The Themes of Sexuality and Social Norms in “Aye and Gomorrah” by Samuel R. Delany

June 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

Aye and Gomorrah is a short science-fiction written by Samuel R. Delany that dives into the themes of sexuality and social norms. The story highlights the abnormal relationships between two marginalized communities and the struggles they undergo trying to understand their situations. Although the novel was written a while ago, the author and reader can still see the connection between the story and issues of the modern world. Revolving around “spacers,” beings that have no sex and gender, the story manages to shine a new light on contemporary issues relating to the representation of sexuality. Through further analysis of its plot, form, and themes, we will see what social structures, belief systems, values, and hierarchies are at stake in maintaining and dismantling conventional notions of sexuality.

The plot of the short novel Aye and Gomorrah focuses on the relationships between “spacers” and “folks.” The“spacer,”, is sought out by the “frelks,” individuals who desire genderless spacers because of their lack of sexual reciprocity. Even though spacers are respected as important members of society, they are only superficially accepted by the rest, making them unwelcome and despised. In most instances, they are asked to leave. One specific scene to note would be the Paris bathroom incident: Kelly, a spacer, angrily bangs against a pissoir, disturbing five other men. One of the men retaliates with“Sadly for me, you look as though you may once have been a man.” The author teases that gay men are open to finding other male sexual partners in bathrooms, easing the topic of homosexuality in the novel. The theme gets redeveloped with the spacer incident in Mexico where a woman responds in a similar manner “Spacer, do you not think you people should leave? It is too bad, for you look like you were once a woman, no? And I like women, too.”

The “freaks” seem to be the outcasts. They are people who are sexually attracted to the spacers. Preferably, they are obsessed with the unattainability of Spacers. Throughout the story, we notice that, even though spacers are not sexual, they seek out frelks, which is why spacers enjoy picking up frelks. Frelks will trade anything to spend some time with spacers. In the spacers’ eyes, this is the only way for them to feel loved and not marginalized by the society. However, spacers may also enjoy this inequality of power as they enjoy being wanted and needed so badly. The spacers being sought out through this business-like interaction parallels the real world’s thoughts on prostitutes, outcasts of the society merely targeted and judged for their sexuality. Therefore, the idea of commercial sex does not fall too far from the relationship between spacers and freaks.

Sexuality is the primary theme in this story. Numerous characters in the story portray the idea that they avoid sexual relationships with spacers because spacers do not fall into any sexual orientation. Contrary, the frelks claim that they would only engage in intimate relationships with either a man or a woman. Rivals of homosexuality reiterate that the genderless are unclean and unnatural because normal reproduction cannot happen between people of same sex. Furthermore, a frelk confesses that “you don’t choose your perversions,” illustrating that sexuality is not a choice. The lack of control of their sexual impulses emphasizes the idea that desire cannot get picked. Humans can not choose their preferred sexual orientation. Instead, sexual orientation is a matter of genetics, but the environmental factors also play a role in the genetics. People are born to be of one persuasion or another, but whether or not a person’s belief becomes visible also depends on their upbringing

The story is narrated in the first-person point of view with multiple dialogues to dive into both the spacer’s and the field’s thoughts. When the frelk proclaims that “you do not choose your perversions,” her emotions, especially outbursts of anger, are portrayed through the use of italics and punctuation marks. The brutal stops, illustrated by the many dash marks, mimic the frelk’s uncontrollable sexual urges while the seemingly one-sided conversation with anear silent spacer illustrates the inferiority of the frelk. Through the comparison with necrophilia”, the frelk explains that the oxymoron of “loving the fear of love” is what drives sexual desire. The concept of choice gets tested as the idea that some forces such as the desire for the unattainable relates to the aspect of sexuality cannot be controlled. Theurges can be so intense that anger and frustration can arise, leading to violence. The violence, not necessarily manifesting itself in a physical form, seems to emulate the frelk’s frustration of never being truly understood, a direct metaphor of how the genderless wire viewed when this novel was written.

By looking into the plot and form, the clear theme is homosexuality. To explain what has already been said, the spacers were castrated at a young age, as “children,” thereby leading one to believe that they did not choose this lifestyle. People have no power over their sexual identity and are just“designed” that way. Since spacers have no organs, they cannot reproduce nor enjoy sexual pleasure from the frelks. However, Delany paints a relationship between felks and spacers with mutual satisfaction. Delany debunks the fact that merely a woman can satisfy a man and vice versa. By belittling arguments that were once made on the topic of homosexuality, the author manages to make the author genuinely question the legitimacy of the arguments against homosexuality.

Another important theme is that of loneliness and desire. As spacers are devoid of sexual organs, they find themselves lonely and undesirable whereas the freaks are not able to get their love reciprocated. Furthermore, both are seen as outcasts of society, aggravating their solitude. In these moments of despair, the frelk is tempted to purchase the company, an option that is all too real. Any genderless would be able to relate to this scenario. Whether it is the feeling of loneliness or marginalization, people attracted to the same sex understand this type of pain all too well. Spacers are also described as the product of “aneo-puritan reaction,” the polar opposite of sexual freedom. So, the adoration and obsession directed towards these spacers carry a certain irony on the topic of sexuality.

In light of the issue of sexuality, Delany’s story seems to have a different meaning in the modern world than at the time it was written. When the author wrote it, he plainly compared or wanted spacers to represent the genderless. In the contemporary settings, the spacers more commonly serve the transgendered group that is still fighting for its rights in most countries. The spacers, having been castrated at an early age, go through significant discrimination in the society because they lack any specific sexual orientation. Just like the transgendered community in the modern world, the spacers are treated as sexual curiosities rather than healthy individuals.

In conclusion, it is interesting to look at conflicted feelings of people with a normal sexual orientation in the modern world. The story of frelks and spacers is an accurate reflection of the issue of sexual orientation in the contemporary world. People would expect that people with no particular sex should just live regularly, but the truth is they still feel and would want to be loved, just like the spacers. Delany’s story leaves the reader with the questions, how much do a person’s sexuality and gender define them? Is desire the main thing that allows people to connect with fellow humans? Does it mean that a person is incomplete without gender or sexuality? Without a doubt, just like the relationships between the frelks and spacers seem weird and disturbing, transgendered people are still undergoing similar problems due to their general orientation. However, people should strive to understand that lack of gender or sexuality is beyond the victims control, some were forced into it, while some were born with it. People should, therefore, stop discrimination against transgendered people and treat them like regular humans, assuming they would not have chosen their condition if they had the chance to pick.

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