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10 October 2011 @ 02:13 am
Telepathy And Sexual Assault -- Second Foundation  
The earliest example in science fiction I have been able to find in which telepathy is represented as sexual assault is from Isaac Asimov's Second Foundation (1953). I will return to the Foundation series on this blog, because there are other issues raised by the books, narratives which set the tone for later SF works involving psi, including "psi people as psychopaths" and "psi and disability" narratives.

This book includes an example of psi explicitly as rape, with both a telepathic perpetrator and a telepathic victim. It is also, to my knowledge, the only example of sexual assault in the series.

In chapter 6, the Mule intimidates Channis and then mind-rapes him in order to try to find out the location of the Second Foundation. (I wonder what it means that this is a same sex rape.)

"Channis felt the emotional intensity which pressed upon his mind rise in intensity as the Mule rose from his chair and approached. He found back furiously, but something crept relentlessly on within him, battering and bending his mind back -- and back.

"He felt the wall behind him, and the Mule faced him, skinny arms akimbo, lips smiling terribly beneath that mountain of a nose.


"And then there followed a short, pregnant pause, and Channis almost howled with the of the sudden pain of that tearing penetration of the innermost tissues of his mind. [Gee, could you be any more explicit that this is rape?]

"The Mule drew back and muttered, 'Not enough. You do not pass the test after all. Your despair is pretense. Your fear is not the broad overwhelming that adheres to the destruction of an ideal, but the puny sweeping fear of personal destruction.'

"And the Mule's weak hand seized Channis by the throat in a puny grip that Channis was somehow unable to break.

"'You are my insurance, Channis. You are my director and safeguard against any underestimation I may make.' The Mule's eyes bore down upon him. Insistent -- Demanding --

"'Have I calculated rightly, Channis? Have I outwitted your men of the Second Foundation? Tazenda is destroyed, Channis, tremendously destroyed, so why is your despair pretense? Where is the reality? I must have reality and truth. Talk, Channis, talk. Have I penetrated, then, not deeply enough? Does the danger still exist? Talk, Channis. Where have I gone wrong?'

"Channis felt the words drag out of his mouth. They did not come willingly. He clenched his teeth against them. He bit his tongue. He tensed every muscle of his throat.

"And they came out -- gasping -- pulled out by force and tearing his throat and tongue and teeth along the way.

"'Truth,' he squeaked, 'truth --'

[Channis breaks and tells the Mule that Rossem is actually the location of the Second Foundation]

"The Mule loosed his grip and Channis dropped into a huddle of pain and torture.


"Channis felt the excruciating darkness rise against him, and the automatic lift of his arm to his tortured eyes could not ward it off. It was a darkness that throttled, and as he felt his torn, wounded mind reeling backwards, backward into the everlasting black -- there was that final picture of the triumphant Mule -- laughing matchstick -- that long, fleshy nose quivering with laughter.

"The sound faded away. The darkness embraced him lovingly."

Then the First Speaker shows up. The Mule still holds control of Channis' faculties:

"He tried to speak, to shout, to warn -- but his tongue froze and he knew that a part of the Mule's mighty mind still held him and clamped all speech within him."

The First Speaker, it turns out, is much closer to the Mule's level of telepathic ability (called "emotional contact"). He gives some exposition about telepathy, and the ploy they have used to defeat the Mule. He asserts that Channis was actually ready for the Mule's attack.

"'That he most certainly was not, for I stripped his brain clean as any plucked chicken. It quivered bare and open before me when he said Rossem was the Second Foundation, it was basic truth for I had ground him so flat and smooth that not the smidgeon of deceit could have found refuse in any microscopic crevice.'"

The First Speaker then tells the Mule that Channis had volunteered for and "submitted to emotional surgery of a drastic nature" so that he would actually believe that Rossem was the location of the Second Foundation, so that when the Mule eventually mind-raped him, he would discover the decoy information.

"The Mule was upon his feet -- 'You dare tell me that Rossem, also, is not the Second Foundation?'"

The First Speaker telepathically frees Channis from the Mule's grip at this point, and tells the Mule his plan to destroy the Mule's military forces and Empire, which has just succeeded.

"'...Your Empire is done, mutant.'

"Slowly the Mule bowed his head, as anger and despair cornered his mind completely, 'Yes. Too late -- Too late -- Now I see it.'

"'Now you see it," agreed the First Speaker, 'and now you don't.'

"In the despair of that moment, when the Mule's mind lay open, the First Speaker -- ready for that moment and pre-sure of its nature -- entered quickly. It required a rather insignificant fraction of a second to consummate the change completely."

Poof, the Mule is changed, and doesn't even remember who the First Speaker is.

Two hours later, Channis asks, "He won't even remember?"

"Never. He retains his mental powers and his Empire -- but his motivations are now entirely different. The notion of a Second Foundation is a blank to him, and he is a man of peace. He will be a far happier man henceforth, too, for the few years of life left him bu his maladjusted physique. And then, after he is dead, Seldon's plan will go on -- somehow."

Channis is then brought to a hospital, where he is totally cured of the effects of the mind-rape and given his old mind back.

So there you have it -- among other things, telepathy as rape. It's also curious to me why the First Speaker's mind-wipe of the Mule isn't presented in any violent (let alone sexual) terms -- this appears to be "evil mind control" versus "good mind control," with good and evil being determined by whether it's the antagonist or the protagonist doing the action.

The exposition is also interesting, but as it does not directly relate to telepathy as rape, I will discuss it in another post.

It is also important to note that while this is the earliest example of telepathy as rape in SF that I have found, there are certainly earlier works which present something psi-like in connection with rape (although often indirectly). There are Victorian works which present mesmerism in association with rape, but 1) these works are not SF as we know it, 2) mesmerism is somewhat different, and 3) the rape aspect is usually more implied than stated outright. So while I do not mean to imply that this instance is without all precedent, it does appear to be the first of its kind. And presentations of telepathy similar to this one have been published in SF numerous times since.

If I find an earlier example (or if my readers drop me a note and tip me off to one), I will write that one up as well.
Current Mood: accomplished
(Deleted comment)
Dash: Agendaspacehawk on October 11th, 2011 02:16 am (UTC)

I was thinking about this last night. There are several things to timeline:

1) The works themselves (books, tv shows, films, etc.)
2) The narrative trends (when different narratives were created/disappeared)

For example, the "psi must have an 'explanation'" trend really took off in the 60s, although Asimov includes it in this earlier work. In works from the 40s, I have seen only vague, narrative-centered 'explanations,' as part of a Christian narrative theme. Explicit explanations come along later, and then this becomes established as the only way to write about psi, such that if you include psi and do not include the "explanation," readers will not even notice you are writing about psi.

Edited at 2011-10-11 07:19 am (UTC)
Dash: Agendaspacehawk on October 11th, 2011 02:22 am (UTC)
One more thing: different types of psi have different problematic narratives, and these narratives originated at different times.

So a timeline of telepathy narratives will be different from a timeline of precognition narratives.
(Deleted comment)
Dash: Agendaspacehawk on October 11th, 2011 02:20 am (UTC)
The original English is "Have I penetrated, then, not deeply enough?" More explicitly sexual.

I'm going to guess that the editor edited out the sexual content, because this is just too overt not to be seen.

Of course, telepathy as theft (or violent robbery) is also not an improvement (and is, sadly, another trope on the list of stuff to research!).