I just finished re-reading a book with an alternative social structure, A Brother’s Price, by Wen Spencer. Stories that posit women as social dominants fascinate me. The weakness in most stories with this theme is how the social structure evolves. This novel, which is part science fiction and part romance, never addresses the issue.
Male children are so scarce that there’s only one for every ten women, or so. As a consequence, sisters go to extremes to protect unmarried brothers from unmarried women likely to steal them in kidnapping raids. On the other hand, women must sell their brothers in marriage to afford to marry themselves. Men live in seclusion from women outside of the family and spend their days tending to children and household chores.
Usually novels with this particular theme suggest that women would maintain much more peaceful societies. There would be little war and the petty crimes attributed to an excess of testosterone don’t exist. The society Spencer creates is just the opposite. Women appear to be the ones with all of the stored up violence, waging wars against neighboring countries, turning to smuggling and murder for profit, even going as far as regicide.
After reading a novel like this one, I start to wonder if the problem of violence and subjugation is something built into humans regardless of sex. Does having the ability to physically subjugate someone automatically come with having the power? Would we have more male victims of sexual assault if women dominated the society we live in? Is the abuse of women so easily overlooked because dominant males inflict the pain? How else do we explain Dafur and Ruwanda? I don’t know and that may be why stories of alternate social structures continue to attract me.