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It's always For the past few years, it's been strange to me that people consider sex to be a strange thing to bring up in roleplaying games.

+Elin Dalstål does a nice job with giving people who might be nervous an entree into doing it safely.

Does sex play a role in your games? How much, what kind?

At almost all the tables I've gamed at since 2005, including con tables, sex was a natural and obvious part of the characters lives. Characters have sex with one another when it feels right for something interesting, or when it feels true.

For example, the first time we played something like what would eventually become +Joshua A.C. Newman's excellent game Shock: Human Contact, we were talking about what would happen when two human groups interacted, and we were all unanimously agreed that there'd've been fucking already, so my first character was pregnant with the first hybrid baby ever. It just seemed obvious for the setup and for drama creation, so that's where we went with it.
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Elin Dalstål's profile photoTom Gregory's profile photoJoe Beason's profile photoDylan Clayton's profile photo
31 comments
 
I've always found sex, as with any other aspect of a human being's life, to be a natural and valid component of roleplaying.
 
Agreed - people seem to be fairly comfortable carving NPC's into chum, but having healthy relationships with them? Fuck that.

I don't get it. I guess it's an intimacy thing?
 
There are lots of things that can prevent mature topics like sex coming up in gaming. The most common in my experience has been players who lack the maturity required to deal with it reasonably; not necessarily childish players (though there have been many of those), but people just starting university.
 
I should note that I say it's strange, above, but it didn't used to be.

Probably because I was mostly playing games that had had the sex squeezed out of them. I remember telling +Emily Care Boss that I was scared to play her romantic comedy game, Breaking the Ice.

The thing is, I don't understand my own perspective from like 5 or 6 years ago.
 
Actually, I think it's more of a maturity thing. Too much "Ohh! Bewbs!", not enough interpersonal intimacy. Plus, as +Alistair Carver ninja'ed, A lot of the players starting into roleplaying don't have enough experience with the intimacy and emotional maturity that, IMHO, should go along with sexual activity. It doesn't help that our (US) culture celebrates (as taboo) and vilifies sex...
 
I don't think it's about maturity, necessarily. Sex for many people requires vulnerability, and violence doesn't. Being comfortable expressing vulnerability around people, even if they're your friends, requires trust. And I don't think trust and maturity are synonymous.
 
+Robert Bohl I actually never really thought about my characters' sex lives until I played a online game that involved a lot of relationships between the characters, with ample graphic sex a frequent occurrence. It work very well, as all the players enjoyed themselves, and I found it let me think about my character much more deeply and allowed for interesting interaction and growth.

Since then, I haven't had a group which has allowed me the opportunity to really deal with sex in-game again. I think about my characters' sex lives though, which certainly lets me develop them better and more realistically, I feel.
 
Also, let's not forget that for anyone with a personal history of sexual violence, having sex handled badly at the gaming table can be incredibly harmful and/or triggering. And even if you don't have that history, when sex is handled badly it can be hurtful and lead to bad feelings.

That's why I was glad to see Elin write such a comprehensive post on how to deal with it in a constructive manner. Sex is great to handle in games! But it's important to lay down ground rules and treat it with respect.
 
More or less what Matt says. But also I think that gaming can be a very shallow experience or a deep one and you can (more or less) decide how much of yourself you wish to reveal to your gaming partners.
Dealing with sex usually feels quite revealing so you have to feel really comfortable to do so. Not all the gaming tables make you feel that way, but when they do it's awesome
 
If your gaming group gets together for fake yet fun violence, sex is probably not a great thing to include. It's more optional than role-playing, which takes a huge backseat in many beer 'n pretzels groups. It's when you get folks who build characters who interact that this becomes a viable topic. Very nice essay.
 
My opinion is that in my (American male) culture, there is too much self-image and identity wrapped up in sexuality. As mentioned in many other comments, intimacy requires vulnerability. There is a fine (non-existent?) line between non-intimate sex and sexual violence. Lopping off the head of an orc is so far removed from reality that it's easy to distance and isolate the idea. But sex and sexuality are so tied up in how we see ourselves, that it's difficult to portray it realistically in any meaningful sense. We fear that someone (ourselves?) might mistake our character's sexuality for our own. And how do you portray a version/vision of sex you personally have no experience with? Also, don't rule out the porn effect: the idea that any sex act is a burlesque performance.
 
pretend sex with friends doesn't interest me.
 
I hope everyone's enjoying patting themselves on the back for being enlightened, actualized human beings and not, you know, awkward gamers who giggle about bewbs.

Personally I think Matt's pretty much got it: violence doesn't require intimacy and sex does. 99% of the tables out there are dudes anyway (I read this stat on the internet, it's unimpeachable), so absolutely every intimate interaction is going to be between guys. Most probably between a player and the GM, playing an NPC.

Might be too that RPGs just don't take up the same head space as a TV show, book or movie. I know that's the case for many of my players -- and, depending on the game, me too. Totally not a problem with characters working through relationship stuff on a TV show, but it just doesn't occur to us to do that in, say, Gamma World or Rolemaster or whatever. It'd be like asking why the little boy cubes and girl cubes in my 1978 edition of heteronormative Risk why they don't hook up.
 
+Paul Beakley - I certainly don't agree with anyone slamming anyone for preferring not to have sex in their games.
 
+Paul Beakley "patting themselves on the back"... Is that a new euphemism? I usually "pat" myself on the front ;) ::giggle::
 
I think the thing +Ray Otus observes exists in whole or in part in some cases. I've seen it. But I think it's presumptuous to assume that, not to mention potentially damaging for your relationship with that person.
 
I don't agree, +A. Miles Davis, I think he's just saying that some people don't like sex in their roleplaying games, because they don't like sex to be "out on the table". I don't see where he's passing judgement on whether that's a good or bad thing. He is, however, passing judgement on the prevalent (or "mainstream") attitude(s) towards sex vs. violence in the USA.
 
the statement that people who don't talk about sex are backward or immature is certainly passing judgement.
 
I think this question only occurs to you if you believe all RPGs are (and/or produce) fiction and should be evaluated as such. Otherwise, I gotta say, it's a weird question. Why isn't there more sex at football games?

We feature sexual relationships (maybe healthy, maybe not) in our games when we're pushing the fiction: Burning Wheel is fantastic at this, for example, and even facilitates it at the mechanical level via discounts on "intimate relationships" when buying Relationships. But if our game isn't about the fiction? It literally doesn't occur to anyone to shoehorn it in, even at the fade-to-black level.

It might be equally odd for folks to hear that some RPGs aren't about the fiction. It'll be fun and funny when they come in and say I'm wrong.
 
Actually, he says they are private, and perhaps backward or immature. And that's in regards to sex. He doesn't say they are unwilling to talk about sex, just that they don't want it in their roleplaying games. I see where it could be misunderstood as insulting, but I don't think that's the intent.
 
Also interesting to note that there is plenty of implied sex in many RPG video games now, like Fable.
 
...or non-implied sex, like Mass Effect.
 
Regarding sex in tabletop RPGs, that brings even more complexity into the "social contract" of gaming. For example, if I start having lots of same-sex NPCs hit on PCs, would that make my players uncomfortable? I'm a gay guy, so that certainly wouldn't be odd from my perspective. Lots of potential complications in this space.
 
Barring my earliest attempts, my games have often included sexual themes, though not always sex, per se.

In my weekly gaming group, PCs regularly enter sexual relationships with NPCs or other PCs, and it does not seem awkward at all. As long as we talk about it beforehand, just about nothing is automatically off the table.

That said, each group of gamers is different, and the players' preferences guide the contents of my campaigns. Sometimes, that means hack-n-slash sans sexiness. As well, if my players were uncomfortable with pretend graphic violence, I could run a game with minimal combat.
 
I believe there's been sex, in varying degrees of explicitness, in every game I've played in or run over the last five years. But those games have all been online, and mostly text-based, which helps with the awkwardness.
 
Oh. I was just at a local con gaming, and I'm amazed to come back to this fantastic discussion. Thanks people!

Sex is such a broad, multifaceted and deep subject, and so is sex in games. I think I will write more on the subject, in the future.

But I felt that writing a sex positive constructive post on how to start out for newbies on including sexual content was needed because I couldn't find one..

I don't think you have to handle sex in a mature way when you start out,(unless your group feel you need to handle it in mature way when you start out for emotional reasons etc). Demanding that people can handle things in a mature way the first time they try it is asking quite a lot of them.

I think a more reasonable approach is to let people start out in immature if they want to, but in a constructive way. (As apposed to immature destructive ways).

Like playing sex involving Nanna Ogg and a wizard staff with a nob on the end in Discworld. It not very mature or serious, but it can be constructive to everyone involved as well as silly.
 
I don't need to pretend. I get all the imaginary sex I need in real life.
 
A lot of my games include sexual relationships, but not necessarily a lot of sex. I played a one-shot of an Apocalypse World hack last weekend. My character had the hots for one of the other PCs, but knew she wouldn't get any traction, so she opted for quality time with another PC who was more than willing. When it was time to set a scene between the two, I started with "I roll off of him. The two of us are laying next to each other, panting and sweaty."

My point was to quickly establish that we had just had sex, that our sex moves could now be triggered, and that what the scene was really going to be about was the post-coital conversation between these two. Sex was important, but dwelling on the act itself wasn't important for that scene.

Now, if there would have been traction with the other guy, I would have wanted a lot more detail about what actually went down, because the point of that scene would have been the desire and the seduction.
 
I play with +Joe Beason and in general find sex to be an acceptable topic of RPG but I have definitely been in situations or around characters/players that really make me uncomfortable with it. Rape, torture, I've been in situations where players have gone there and some part of me knew that there were valid "exploring a loss of humanity" in character reasons for it but it still made me terribly uncomfortable.

I veer more to the "off camera hint at the act" sort of thing than actually making what I feel amounts to text or verbal porn. I also prefer more loose, narrative combat... I don't need to hear about your wet bulging muscles described every time you swing or parry either.
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