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Sex, Sexuality and Sexual Relationships in Science Fiction

Sexe, sexualité et relations sexuelles dans la science-fiction

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Published on Monday, November 21, 2022 by Sandrine Antoine

Summary

Studying the question of sexuality from a multidisciplinary angle, this conference invites the participation of researchers in literature, the arts and social sciences (politics, anthropology, sociology) and natural sciences (biology, medicine). Our aim is to reflect together on the role that sex and reproduction play in our perception and conception of the world.

Announcement

Sorbonne University, Institute of Slavic Studies, Paris April, 5 – 7 2023

Argument

From puritanical prudery to exacerbated eroticism, the treatment of sexuality in works of science fiction has evolved over time to reflect this aspect of life in the societies which have produced and disseminated the texts. But the experimentation offered by the literary and visual laboratory of science fiction, and especially the impact of sexual relations within the narrative, often opens the way to more universal questions about the relationships of humans to themselves and to the Other.

Science fiction invites us to question our sexual mores and norms with a clean slate, especially in the face of a disaster (Nontraditional love, Rafael Grugman; Chroniques du Pays des Mères, Élisabeth Vonarburg) or the encounter with a radically different extraterrestrial species (Red Star, Alexandre Bogdanov). As it emphasizes how social norms are historically situated and constructed, the genre raises the issue of biopower, especially with respect to regulations governing reproduction. Whether the objective is to reduce (The Declaration Trilogy, Gemma Malley), stabilize (The Living, Anna Starobinets) or increase the number of births (The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood), the instrumentalization of sex makes it possible to question the relationship between—or possible dissociation of—procreation and sexuality, with all the attendant biological and ethical issues. Themes such as surrogacy, hybridization (Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry), artificial insemination (Friday, Robert A. Heinlein; Pollen, Joëlle Wintrebert) and eugenics (A Brave New World, Aldous Huxley) are telling examples.

Science fiction also plays with the shifting boundaries between normality and pathology, between what frightens and what seduces, through the alienation of sexual practices and the representation of unexpected pleasures. Aliens or mutants are often endowed with extraordinary practices or sexual drives, and sometimes with "extra-normal" organs, possibly based on models drawn from contemporary biology (Sexomorphosis, Ayerdhal). It is surprising to note that works of science fiction have not offered the space for a liberation from traditional experiences of sexual pleasures and feelings as often as one might think. However, the search for and acceptance of pleasure and love has driven the transformation or transgression of sexual norms in the relations between humans in the genre. This sometimes involves developing relationships with other creatures, whether robots or aliens, humanoids or beings that are entirely other. Robots may go from the status of an advanced sex-toy to that of a loved one (Real Humans, Lars Lundström), and the love between a human and a robot may result in hybridization (Blade Runner 2049, Denis Villeneuve). Beyond the issues of attraction, feelings of love or sexual relations (The Lovers, Philip José Farmer), it is through the ability or, conversely, the inability to reproduce between species (humanoids, androids or others) that we are invited to reflect on what it means to be human, from either a philosophical or biological point of view (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Philip K. Dick). The genre also invites reflections on the physical and evolutionary limits of the human species and of living things in general (Xenogenesis Trilogy, Octavia Butler).

The novum of science fiction requires authors to reinvent the canons of representation by adapting them to their own universes. In these malleable worlds, changing sex may be mundane (The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin). Then there may be three or more genders in a given world: how should they be called? What pronoun(s) should be used to designate them, both from the point of view of the diegesis, of the author and of the reader (“Is Gender Necessary? Redux,” Ursula K. Le Guin). What importance do artificial languages or the natural languages of fiction give to this question? (Babel 17, Samuel Delany)

Both a mirror of our society that questions our present, and also a laboratory that tests our hypotheses concerning the future, science fiction allows for the marriage of artistic and scientific creativity. While it has not always been progressive on the subject of sexuality, reiterating moralizing precepts or reproducing the male gaze and sexist fantasies, the genre nonetheless offers a space particularly conducive to the development of imaginations that push the limits of our representations and flirt with the taboos surrounding sexuality in a given society. It has also established itself as the space par excellence for reflections on the impact of political and health crises, or scientific and technical revolutions, in our sexual and sentimental lives (Children of Men, P.D. James, cinematic adaptation by Alfonso Cuarón).

Studying the question of sexuality from a multidisciplinary angle, this conference invites the participation of researchers in literature, the arts and social sciences (politics, anthropology, sociology) and natural sciences (biology, medicine). Our aim is to reflect together on the role that sex and reproduction play in our perception and conception of the world.

More specifically, we will explore how sexuality is treated in science fiction along the following axes.

  • Construction of gender through discourse: society, institutions;
  • Sexual relations and desire;
  • Sexuality and biopower: the question of reproduction, sex education;
  • Hedonism: pleasure and enjoyment;
  • Emotional and symbolic implications: love and attachment, psychology and psychoanalysis;
  • How sex and gender are represented in science fiction: questions of language and style.

This list is not exhaustive. You may suggest other topics that deal with the question of sex, sexuality, sexual relations and reproduction in and through science fiction.

Proposals may focus on any medium: novels, films, series, comics, animation, painting, sculpture, video games, role-playing games. All disciplines are welcome: literary, film and cultural studies, anthropology, philosophy, sociology, history, science, technology, etc.

Submission Guidlines

Proposals should be sent to stellaincognita2023@gmail.com

before January 3, 2023.

Be sure to include the following: (1) an anonymous proposal including a title and summary of your communication (300 to 500 words maximum) and (2) a short biography.

Organizing Committee

Natalia Chumarova (doctoral student, Sorbonne University, Eur’ORBEM), Christopher Robinson (Assistant Professor, École polytechnique, IP-Paris, LinX), Bella Ostromooukhova (Assistant Professor, Sorbonne University, Eur’ORBEM), Domenico Scagliusi (doctoral student, Sorbonne University, Eur’Orbem), Guilhem Pousson (doctoral student,, Sorbonne University, Eur’Orbem), Tatiana Drobot (doctoral student, Geneva University and Sorbonne University, Eur’Orbem).

Peer Review Committee

Danièle André (Assistant Professor, La Rochelle University), Fleur Hopkins-Loféron (Post- doctoral researcher, CNRS/UMR 7172 THALIM), Jérôme Goffette (Assistant Professor, University of Lyon 1), Jean-Sébastien Steyer (Researcher, CNRS-MNHN), Samuel Minne (Independent Researcher).

Selected Bibliography

Books

Alexandre, Laurent et Jean-Michel Besnier (2016). Les robots font-ils l'amour ? Le transhumanisme en 12 questions. Dunod.

Attebery, Brian (2002). Decoding Gender in Science Fiction. New York. Routledge.

Battis, Jes (2007). Investigating Farscape: Uncharted Territories of Sex and Science

Fiction. London. I.B. Tauris.

Butler, Judith (2011). Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex. New York.

Routledge.

Davin, Eric Leif (2005). Partners in Wonder: Women and the Birth of Science Fiction,

1926-1965. Oxford. Lexington Books.

Foucault, Michel (1994). Histoire de la sexualité, t. 1 : La Volonté de savoir. Paris.

Gallimard. — (1984). Histoire de la sexualité, t. 2 : L’usage des plaisirs. Paris. Gallimard. — (1984). Histoire de la sexualité, t. 3 : Le souci de soi. Paris. Gallimard. — (2018). Histoire de la sexualité, t. 4 : Les aveux de la chair. Paris. Gallimard.

Garber, Eric & Paleo, Lyn (ed.) (1983). Uranian Worlds: A Guide to Alternative Sexuality in Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. Boston. G K Hall.

Harrison Harry (1977). Great Balls of Fire! A History of Sex in Science Fiction. London. Pierrot Publishing.

Helford, Elyce Rae (2000). Fantasy Girls: Gender in the New Universe of Science Fiction and Fantasy Television. Lanham. **Rowman & Littlefield.

Larbalestier, Justine (2002). The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction. Middletown. Wesleyan University Press.

Larbalestier Justine (2006). Daughters of Earth : Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century. Middletown. Wesleyan University Press.

Loudiyi, Mourad et Ulysse Mentor, dir. (2019). Poétique de la Sexualité. Legs et Littérature, LEGS édition, N°13

Melzer, Patricia (2006). Alien Constructions: Science Fiction and Feminist Thought. Austin. University of Texas Press.

Notkin, Debbie, ed. (1998). Flying Cups and Saucers: Gender Explorations in Science Fiction and Fantasy. Cambridge MA. Edgewood Press.

Pearson, Wendy & Hollinger, Veronica & Gordon, Joan (2008). Queer Universes: Sexualities in Science Fiction, Liverpool. Liverpool University Press.

Palumbo, Donald, ed. (1986). Erotic Universe: Sexuality and Fantastic Literature. Westport. Greenwood Press.

Reid, Robin Anne, ed. (2009). Women in Science Fiction and Fantasy. 2 vol. Greenwood Press.

Roberts, Robin (1993). A New Species: Gender and Science in Science Fiction. Urbana. University of Illinois Press.

Romaine, Suzanne (1999).Communicating gender. Mahwah. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Articles/Chapters

Allman, John (1990). “Motherless Creation: Motifs in Science Fiction”. North Dakota Quarterly. University of North Dakota. 58 (2): 124–132.

Allouche, Sylvie (2006). « Politique de l'altération des corps et des facultés reproductrices humaines dans quatre utopies féministes de science-fiction ». in Dupeyron-Lafay, Françoise (éd.). Les Représentations du corps dans les œuvres fantastiques et de science-fiction, Figures et fantasmes, Paris, Michel Houdiard, pp.255-266.

Broege, Valerie (1988). “Views on Human Reproduction and Technology in Science Fiction”. Extrapolation. Liverpool University Press. 29 (3): 197–215.

Demailly, Lise (2021). « Les fictions de la sexualité en science-fiction. Que suggèrent-elles à la théorie psychanalytique ? », In Analysis. 5 (2), pp.194-202.

Fernbach, Amanda (2000). “The Fetishization of Masculinity in Science Fiction: The Cyborg and the Console Cowboy”, Science Fiction Studies. 27(2). 234-255.

Ferrando, Francesca (2015). “Of Posthuman Born: Gender, Utopia and the Posthuman”. Hauskeller, M.; Carbonell, C.; Philbeck, T., eds. Handbook on Posthumanism in Film and Television. London. Palgrave MacMillan.

Ferreira, Aline (2002). “Artificial Wombs and Archaic Tombs: Angela Carter's The Passion of New Eve and the Alien Tetralogy”. Femspec. Cleveland State University. 4 (1). 90–107.

Heller, Leonid (1992). « À la recherche d'un nouveau monde amoureux : l'utopie russe et la

sexualité ». Revue des études slaves, Paris, 64 (4), pp. 583-602.

Hollinger, Veronica (2003). “Feminist theory and science fiction”. Edward James & Farah

Mendlesohn, The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction. Cambridge. Cambridge

University Press. 125-136.

Kimball, A. Samuel (2002). “Conceptions and Contraceptions of the Future: Terminator 2,

The Matrix and Alien Resurrection”. Camera Obscura: Feminism, Culture, and Media

Studies. Duke University Press. 17 (2): 69–107.

Lacey, Loren (2019). “Science Fiction, Gender, and Sexuality in the New Wave”. in G.

Canavan & E. Link (Eds.), The Cambridge History of Science Fiction. Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press. pp. 367-379.

Langlet, Irène (2020). « “The King is pregnant !” : Métamorphose du masculin et visibilité

du féminin dans La Main gauche de la nuit d’Ursula K. Le Guin », in Trotot, Caroline, Delahaye, Claire et Mornat, Isabelle (dir.). Femmes à l’œuvre dans la construction dessavoirs : Paradoxes de la visibilité et de l’invisibilité. Champs sur Marne: LISAA éditeur, pp.115-130

Minne, Samuel (2006). « Corps étrangers : réinventer le corps sexué dans la science-fiction»

in Françoise Dupeyron-Lafay (dir.), Les Représentations du corps dans les œuvres fantastiques et de science-fiction : figures et fantasmes, Paris, Michel Houdiard, pp. 231- 254.

Moisseeff, Marika (2011). « Grossesses extraterrestres et implants nasals : une mythologisation du biopouvoir ? », in Jérôme Goffette et Lauric Guillaud (éd.), Imaginaire médical dans le fantastique et la science-fiction, Paris, Éditions Bragelonne, Coll. Essais, 2011, pp.303-316.

Moisseeff, M. (2005). « La procréation dans les mythes contemporains : une histoire de science-fiction », Anthropologie et Sociétés, 29 (2) « Le mythe aujourd’hui », 2005, pp.69- 94.

Moisseeff, M. (2004). « L’amour extraterrestre : une mythologie à méditer », in F. Héritier et M. Xanthakou (éd.), Corps et affects, Paris, Éditions Odile Jacob, 2004, pp.325-338.

Pearson, Wendy (2003). «Science fiction and queer theory». Edward James & Farah Mendlesohn, The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press. 149-160.

Sophia, Zoë (1984). «Exterminating Fetuses: Abortion, Disarmament, and the Sexo-semiotics of Extraterrestrialism». Diacritics. Johns Hopkins University Press. 14 (2): 47– 59.

Steyer Jean-Sébastien, Lehoucq Roland (2013). «Le sexe des extraterrestres». Pour la Science, n. 433, 132-133.

Terrel, Denise (1991). « L'Érotisme, un paramètre de définition de la science-fiction ». Les Cahiers du CERLI, 20, p. 191-199.

Wagner, Roland (1982). « Les trois lois de la sexualité robotique ». Bifrost. 7 janvier 1998.

Places

  • Institut d’Études Slaves, 9 rue Michelet
    Paris, France (75006)

Event format

Hybrid event (on site and online)


Date(s)

  • Tuesday, January 03, 2023

Keywords

  • science-fiction, sexualité, sexe

Contact(s)

  • Incognita Stella
    courriel : stellaincognita2023 [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Natalia Chumarova
    courriel : natalia [dot] chumarova [at] gmail [dot] com

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Incognita Stella
    courriel : stellaincognita2023 [at] gmail [dot] com

To cite this announcement

« Sex, Sexuality and Sexual Relationships in Science Fiction », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Monday, November 21, 2022, https://calenda.org/1032852

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