Stephen A. Fuqua (SAF) is a Bahá'í, programmer, and conservation and interfaith advocate in the DFW area of Texas.

February 5, 2009

The Diamond Age, part II

Sex plays an important and ingenious role in The Diamond Age, most of it animalian and trance-like. His use of sex in this and other works has me conflicted. Yes, I am a bit of a prude; but more importantly I am keen to avoid misogyny. Sex in Stephenson’s works often feels demeaning and like a nod toward titillating the mostly male sci-fi audience. But it also drives the plot (especially here) when it occurs.
Sex is never gratuitous, and it is never particularly graphic. At times it is even couched in a language (i.e. Victorian English) that takes the edge off the tension – although that can have the (unintended?) effect of minimizing the trauma of some situations, of dehumanizing the act. That could be a legitimate coping mechanism when the act is not consensual – but it can also lead the reader to become detached from the horror of rape. Most of the characters do not suffer from it, so perhaps the sense of distaste reflects my monogamous value system more than an objective literary or humanistic criticism.