The other day, a commenter quoted part of my post on Michael Crichton and added his own observations:
"More clearly in the movie than in the book, the lab is a symbolic vagina: the various floors are built around a central shaft. The whole plot depends, in effect, on doing exciting stuff in this vagina without actually setting off an orgasm. (One of the scientists, a woman, is also an epileptic who goes into a trance when alarm lights flash. Figure that out for yourself.)"
Did Crichton ever admit to this? It's weird analysis like yours that always turned me off to english teachers. Some times a story is just a story. And, no, I'm not a Crichton fan. I'm someone who is tired of being told by english teachers/professors what constitutes literature, when 80% of the vaunted literature I have read for these people is pure crap.
To the best of my scanty knowledge, Crichton never admitted to it. But most writers have only a vague sense of the symbolism they employ. This is why we are usually the least useful critics of our own work.
These images are deeply ingrained in us and our culture, and probably go back at least ten thousand years ago. The basic plot of every story is something like this: We were living in a good place. Someone did the wrong thing, and we got kicked out. Now we've got to figure out how to get back there.
Whether that good place is Eden or the womb, it symbolizes a harmony between the individual and the world. In Orwell, the harmony is viciously ironic; Room 101, after all, is in the Ministry of Love where no love at all is available.
Orwell was working in a genre known as "anatomy" or "Menippean satire," which is based on an intellectual attack on intellectuals (the kind of folks who make you read 80% crap). SF novels are also Menippean satires, whether by geniuses like Orwell or hacks like me and Crichton. And like any genre, Menippean satire has its conventions.
One key convention is the "rationalization" of sex. Orwell isn't even subtle about it: In Oceania, people belong to the Anti-Sex League, and Winston and Julia finally get it on in an Edenic patch of countryside which is bugged by lots of microphones. Big Brother has sex organized, just like the Two-Minute Hate.
The father of SF is probably Thomas More, who in Utopia is equally concerned about rational sex: In Utopia, young couples wanting to marry must see each other naked before the ceremony, just so they know what they're getting.
And wicked old St. Thomas More played other games with sexual symbolism. We learn that Utopos, the founder of Utopia, created it at the end of a long, penile peninsula. He effectively cut it off, having a channel cut across it. The resulting island is a kind of vagina and uterus, where the cities are all built on the shores of an inland sea. You can reach this sea only by traversing a narrow and dangerous inlet. Once you're in, though, it's smooth sailing.
Is this a weird analysis? Only if you think geography could never be a storytelling tool, and intellectuals could never tell a dirty joke.
Sometimes we don't even know when we're doing it. When I was writing Greenmagic, I had a passage in which my magician-hero is communing with the magical powers residing in the stolen staff of another magician. My hero is planning to use the staff to overthrow the oppressors of his people, and sometimes he rubs the staff and promises the powers within that soon he will release them.
A female teaching colleague, reading this passage, pointed out the obvious (to her) Freudian symbolism of this passage. Boy, was I embarrassed!
I guess the moral is that you're always going to write about sex, whether you intend to or not. Sex is a symbol for the basic human society, what Vonnegut called the "Republic of Two." And the symbols you use—Room 101, a wizard's walking-stick, a rose, a 9mm Glock—will tell your readers a lot about your story...and maybe about you as well.