his distress, but both Kirk and McCoy have become pretty good Spock-readers, and they’d guess that something was wrong. Eventually one or the other—probably Kirk—would get the whole story out of him; it couldn’t be more difficult than getting Spock to explain about pon farr. As to whether or not Vulcan is ‘a determinedly anti-sexual culture’ that would consider a same-sex affair as ‘a monstrous perversion’, why should such a peculiarly Puritanical attitude, which is uncommon enough among human societies, show up among a species with a different sexual pattern? First, why should such a determinedly logical people hate and fear their sexuality? They might dislike the attendant emotionalism, irrationality and aggressiveness, but that doesn’t automatically mean they’d despise sex itself. Second, in what way is homosexual behavior—or, for that matter, any form of nonfertile mating, ‘anti-survival’?...An unbiased ethnologist can’t help noticing that among higher animals sexual behavior is used for many more purposes than just breeding; most often, it’s used to neutralize aggression...and a civilization determined to avoid aggression might find this very useful. For all we know, Vulcans might very well encourage homosexual behavior for males between pon farrs, in order to preclude fights! For all we know, Spock’s family and community might be delighted (and more than a little relieved) if he were to obtain such a respectable lover as Kirk! Perhaps (intriguing though) the ‘closest friends’ who accompany the male at his kah-li-fee are actual or prospective off-season lovers, brought up for the tribe’s formal inspection. Weird as all this sounds, it’s every bit as logical and a good deal more healthy for the individual and the society, as the baby-making-or- nothing model....
Johanna responds:

...On the question of whether a sexual—intercourse, that is—aspect changes a relationship, all any of us can do is extrapolate from our own experience. And on the basis of mine, yes, copulation, even casual, does change things. It is perfectly possible that that experience is just the influence of life style, not a universal.

However, it seems to me that on the evidence we have, Kirk and Spock don’t bed casually, at least in a situation where someone could be hurt. Kirk may enjoy a quick tumble now and again, but I doubt he allows himself to get into a love’er and leav’er situation unless he knows the girl (Drusilla, for instance) knows the score.... And Spock does not know how to relate lightly; he could be terribly hurt. Those qualities, I think, would put him beyond the pale for Kirk, even if the shot was otherwise on the board.

A sexual relationship between Kirk and Spock would also mark a change in another way. It would be a decision, or a happening, that would put something else (however temporarily) before duty and the Enterprise. And as you pointed out, Leslie, that would be unprecedented. For both of them.

To begin with, the morality/ethics of the homosexual lifestyle, and the argument that a sexual relationship between two of the same sex is only another aspect of love, has absolutely no bearing on the question of whether or not Captain James T. Kirk and his Vulcan First Officer, Commander Spock, would engage in a sexual relationship. The only debatable point is whether these two men would or would not be involved in such a relationship with each other.

Aside from whether this relationship is out of character, the emphasis on homosexual relationships—coming out of the closet—is a big thing in our society right now. I suppose such stories in Trek fiction were almost inevitable....

But I have to keep coming back to the liberties being taken with our Star Trek characters....

I also become irritated when an author or advocate does not have the guts to admit that they are creating a whole new psychological profile for Kirk and Spock. And despite those who have been minutely scanning each episode, and eagerly fastening on any gesture or look that could possibly have a sexual connotation...there is nothing in the series to remotely suggest such a relationship.... I simply cannot fathom where anyone finds the motivation for a K/S relationship, except by changing the characters to someone else. I have copies of scripts, I’m sure you’ve read them; there just isn’t anything there....

These fans are using a simple, sensational, attention-getting explanation for a very deep and complex relationship. Love—my God, yes! Brothers—absolutely. They’d die for each other. But lovers? Never. Psychologically, a physical relationship would shatter both. I don’t see Kirk at this stage of his life to be capable of forming a lasting sexual relationship with anyone. Probably irreparable damage would be done to his ego by a relationship with one of the same sex. Think about it—about the Kirk and his background as presented on the series. He is obviously socialized to relationships with the opposite sex.... Spock at this stage of life is also probably not capable of functioning in a lasting sexual/emotional relationship, but he was maturing. Had T’Pring not challenged, he probably would have taken her as a wife, impregnated her, and said, ‘See you in seven years.’ He couldn’t yet combine the emotional needs with the sexual. And Spock is heterosexual not only by socialization, but by his biology. Given the sexual and biological information in ‘Amok Time’, a physical relationship with a male would be impossible emotionally, especially given his arrogance and compulsion to excel. One of the main reasons Spock is able to have such a close friendship with Kirk is because he is not threatened sexually by him....
Johanna responds to comments from Susan M. on the depiction of women characters on the show and in fan fiction:
...Where the put down you discuss is coming from is, damn it, us fans, and largely from women fans. It is women—the [Dodge's], the Marshaks, the Culbreaths— who are reflecting and therefore perpetuating the contempt so many women have for women. I sometimes wonder: might that be the answer to the popularity of the K/S stories? Is it possible that deep down, many of us believe that only a man is worthy to love a man? That only a man can meet a man’s needs?

Comments and Rebuttals in "R and R" #8

Alisa C. writes:
...I do want to go on to another topic—the K/S Debate. Personally I’m pro for a lot of reasons—but most of all, I’m in this for the relationship stories and Bones. So of course I favor K/S. And it was so nice to read a debate that did not thump any Bibles or threaten anyone’s life. The arguments you printed were logical (sorry!), based on character, and well reasoned. No one changed my mind—but no one closed it, either....

Jeanne P. writes:

The old ‘look, look, they touched!’ has grated on my nerves ever since it started. What is it with a simple touch? It’s enough to make a person paranoid... Now, I am not a ‘toucher’ by nature, so maybe I am just missing something wildly exciting. But I don’t really think so. And now I think four times before I touch anybody. I mean, if people think touching is an invitation to intimacies, or indicates that intimacies have taken place, then obviously I could get quite a reputation without any of the fun. I don’t really think this is true, but if I meet any of y’all, you won’t mind if I just wave...?
Sally F. writes:

...I don’t like this idea of seeing sex in everything because it leads to a subtle, invisible pressure—that you must have sexual relations, even if you don’t want to. Otherwise, you’re repressed—an aberration!

Her [[[Leslie Fish’s]]] vision of the 23rd century may be one where sex doesn’t arouse fear or fascination. Okay. But is it really freedom to assume that only sexual forces will prevail? Wouldn’t true sexual freedom have to include the right to say no without being accused of being a puritanical aberration?
Susan M. writes:

[Regarding fraternization in the military]...I was speaking to the question of any ‘particular friendship,’ homosexual, heterosexual—it doesn’t matter. From a professional military relationship, any particular friendship between two individuals of unequal rank when one is in the chain of command/supervision of another is to be strenuously avoided.... I believe that both Captain Kirk and First Officer Spock are very professional military men, and if they fell in love with each other or with any member of their command, they would request a transfer.... There is nothing that will break a good unit faster than fraternization. I have seen it happen...

I’m not saying that the ST situation must conform to present ideas. But look at ‘Captain Dunsel.’ There is an appreciation of military tradition in ST.
Karen F. writes:

...There’s been a lot of discussion of whether Kirk and Spock should or shouldn’t have a sexual relationship. Fans have brought up sociology, biology, morals, you name it. Everything except ST. Why is that? Because K/S fans don’t have any solid evident in ST to go on, so they have to depend on camouflaging this lack of evidence with a lot of scientific mumbo-jumbo that may or may not apply to Kirk and Spock. They choose to ignore the fact that everything in ST refutes the K/S premise....

Faced with not reaching Vulcan in time to mate, what did Spock do? Ask Kirk to take care of this needs temporarily? NO! He asked Kirk to lock him away where no one would see him. He was prepared to die rather than accept an alternative. (Of course, it has been suggested that he had no choice—that it was the location of the act rather than the act itself that was of supreme importance. But if this were true, taking Kirk to bed in pon farr wouldn’t do him any good. The results of this line of thought should be obvious!) As for Kirk, you will notice that he didn’t offer himself as a temporary bed partner. It seems he either never thought of it, or that he preferred to risk his career [getting Spock to Vulcan]. On the basis of ‘Amok [Time],’ the prospect of K/S sex looks very poor.

...All K/S is a female fantasy, and that’s not a put down. Man-to-man sex has been said to be a fairly common female fantasy. Why not accept it as such? After all, all of our stories are fantasies built upon the foundation of aired ST. None is more accurate than another, though some are extremely well written. But K/S fanatics take their subject so seriously they act as if anyone who doesn’t agree with it is a heretic. That’s what irritates me...
Anna W. writes:
After reading ‘Debate’...I honestly can’t see the two strongest men on the Enterprise being sexually involved with each other. The only time it was remotely possible is in ‘Procustean Petard’ in NV 2. With as much love and trust between Kirk and Spock, I think Spock couldn’t help being attracted to Kirk as a woman.” [1]
Johanna Cantor responds to this letter:
This is a comment several fans have made. Which only goes to reinforce my annoyed opinion that the ‘Procustean Petard’ premise is only K/S disguised, and pretty thinly disguised at that. There is still so much to explore in the Kirk and Spock presented in ST. Why this need to stretch/chop them out of shape? [2]
Barbara G. writes:
...[regarding drawing parallels from animal behavior, which Leslie Fish did frequently.] I agreed with Leslie Fish wholeheartedly. Don’t you think animal behavior studies are a better basis for building an understanding of human or humanoid male 23rd century sex behavior, than the personal experience of one or more 20th century females?
Leslie Fish writes:
...First of all, quoting examples from Nature has the edge on quoting the Bible in that there is no question about the existence of Nature or natural laws. Also, Nature is much more favorable to life, happiness, intelligence and freedom than the Biblical god is; Nature shows no objections to having Humans learn her secrets, whereas the Lord is supposed to have pronounced all sorts of nasty curses on all humanity unto the nth generation from the ‘sin’ of gaining wisdom (and, incidentally, catching the old coot in a lie!). Nature’s way seems a lot less dangerous to one’s health than God’s Way. Second, sure here are examples of anything you want to find in the animal kingdom...but the question is how many species do that (and of course how closely the beasties involved are related to Humans...)...
Johanna responds:

...As to Nature and ‘her laws,’ there may be no question of their existence. But there has surely been a lot of difference in their interpretation from culture to culture and from time to time. In our culture, the laws of nature have been used, well within living memory, to justify the social and legal subjugation of blacks, women, and the poor....

In any case, as others have pointed out, the fact that two stallions or two anything else, including two other male members of Starfleet, do ‘do it,’ can do it, or might do it, doesn’t tell us anything about Kirk and Spock. I have read most of the K/S stories—often with a great deal of enjoyment. They are often well written (and often terribly written). Nothing I have seen so far has changed my opinion that a sexually related Kirk and Spock are not the series characters. As an alternate universe, fine. With the series characters? Kirk would blush all over, and Spock’s eyebrow would reach heretofore unscaled heights.
Judith Gran writes:

In most of the [K/S] stories I’ve read, the sexuality is strictly human and emotional, in spite of token reference to the mind link. Perhaps this contributes to the sense many readers have that in these stories K and S are out of character, or that the distance/differences between them have been abrogated. There is something very incongruous about a Spock who’s been reduced to a quivering bowl of jelly by the sex act.

I’ve enjoyed the exchange of views on the K/S relationship, but is seems to have reached an impasse; each side seems to have certain basic presuppositions not shared by the other. I’d like to see some discussion of problems internal to the K/S stories, as this might help us understand the issue of ‘are they or aren’t they’ a little better. For instance, why is Spock generally the weaker character in these stories, and Kirk the ‘hero’? Kirk is shown ‘liberating’ Spock’s emotions from Vulcan repression—well and good, but Spock makes no reciprocal contribution to Kirk’s development.

Comments and Rebuttals in "R & R" #9

Personally I'm pro for a lot of reasons -- but most of all, I'm in this for the relationship stories and Bones. So of course I favor K/S. And it was so nice to read a debate that did not thump any Bibles or threaten anyone's life.

The arguments you printed were logical (sorry!), based on character, and well reasoned. No one changed my mind -- but no one closed it, either. As soon as someone tells me my interest in K/S is based on my relationship with my mother during potty-training, my personal shields snap on.
[Jeanne Powers]:

The old "look, look, they touched!" has grated on my nerves ever since it started. What is it with a simple touch? It's enough to make a person paranoid Now, I am not a "toucher" by nature, so maybe I am just missing something wildly exciting. But I don't really think so. And now I think four times before I touch anybody. I mean, if people think touching is an invitation to intimacies, or indicates that intimacies have taken place, then obviously I could get quite a reputation without any of the fun.

I don't really think this is true, but if I meet any of y'all, you won't mind if I just wave...?

[Sally Flanagan]:

When I tead Leslie Fish's response I felt a flash of anger.... Can't a person just enjoy the sense of touch without having it lumped with sex? When I pat a cat, that's all I feel -- the touch of fur and the delight of tactile sensation -- but never have I had sexual fantasies while doing it. Also, there's the experience o floving someone, yet not wanting to have sex with them -- isn't there? I don't like this idea of seeing sex in everything because it leads to a subtle, invisible pressure -- that you must have sexual relations, even if you don't want to. Otherwise, you're repressed -- an aberration!

[Fish's vision of the 23d century may be one where sex doesn't arouse fear or fascination. Okay. But is it really freedom to assume that only sexual forces will prevail? Wouldn't true sexual freedom have to include the right to say no without being accused of being a puritanical aberration?
[Susan Matthews]:

[On fraternization in the military] ...I was speaking to the question of any "particular friendship," homosexual, heterosexual -- it doesn't matter. From a professional military relationship, any particular friendship between two individuals of unequal rank when one is in the chain of command/supervision of another is to be strenuously avoided. For example, I may fall in love with a fellow junior officer without compromising my military bearing. I may not fall in love with my commander. If I do, it my duty to request a transfer. Granted that the tradition against fraternization is more honored in the breech than in the observance in this new, all-volunteer army, you do have the difference between the "lifer" -- the professional soldier/commander -- and the time server. I believe that both Captain Kirk and First Officer Spock are very professional military men, and if they fell in love with each other or with any member of their command, they would request a transfer.... Kirk as Commander should not be tomcatting around with any member of his command, male or female. If indeed he has, his right/ability to call for 110% from all assigned personnel suffers, in my opinion. This is my opinion, okay? But I was raised a daughter of the Division, the 101st Airborne, and I've got the Infantry in my blood.

There is nothing that will break a good unit faster than fraternization. I have seen it happen.... I'm not saying that the ST situation must conform to present ideas. But look at "Captain Dunsel." There is an appreciation of military tradition in ST.
[Karen Fleming]:

I just got through reading Leslie Fish's comments on K/S sex, and I'd like to make some comments of my own. There's been a lot of discussion of whether Kirk and Spock should or shouldn't have a sexual relationship. Fans have brought up sociology, biology, morals -- you name it. Everything except ST. Why is that? Because K/S sex fans don't have any solid evidence in ST to go on, so they have to depend on camouflaging this lack of evidence with a lot of scientific mumbo-jumbo that may or may not apply to Kirk and Spock. They choose to ignore the fact that everything in ST refutes the K/S premise. Let's look at the evidence -- K/S fans like to point to the obvious affection between Kirk and Spock and to the fact that they occasionally touch each other. Whether the affection between them would lead to sex is a moot point. Between some people it might; between others, it might not. There mere fact that affection is present doesn't prove anything.

Kirk and Spock's occasionally touching each other answers nothing as well. Leslie says there is a "sexual component" to Kirk and Spock's feelings because they "tend to express their feelings physically." And she uses petting her cat as an example of a general kind of "sexual touching." That makes the term "sexual" meaningless. Its interpretation is so broad that it defines nothing. But she has to make the term very broad, because that's the only way she can make it encompass the kind of touching between Kirk and Spock.... Kirk touches a lot of people.... He has grasped McCoy, Uhura, and even Petrie ("Elaan") in much the same way that he has Spock. He seems to use touching as emphasis when he's talking with people -- as if it might bridge some gap in understanding between them. Spock doesn't often touch others -- and when he does it's for a very good reason. In "Empath" for instance there was very deep concern in the way he touched McCoy. People touch each other for a wide variety of reasons -- not all of then "sexual" tin the strict sense or the term.

On the con side of the argument we find something much more substantial. Faced with not reaching Vulcan in time to mate, what did Spock do? Ask Kirk to take care of his needs temporarily? NOI He asked Kirk to lock him away where no one would see him. He was prepared to die rather than accept an alternative. (Of course, it has been suggested that he had no choice -- that it was the location of the act rather than the act itself that was of supreme importance. But if this were true, taking Kirk to bed in pon farr wouldn't do him any good. The results of this line of thought should be obvious 1) As for Kirk -- you will notice that he didn't offer himself as a temporary bed partner. It seems he either never thought of it, or that he preferred to risk his career getting Spock to Vulcan?. On the basis of "Amok," the prospect of K/S sex looks very poor.

In "Whom Gods Destroy" Kirk tells Garth that he and Spock are brothers." Spock says the term is "too emotional" but that in essence, he agrees with Kirk. From that I can draw only one conclusion; that Kirk and Spock are not lovers -- unless the K/S fans want to make a case for their being ashamed of an affair with each other, Leslie discounts the only other possibility -- that Starfleet would give them hell....

All K/S is is a female fantasy, and that's not a put down. Man-to-man sex has been said to be a fairly common female fantasy. Why not accept it as such? After all, all of our stories are fantasies built upon the foundation of aired ST. None is more accurate than another, though some are extremely well written. But K/S fanatics take their subject 30 seriously they act as if anyone who doesn't agree with It is a heretic. That's what irritates me...

[Anna Walker]: After reading Debate...I honestly can't see the two strongest men on the Enterprise being sexually involved with each other. The only time It was remotely possible is in Procrustean Petard in NV 2. With as much love and trust between Kirk and Spock, I think Spock couldn't help being attracted to Kirk as a woman....
[Joanna Cantor]: This is a comment several fans have made. Which only goes to reinforce my annoyed opinion that the "Procrustean Petard" premise is only K/S disguised, and pretty thinly disguised at that. There is still so much to explore in the Kirk and Spock presented in ST. Why this need to stretch/chop them out of shape?
[Barbara P. Gordon]: [On drawing parallels from animal behavior]: I agreed with Leslie Fish wholeheartedly. Don't you think animal behavior studies are a better basis for building an understanding of human or humanoid male 23rd century sex behavior, than the person experience of one or more 20th century females?
[Leslie Fish]:

...First of all, quoting examples from Nature has the edge on quoting the Bible in that there is no question about the existence of Mature or natural laws. Also, Nature is much more favorable to life, happiness, intelligence and freedom than the Biblical God is; Nature shows no objections to having Humans learn her secrets, whereas the Lord is supposed to have pronounced all sorts of nasty curses on all of humanity unto the nth generation for the "sin" of gaining wisdom (and, incidentally, catching the old coot in a lie!) Nature's Way seems a lot less dangerous to one's health than God'a Way. Second, sure there are examples of anything you want to find In the.'animal kingdom. ..but the question is how many species do that (and of course how closely the beasties involved are related to Humans.... Insects are invertebrates—a whole phylum away from Humans. Functional bisex-uality—i.e. nonexclusive homosexual behavior—licommon to all Human societies, all pri-mates, all mammals, many birds, some reptiles, even a few species of fish: that makes it pretty damn common to the entire vertebrate phylum.... We're not talking about a rare or isolated behavior here! 'Tis enough to make one reconsider the term "unnatural acts." Besides, you still haven't shown any evidence that putting our heroes in bed together would necessarily change thair characters.... Leslie Fish

[Johanna Cantor]:

Hell, all I could do on the change characters question would be to repeat my arguments from the first two "Debates." One additional point: look at Kirk's embarrassment when asked to consider/discuss sexual matters in "The Apple" (that marvelous, all-too-often cut scene when Yeoman Landon asks, "how would they...?") and "Charlie X" This guy is not a swinger.

[snipped]

Kirk is a human who greatly prizes the aspects that separate man from the tree-shrew --"we will not kill -- today!" Spock -- is it necessary to discuss his Vulcan love of logic, of control, enhanced by his own personal, daily victory over the war of his divided nature? It may be this additional strength, even more than the attenuation of his human heritage, that makes it possible for him to speak even in the blood fever (to T'Pau's astonishment) and that brings him out of the pon farr itself when he believes he had killed his captain, and his friend.

In any case, as others have pointed out, the fact that two stallions or two anything else, including two other male members of Starfleet, do "do it," can do it, or might do it, doesn't tell us anything about Kirk and Spock. I have read most of the K/S stories—often with a great deal of enjoyment. They are often well written (and often terribly written). Nothing I have seen so far has changed my opinion that a sexually related Kirk and Spock are not the series characters. As an alternate universe, fine. With the series characters? Kirk would blush all over, and Spock's eyebrow would reach heretofore unsealed heights. Johanna

[Judith Gran]:

In most of the K/S stories I've read, the sexuality is strictly human and emotional, in spite of token reference to the mind link. Perhaps this contributes to the sense many readers have that in these stories K and S are out of character, or that the distance/differences between them have been abrogated. There is something very incongruous about a Spock who's reduced to a quivering bowl of jelly by the sex act.

I've enjoyed the exchange of views on the K/S relationship, but it seems to have reached an impasse; each side seems to have certain basic presuppositions not shared by the other. I'd like to see some discussion of problems internal to the K/S stories, as this might help us understand the issue of "are they or aren't they" a little better. For instance, why is Spock generally the weaker character in these stories, and Kirk the "hero"? Kirk is shown "liberating" Spock's emotions from Vulcan repression -- well and good, but Spock makes no reciprocal contribution to Kirk's development.

Comments and Rebuttals in "R and R" #12

While fans continued to debate the validity of the K/S Premise in the zine, the discussion had dwindled by issue #12.

There are three essays that address this topic in #12.

The first one is, most famously, Judith Gran's The Footnote: An Explication de Texte.

Excerpts from the two other letters:

J. Mike wrote:

...I find myself somewhat surprised that no one has brought up the K/S syndrome in relation to Mary Sue. In some ways I think K/S is a reaction to the anti-M.S. fervor. It is difficult to create a full fledged, intelligent, believable and growing character as it is. With the Mary Sue syndrome I find myself constantly looking over my own shoulder and judging my work with female characters—perhaps too critically—knowing that this is the major charge that they will have to face.

...By bringing together the two most dynamic and explored characters in the series one can bypass the issue. One can write a romance theoretically with no female, hence no Mary Sue.... Many of the K/S stories end up creating a terribly out of character Kirk or Spock—a male Mary Sue, so to speak—but for some reason these are not so eminently dismissable (probably the fact that they are mischaracterizing one who is public property rather than their own invention.)

I have read some fabulous K/S. There are definitely some questions that can be dealt with only in this situation. And there have been a disproportionate number of good writers who are drawn to this theme (plot?). But for the beginning writer, for one who has been in fandom for quite a while and knows how M.S is regarded (disregarded) there can be strong incentive toward avoiding M.S utterly and using K/S to express many of the same ideas....

J. Cantor wrote:

I hope I don't have to say again that I support the right of K/S fans to write, illo, debate, etc. I consider K/S, and in fact, all fanlit including my own, "alternate universe" material (and a tip of the hat to the AU4 people for that endlessly useful concept). It just happens to be an alternate universe that doesn't ring true to me.

I found it interesting during the past year to receive letters from friends, unknown to each other but both K/S advocates, criticizing "Images of Flame" as lacking in intensity. It helped me formulate an idea I'd been toying with—some K/S advocates seem to see--or perhaps relate to—only one kind of intensity. What a distressingly narrow range.

Because I'm a musician, happen to know, and know rather well,a lot of gay guys. Most of them seem to me to be very much like me in the sense that their sexuality, though important, is only one part of lives that contain many other things. They have a career--music-- to which they cling in the face of really dismaying economic disadvantages. Most of them have a job that is supplementary income, which they may or may not like. Most have families—not only their sexual partners, but also children--their own by an early marriage, by adoption, or in many cases a deep interest in the progress of nieces and nephews and/or friends' children. They are also, mostly, deeply into hobbies: writing, needlework, cooking... They are busy, very active, very interesting people.

Most of them seem to live in a gay "serial monogamy," like many of the straights I know (though I know ona gay couple who've been together for 28 years and two who are in the 15-year range).

My point is that sex is only one part of their lives. I know a few gays to whom sex seems to be of greater importance. But these men remind me—very much so--of the pathetic Marilyn Monroe type of woman who tries, constantly and desperately, to seduce the world because her sex appeal is all she has. The gays who are completely wrapped up in their sexuality are very much to be pitied, in my opinion. But that's not because they're gay. It's because they're not anything else. The K/S stories I've seen, by and large, seem to present a Kirk and Spock who are like that --"only" gay. That's why the stories seem wrong to me, and ultimately become crashing bores. They take two complex beings who are so many things and do so many things, who interact with others as well as each other, who operate along many spectra on many different levels, and strip them of all their attributes but one, turning them into stick figures on one spectrum at one level. And I feel cheated. Those characters aren't Kirk and Spock--not as I know them.

And I would suggest—especially since so many good fan writers have produced K/S stories—-that this one dimensional quality is not lack of skill in the writing. You &an't work other aspects of Kirk and Spock's lives into a K/S; it just doesn't to. Probably that's why the genre seems so limited to "the first time" stories with the corollary of "how shall I tell Mother?" The stories can't take off, because from that premise, there's no place to go in the ST world(s).

Four years later, a fan wrote a response to Cantor's essay. See No Place to Go?.

References

  1. ^ "This refers to a story written by Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath, published in the second volume of—mostly—fan fiction stories that they edited under the title of Star Trek: The New Voyages. In this particular story, male crewmembers were changed into females, and female crewmembers were changed into males. The only exception was Spock, who instead got a double dose of “what makes men men.” -- from The Sound and the Fury: Early Lettercols and Letterzines 1975-1981
  2. ^ "This also was not the first time Marshak and Culbreath were “accused” of writing ST fiction with slashy subtext. Even their first novel, The Price of the Phoenix, was viewed by some fans in that light." -- from The Sound and the Fury: Early Lettercols and Letterzines 1975-1981