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"The Betans seemed very good about keeping congruent to [their social signals from earrings]. Of course, they had so many choices. Wearing a false signal was highly disapproved, socially. It screws it up for the rest of us, a Betan had once explained to her. The whole idea is to eliminate the weird guessing-games."
―Kareen reflects on Betan earrings[src]

Earrings on Beta Colony were used to encode information about a person's sexual availability and interests. These could be in both ears or only in one (the left ear only was seen in Diplomatic Immunity).

In The Warrior's Apprentice[1], the suggestion was that earrings were only worn by women, but later books implied that all Betans wore them[2][3]. For the women, and probably the hermaphrodites, the first pair of earrings was traditionally given on the occasion of a first menstrual period, typically in the 12-14 age range.[1][4]

Some meanings[]

  • "Romantically attached, not looking."[3]
  • "Yes, I'm a consenting and contraceptive-protected adult, but I am presently in an exclusive relationship, so please do not embarrass us both by asking."[2]
  • "Not in the market, no thanks."[5]
  • "In a bi-male, bi-male, and female relationship" earrings exist[6]
    • "Prefers bi-male Barrayaran admirals" does not exist [7]

Notes and references[]