Reading The Fifth Season, I was irked as I came across a male Breeder’s weak attempt at a compliment as he said “you’re only forty-three” to Essun in Chapter 14. It was a brief comment, and holds no real significance to the development of the plot. But in the time humans have occupied the planet, women have consistently been categorized and assigned a “worth” based on several physical attributes. But, especially age.
Although sexuality has evolved into a subject that has become more comfortable to talk about in modern day society, it is still far from being completely unraveled. Thus, I genuinely appreciate the casual manner sexuality is integrated into the world Jemisin creates. It’s a breath of fresh air to see sexuality so freely and for the most part, uninhibited. Jemisin has a skill of incorporating sexuality into the character’s arcs that expresses their passion without making it overly crude or vulgar. I find in mainstream media, artists have difficulty including a love scene to further the plot versus putting one in for the sake of nudity in the piece.
Jemisin can be seen utilizing sexuality throughout the book with the characters like Alabaster in “The Fifth Season.” For instance, in Chapter 16, Alabaster casually mentions his homosexuality to Syenite as he recalls a painful memory with a Guardian. Before coming across this part, I did not realize the easygoing attitude most have towards sexuality in the Stillness. But I also was shocked that I am almost incapable of imagining a world with such unrestricted sexuality – fictional or not. It is strange to imagine a world without such “boundaries” and societal expectations to follow. In addition, I was surprised to learn that Tonkee was transgender, especially since Jemisin easily weaved it in, and did not make it a shattering statement.