Please enjoy this encore post on the love lives of Jedi, originally published January 2016.
When we talk about the fall of the Jedi during the Republic Era, it’s common for people to cite the Jedi Order’s many flaws as at least part of the reason why they were wiped out. After all, they did wind up participating heavily in a galactic war that was specifically designed to lead to their destruction while a Sith Lord operated right in front of their Force-sensitive faces. Perhaps stagnation led to this unfortunate short-sightedness—we’re led to believe that tenets of Jedi “culture” (for lack of a better term) have been in place since their relative inception, thousands of years ago.
But what baffles me is how everyone usually translates this knightly code into an adamant certainty that Jedi never knocked anything more than their lightsabers together.
What I’m saying is… Jedi totally had sex. The idea that they couldn’t, or were forbade from trying it out doesn’t make any logistical sense. Just, follow me down a weird rabbit hole here—
The general consensus that Jedi were celibate seems to stem from confusion over Anakin and Padme’s relationship. We know what they’re doing is forbidden. We know that they’ll both get in trouble for being married, and smooching, and having babies. But we don’t actually know the specifics of why, beyond Anakin’s little talk with Padme in Attack of the Clones where she asks him about whether or not Jedi are allowed to love. Let’s have a second look at that dialogue:
Padme: Are you allowed to love? I thought that was forbidden for a Jedi.
Anakin: Attachment is forbidden. Possession is forbidden. Compassion, which I would define as unconditional love, is central to a Jedi’s life. So, you might say, we are encouraged to love.
Notice, nowhere is this discussion does Anakin say…
- Attraction is forbidden
- Lust is forbidden
- Getting my jollies is forbidden
- Using “my Jedi starfighter and its hyperdrive ring” as a topic for tasteless, naughty jokes is forbidden
So the question is: Why do we assume that the Jedi code against romance and relationships extends to brief, occasional physical relations with a willing partner?
Because here’s the thing—and it feels weird having to bring this up at all—there is no reason why the rules listed above preclude Jedi from any sort of sexual activity. We all know that, right? We understand that one does not need to be emotionally devoted/attached to someone in order to sleep with them? (You don’t need to feel possessive toward someone, either.) Sure, certain activities before, during, and after sex can lead to bonding, but it’s not a given and it’s not a prerequisite.
Since I’m sure that most of us are aware of this fact, my next assumption is that people think the Jedi are against sex due to one of two inklings: (1) the thought that Jedi must be ascetics due to the duty-bound lives they lead, or (2) connecting the Jedi to Earthly monastic orders. Where the former is concerned, the Jedi aren’t a hedonistic group and they don’t wander around burdened by non-essentials, sure. But couching sex as the same brand of non-essential as useless possessions or bad drug habits adheres to the idea that sex is a needless thingamajig with no measurable value to a person’s wellbeing—which is patently untrue. Sex is healthy, both physically and mentally, for most people, provided that everyone involved is enthusiastic on the subject and well taken care of. (There are obviously exceptions to this—I’m not trying to imply that every human being must have sex to be happy.)
We are set in this idea that Jedi are warrior-monk types, who lead serious, faith-driven lives. But we encounter enough Jedi during the prequel era (many more when you take a look at the Clone Wars cartoon) to know that living a life devoted to the Force is not a uniform pursuit. Many of these knights take great liberties in their interpretations of doctrine—Qui-Gon Jinn being Example #1 on that chart. Personalities run the gamut, and so do techniques out in the field. So this idea of Jedi as “super being faith warriors who have no desires at all beyond their service” is a limited vision of them at best, which doesn’t begin to account for differing needs by species; after all, anyone could be a Jedi.
Still, we might be inclined to assume against the possibility of Jedi gettin’ it on simply because religious orders in our own world typically take oaths of celibacy, and the Jedi are based on an amalgam of world religions. But this ignores one key difference between the Jedi and your average monk or nun on this planet: Jedi are recruited in infancy. They don’t take their vows as teenagers or adults who have already had some opportunity to deal with these ideas in the outside world. They don’t have parents sitting them down for “the talk.” They have a temple, and teachers and peers, for the entirety of their lives.
The Order sounds like it’s full up with rules and codes and mantras where all that messiness is concerned. But as far as we know, all of those rules are focused solely on preventing one-on-one emotional attachments which can lead to possessive thoughts and to emotions associated with the dark side. So, what is more effective for the Order in that regard—telling kids to tamp down urges and wayward thoughts and refusing to address them in a healthy manner, or discussing them with proper guidance and support, and assuring the Padawans that it’s fine for them to feel that way? That, provided they don’t take those feelings and translate them into darker, more possessive ideas, it’s okay if they decide to try some stuff out?
It’s not simply healthier that way—it’s easier to manage. If you refuse to sweep Padawan puberty under the rug, you mitigate other messier risks. You know, like, pregnancy. Because abstinence-only education does not work, kids. (Before it’s suggested, no, they don’t want the Jedi to breed to make tiny Jedi; Force-sensitive kids can come from anywhere and don’t require a Force-sensitive forbear.)
By the way, this means that half of the convos Yoda is having in those shadowy confessional apartments of his in the Jedi Temple? Yup. He’s giving uncomfortable dad advice to confused teens. And probably trying not to giggle because he knows full well that his giggling unnerves the older kids. Mace Windu probably opted out of having to give those talks after a certain point—he’d just rather not. And Force help whoever got their birds and bees explanation from Quinlan Voss; you know that wasn’t helpful. On the other hand, I bet Luminara was great at it.
Never mind the kiddies, this makes even more sense for the older Jedi in the Order—they’re often away on missions, either working side by side, or encountering new peoples and making friends across the galaxy. Are you seriously telling me that Qui-Gon Jinn never made a move on anyone? Ever? I find that harder to believe than the idea of Ewoks successfully wedging spears through stormtrooper armor. If you’re a truly centered Jedi Master, there’s no reason why a little R&R during a spaceport layover is going to get in the way of your lifelong dedication to the Force.
If we want to the discuss the various ways that the Jedi Order failed and brought about their own downfall, I’m all for that. (Meet me at the bar later, it’s one of my favorite topics to rant about loudly among innocent bystanders.) They made many mistakes in the days of the dwindling Republic, and Anakin Skywalker was honestly just the tip of a very large, icky iceberg. The insistence that there is no possible way to sort out romantic inclinations from possessiveness is something that I’ve always felt bears a closer examination. But deciding that No Romantic Attachment = No Sex seems needlessly risky and simplistic at best.
So, let’s be realistic about this—Jedi had sex. (We’re not allowed to hear tell of it because we’re in the realm of family entertainment don’tcha know.) Bringing that to the table adds a whole new level of complexity to Jedi culture, and is something that should at least be considered when examining their social structure. Don’t you want to know more about the legendary exploits of Obi-Wan Kenobi? The really legendary ones?
I sure do.
Emily Asher-Perrin is pretty sure that she hasn’t yet written a 100,000 word fanfic titled “The Really Legendary Exploits of Obi-Wan Kenobi,” and she would like to apologize for the depriving that world of that. You can bug her on Twitter and Tumblr, and read more of her work here and elsewhere.