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What about the tent peg?

The question of dragonrider sexuality will never go away. Irrelevant in Dragonflight, when Anne had not even fixed the gender of green dragons, subsequently touched upon in Moreta, made more blatant in Red Star Rising/Dragonseye, and brought into the open in interviews with Anne herself, the issue arises in virtually every discussion of Impression.

The “Renewable Airforce” document states that dragonets make their choices based on the candidates’ sexuality. According to the rules it sets out, green dragons choose either heterosexual women or males “with feminine personalities”. Blue riders “tend to be gay with masculine temperaments”. Browns and bronzes select only heterosexual males, and queens only heterosexual females. Moreover, the hatchling dragonet “recognises by the sweat pheromones the appropriate sexual partner”.

But the idea that gay men exude female pheromones is wholly unsupported by any scientific evidence. There have been studies which suggest that heterosexual and homosexual men may react to pheromones in different ways, but there is nothing to indicate that gay men produce a different chemical signal, or one that corresponds directly to a woman’s. The division of gay men into ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ is representative of the very old-fashioned view that all homosexual men are either ‘camp’ or ‘butch’. And it is difficult to place much stock in a system based rigidly on the sexuality of youths – sometimes, as in Dragonflight, children barely ten years old and not even sexually mature. Even the sexuality of adolescents can be a changeable thing in response to the overwhelming hormonal assault that accompanies the teenage years.

Furthermore, sexuality as a direct influence on a dragonet’s choice is not entirely logical. If green dragons are intended to be Impressed by heterosexual women, blue dragons should choose heterosexual men. The fact that green dragons started to choose male riders should not have impacted blue dragonets’ choice. Indeed, if blues’ criteria were altered by the prevalence of male green riders, it would be logical for brown dragonets to start choosing gay riders too.

A further dialogue with Anne, the controversial “Tent Peg” interview, states, “if circumstances arose, and a green dragon chose a heterosexual lifemate… Well, he would become homosexual. It’s a proven fact that a single anal sex experience causes one to be homosexual”. This notion severely damages the author’s credibility on the subject, so it would seem prudent to ignore statements made outside the novels themselves.

Canon offers some interesting insights. Where blue and green riders are mentioned at all we do see campness and over-emotional behaviour; indeed, all the stereotypes of the ‘flaming queer’. This is particularly in evidence in Moreta and Red Star Rising/Dragonseye. Yet in The Second Weyr, it is mentioned that the blue rider Martin “preferred boys to girls” with the strong implication that this is the exception rather than the rule for blue riders at this point in Pern’s history. And as Mirrim’s father is a blue rider, it seems clear that he was at the very least bisexual.

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One response to “What about the tent peg?”

  1. […] series I keep hearing good things about, but every time I hear the name Anne McCaffrey the words tent peg pop into my brain. I can’t throw stones, given my favourite author was pretty damn far from a […]

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