Sociology, Department of


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Deegan, Mary Jo. 1986. “Sexism in Space: The Freudian Formula in ‘Star Trek.’” Pp. 209-224 in Eros in the Mind’s Eye: Sexuality and the Fantastic in Art and Film, edited by Donald Palumbo. (Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy, No. 21). New York: Greenwood Press.


Copyright 1986 Mary Jo Deegan


These words, spoken at the beginning of each televised "Star Trek" episode, set the stage for the fantastic future. Although the "Star Trek" series was cancelled in 1969 after only three years of production, it generated a large cult following that flourishes still today. One reason for the series' remarkable longevity is its depiction of the future as a Freudian fantasy. This Freudian vision draws on cultural myths embedded in the patriarchal dominance of men over women characteristic of Western civilization.

According to Freud, both sexes are driven by three instincts --- sex, aggression, and the death wish---but men have the most powerful instincts, and they are most driven by their desire to have power over other men. This Freudian worldview is dramatized aboard the starship Enterprise, where women are secondary figures who either provide romance or reveal that any woman's desire for power is "abnormal." But men "normally" struggle for power, and the men of "Star Trek" usually strive for control over the starship. Sometimes, however, all human life is threatened by nonsexed "things," such as viruses or living energy, and the men struggle to defeat these alien forces. Yet in all cases this fantasy of space travel involving a deeply bonded, essentially male group is linked to everyday discrimination against women in contemporary society.