The Easy Way Out

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Title: The Easy Way Out
Creator: Caroline Nixon
Date(s): August 1977
Medium: print
Fandom: Star Trek: TOS
Topic: Star Trek: TOS, male and female relationships, slash
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The Easy Way Out is a 1977 essay by Caroline Nixon.

It was published in Obsc'zine #2.

Excerpts

There are trends and fashions in STAR TREK fanlit, just as much as in other literary fields, and interest today seems to be focusing on the sexual aspect of the Kirk/Spock relationship.

As with most fan stories, the writers of these homosexual love-idylls are women, and I wonder if these ladies realize the full implications of their postulations.

Perhaps we should look into the underlying causes of such a relationship. It is clear to anyone who is well-acquainted with STAR TREK and the Kirk and Spock characters that there is nothing in their physical or psychological makeup that pre-disposes either to seek out a partner of their own sex. There is a little of both sexes in everyone's nature, of course, but both the Captain and his First Officer are unquestionably male-dominant. Kirk reacts immediately and enthusiastically to a pretty female. If Spock reacts with something approaching panic, to any woman who shows interest in him, this loss of equanimity hardly indicates indifference — to say nothing of the fact that he has gone through pon farr, like any standard Vulcan male.

This point is reflected in the stories, for there is no agreement on which partner takes which role. Opinion is approximately equally divided, one third favoring Kirk for the female role, another third giving Spock that function and the rest letting them take turns.
So why should these two very masculine men fall into bed together? It's obvious that the reasons go beyond the sexual. The bond between them is mental, spiritual and intellectual, not physical. Each represents to the other something infinitely valuable and presumably the wish for closeness to the dear being eventually extends to the desire for bodily union. So far, so good. But what does all this imply? The answer will become clearer if we take an analogy from the many Terran cultures where men form strong pair-bonds — the blood-brother relationship, as it is often called. This bond doesn't always include sex relations, but where it does, it's for a certain reason. It happens not because they find the female body distasteful, as true homosexuals do, for psychological or hormonal reasons, but because they can form no lasting mental bond with women, since they are ignorant, trivial and often even dangerous, and the men despise them. (We won't go into whose fault that is!) I'm referring to cultures such as the Spartan civilization, etc., where two warrior-men became lovers, of course, not to decadent cultures where effeminate boys were made use of.
Kirk and Spock go to bed together because the sort of women who could give them what they need do not exist. Of course, the solution is very neat — Kirk and Spock both have the same needs, even though they do show diametrically opposite symptoms; they are very lonely men, and need a companion to share their lives — a "soul-mate", to use a somewhat hackneyed term. And so they turn to each other.
But this is the easy way out — a cop-out, ladies, nothing else. A close and sometimes intense relationship with a member of one's own sex is a normal, healthy part of life, one of the important ties one sentient entity will form with another. But it is only one of them. And if the Kirk/Spock relationship blurs into a mate/partner bond, it is purely because the women do not exist who are intelligent enough to understand their needs and subtle enough to be able to fulfill them in a way they can accept (this last is especially important in Spock's case, because of his psychological and cultural inhibitions). This would be a depressing enough thought in real life. In fiction it is even more so — it means that it is impossible even to conceive of such women. But perhaps it's only to be expected when so many female writers , especially sf authors, feel the need to write almost exclusively about men, because they find their own sex so uninteresting.
So, ladies, gird up your loins (if you know where they are). The time has come for a new confidence in our capabilities. Our sex makes up half the human race, and probably half of all the humanoid races in the galaxy. If the males can produce two such wonderful characters as Kirk and Spock, can't we provide female characters who will be a match for them? I challenge you all — the honor of our sex is at stake. Act now — or resign yourselves to being called "the weaker sex" for all eternity — and deserving it.

Reactions and Reviews

I did want to comment on Caroline Nixon's plea for a story in which a couple of good strong women turn up for Kirk and Spock, in order to prevent them having to turn to each other to find a sexual partner "up to their weight", so to speak. Now that wish is all very well, but has Caroline stopped to think that in fact a couple of good strong women mightn't want a couple of good, strong men? Human nature is such — indeed, any animal nature is such -- that the being with leader instincts wants to lead. He may find someone he is prepared to play second- in-command to, but that person is normally one of the same sex. A man of strength will not play second fiddle to a woman, for fear of being thought weak; a woman of strength will not willingly play second fiddle to a man for fear people will say -- and they will — "Yes, she needs a man to make the decisions for her". Strong women normally seek out weaker men to marry, men who will be quite content to let them make the decisions. They might discuss the decisions to give their partner the illusion of equality, but when it comes to it, the woman makes the decision. Strong men want a wife who will agree with their decisions, and not try to make their own wishes felt. True equality in a marriage comes when neither partner is over-strongly endowed with qualities of leadership, so that both are prepared to make joint decisions. The only marriage I've ever known where both partners were truly strong characters, they were never done fighting; not a day passed but they had a raging quarrel over some issue, because neither was prepared to accept the other's choice. Now I don't say that all strong characters, faced with that situation, would react by quarreling; but there would be friction, and hence unhappiness. Personally, I don't think Spock wants a sexual relationship with anyone — or needs it,either. Pon farr seems to me to be a wholly illogical and badly-thought-out concept, anti-survival at worst — not everyone wants to marry, and anyone who goes in for a career in something like Starfleet must be one on whom family ties sit lightly, yet poor Spock, and poor Kirk, too, are being depicted in some fan fiction as being desperate for a wife, and utterly lonely without sexual commitments. Crap! They want to explore, they want adventure, and friends are often far better company than any sexual partner could ever be. Friends talk to you; sexual partners frequently want nothing but sex. That’s no basis for a lasting relationship of any depth or meaning.

I don’t mind stories in which Kirk hops into bed with someone, as long as there’s no hint that it’s going to be permanent; Kirk gets married, his sense of duty to his wife will take him right out of Starship service, and he’d end up hating it and resenting her for being the cause of it. I don’t like the ones where Spock hops in bed, because it’s out of character for my Spock. Sex for pleasure only is illogical, emotional, and unVulcan.

Now I freely admit that I enjoyed ‘Poses.’ I enjoyed ‘Poses’ very much. I don’t believe in the premise, but I can enjoy reading about it, even accept it as a more valid relationship than either of them forming a lasting union with any female. I’m not sure why.... I like Kirk and Spock, although I certainly don’t want to sleep with either of them.

Perhaps it’s simply because more sincerity and genuine unselfish feeling comes over from the homosexual stories than from the heterosexual ones. Whether it's tied in with that I don't know, but I cannot write a straight heterosexual story. I can't convince myself that my hero would do anything so irresponsible and selfish as to use a female so cynically, even though I know full well that all men do if they get the chance. On the other hand, I can make a reasonable attempt at a homo story ... and of course, with a homosexual relationship, they don't have to give up active service in order to fulfill their family duties, like being there to help bring up their children ... it satisfies the sex drive, and yet lets them live the sort of life they want. [1]

Most belatedly, I read Caroline Nixon's article in OBSC'ZINE #2 entitled "The Easy Way Out". She concentrated on the why of the popularity of the K/S relationship stories, but made a point I found fed into a lot of my thinking of the past several months.

I'd like to put in a few words for we women and the women of STAR TREK — whether those we saw or those we will yet invent. When I started writing Trekfic, I concentrated, as so many do, on the admirable Captain, his fascinating First Officer, the charming Doctor, and so on, and pretty much left the women to "open hailing frequencies, Lieutenant", "close please, Nurse", and "hand me that fuel consumption report, Yeoman". The men were, at first, simply too large and too marvelous not to take all my initial attention. They still occupy a vast share of my interest in my writing and they make terrific characters to play off. That's right, I said "play off". Strictly grammatical or not, the observation about accounts for where I'm going these days with many of my own stories.

My point of digression from attending solely or fixedly to the men came with what you might call the early stage of my later writing, the first time I was writing women as main characters. None of these pieces was particularly good because I was exploring a new idea and I wasn't good at it nor entirely comfortable with it. After all, my world had been tenanted by men and women in traditional roles. In fact, I was the first one in my family to break with that tradition and I was still more used to viewing women in their usual places. My early female characters just did not come off because I was still looking at the outer trappings instead of the inner workings and feelings of women as people and not just helpmates or paper dolls.

Along about this time I began corresponding with Gerry Downes, who is definitely a together lady who knows her own mind and is her own person of worth. She and I began tossing an idea back and forth between us across the continent: the exploration of Christine Chapel as a person. Gerry thought well of her; I did not. Like most Trek fans, I thought Christine a terrible twit ... but Gerry started me think ing about her and the part of her character we'd never seen. (And, God knows, there was plenty of that since aired Trek gave us so little.) During this same period, I was coming to some important conclusions regarding who I was as a woman and where I was going with my life. The two processes meshed with the result that Christine, as I envisioned her and am writing her in the "Crossroads" series, be came a whole and entire person, a woman of strengths as well as weaknesses, of hopes, dreams and ideas all worth having. The response I got from people was very gratifying. Suddenly Christine was not so much a pariah. She had become real, sometimes admirable in her own way, sometimes foolish, but an adult female who counted in the scheme of things.

Since then, I've gotten into a few other female characters, and always I've striven to give them the same dignity and substance I claim for myself and all other women. But I've been acutely aware that most of the Trek writers (the greater number of whom happen to be women themselves) ignore or shy away from the female characters, except to view them in extensions of the roles we saw them play on the screen. At first, I thought perhaps the prejudice had to do with the compelling attractiveness of the male characters. But then I. began to see that it had more to do with the fact that a great many women still have trouble viewing women as people of consequence. Yet, none of the women, young or middle young, that I have met through Trek fandom are lightweights. Whether they have outside jobs and careers or have families who take most of their attention and devotion, they are intelligent, gutsy people who matter. Their ideas, inspirations, even their mistakes, are no less consequential than those of the men in their lives. Yet, socially, we've all been so doped by the man-as-hero/god syndrome that we fail to see that it takes just as much courage to live a contributive life as a woman, whether it is as an independent single one, or as a partner. The process of writing a female character with guts is, for me, a process of self-exploration as well as observation of the women I respect and love. We women of Trek fandom have all had decisions to make which might change our lives or the lives of others, have made errors, have loved, been loved, or failed to have that love returned, and have had to live with job, sorrows, frustrations, satisfactions and boredom — to one degree or another. Whether or not we choose to marry and have children, we are acutely, subliminally aware of that universal capacity in all women and the cosmic responsibility that goes with it. We also have brains and talents and we (at least those of us whose creativity I have seen so widely and beautifully displayed in fandom) use them to their fullest capacities, regardless of the "place" in which society would like to put us. Hardly the stuff of subordination, subjugation or infantilism so overwhelming as to require shelter and protection from itself as well as outside dangers!

What hurts is to see that women who daily strive to make their own lives more meaningful, who reach out to one another as so many have to me and to each other, who greet life as the adventure it is — these same women — do not see themselves as examples of characters who would populate and fill out the complete dimensions of all the universes in Trek fan fiction. They apparently do not value themselves or each other enough to try to set their own attitudes, vulnerabilities and strengths down on paper that we all might share and learn and grow together. Yet — they recognize and applaud when someone else does it: the female Romulan Commander from aired Trek, Jean Lorrah's Amanda, Leslie Fish's Jenneth and Quanna, Connie Faddis' Sajis from her excellent "Lesson in Perspective", etc. Kirk, Spock, McCoy and all the rest of the male characters are wonderful and interesting, but they become all the more admirable and remarkable when they are juxtaposed against female characters worthy of the roles. How much more interesting and powerful would have been Spock's dilemma on aired Trek if Christine had been depicted as a whole and complete adult person. Suddenly their painful relationship would have become that of a pair of adults instead of that between a male emotionally teen-aged at best and a female who was a two dimensional giggle-puss. If Uhura had been given command now and then (as the logic of her rank and placement on the bridge crew should have dictated) she might have had to make a few bone crushing leadership decisions that faced Kirk and the others ... and how interesting it might have been to see how she, as a woman, dealt with them.

If we consider that there are countless worlds and beings in the Federation and only 12 starships, does it not stand to reason that the crew — all the crew, the female portion as well — is the creme-de-la-creme? Could a light brained idiot with a tendency to screech in emergencies have been assigned to the Big E or any of the others, much less placed on the senior crew? I don't think so. And I don't think it much matters whether the crewperson is male or female.

I guess what I'm doing is trying to enter a plea to all the women writers who are exploring their talents in Trekfic: ladies, please, write women. Your best examples for where to go for inspiration might be your own mirrors. Observe, think a while and give us the fruit of your own experiences as gestures of confidence in yourselves and your belief in women everywhere. The world without, as well as that within the pages of the fanzines, will be a far richer place if you will only see that the satisfactions of a life where challenges are equally shared far outstrip those where either one sex or the other carries the major burdens alone.

Please give all of us — and yourselves — a chance. [2]

Just have to comment on Caroline Nixon's short article in OBSC'ZINE #2 — it bugged me!

First of all, I wish Ms. Nixon would verify her facts before attempting to present an authoritative article. Anyone who had done a minimum of thoughtful research on the subject of homosexuality should know that male/female role adoption is not present in the majority of same-sex relationships, much less being Universal (as she seems to assume). Next, I reject the idea that us K/Sers like such stories because we don't feel our selves (or any woman) worthy of the characters. To me, the "prove it" reaction in dicates insecurity over the qualities of the female sex more surely than being comfortable with KS stories.

The very fact that we recognize that Kirk and Spock are men of quality worthy of each other proves we are also worthy; one cannot respond to an ideal beyond one's own scope of experience, therefore we share the values even if we find ourselves unable to live up to them. No, this is not a contradiction— or a blemish on our sex. Kirk and Spock are fictional, ideal, Romantic heroes — none of us (male or female) is likely to achieve that level, though we can certainly aspire to it. Now — our characters can certainly achieve this level (or at least its literately possible — look at Dagny in ATLAS SHRUGGED), but with Kirk and Spock, writers already have two captivating characters! Should we ditch them just because they're men? Or replace one with a female? Sorry — I just can't see messing with a relationship that is already whole and viable.

I'd like to stress the fact that Kirk and Spock are (emphasis on the verb tense), as in aired Trek, able to understand and respond to each other — to share knowledge of loneliness and striving for concurrent ideals. No doubt there are women who could also, but the important point is that the close relationship between Kirk and Spock is already existant. People naturally strive for a sense of stability — they will not seek out new social contacts for the purpose of fulfilling needs which are already being fulfilled in their present relationships. Sure, Kirk may go out tomcatting, but the need he's fulfilling is for a body -- witness the plethora of empty-headed (downright insulting!) females he panted after in aired Trek. The proportion is far too high to have been mere coincidence. Unless we make the assumption that no other type of female exists (or is very rare, remembering Edith) , we must explain his choice as motivated toward the vuluptuous and sexy (the most direct way to fulfill this need), seemingly to the exclusion of all else.

This idea fits very well since (according to Ms. Nixon — and I wholeheartedly agree) the friendship has fulfilled the mental, spiritual, and intellectual (I would add emotional) needs of the participants. Why then should Kirk (and Spock fits as well, perhaps better because of his psychology) be forced to rediscover all these qualities in a woman? Why should he want to when he already has them in Spock? It ain't logical o r human (unless you cling to the Victorian and insist that the straight and narrow is a moral absolute). The inclusion of the sexual element in their relationship serves to add the one thing necessary to the meeting of their total needs: the physical. And why not? I love the idealism in believing that one person can do this., the more so since it's mutual.

And by the way, I think Jenneth and Quannechota of "The Weight" would qualify as the called-for strong female characters (and they certainly seem to be a match for Kirk)! [3]

References

  1. from an LoC by Sheila C. in Obsc'zine #3
  2. from an LoC by Juanita S. in Obsc'zine #3
  3. from an LoC by Laurie H. in Obsc'zine #3