Mark Reads ‘Lifeboats’: Chapter 6, Part IV

In the fourth part of the sixth chapter of Lifeboats, Kit is unsettled by his experience with one of the Tevaralti. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards

I’m still at a point where I’m waiting for all these details to converge into something, but I certainly got a lot out of this chapter regardless. It’s clear that Duane is setting up Kit to continue to experience a sort of existential crisis on Tevaral, namely in that he is realizing how hopeless this complicated situation is. His conversation—however brief—with that one Tevaralti is haunting him, and I got the sense that Kit was trying as hard as he could to ignore it. It helped that he was able to immerse himself in the utter joy of watching The Return of the Jedi with two people who have never seen it before. (I am firmly in the pro-Ewok camp, for the record, I WILL DIE ON THAT HILL.) It’s such a satisfying ending to a trilogy, y’all, and it’s something I want to capture someday in something I write.

But there is a specific element to this part of the chapter that I wanted to focus on more than anything else. Kit does have something to distract him from the horrors of impending doom, and that thing is SEX EDUCATION. It’s clear that even though there is sex ed in this version of our world, it still hasn’t managed to help Kit get over the all-too-familiar awkwardness of discussing sex. Granted, Cheleb is so forward and clinical in hae’s way of approaching the topic. To Cheleb, it is nothing more than an interesting fact about a species that Cheleb has never met before. Hae’s culture must not have hang-ups about sex like ours does.

Yet even saying that feels like I’m not actually describing this accurately. It’s actually an understatement! Here in America, we have severe issues around educating kids about sex and talking about it as adults. Obviously, that’s a generalization. There are pockets in our world where sex is talked about openly. The queer community I found at Cal State Long Beach was a huge help for someone like me. I had come from a community where we weren’t allowed to talk about sex in any form, and certainly not the kind of sex I was interested it. I mentioned this on video and I’ve written about it before, but if it weren’t for a couple of rebellious teachers, I would not have been taught how to put on a condom. I was taught that sex should not come before marriage because otherwise I would die, and that once I was married, there was pretty much only one way to have sex, and it should be done for babies and babies alone. (Seriously, Mean Girls was barely a joke for people like me.)

Even as an adult, though, I still didn’t always find that I could talk about sex and all its complications with everyone I called a friend. How do you get someone to listen to your concerns about using sex as a coping mechanism when they don’t think that’s possible? What about waning sexual desire and the emotional complications that come with that? What about non-monogamous relationships or the failures of the gender binary? Who are you supposed to talk to about these things? They don’t teach you any of this.

I learned about the complexity of sex and desire from numerous sources. LGBT panels I participated in while volunteering at CSULB; Tumblr; discussions about sex at places like Arisia or LeakyCon. But it was never part of any formal education, you know? And that’s a serious problem for everyone, y’all. People who are having sex—regularly, within marriage, outside marriage, casually, etc—and people who are not—because they might choose to be celibate, because they are sex-repulsed, because their sense of sexual desire fluctuates—all need to know about sex.

Whether we like to admit it or not, there’s still a stigma surrounding sex, and that’s what Kit’s nervousness reminded me of. Now, I know that’s not the only way to read his reaction. Truthfully, Kit is awkward here because there’s another layer to this. He hasn’t had sex yet, and he’s being asked to talk about it as if he is representative of his entire species. On top of that, his relationship with Nita is still in the beginning stages, and that means he’s got lots to figure out in the meantime. How can he talk about sex with a stranger when he hasn’t even spoken about it with his best friend and girlfriend? The closest he’s come to breaching the topic was talking about porn Ronan, and that still barely addressed it, you know?

I kind of want Nita and Kit to have a big conversation about their relationship before this book is over. THAT WOULD BE GREAT.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since ’09.

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