Sex, And The Star Trek Woman

by Laura Goodwin

Star Trek was not a sexist show. It was in fact an anti-sexist show. In TOS, women were respected, and well represented. We met female queens, priestesses, soldiers, warriors, villains, and heroines. Virtually all of the Star Trek women had careers, and were self-supporting.  Working women in the TOS universe are the norm, not the exception.

Sexist, no, sexy, yes! In TOS, women didn't have to choose between being good but sexless, or sexy but bad. The heroines, queens and warriors etc. of TOS were sexy, too, and that was OK.

It was beyond OK: it was revolutionary. You see, the sexiness of the TOS women was meant to represent sexual liberation. In the future, the women are as sexually free as the men are.

The relationship between the sexes was very interestingly portrayed in the original Star Trek. This was an important part of Gene Roddenberry's overall vision of a possible future society.

One complaint TOS critics voice about TOS is that they think the women's uniforms are too sexy. The fact that the women's tunics are really short and that the women of the TOS crew are therefore always showing lots o' leg really bugs some people. Some people say TOS is "non-PC" because the women look sexy to us. I'd like to speak to this.

First of all, short-short mini-dresses were the fashion rage at the time TOS was being produced, so to the audience of the day, it wasn't that shocking. I remember buying dresses for school that were so short that they were sold with matching panties. Big whoop! What was shocking was that panty-hose didn't come into common use until a year or two after the hemlines rose. Us teen schoolgirls were begging our mothers for the fancy new short-short panty girdles to hold our hose up, so we could wear the new fashions without showing two inches of lace and spandex below the hem. Boys reacted to the sight of this bit of lace the way bulls react to red flags, and we were concerned about arousing them unduly, especially during school hours.

THAT'S HOW OLD I AM!

In any case, the sexy clothes, etc. of the Star Trek women actually represents sexual self-expression. Those women are unashamededly sexy, for their own reasons, and they bloody well, ding-dong know what they are doing. They are using their beauty and sexual power for their own purposes.

Now look: people of the future, like people of any time and place you can name, will think things are sexy or not sexy depending on how they are socialized. It's pretty clear that TOS-era men and women are 100% casual about the sight of women's bare legs, to such an extent that the military issues these skimpy uniforms. The military of the future is as likely to play a leadership role in fashion as they do now. It's safe to assume that, to TOS-era people, bare legs for women is considered to be a practical and conservative mode of dress, the way long skirts seemed practical to women and men of the 1800's.

Have you ever tried walking up a flight of stairs in a long, full skirt? No way is *that* practical for military women.

So why don't the women of TOS wear trousers? First of all, some do. Second, trousers are primarily for men. The sexes still like to distinguish themselves with their mode of dress in the 2200s, and apparently they use skirts to do it.

Why should the women conceal their legs if it's not considered immodest to display them? In tropical climates among simple native peoples, the only difference between the men and women is men wear breechcloths and women don't, or men and women wear their beads differently. In some societies women can run around perfectly naked, and be considered perfectly decent as they do so. If people can do that now, why not 200 years from now?

TOS women aboard the starship live in a cozy climate-controlled environment, and they are surrounded by nothing but decent, respectful men who are their buddies and comrades. What do they have to worry about?

I'll tell you what they worry about: they worry about how to make the men look at them as if they are women, and not just buddies and comrades. In "Miri" Yeoman Rand tearfully confesses to Kirk that she has wanted him to look at her legs. What she means by this is she wants him to see her as a woman, not just as a person. She has to ASK him to look: to see her that way.

Apparently TOS men are so inured to the sight of women's bare legs that they don't even think of them as sexy. What makes a TOS-era woman sexy to their men, then, if displaying their gams doesn't do it?

Apparently TOS women have to be assertive. The men aboard the Enterprise need situational and behavioral cues to release their inhibitions. They need a party, or a romantic setting. They also need the women to behave flirtatiously. If a woman behaves in a matter-of-fact fashion, the men respond in kind, but if she flirts with her eyes and/or adopts an inviting tone of voice and manner, the guys just light up and everything changes.

It's interesting to note that a TOS man is careful to remain neutral toward a woman if she's not specifically flirting with him.

The women of "Mudd's women" were outlandish mainly because they acted flirtatiously with everybody (except Eve, who was a little more conservative). As a consequence, guys were swooning all around them. I KNOW there was a drug involved, but that same episode at the climax made the point that it mostly was thanks to *attitude*, not the drug. The drug made the women feel sexy, so they acted sexy, and the men responded accordingly.

TOS men often immediately flirt back if they are flirted with, but not always. They reserve the right to not flirt back. If a guy doesn't like a girl "that way", or if he's not in the mood, then he doesn't flirt back and that is the end of it. Unless the woman is a savage.

When the famous green chick, Marta, in "Whom Gods Destroy" was all over Kirk, he did not flirt back. What was horrifying is that she didn't take the hint. That's how you knew she was savage, or crazy, or (as it turned out) both.

IMHO, in "City on the edge of forever", Kirk never made it past first base with Edith Keeler because their two different courtship styles clashed. She played cool and kept him at arm's length because, where she comes from, women are passive and men are supposed to be the aggressors. Kirk didn't push because, where he comes from, a guy doesn't move on a lady until she gives him a clear sign that she expects him to. Neither one of them were getting the cues they needed to give the other the green light, so they were deadlocked, despite a fierce mutual attraction.

NOTE: The two times that Kirk has sex in TOS (with Mirimanee, and with Deela), he is not the sexual aggressor. The situation was created for him, and he just reacts to it. It isn't the woman's state of dress or undress that matters. The situation, and the woman's attitude is what matters. In each case it's very clear the woman invited his embrace.

In the future depicted in Star Trek, it's the women who control the sexual action. The few exceptions we see (example, Space Seed's traitor Marla McGivers) are clearly aberrant.


All site contents Copyright L. Goodwin 1990 - 2005

Back to TOS Women

Back to SSTO