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Home > Society & Culture > Thoughts on Vulcan Culture - Sexuality and Pon Farr

Thoughts on Vulcan Culture - Sexuality and Pon Farr

Vulcan society at large embraces logic, peace, and science, holding them and the ideal of IDIC above all else. Most Vulcans are curious, and want to learn out their universe, and about the other species that inhabit it. They see it as a kind of responsibility to teach other species about what they have come to embrace, though they tend to look down on species that don’t seem to want to learn. They also look down on emotionalism, particularly when displayed by other Vulcans, which is why T’Pol is treated as something of a black sheep, even though she is able to still keep her emotions in check for the most part, but the fact they can be provoked even in the slightest from just beneath the surface is seen as a weakness. However, those who are all the more stoic are often looked upon with admiration, with attaining Kolinahr seen as the ultimate achievement, purging them even of the biological necessity of Pon farr.

Vulcan logic has often been seen by outsiders as just the way Vulcans are, and Vulcans don’t help to dispel this myth any by denying that they have any emotion when this is in fact not the case. Vulcans do feel emotion and react to it; it’s just that mental discipline has been so engrained into their society that they don’t understand emotion anymore than what they see in the displays of more emotional races.

Also, contrary to popular belief, Pon farr is not the Vulcan imperative to mate, it is the imperative to enter total emotional abandon as a result of their engrained rigid emotional control. As a result, Vulcans either have to mate, or fight (usually to the death), which can be fairly easily explained by the release of hormones and other chemical secretions that occur with either action, and in Vulcans’ case they need them to survive. This was demonstrated by Spock being brought out of Pon farr by his combat with Kirk during the TOS episode "Amok Time", as well as Torres and Vorik being brought out of the same condition through combat with each other in VOY: "Blood Fever". However, there is something of a difference between genders where Pon farr is involved, as only the men seem to need to enter it naturally, with women only having to undergo it by having it triggered by some outside source. Examples would be that T'Pol only entered it as a result of a microbe infecting her in ENT's "Bounty", which was cited as her first, which would be unusual for an Vulcan of 66 years of age considering Spock underwent his first Pon farr at the approximate age of 14 as seen on "The Search for Spock". Torres was put into Pon farr by Vorik through a mind meld. It seems plausible that normally Vulcan women do not enter Pon farr except possibly through a mind meld with their mate, because under normal circumstances the hormones and other chemical secretions that cause it in Vulcan males are taken care of by something unique to the female gender - menstruation. If one is to keep this as a purely biological explanation, there really aren't many other explanations that fit for what has been seen on screen.

Scientists have tried to make artificial substitutes for it, but all of them fail for a reason they can’t explain. Kolinahr seems to make it possible for the Vulcan body to produce just enough of these hormones and other chemicals to allow those who achieve it to go without suffering Pon farr. For all other males though, Pon farr is a cyclic occurance, for most occurring every seven years, but there are occasional exceptions with it being brought on by a traumatic event for example.

At any rate, Vulcans can and do mate whenever they wish, and while they will claim that love has nothing to do with it, it is seen as an expression of affection to those they are betrothed with, with reproduction spurring from the need to continue ones self. During an episode of Star Trek Voyager, Tuvok was in a dream state in which he thought he had just returned home and looked like he and the wife might be getting to mate for the first time after his long absence as an expression of their affection together. Furthermore, this is supported by the fact that while one of Tuvok's children was born as a result of one of his Pon farrs, he has other children, and they are not aged 7 years apart. However, Vulcans tend to come off as having an almost Victorian attitude towards sex, but this is more of a disapproval of what they see as irresponsibility in the acts of other “less mature” species, and they just don’t talk about their mating habits.

Marriage is a lot more complicated than the Human concept, and it could be described as somewhat sterile and heartless (with which Vulcans would no doubt heartily agree). Marriage for Vulcans is more of a tradition than an expression of love, but usually parents try to find someone who shares a lot in common with their children in the hope that they will develop affection for each other. Yes, that’s right, parents betroth their children, usually at the age of 7. This can be taken by some as rigidly as a contract, and strictly speaking it is according to Vulcan law, but most are more lax and permissive about it as its only true function is to ensure their children will have a consenting partner with which to deal with Pon farr, and after that being able to go on as they decide. However, there is always hope that each couple will join in marriage to produce children, so when they are betrothed at 7, a telepathic bond is established between them that is hoped will be the beginnings of a mating bond. Superficially this bond brings them together when one of them begins Pon farr, but for Vulcans there is more too it, as it allows them to truly experience one another, especially when the stronger mating bond is established (which coincidentally can only happen through intimate physical contact), and for good matches this only makes their affection for each other stronger. There are poor matches as well, and there are legal recourses to get out of a marriage contract. One is simply to never establish a marriage date and keep putting it off, and another is to be released from the contract by either the male of the pair, or by the one who had wished the marriage to go forward. This can be done through a Koon-ut-kal-if-fee, or more specifically the “challenge” part, which allows the person who doesn’t want to be married to choose someone to fight the one who does (usually to the death, though either side can also yield), most of the time this being the person the other does want to marry.

So why is all this stuff still a surprise to Kirk and others so much later on? Vulcans are a very private people, and don’t speak of such things unless they feel they really need to, and even then only with someone that have a deep trust in. Fact of the matter is that Vulcans just don’t care to discuss anything they consider private, even something as simple as their age, and instead prefer only to discuss professional and academic matters.

(Theory by CJ Sitter)

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