Frank Herbert: God Emperor of Dune

This is part four out of the original six books in the Dune Chronicles (Herbert’s son has written a few more), and clearly, for this one Herbert has somewhat painted himself into a corner – once you turned you main character into a god you do not have many options open. So one the surface of things very little happens here. The various powers in the universe plot to kill the worm emperor Leto II, and we witness him being smarter and more powerful than them all. He would not be much of a God if not.

But there is much of interest going on here anyway. I think the most interesting thread Herbert develops in this book is what we could call gender questions. In the first trilogy there were basically two alternative views of women: the desert people, the fremen, who from necessity have developed a kind of equality based on similarity – all fremen regardless of sex perform the same duties, including (especially) fighting. Secondy, among the elite we have a more traditional division of labour where some powerful individuals transcend their traditional gender roles, but in general it is the men’s world.

In this book, Herbert develops a new line of thought. One of the more important reforms the god Leto has made is to abolish male armies, replacing them with an army made up of only females. The concept is discussed in the following dialogue between two mebers of his court.

”Yes. He says that the all-male army was too dangerous to its civilian support base”

”That’s crazy! Without the army, there would’ve been no…”

”I know the argument. But he says that the male army was a survival of the screening function of delegated to the nonbreeding males in the prehistoric pack. He says it was a curiously consistent fact that it was always the older males who sent the younger males into battle.”

”What does that mean, screening function?”

”The ones who were always out on the dangerous perimeter protecting the core of breeding males, females and the young. The ones who first encountered the predator.”

”How is that dangerous to the …civilians?”

Idaho took a bite of the melon, found it ripened perfectly.

”The Lord Leto says that when it was denied an external enemy, the all male army always turned against its own population. Always.”

”Contending for the females?”

”Perhaps. He obviously does not believe, however, that it was that simple.”

”I don’t find this a curious theory.”

”You have not heard all of it.”

”There’s more?”

”Oh, yes. He says that the all-male army has a strong tendency toward homosexual activities.”

Idaho glared across the table at Moneo. ”I never…”

”Of course not. He is speaking about sublimation, about deflected energies and all the rest of it.”

”The rest of what?” Idaho was prickly with anger at what he saw as an attack on his male self-image.

”Adolescent attitudes, just boys together, jokes designed purely to cause pain, loyalty only to your pack-mates… things of that nature.”

Now, this I think is interesting. I have absolutely no personal experience of military life and very little knowledge, but I think Herbert might be on to something here. That the army in peace time is highly destructive for its own people I consider a obvious fact, that ”values” that it imprints on those that go true army training is obviously detrimental. And the theory that it is based on repressed homosexual tendencies? Well, it would explain why openly gay men are much more difficult to accept in today’s armies than women.

The reason that a female army is to prefer is that they have stronger connections to the civil world, since the have children. They supposedly have a clearer sense of who they are protecting.

There does not seem to be a historical example of an all female army, so it is difficult to know if the theory holds, but an army with a large ratio of females  (like the IDF) should show a difference. Does anyone know?

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