when regiment is gone (kindkit) wrote,
when regiment is gone

rum, sodomy, and spreadsheets

Wow, "spreadsheets" sounds really naughty when put into that kind of context. Which is apparently what it takes to make me learn how to create one. For some years I have diligently avoided acquiring this skill, but then I got the urge to keep track of every queer character in Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey and Maturin novels. After some wailing and gnashing of teeth (because Excel could not be more user-unfriendly unless it started punching the user in the face), I have a multivariable comparison that's confirming some of my theories about queerness in the Aubreyverse. It's not done yet, though (I'm only a little more than halfway through my re-read of all 20 books) so it'll be a while before I post more about it.

But I can say (unrelated to the spreadsheet, which only deals with characters O'Brian identifies as queer) that the re-read is going far to convince me that Stephen Maturin is at least a Kinsey 3, possibly 4 (3 = 50/50 bisexual, 4 = slight preference for the same sex). He notices beautiful men--somewhat more often than beautiful women, in fact, although to be fair he meets a lot more men than women. When he's attracted to a woman, it's often for qualities that are conventionally seen as masculine. And I don't just mean personality--where Jack admires a bosom, Stephen tends to admire boyish grace. To my amusement, descriptions of Diana Villiers' beauty very often include "boyish" or some similar term (Stephen admires "the boyish fluting of her neck" in The Fortune of War, for example).

So my new Theory of Stephen is that he's a fairly tightly repressed bisexual. His attraction to women is strong enough that he's able to avoid thinking too much about his attraction to men, and he can treat it as mere aesthetic appreciation. His close emotional connection to Jack Aubrey (who's not, I think, Stephen's physical type) also helps Stephen repress; since there's already a man he loves, his physical appreciation for other men never combines with emotional need.

This is all a bit frustrating to me as a m/m slash fan. Jack and Stephen's intense friendship ought to be ready-made for slash, but in truth I find it increasingly hard to ship them. They love each other deeply, and there is a kind of erotic tension between them that comes out when they play music, but there's plenty of evidence that they're not physically attracted to each other; the only way I can imagine their relationship becoming sexual is if somehow they're stuck alone together for a long time, such as in prison or on a desert island. And that could be interesting, because I think that level of closeness would ultimately be appealing for them both despite the lack of physical attraction as such, but it requires such a level of authorial contrivance that I find the scenario a little bit embarrassing to contemplate. (Not that it can't be made to work--I've read some very good Jack/Stephen stories, including a "stuck on a desert island" one.)

On the other hand, if Jack had been just a little more Stephen's type--slim, probably dark-haired, a little sharper-tongued and inclined to cruelty (because Stephen is such an emotional masochist)--Stephen might have spent years pining for him instead of Diana. A Jack who was like Diana wouldn't be Jack, of course. They have a surprisingly amount in common, such as the courage and indomitable spirit that Stephen loves in them both, but at bottom, Jack is a nice person and Diana is not. And unfortunately, I think it may be the case that Stephen can't feel romantic love for someone unless they hurt him.

ETA: It has just occurred to me that this description of the man Stephen would have pined for . . . is Horatio Hornblower. So, were they ever to meet, either they'd mortally insult one another and end up fighting a duel or Stephen would become hopelessly enamored. Or possibly both.

Crossposted at Dreamwidth (comment count unavailable comments); you can comment here or there.
Tags: fandom: aubrey and maturin, sexuality
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