Sexual Mores in J.D. Robb

One of the ways J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts) uses to cue “it’s the future!” in the Eve Dallas mysteries is her portrayal of social/sexual mores. Though the future is noir, rife with horrible murders and serial killers (otherwise, no work for Eve Dallas!), it’s also a liberal world in some ways, though far from a utopia. Here’s the rundown, so far as I can remember.

1. Prostitution is legal if the person is licensed. “Licensed companions” are not universally successful, however. Robb shows a gamut running from Charles, who is high-priced and skilled, to various “Street L.C.s” who are not any better off for legality. The L.C.s come under legal fire in the first novel of the series.

2. Trans people are mentioned several times in the series. Though Dallas seems accepting of their presence, if I recall correctly they are always mentioned as either L.C.s or living on a lower social rung. (Someone correct me if I’m wrong!) Also, Dallas refers to trans people with an offensive slang term–not sure if that’s meant to imply the term is less offensive nomenclature in the future, or is simply because the author was looking for cop-like slang and didn’t realize it was offensive at the time. In later books, the offensive term is not used.

3. One of the novels focuses on cloning, which is apparently Not On with most of the future society. I think it’s more because of the subsequent manipulation of the clones than an objection to the process itself, but cloning as a standard form of reproduction is never mentioned.

4. Homosexual as well as heterosexual marriage is legal, apparently in all states (the series focuses on New York, but gay couples are mentioned from other states, and I recall one lesbian couple in NY). [ETA: This was established in the series prior to real-life legality in the United States.] No polyamorous marriages have been depicted so far. “Cohabitation” may or may not be a legal category; it’s unclear to me from the references to it in the text.

5. My favorite institution in the Robb universe is “professional mother” status. From various mentions in the series, the status is something that must be applied for, and seems to be paid by the government until the child is a certain age. Single mothers can hold the status as well as married ones. There’s no mention of “professional father” as a status.

6. It’s never been clear to me exactly how human the droids in this series are, and how self-aware. They do not seem to be self-aware. Some are apparently constructed for sexual purposes. From the mentions I remember, in the future society this use is known but not considered classy. But the series doesn’t delve too deeply into droid and their rights, if any.

About Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen [she, her] currently writes cozy space opera for Kalikoi. The novella series A Place of Refuge begins with Finding Refuge: Telepathic warrior Talia Avi, genius engineer Miki Boudreaux, and augmented soldier Faigin Balfour fought the fascist Federated Colonies for ten years, following the charismatic dissenter Jon Churchill. Then Jon disappeared, Talia was thought dead, and Miki and Faigin struggled to take Jon’s place and stay alive. When the FC is unexpectedly upended, Talia is reunited with her friends and they are given sanctuary on the enigmatic planet Refuge. The trio of former guerillas strive to recover from lifetimes of trauma, build new lives on a planet with endless horizons, and forge tender new connections with each other.
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