Sythyry (sythyry) wrote,

Theory Thursday #4: On Libertines

Mirrored from Sythyry.

While I am curled up in an introspective frenzy, I suppose it would be polite to think about libertines. There have always been libertines in Vheshrame (and other Choinxeian) society: upper-class people, for the most part, who devoted considerable time and attention to the enjoyment of other people’s bodies without great thought for anything deeper than, shall we say, a few inches of penetration. A number of my friends and acquaintances have been in that social set: starting, I suppose, with then-Prince Nestrune, and Dustweed’s first lover Tethezai.

It became rather crucial to distinguish myself and my friends from that set.

The reason, I am embarrassed to say, was initially practical. The libertine set was high-class. A mere courtesy title like mine would have allowed me in, I suppose, but I would have been peripheral, unless I did something extraordinary to make myself central. (There was a small crowd of less-than-high-class people hanging around with the libertines, hoping for various advantages. They were often used, and occasionally indulged.)

Many of my friends — those who later became the first wrongfolk — did not even have a courtesy title, and were not so willing to be toys for the titled.

We got in a variety of lesser or intermediate troubles for, in effect, daring to ape our betters. Beatings and public scorn, of course. A friend’s job was lost, and she could not be hired any more in Vheshrame in her trade, at a few words from an indignant count’s son. Any sort of legal or semi-legal harassment that they found convenient.

The libertine set did not much like us infringing on their territory. Not that there was such a limited supply of prospective lovers in Vheshrame, but that the right to enjoy whoever one wished was a privilege the libertines of the 4260’s wished to regard as a sumptuary privilege. So an Orren printer, say, could no more indulge herself with Cani and Herethroy as she wished than she could wear copper ear-crests with sapphires, or own a pond, or drink Daq D’ouenff.

Which explains — or mis-explains — some of the theories we developed.

It was crucial for us to say that we were doing something different than the libertines were. If we were doing something different, it was not covered by the sumptuary customs. So: we had love and its concomitants, or at least we were attempting to weave love, and imitate marriage. The libertines were doing no such thing; their marriages were generally arranged, and made for reasons that had nothing to do with love or attraction, and their libertinage was play and escape.

It was crucial for us to say that we were doing something better, too. Crucial for us, anyhow. Not that we particularly talked about this to the libertines’ faces! But we cared a great deal. They were more powerful, and had the social and legal upper hand. We wished to find a ground of superiority. Moral superiority is easy enough to claim. We had love on our side, we proclaimed; they had only sex.

Well, the theory proved useful. There is still a libertine set in Vheshrame — the Academy and the court seem to almost require it — but they generally leave the transaffectionate alone. It was generally clear which community one belonged to, and when people switched, it was an occasion fraught with drama and bickerization. Our proud claiming of a monopoly on cross-species love got us a number of excellent people. Kantele, say, started in the libertine set, but she and Hithiat joined Castle Wrong when the depth of their relationship became clear.

However: I devoted much effort and passion to surveying the two concepts, and rendering them as separate as possible. This seems to have been… overdone, if not actually a mistake.

Anyhow, it was a useful tool for a particular time and a particular place. But that does not make it suitable for getting a central role in a general theory of love and sexuality.

I don’t want to toss this theory out. I want to wrap it in paper and put it in a cardboard box in the attic for a few centuries, and then I can take it out and giggle at how naive I was.

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