Type JournalArticle
Date 1985-11
Volume 12
Number 3
Tags nonfiction, Star Trek, 75 in 2019
Journal Science Fiction Studies
Pages 274--284

Sexuality and Sex-Role Stereotyping in "Star Trek"


The focus of the narrative and fan interest in the television series Star Trek is the characterization of Captain Kirk and Mr Spock. Kirk is based on a conventional male stereotype emphasizing qualities of aggression and dominance. Accordingly, his appeal for women viewers constitutes a reinforcement of traditional (submissive, passive) female qualities. As an alien, Spock is signified as "other" within the series-and this otherness is a point of recognition for female fans who are, by their gender, so signified in and by their society. But Spock's character is an amalgam of otherness with a conventional male stereotype, and the result is usually an even more powerful reinforcement of traditional male and female sexual and social roles. Considerations of the major villains of the series, Klingons and Romulans, reveals both the different levels of complexity involved in the characterization of human (=Klingon) and Vulcan (=Romulan), Kirk and Spock, and the sexist ideology which structures most incidents and characters. No strong female roles are developed in the series, which accords with the sexism endemic to it. Thus while a "liberatory potential" for women seems to be contained in (and has been ascribed to) Spock, as he apparently serves to associate otherness with strong, positive qualities, this idea about him is at best misleading;for on most occasions he functions as a reinforcement of conventional, restricted and restricting social and sexual roles, which are fundamental to Star Trek. (AC-F)

Name Role
Anne Cranny-Francis