The White Dragon: What’s-A-Come-And-A-Go

Last chapter, Jaxom found D’ram, we got to see what the male gaze saw in Menolly, and the Benden Weyrleaders revealed a plan to capture most of the Southern Continent, ostensibly so they could retire after the grubs make Pern safe from thread.

The White Dragon, Chapter XI: Content Notes: Misogyny, sexism

(15.7.5, the next day)

Rather than be allowed to sleep in too late for recovering from their time-hop, Jaxom and Ruth are awoken by Menolly and Mirrim, because the Benden Weyrleader wants to go somewhere. Food and drink are available, but it comes with some insults between Jaxom and Mirrim, after Mirrim expresses her distaste for a Weyrleader that lets his charge get Threadscored.

“And I just don’t see what good it’s going to do you. You can’t expect to fight Ruth.”
Jaxom choked. “I am too going to fight Ruth, Mirrim.”
“He already has,” Mirrim remarked, indicating the Threadscore. “Now shut your mouth and let the man eat.”
“Man?” Mirrim’s voice took a derisive swoop and she gave Jaxom a scathing glare.
Menolly made an exasperated sound. “If Path doesn’t fly soon, Mirrim, you’re not going to be on terms with anyone!”
Surprised, Jaxom looked at Mirrim, who was flushing deeply red.
“Oh ho, Path’s ready to be flown! That’ll sort out some of your high-headed notions.” He couldn’t resist crowing at her dismay. “Has Path shown a preference? Ha! Look at her blush! Never thought I’d see the day you’d lose the user of your tongue. And you’ll be losing something more soon. I hope it’s the wildest flight they’ve had at Benden since Mnementh first flew Ramoth!”
Mirrim exploded, her eyes narrowed with her anger, hands clenched into fists at her side. “At least my Path will be flown! That’s more than you’ll ever do, with that white runt of yours!”

Cocowhat by depizan

Oh, hit him already, Mirrim. Beat him into the ground until he apologizes. He’s more than earned it. Seriously, Jaxom, all that toxic masculinity is doing a fucking number on your character. Where’s the sweet empathetic boy that we had back in the earlier books?

That’s on top of the extra Wrong that it’s Mirrim getting teased – Mirrim, remember, is Brekke’s fosterling. Brekke was not exactly forthright about her own sexual identity back in Dragonquest. So, with how fantastically Brekke’s first sexual experience (rape) and mating flight (death of Wirenth) went, it would make sense that Brekke is not going to be forthcoming with the details about what happens when dragons get in heat. The embarrassment suggests that nobody else had taken on that role, either. Menolly had had an analagous experience, and is still Pern’s most comfortable woman in her sexuality, so it’s surprising to me that she hasn’t taken Mirrim aside at some point and given her The Talk.

In all cases, Jaxom, Mirrim’s virginity is not something to be joked about or used as an insult line. Doing that makes you an asshole.

Anyway, Menolly rebukes Mirrim for that last line, not having said anything to Jaxom about his role in the conversation, and then…

“Do you know anything about…” he jerked his head at Ruth, “that I don’t know?”
“About Path?” Menolly deliberately misconstrued his direction. “Well, if you’ve never seen a rider reaction to a proddy dragon, Mirrim’s given you a classic example.”

…Menolly shows she’s an asshole, too, which is also strongly against the characterization she had in the Harper Hall. What is it about this society that drums out compassion and empathy by the time children reach adulthood? Even if it is draconic pre-mating syndrome, I would think that garners sympathy or empathy, especially from someone who’s been getting it quite strongly from the ten fire lizards she’s Impressed. Of all the characters most likely to be empathetic, I’d put Menolly at the top of the list. What the hell is with this book and its complete character divergence?

So there’s a little discussion about how Ruth hasn’t been interested in dragons in a mating way, which Menolly suggests might be due to Ruth not necessarily maturing at the same speed as other dragons. Wouldn’t it be better if the conception was that Ruth really is just ace? It would be a lot less stigmatizing and it would have less implications for Jaxom that he’s a freak as well. The narrative assures us that Menolly isn’t pitying or condescending to Jaxom, and Menolly says that Jaxom shouldn’t feel ashamed about his own sex life (which, again, Jaxom is using a woman with the intention of possibly fathering a child, but not necessarily acknowledging it or providing support),so clearly all is well here. Menolly apologizes for Mirrim and enumerates all the parts of her that are embarrassing, exasperating, and trying (which is basically all Mirrim’s characterization has ever been, by the way), and then returns to the subject of Corana and Jaxom’s uniqueness as both Holder and dragonrider. The return of D’ram, collected by the Benden Weyrleaders, sidetracks the conversation, and Jaxom and Menolly are summoned by Robinton to the Harper Hall.

Sebell takes Menolly (who have coupled in Dragondrums, even though that book hasn’t been written yet), who is thrilled that he’s back from a mission somewhere (probably the south) and goes off to spend time with him while Robinton debriefs Jaxom about the trip to find and retrieve D’ram. He’s very interested in the images of men from the fire lizards – it appears that Robinton has long suspected the South was the origin point of people on Pern. Of course, someone could just find the records, or go back in time to see things…if they really wanted.

Before heading back to Ruatha, and after discovering that Menolly and Sebell have an intimate relationship, Jaxom decides to head to Corana and have a roll in the metaphorical hay.

She was as willing and eager as he was to satisfy desires thwarted on his previous visit to the Hold. As his hands touched her soft flesh and he felt her body press against his, he wondered briefly if she’d have been as willing a lover had he not been Ruatha’s Lord. But he didn’t care! He was her lover now! He gave himself to that pursuit with no further reservation. At the precise moment of his release, exquisite to the point of pain, he was aware of a gentle touch and knew, with a sense of relief that enhanced his own, that Ruth was joined to him then, as always.

And on that fantastically creepy line, the chapter ends. It’s also another missed opportunity – after all, what kind of negotiations would have to happen between two people sharing a deep empathic and mental bond if one of them is definitely sexual and one of them is just as definitely ace? Ruth, admittedly, appears not to care about being part of Jaxom’s sex life for the moment, but there’s obviously more to it than just sex. We don’t know if Jaxom fantasizes or masturbates or otherwise includes his sex life in things other than the time he spends with Corana – as a teenager, even as a Lord Holder and dragonrider, I’m guessing there’s a lot of time spent in his fantasy life.

Not as much time is spent, apparently, in understanding that Corana may be doing this as a political maneuver, except as that brilliant flash right before his penis takes over. The most we’ve heard so far have been the Holders’ sons, who are all about the making of children they don’t intend to support. Nobody else seems to be willing to take Jaxom aside and explain to him about what happens when you have multiple sons running about that could all theoretically lay claim to your Hold in various parts. Like the infighting currently going on, or that could have happened had Meron not been forced into naming a successor. And also, what sort of child support or marriage expectations might come from getting a girl pregnant, since there still doesn’t appear to be any form of contraceptive past the draconic abortion. Corana could be trying to improve her situation and see if she can’t get a good marriage and heir out of the deal, even though now she’s seen the miracle of childbirth. And has she met Lessa yet? Because Lessa is going to have an opinion on who inherits and rules Ruatha for as long as she lives, and it would be good to know whether Lessa will give her blessing or make sure that Corana meets with a situation that leaves her dead or vanished into the past.

The consequences of these things should really be discussed. I’d almost settle for even a conversation that talked all about the politics and none of the “you know how much of a dick move it is to get a girl pregnant and then dump her, right?”

Almost.

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13 thoughts on “The White Dragon: What’s-A-Come-And-A-Go

  1. genesistrine August 27, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    Re Mirrim and The Talk: I dunno how much of The Talk would be necessary – she’s lived in a Weyr since she was a young girl at least, and dragonriders/weyrfolk in general don’t seem to make any particular secret of dragon mating and its effects on riders, not to mention any orientation that weyrlings get. Her nervousness and temper could just as easily be because she knows perfectly well what’s going to happen and is scared.

    And all her so-called friends are doing is teasing her about being a virgin. What a pair of shits they are. Extra creepy points for wondering about how Jaxom knows… or thinks he knows.

    Re Corana, there’s been no hint that marriage is a consideration. Hey-maybe-I-could-move-her-in is it. There is the hint in Dragonflight that Lords can have multiple wives/concubines, but this seems to have carefully shaded over since. For all the Lords we’ve met I think we’ve only met one of their wives. We’ve never met Mrs Lord Groghe, or the Mrses Lord Groghe if there’s more than one….

  2. Only Some Stardust August 27, 2015 at 3:06 pm

    “–Path’s ready to be flown! That’ll sort out some of your high-headed notions.”

    so, implication is that being ‘taken’ will make her a meek and proper girl?

    Ick.

  3. Silver Adept August 28, 2015 at 3:00 pm

    @ genesistrine – Jaxom is probably not thinking marriage, but Corana probably is, or is having that idea firmly presented to her as an end goal. Since she’s been chosen by someone powerful, her goal is to get to a higher rung on the ladder.

    As for Mirrim, well, that’s possible, too. With all that information, Mirrim seems like the kind of person that would get proactive about finding out what it’s like, but that assumes there are people at the Weyr who would be gentle enough and explain well enough to guide her through the process and not make it a horrible experience. That doesn’t seem likely. That her friends are both teasing her about how it’s likely to happen isn’t helping.

    @ Only Some Stardust –

    Not just that being taken will improve Mirrim, but that being taken violently, without her consent, and while not necessarily in full control of her body and her reactions will do so, because why stop at the lesser wrong when you can outright state that corrective rape is a cure for uppity women?

  4. genesistrine August 28, 2015 at 4:31 pm

    @Silver Adept: It depends on how romantic Corana is, I suspect. I very much doubt marriage is considered between people with their class gap in that type of society, but being the mother of a Lord’s acknowledged bastard child would still be a step up, especially if it gets her a place at the Hold. Gotta be better than fieldwork at least!

    And if Pernese culture has acknowledged concubines (as Fax at least seemed to) that’s an even cushier position for a peasant girl to aim for.

    Re Ruth’s sexuality/gender, it occurs to me that the “all dragon colours” thing could also be taken to indicate that he’s intersex.

  5. boutet August 29, 2015 at 10:08 pm

    @genesistrine About Ruth being intersex, that’s how I read it back before I knew the right word for it.

  6. aussiesmurf August 30, 2015 at 12:25 am

    Even as a confused adolescent, the treatment of Corana by Jaxom stuck out to me like a sore thumb. I read these books (for the first time) at about the age of 12, so sex was still a pretty massive mystery, but I could certainly understand that Jaxom was being given something of significance by Corana, and was in return treating her as nothing more than a receptacle for his convenience.

    The Menolly characterisation also bothered me. I will defend Dragonsinger as a stand-alone work until the end of time, but her leap in confidence and dismissal of the friends she had at a dark time (such as Mirrim) sat very uneasily with me.

    [SPOILERS]

    The fact that ‘sexless’ is used WRT Ruth as an earth-shattering insult always bothered me. Why is that so horrible?

  7. genesistrine August 30, 2015 at 3:36 am

    @aussiesmurf: ah, but she’s obviously just a slapper out for what she can get; after all she keeps asking him for fire lizards and stuff doesn’t she. That proves it!

    Narratively she only exists to show us Our Protagonist isn’t sexually inexperienced before (spoiler I guess, but did anyone really not expect this?) he meets his Twu Wuv and Corana is never mentioned again. (It’s past midnight, she probably turned into a pizza.)

    And while I applaud the idea of having teenage characters having some sexual experience rather than First One Is For Ever, this is another example of the weird… well, emotional convenience, I guess I should call it, that McCaffrey’s really prone to – no-one makes emotional demands on the protagonists that put them in a dilemma; no one else’s feelings are allowed to get in their way or have to be considered as more than a minor issue.

    And re sexless, well, this is Pern, and Pern is all about the dick.

  8. Silver Adept August 30, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    @ genesistrine – re: Ruth – also a good possibility. Maybe dragon biology also has puberty blockers so that Ruth can take his (their?) time about making that decision.

    Regarding Corana, you’re probably right that any sort of acknowledgement or support would be a step up from what’s happening now, assuming the lesser Holders are in a vassalage system like the one of Terran history. Official mistress would be an excellent position to occupy.

    Well talk more about true love when we get to that point. There will be swearing, I suspect. And, as you’ve pointed out, everything works out in such a way that nobody plot important is ever emotionally inconvenienced. And neither Menolly nor Jaxom suffers any repercussions with the way they treat Mirrim at all.

    And yes, since Pern is a world that runs on the principle of “no penis, no power”, being sexless means Ruth doesn’t have, or is unwilling to use, the penis that gives any man the power to write their will on the world.

  9. Madame Canard August 31, 2015 at 6:16 am

    Hi there, just wanted to say how much I enjoy these deconstructions. Boutet directed me here from FoCA. I was an avid Pern reader as a teen and even played in the world for a while (interestingly, my club cut out a lot of the really gross sexuality and gender based hierarchy stuff) but now with a 10 year gap since i stopped playing and a lot of life experience behind me I just can’t read the books and I don’t think I could even roleplay in a place that actively tried to make some of the problematic stuff less icky.

    I am curious to see what you make of Dragonsdawn and Moreta.

  10. Michael I September 1, 2015 at 6:46 pm

    Two things just registered with me:

    1) Ruth is one of the few dragons whose name is a common first name in the U.S.
    I only noticed one other such dragon in the name list in “The Dragonlover’s Guide to Pern”: the green dragon Beth who first appears in “Dragonquest”. (I went through the list rather quickly so I could have missed someone.) Note that both Ruth and Beth have names that are usually female first names.

    2) Ruth is pronounced somewhat similarly to Ruatha.

    Not sure what, if anything, either of these things mean.

  11. boutet September 1, 2015 at 7:23 pm

    @michael I: I had kind of assumed that McC switched to shorter, more common sounding names after the first batch of books because she got really tired of typing Mnementh. Ruth! Short and probably not going to make your spellcheck upset!

  12. Brenda Appleby September 2, 2015 at 2:23 pm

    In one of my fanfics, Ruth is Impressed by someone other than Jaxom and is perceived as female, and named “Ruath”. (Lessa and Jaxom are both shaken by the resemblance of the name!) I think I had seen some references in online discussions about Ruth being intersex, although I don’t think that’s what they called it.

    http://archiveofourown.org/works/1122000

  13. Silver Adept September 3, 2015 at 10:10 pm

    Welcome aboard, Madame Canard! (I couldn’t find the appropriate expansion of FoCA, so I don’t know from where you came, sorry!)

    Moreta is next, assuming there’s still interest in continuing from the audience. I think there may be some remarks there about the trend of role playing groups to try and improve upon the world presented by the books.

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