Hello, fellow Portalites!
So, last week I talked a little bit about including the full spectrum of sexuality and gender representation, writing people, writing real people. This week I’m going to talk about the subject that frequently reduces every one of us to giggling teenagers… which is fine, I’d rather touch the subject with humour than with judgment and unpleasantness.
So, let’s talk about sex. This is another thing where you want full, frank communications with your group; yes, even if you’re including fun, consensual sex and it’s not wandering into the dark side of the subject. I’m not going to touch that for this, because I don’t see a reason for most games to include it.
Communication. Communication. Communication. If you have a player not comfortable including this stuff, do not include it. This is one of the subjects that can start real trouble if you aren’t careful.
So. The big three are; protection, Disease, and pregnancy. As in real life, these are things people are going to be worrying about in your games.
Protection isn’t just prevention of inconvenient pregnancies, although that may be the largest. It also refers to protection from disease. Fantasy settings may have magic for handing , far future may have science for it; but protection is something that all advanced societies are either going to have, or have laws against, depending on what kind of society it is and what their practices are and include. Background, history, the wheres and whys and hows – all of those things should be considered. You should also consider population size as reasoning for some of the more extreme solutions. With that goes normal practices; sex isn’t going to be looked at the same ways for the same reasons, and a ‘normal’ family group may look very different depending on the setting. Just for example; Battletech’s Iron Wombs as used by the Clans is a very high-tech solution for avoiding inbreeding with a small starting population, which has the side effect of removing sex from the breeding equation entirely for large swaths of the population. Real life practices include stable poly arrangements, in addition to the familiar ‘nuclear family’ and multi-generational households. Graphic novel Artist InCase has a couple of variants in his current webcomic (which I would link, but there is really obvious albeit consensual and happy, sex just everywhere and while the story and art is worth it to me, it might not be to some of you). Essentially, there are all kinds of variations on what we consider to be the normal way of doing things, and even more reasons for them.
Diseases .. well, there are lots of them, some of them are minor annoyances, some can be fatal and many are hard to explain. There are a lot of real world examples to look at if mummy rot as a possible STD breaks your head as effectively as it breaks mine. Books like the 3.0e Book of Erotic Fantasy lists some more reasonable options, and there are a bunch of other splat books that also cover it. Some of them may be tied into specific game worlds to the point where you have to re-write some descriptions to fit your setting, but it is a place to start.
The Book of Erotic Fantasy also talks some about pregnancy, possible issues, solutions and other things to consider. On that list is gestation periods; how – and why – they may be different for different races, and some complications that might arise from interbreeding. As a GM, you may disagree with some of those suggestions, that is fine, nothing in the books is written as set in stone, but it should give you a place to start, especially if you are building a fully custom setting, or tweaking a standard one.
Because this too may come up, don’t forget that humans may not be the only race where the ladies go through a week of their bodies doing a hard reset. As many cultural beliefs and outright myths as we have in real life about menstruation, I can’t imagine a fantasy setting is going to have fewer; you are mixing in a dozen races and their ideas about it. If you happen to be a guy, and you have no idea what I’m talking about, I recommend a visit to scarleteen to educate yourself on how that works, why it happens and what else is going on while it’s happening.
But, I’m going to say it again; talk to your group. Don’t just assume they’re going to be comfortable with including these themes. Talk to them. Listen to what they say. And if they aren’t comfortable, for literally any reason, however silly it may sound, don’t include it. Gaming should be fun. Not being comfortable isn’t fun.