Thursday, July 25, 2013

Let's talk about Sex

This article branches off from my article about Women in LARP. As with any discussion about gender issues, Sex is more often then not involved. I didn't want to bog down that article, which had a lot of beautiful points and deserves to be looked as such, with an article that is as varied and sensitive as Sex.  
That being said: This article contains material unsuitable to children and perusal at the workplace. Likewise, if the discussion of intimacy is something you do not wish to read about, then please close this blog asap. I appreciate your reading the site, but I would rather you not aggravate yourself then me having to pull my punches. This is your warning, please take it.

As a Storyteller, I've received the occasional scene of my players interacting with each other and things striking off. As a player, I've engaged in scenes where my character has been intimate with others. As a gamer, I've heard stories of things going on behind closed doors that would make our decidedly darker characters blush. It's a subject that is dripping with subtext, but is oft times rarely discussed.

So, let's talk about Sex.

Before we begin, I should probably explain my standings. I think that sex is great, but that we as a species and as a Western Culture have both demonized and mythologized the process, leading to examples of extreme repression and extreme expression. I think sex is something that should be done with someone you trust, at least as far with having extremely intimate access to your body. Keep that in mind.

Playing in a LARP is, in my belief, a giant Social Contract amongst the people involved. Player or Storyteller, it is an agreement (whether spoken or implied) that they are in this space together and are working together for a common goal (enjoyment). Within that contract is the directorate to be aware of subject matter you don't want to experience and, as it comes up, expressing yourself in a fashion that you do not wish to experience and back out of it. Sex is a sensitive subject, some people may just not *want* to experience sex in their gaming. This should be respected above all other things.

So how do we know when to bring sex up for our Characters? Easy: We discuss it with them.

At the core of every scene, there should be a negotiation. An area where the players sit down and discuss what is cool and what isn't cool and how this manifests in both live game and through scenes between game (if any exist). By this I mean that each person needs to state, clearly and concisely what they expect out of this interaction between their characters.

Which brings me to a key point: Know the players with whom you're doing this with. My first night in Changeling with my Spring Court Wizened. My friend was playing a Fairest of the Autumn Court, and their main way of handling stress was to get laid. The setting was the funeral. So my friend, who was crossplaying as male, approached me five minutes into my arrival and said to my character "You wouldn't by any chance be homosexual, would you?" <beat> "would you like to be for a few minutes." Now, my friend and I know each other, we've discussed weird and strange shit on a fairly regular basis including sexual content. The concept of Too Much Info has never really been a thing for me (I lost it some point during Puberty, along with coordination and a decent singing voice), so we had built up an understanding and a rapport. It helped that I was playing Spring Court, the Court of Desire, who are not know for being particular in their wants, so long as they get it.

So when my friend made that play during game, I nodded and we went out of scene for a while.

But that's an atypical set up, we've known each other and our comfort zones for quite a while so we can riff off of one another. If you're dealing with someone who, you feel, their character and yours are entering into an intimate relationship, you need to Negotiate what this means, how this will manifest and you guys need to keep negotiating as time goes on. Life isn't static, and neither are your PCs. Especially if you're playing games like World of Darkness or Dystopia Rising where things have a way of getting worse. You should have these discussions regularly. Now tips on that:

Be Open: Where do you see this going or not going

Be Honest: What level of commitment are you as a player wanting?

Be Nice: Don't force your wants on the other person. This may be make believe sexy times, but you're 1) talking about a potentially sensitive subject and 2) forcing your will on a human being and a character of theirs. Don't be an ass.

Now to question becomes: Well, what happens after we've decided we want our characters to be lovers/friends with benefits/casual encounter/etc? How do we go about portraying that? There are two methods to go about doing this I recommend:

Fade to Black: You don't have to RP the scene, but it takes the time for you both to state that it did in fact happen. This is what me and my friend did in Changeling. This also tends to be the preferred method for players in monogamous relationships as it doesn't look like Adultery The Board Game.

Downtimes: The thing about Salon/Theatre style is that people can do scenes in between games. As a Storyteller, I've received scenes from players about their sexual exploits. It's the cost of what happens when there is a Legacy of Mages who are dedicated specifically to the BDSM scene. As a player, I've done this a few times. Email and Chat scenes where I and the players simulate scenes.

There is another type, which I'm not particularly keen on, and that's actually having sex. I remember reading about a Nordic LARP where sex was done physically and openly in that space. That's cool, if that's your thing, but I'm of the mind that unless there is already an out of character relationship between the two. I mean, Nordic LARPs are all about immersion, but I find that when it comes to sex I would rather it be because someone likes me and not because our characters would do it.

Which brings me to my next point. You're in a situation where, sometimes, the relationships carries over the roleplay/physical lines. By that I mean close spaces, intimate holding, briefs caresses. These sorts of things. There are games that are very low tolerance on the physical touching aspect. Camarilla isn't too big on it, but so long as the player consents, it's cool. But the question becomes balancing the act, and also knowing where the boundaries lie for you.

Let's use this as an example. In Requiem, I'm playing a Vampire who is part of a family of very sexually active individuals. We tend to be affectionate to one another, sometimes obviously so. For example, the player who plays my cousin is wont to sit next to me, or ask for piggy back rides as we share laughs. I often caress her cheek in an all too familiar way and so on. There are three levels of thinking going on during these kinds of exchanges for me, and honestly, they deserve their own article as well. I've broken the three parts down as Id, Ego, Super-Ego

Id: This is an attractive person who is being affectionate to me and I want more of this

Ego: This is my friend and we're in the middle of a roleplay scene

Super-Ego: This is my cousin, we've been together for a long time and she knows me and I her in more than familial ways.

I'm of the mind (heh) that the Id should be removed from the equation, and I try. LARPing is about imagination, which is part of the more higher functioning bits of the brain. Can you explore Id impulses in LARP? Oh yes, but aside from trusting the instincts of the Id that allow for decisions making and gut reactions, ignore the rest for Roleplay. I'm harsh like this because I personally am not a fan of crossing the OOC/IC boundaries in this regard. I've seen drama (and been party to drama) when the actions of their characters fuel the actions of their players and vice versa.

Now, the question becomes:  What say does the Storyteller have in all of this?  I'm the kind of ST who has been sent scenes of foursomes from players, having lead BDSM scenes for others. I think it's important for STs to openly state the kind of themes they're willing to explore, including sex. That's one of the reasons I built Reign. Reign is a Mage who has made gender fluid not just a concept, but a literal reality. Reign is at any given point masculine, feminine, both or neither and keeps it as such. A Pro Dom/me, Reign holds court at their club, also called Reign. Reign is referred to as "they", refers to themself as "we" and states simply "We are whatever we wish to be. We Are. Simple as that." I built Reign to explore the themes of Power (which is what Mage is half about) and Sex.

Now, when I'm no longer a storyteller, those aspects of the NPC (if not the NPC itself) may be moved to the back of the list at the discretion of the Storyteller. It's our job to state what we're comfortable with and stick to it, or respectfully say "I'm not entirely comfortable, give me the liner notes, call me if you need pulls, but it's your thing". And that's the key word: Respectfully. If you can't respect someone else in any of the ways I've listed above, you shouldn't be doing this kind of scene work.

I'd like to finish off with  a video by Emma Wieslander. Emma ran a Nordic LARP that focused on Love. She commented that in games that purport to be live action, "you are more likely to be killed than to be fucked", Which she felt was a bit odd. She also suggested a method to convey the intimacy of sex. In some games, that was normally symbolized by holding hands for longer than three minutes (which makes NO sense to me) or backrubs (which if that's the case, I'm a massive Whore). Wieslander suggested a method of the two engaging in sex to hold both of each other's hands and engage each other's eyes. I like this method, it's not too dissimilar from the "energy transfer" exercise I learned in Grad School. It's intimate, and there are no illusions as to what this could be. I think that could be a healthy way to share the experience and emotions of sex and intimacy without crossing too many boundaries. And that, is the key.


Emma Wieslander's Video:

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