Category Archives: morals

Life Lessons in Fantasy



I’ve long believed reading fantasy books moulded who I am. I have no real basis for this belief except a bunch of things I don’t think I learned from my parents or anyone else, in particular a marked black and white set of ethics. That’s not to say I don’t recognise ‘grey’ areas, but not many, and for me this reflects the good-evil dichotomy of classic fantasy. I love the anti-hero, or the dark hero, but when I started reading fantasy in my formative years, he wasn’t yet in vogue. 

I thought more about this when I recently started reading Raising Girls, since I know find myself in possession of two of them – girls, I mean. The book contains two markedly different stories about young girls faced with their first sexual experience. One is heart-breakingly casual and unfulfilling, and the other never happens. The second girl tells her boyfriend she’s not ready, and he delivers the ultimatum ‘Have sex with me, or I’ll walk’. With uplifting bravery, she tells him to walk, and doesn’t look back, not even when he wants to get back together with her sometime later. 

I firmly believe in ‘if he really cares, he’ll wait’. I don’t believe in sex on a first date – not if the woman is looking for more than casual sex. Once you start having sex, it’s difficult, or impossible, to go back to filling in the emotional gaps, that ‘getting to know each other’ stage that takes place on the first dates. My informal polling of men (in my generation) generally indicates a lack of, or less, respect for women who don’t make them wait. I’ve posed to men the phrase ‘OK to bed, but not to wed’, and it’s met with general agreement. 

This isn’t something my parents taught me, and while I’ve refined all the above thoughts as an adult, I must have had some awareness of the concept as a teenager, because I sure did make him wait.

Then I thought of Richard and Kahlan from Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series, which I’ve been reading since I was thirteen. In the first book, Wizard’s First Rule, Richard falls in love with Kahlan. She discourages his affections, and his own grandfather tells him to ‘choose another girl’. He later finds out that any kind of physical relationship with her is impossible – if they were to have sex, her magic would destroy him. 

What does Richard do? He certainly doesn’t run off and pick up the first girl he comes across. Despite the fact he understands his love is impossible, that it can never be, he persists. In the end, he solves the problem. Even having solved it, though, it’s four books before he actually has sex with Kahlan, and despite constant setbacks, he waits. 

It occurred to me there’s a lot of important messages in there for any teenager who might sit still long enough to read it. Here’s a few that I spotted without even needing to think hard:

  • If it’s worth having, it’s worth waiting for;
  • If at first you fail, try again;
  • Fidelity and devotion as virtues;
  • Anything is possible;
  • Follow your dreams;
  • Sex isn’t everything (although I grant it isimportant, and I think that message is probably conveyed by the diligence with which Richard and Kahlan pursue that goal).

Are there other messages in there that you can see? What life lessons or important messages have you seen in the fantasy books you’ve read? Did you learn something from fantasy? Do you hope your children learn something from fantasy?

I do. I’ll be off now to borrow Dad’s illustrated copy of The Hobbit, and my first introduction to fantasy.  



Fidelity In Modern Life

Fidelity

I’ve been cheated on, and I’ve been asked to cheat on a partner, but I never have. And believe it or not, I’ve been criticised for that standpoint. I’ve been called boring and conservative. When, I ask you, did having some morals suddenly become an indicator of being boring and a staid conservative, rather than a good and decent person?

If you choose to have an open relationship, I respect that. I don’t pretend to understand it, but I respect it. I won’t preach to you about how wrong your lifestyle is, even if it makes no sense to me whatsoever, and I expect you won’t preach to me about mine.
 
But of course, by ‘open’, I mean a relationship in which you have actually informed your partner of your intention to have sex with other people, and he or she agrees; not a relationship in which you just choose to take such matters into your own hands and gloss over the details with your partner. Because that’s not an open relationship, it’s just cheating.

One of the arguments put to me by some brave soul, who weathered the first eruption of Mt Ciara when he inappropriately propositioned me, was ‘life is too short to only have sex with one person’. 

Is it? Is it really? Let’s assume for the sake of the argument that it is and examine the other problems with this statement and why it’s not a justification for cheating. 

Monogamous relationships are 100% voluntary. If you don’t want to enter into one, guess what? You don’t have to! If you want to live the single life forever and sleep with a different person every night, go for it! If you can find a girl (or guy) to agree to an open relationship, then I guess you can even have your cake and eat it too. 

But if you freely enter into a monogamous relationship, represent to your partner or otherwise lead them to believe it’s monogamous, and then you have sex with someone else, I’m sorry, that’s immoral. No argument you put to me is going to make me agree it’s not. Because one thing I’ve noticed is that, when you pin them down, even the people who argue to me that cheating is not immoral have to admit that lying is wrong. 

And what is cheating, when you boil it right down? Telling your partner one thing and doing another. That, ladies and gentleman, is lying. It’s dishonest, it’s hurtful and it destroys trust much faster than you can ever build it. The other funny thing is that most people who advocate cheating would still go after the bastard who did it to his sister or daughter (or son, or brother, for those women who are so violently inclined – want to borrow my sword?). Try not to be hypocritical either. 

And for those of you who want to tell me cheating is a victimless crime, I’m here to tell you it’s not. For someone on the receiving end, this not only destroys trust and hurts, because they’ve been lied to, it also destroys self-esteem and causes loss of confidence and self-doubt. When someone lies to your face and goes behind your back to have sex with someone else, even the strongest and most robust ego has to wonder ‘What’s wrong with me?’ And this is someone you’re supposed to care about? I hate to see what you do to your enemies. 

So, is the argument ‘life’s too short to only have one partner’ a valid argument against fidelity? 

Not if you voluntarily agreed to enter into a monogamous relationship! 

This is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge Series. If you missed the previous posts, you can find them here – A, B, C, D and E.

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Author’s Note: This argument does, of course, assume that you did freely enter into the relationship. Circumstances of forced marriage are a different situation and not dealt with in this post.