Reality Skimming
11Jan/13Off

Castlehaven: The Politics of Scandal

In 1631, the 2nd Earl of Castlehaven was tried and condemned to death by a jury of his peers for sexual scandals summed up by the prosecution as "a house in gross disorder". Historian Cynthia Herrup mines the case for evidence of contemporary social values, rather than the guilt or innocence of the defendant. With a social historian's instincts, she follows with interest--not the evidence--but the framework in which it is understood and used. Castlehaven was accused by his son of giving away property (to which the son felt entitled) to favorites among the servants who were willing to perform sexual acts with Castlehave, or with dependant women in the household. Herrup points out that while society frowned upon urging one's servant to force sex on a daughter-in-law or wife, and buggery was technically illegal, the weight of the case against Castlehaven pressed upon his "unnatural" subordination to inferiors. His real crime, in the eyes of his peers, is his inability to control his son, wife, daughter-in-law and domestic staff. His perversion is the reversal of roles that he induced in others (e.g. forcing his son to turn against him) or actually forced (e.g. encouraging misconduct in servants and women). The use of the Castlehaven case as a social lens continues through history in its use by both sides in the English civil war, a generation later, to vilify the position of the other with regard to the natural rights of aristoracts. The Royalist pointed out how the King defended decency by executing Castlehaven. The Puritans made more of the fact that a Castlehaven could exist, at all. More recently, of course, there have been make-overs that re-cast the somewhat ambiguous events in favor of Castlehaven, or at least as a snapshot of prejudice against homosexual behaviors.

Okal Rel Universe

In the Okal Rel Universe, both of Amel's traumas and the old scandal of Darren Monitum, function in the same role of lenses that focus societal tensions. Amel's early years in the sex trade either condemn the Demish-dominated court that failed to recognize him as a "Soul of Light"--their highest standard of spiritual superiority--or else it disproves Amel's claim to be worthy of reverence. Demish factions tend, as a consequence, either to exhault him to unprecidented messiah status, or to vilify and dismiss him. In a similiar fashion, Amel's experiences in the Edge novel Courtesan Prince (Fall 2004) are used in Edge novel Far Arena (TBA) to sling mud between rival points of view. The Reetions condemn Gelack culture for its elitist abuse of commoners, since it is as a presumed commoner that Amel was made vulnerable. Gelack intepretations excite vengence over intrusive manipulation of Amel, a highborn Sevolite, by sophisticated Reetion medical science: something Sevolites are particularly uptight about.

Darren Monitum's ruin, when exposed as a homosexual, is another such cultural flash point in the Okal Rel Universe saga. Monatese rejection of their ex-liege and refusal to acknowledge Darren's subsequent achievements as a war-hero, are a desperate effort to distance themselves from the ever-present shadow of Monitum's past identification with things the rest of Sevildom view as dangerously decadent. Monitum performs a perilous role for Sevildom, by acting as middle man between the banished Lorels and those who still desire their goods (mostly customized Sevolite drugs) and services (treatment on TouchGate Hospital and training for Silver Star medics). Monitum cannot afford to appear deviant, sexually, for fear of compromising its honor and trustworthiness. Di Mon's horror of his own sexual preference stems from the same root. Enemies of Monitum would use a sex scandal like Darren's to knotch up anxiety about Monatese sophistication past the tolerance of more conservative Okal Rel powers.

Ranar being homosexual disturbs the average Gelack less, in the end, exactly because he is a Reetion, although Reetion norms concerning sexuality do get used against them by Gelack "street" propoganda, for much the same "emotional logic" as described above. Reetions can't be trusted with advanced and dangerous bioscience because they are perverts! Ranar fails to behave anything like a pervert for long enough to make that instinctive reaction simply baffling to those who get to know him, but it doesn't save him from featuring in UnderDocks street murals and sla-den posters, as experienced in Edge novel Throne Price (2002).

Reference:A House in Gross Disorder: Sex, Law and the 2nd Earl of Castlehaven / Cynthia B. Herrup. Oxford University Press. New York. 1999.

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