I'm going to discuss sex. As a fanfic author known for erotica and a GM
whose campaigns necessitated the development of the infamous GURPS Sex
rules, it's safe to say that this is a subject that interests me
considerably. I am fascinated by behavior and motivation, and few examples
are more extreme than those involving sex. However, not everyone feels comfortable with such a topic. Some feel
that it has no place in writing and less place in gaming. If you happen to
be one of those folks, please skip the rest of this article. Ditto if
you're too young to be reading this stuff. With that out of the way, let's proceed. It is my belief that sex is
second only to hunger and thirst as a motivating force for all living
creatures. But we humans, in our intelligence and civilization, have gone
and made an incredibly big deal out of it. We're the only animals to be
taught to feel ashamed of our sexuality, to try to tell each other when we
can do it, who we can do it with, how we should do it, and what kinds are
right and wrong. We are the only ones to heap it with so much cultural and
emotional baggage that it's frankly a wonder anyone does it at all. Part of this has to do with the difference between sex and
reproduction: recreational vs. procreational. Most animals copulate
primarily for the purpose of breeding. Not all, though. There are plenty
of critters out there - monkeys and dolphins among them - who do it for
fun too. Examples of group sex, masturbation, and homosexuality can be
found in the animal world. Sexual practices differ widely from one human culture to the next, from
one era to the next (those wacky Victorians referred to what held up their
pianos as 'limbs' because 'legs' was a lewd word). Some cultures practice
polygamy or polyandry. Some abstain until marriage. Some have rites of
passage that may include sexual initiation. What is taboo to some might be
commonplace to others. If these differences in behaviors can be seen just in our own world and
history, what happens when imagination looks to other worlds? What
might be considered sexual to an alien race? What might their rituals and
habits be? Too often, in fiction and in gaming, I see elves that are presented (by
author or player) as nothing but skinny folk with long ears, and dwarves
who come across as grumpy short folk with beards. They are that,
true, but they are also something other than human, and should be treated
accordingly. They are different - biologically, psychologically,
so it stands to reason they would be
different sexually too. In both a physical and a social sense.
I'm going to discuss sex. As a fanfic author known for erotica and a GM whose campaigns necessitated the development of the infamous GURPS Sex rules, it's safe to say that this is a subject that interests me considerably. I am fascinated by behavior and motivation, and few examples are more extreme than those involving sex.
However, not everyone feels comfortable with such a topic. Some feel that it has no place in writing and less place in gaming. If you happen to be one of those folks, please skip the rest of this article. Ditto if you're too young to be reading this stuff.
With that out of the way, let's proceed. It is my belief that sex is second only to hunger and thirst as a motivating force for all living creatures. But we humans, in our intelligence and civilization, have gone and made an incredibly big deal out of it. We're the only animals to be taught to feel ashamed of our sexuality, to try to tell each other when we can do it, who we can do it with, how we should do it, and what kinds are right and wrong. We are the only ones to heap it with so much cultural and emotional baggage that it's frankly a wonder anyone does it at all.
Part of this has to do with the difference between sex and reproduction: recreational vs. procreational. Most animals copulate primarily for the purpose of breeding. Not all, though. There are plenty of critters out there - monkeys and dolphins among them - who do it for fun too. Examples of group sex, masturbation, and homosexuality can be found in the animal world.
Sexual practices differ widely from one human culture to the next, from one era to the next (those wacky Victorians referred to what held up their pianos as 'limbs' because 'legs' was a lewd word). Some cultures practice polygamy or polyandry. Some abstain until marriage. Some have rites of passage that may include sexual initiation. What is taboo to some might be commonplace to others.
If these differences in behaviors can be seen just in our own world and history, what happens when imagination looks to other worlds? What might be considered sexual to an alien race? What might their rituals and habits be?
Too often, in fiction and in gaming, I see elves that are presented (by author or player) as nothing but skinny folk with long ears, and dwarves who come across as grumpy short folk with beards. They are that, true, but they are also something other than human, and should be treated accordingly. They are different - biologically, psychologically, culturally, theologically so it stands to reason they would be different sexually too. In both a physical and a social sense.
Look at those uptight Vulcans, so emotionally repressed that their bodies rebel every seven years. How about the Newcomers from Alien Nation, who find humming and a nice set of spots to be a turn-on? Consider Lisanne Norman's sleek and sensual Sholans, whose relaxed practices seem to make a lot more sense than many of our own. And let us not forget ElfQuest, one of the sexiest fantasy series of all time!
Sometimes, another race can be very different in terms of how they get the job done. Going back to the Alien Nation example, three genders and a good deal of cooperation are required in order to procreate, and then the fetus is transferred from mother to father so that Dad carries the baby to term. This is a pretty complicated system, the sort of thing that doesn't seem likely to evolve naturally, but it is so marvelously and strikingly _alien!
In Gargoyles fanfiction, I and many other writers had the chance to explore what mating habits might be like among the gargoyle race - those tails aren't just for show! According to the show's creator, the gargoyles mate in monogamous pairs, raise their young communally from the egg, and breed in specific cyclical seasons but he hints that they are sexually active even when not fertile, go-recreation-go!
When I set out to create, write in, or game in a fantasy setting, one of the factors I always keep in mind is what the sexual attitudes of that setting's inhabitants will be. Whether human or beings of other races, it is a vital part of the world's background and the ongoing stories. In my serial novel, "A King For Hothar," published in Sabledrake throughout the year 2000, attitudes were very relaxed. The character of Idasha demonstrates that sexual encounters on short acquaintance aren't uncommon, and that women feel free to take the initiative.
In my MageLore novels (and all the upcoming trilogies to follow; at the moment I have a list of a dozen titles still pending and as-yet-unwritten), humans share the world with several other races. A short write-up of each of them follows, including such things as what that race finds attractive and what their attitudes are regarding various sexual behaviors.
The elven ideal of beauty is a constant throughout the three known elven cultures, and is much the same for males and females alike: long, silken, light colored hair; large vividly-colored eyes; skin of a nearly translucent fairness; a tall and slender build; ears that taper to a graceful sweeping point.
Other standards for choosing a mate vary slightly among the three cultures. In the Emerin, factors include education, magical talent, wealth, and family status. In Lenais, athletic ability and skills such as hunting, woodslore, or crafting are important. The Morvalan place a high value on strength and fighting prowess, as well as being of a proven-fertile bloodline.
Elves reach physical maturity in their twenties, but are not considered of legal, marriageable age until they reach 40. Premarital sex is expected and condoned, especially between betrothees. Extramarital affairs are quite common, although usually conducted with some discretion. It is only considered bad form to have a child with someone other than one's husband or wife. Given the low birth rate among elves as well as the availability of magical contraception, illegitimate children don't often happen.
In the Emerin and Lenais, a couple might have two or three children spaced out over a period of a few hundred years. Siblings are rarely close in age, sometimes generations apart. The Morvalan, under constant threat of war, do not generally have the luxury of such long, idle lifespans and also have a higher rate of death-by-violence; consequently, they are actively seeking to increase their numbers by having more children more often.
Marriage is not something undertaken lightly by the elves. A courtship might last as long as ten years, even in an arranged match. The sexes are for the most part equal; elven women may not join the military, but they can hold land, have jobs, study magic, etc. In the Emerin, a woman cannot be head of a high noble Household unless no adult male relative is available.
The only real sexual taboos among the elves are parent-child or sibling incest, bestiality, and (to the Emerinians and Morvalan) fraternization with other races. They can successfully interbreed with humans, the result being elfkin, but most elves find humans too heavy, hairy, and plain to be attractive not to mention being incredibly short-lived; by the time you get to know them, they're gotten old and died. Elfkin are generally considered to be abominations, a source of shame to their parents, and best drowned at birth. The Lenaisians do not share that taboo, and marriage between human and elf is common in their land.
In terms of physiology, elves have the same erogenous zones and responses as humans, with the additional feature of their ears. Elven ears are highly sensitive and considered very erotic. To show one's ears is daring, even immodest. The Morvalan, particularly their class of wizards, will pierce or even notch their ears; Emerinians and Lenaisians react to this the way modern Americans react to various intimate piercings - some find it kinky, some wince at the very idea.
Like everything else, the elves approach the act of sex as something not to be rushed. They are a patient, time-consuming, considerate race. A typical encounter will last for several hours and end only when the needs and desires of both partners are fully met. It is very bad form to be seen as a selfish lover.
Female dwarves of Underearth do not have beards but some of them can grow soft, curly sideburns, and this is the absolute most alluring thing to a dwarven male. Males also look for wide firm-but-fleshy hips and thighs, a solid and rounded bosom, smooth skin, and hair with metallic or reddish highlights. Females judge a male by the breadth of his chest and shoulders, the evidence of muscles (particularly in the arms), a long lush beard, and a proud promontory of a nose.
But when it comes to choosing a husband or wife, physical appearance falls by the wayside. What really counts to the dwarves is craftsmanship, artistry, wealth, and having a good sound respectable job. A healthy income and reputation will compensate for quite a lot.
Dwarves mature slowly, reaching biological and legal adulthood at around age thirty. Few will marry before age fifty, spending those intervening twenty years establishing a career.
The common aboveground perception is that dwarven males drastically outnumber the females. This is because only unmarried males tend to venture out of Underearth. The ratio is close to 1:1. Married men stay home and go to work and provide for their families. Not all females marry; some dedicate themselves to their crafts or arts instead.
A typical couple will have 4-5 children, a few years apart. Extramarital affairs are almost unheard of (and punished severely should one partner go astray). Only single males may be in the Underearth militia or work in the explosives-mines and other high-risk industries, though in times of all-out war all adult males and even some females are encouraged to join the armed forces.
The primary interest in any dwarf's life is work. They devote themselves to it with single-minded intensity, ignoring petty distractions such as sex and other interests. However, they can only manage this for about six days before their emotional and psychological stress builds to the danger point.
Because of this, all of Underearth is on a designated schedule - six days of work followed by a 'Vent' in which all the businesses and industries close and the entire population spends the day in all-out self-indulgence, be that indulgence food, ale, sex, or rough-housing. On those days, the young and aged and inform are drugged senseless so that attending to their needs doesn't interfere with the Venting. Vent-Eve is always a popular time at the taverns, when singles are on the prowl for a partner to spend the next day with.
Like the elves, the dwarves frown on and are generally uninterested in romantic interactions with other races, though there are the occasional rumors of relations with gnomes. They strongly disapprove of same-sex encounters, and seek mates not only well outside their families but preferably outside of their cities (though from the same guild, or an equal or preferably higher social class).
The dwarves have two primary approaches to sex. The 'blacksmith' method is hard, rhythmic, pounding, hot, noisy, and favored by the males. The 'silversmith' method is slow and painstaking with a lot of attention to detail and workmanship, and favored by the females. This leads to arguments, bickering, accusations, veiled insults, and the popularity of certain devices created by an all-female guild of specialized artisans
The brutal reputation of the orcish race for ferocity in battle and barbaric customs extends to their mating practices as well. The chieftain of each clan will have a harem of the females of his choice, anywhere from five to seven of them, provided he is still strong enough each spring to prove he can keep them. The females have no say in the matter, and must rely on age-old feminine wiles to make themselves attractive (or unattractive) in hopes of getting the mate they want.
Attractive to an orc includes a nice waxy sheen on that yellow-green or olive-green skin, prominent and sharp tusks, low brows and close-set eyes. In females, a pear-shaped body with heavy hips and fat bottom is the height of sexiness. In males, big and strong is the order of the day, and scars or even maimings that don't impair fighting ability add to the appeal.
After the chieftain has chosen his mates, the rest of the males compete in ritual combat for the right to select one female apiece. As there are almost always more males, this leaves many males (generally those too old and tired, too young and inexperienced, or just too weak) without mates. However, at any time during the year, a male may try to win a female away from her mate. This is done by issuing a challenge, but the price for losing an off-season challenge is death.
Among orcish females, there exists a conspiracy that the males do not even suspect. Won by a mate you detest? Put on the charm and encourage an unattached male to challenge him. Don't want another cub right now? Slip him a brew of this herb. Such secrets and suggestions are handed down from the elder females to the younger generations, along with stories of an orc goddess of motherhood whose worship is forbidden by the male shamans.
Orcs are the shortest-lived of all the races. Their gestation is six months, and a female can conceive again within days after giving birth. An orc cub reaches adult height by age ten, fills out and is sexually mature by age twelve (though few males can win a mating battle so young), and their prime reproductive time is from age fourteen to twenty. Few orc males live out their natural lifespan thanks to their violent ways, but the females who can survive their childbirthing years might live to be as old as thirty, thirty-five being ancient and forty unheard-of.
Very little is taboo to the orcs. A male will mate with any female except his own mother, even trying his luck with the chieftain's mates if he thinks he can get away with it, and would have no compunctions about forcing himself on females of other races.
In some clans, human women are prized and their offspring, orckin, often grow taller and stronger than other cubs. They age more slowly, however, and are easy prey while young, so few orckin live to maturity.
Orc males are lusty at any time and downright out of control during the spring and summer. The sex act is quick and rough, and usually unrewarding to the females.
If one word could describe an entire people, for the gnomes that word would be 'adaptable.' They have a knack for getting along in almost any land, they pick up languages with ease, they somehow manage to be so endearing that it's impossible for others to take offense, and although it is not widely known, gnomes are genetically compatible with all of the other races.
One reason this is not widely known is a matter of size. Gnomes are even smaller and considerably lighter than the dwarves, and while they can admire the beauty of a human or elf as well as the next person, they generally tend to be attracted only to their fellow gnomes.
Males like a female who is sweet-featured and petite but curvy. Shades of blond or red hair, and blue or green eyes, are held in high regard. But what really gets a male gnome's attention is a clear, pure voice, especially in singing or laughter.
The females look for a broad, genial face with the right kind of merry crinkles at the corners of the eyes, a thick crop of hair, and large, dextrous hands. Female gnomes are convinced that one can tell a lot about a male's (ahem) physique by looking at his hands.
They mature at the same rate as humans, though gnomes have a longer plateau of adulthood and then decline in rapid aging after around age 80. Their society is somewhat matriarchal, with a council of grandmothers approving marriages and divorces.
Gnomish culture is very open. Children are told honestly about matters of life, death, and sex from early on. Conversations even between strangers frequently go into great intimate detail. When gnomes visit other lands, they have a hard time understanding why their questions are considered impertinent, nosy, or downright rude. Even so, the gnomes always manage to get away with it without offending anyone.
Although they are not considered one of the three Elder Races or the three Younger Races, being instead the legacy of elven shaper-mages gone mad, the minotaurs have a thriving society of their own.
They live in herds, but rather than have one bull ruling over a herd of cows, the cows have the power of mate selection. The burden of proving themselves worthy falls to the males, who must demonstrate their fitness by literally butting heads and otherwise carrying on. If a cow is sufficiently impressed, she will take a bull as her mate and seal the deal by inserting a ring in his nose.
The status of the cows is determined by wealth and property. The bulls own nothing but their clothing and weapons; everything else belongs to the cows. The cows hold the land, do the farming, produce most of the food and goods. It is in the best interest of a bull, therefore, to try to impress a cow of means.
Handsomeness in a bull is measured in terms of size and strength, as well as the span of his horns and the color of his hide. Darker hides and long horns are believed to be the marks of more virile lovers. Cows are slightly smaller and their hides are less coarse, coming in a greater variety of colors and even markings. Some cows grow nubs of horns when they hit puberty; this is a sign from Dezran the minotaur-god and the only circumstances under which a female may become a warrior.
Minotaur calves are born more mature than the young of any other race, able to walk and find their own food within days. They grow rapidly, reaching full growth at age 6, and the average lifespan of a minotaur is 50-60 years.
They are mostly monogamous; no cow will tolerate the advances of someone else's bull, and no bull would dare. If his cow decides she's quit of him, the process of divorce is painful and sometimes fatal. First she will wrench the ring from his nose, an act that splits the flesh and will let every other minotaur know he's an ex-husband and then, the married cows of the tribe will run him down and do their best to trample him into mulch. If a bull survives that, he is allowed to leave the tribe's range. Such bulls often go insane, and even if they are taken in by another tribe, the scarring of their tender nose-tissue will make it evident they were cast out, and no self-respecting cow will ever take such a bull as a mate.
Some cows, especially wealthy and well-to-do ones, might take more than one husband at a time. Lineage and inheritance is traced through the mother's side.
Here is where some noticeable sexual dimorphism comes into play. Most of the other races are basically humanoid, with the same sort of bipedal, Tab-A-into-Slot-B, live birth arrangement, and the physical differences between the sexes aren't that extreme.
For the dragons, it's another story. Females are large, easily twice the size of their male counterparts, and have more neutral coloration (depending on habitat, this ranges mostly through shades of brown, grey, and blue). The males are smaller but much more elaborate - hides of bright, vivid hue and lots of ornamental accessories such as horns, tail spikes, spurs around the face and neck, etc.
Dragons were once civilized but have descended toward a wild, isolative state (while remaining sentient). They meet only to mate, are not monogamous, and the males abandon the females shortly after the act. Very shortly, very fast, and with darn good reason. A broody female needs a lot of protein, and won't hesitate at attacking and devouring a convenient male. The males have nothing to do with the raising of the offspring and spend most of their time defending their territories from other males.
Females are very picky, and the courtship ritual a male must perform is elaborate. It involves an aerobatic display of strength, speed, and agility, and also includes a demonstration of fire-breathing and an offering of meat to prove that the male has worthwhile hunting genes.
A brave male can repeat this courtship ritual with as many females as he likes, but with each success his risk of getting hurt increases, as exhaustion dulls his reflexes and makes it harder for him to evade that post-coital bite. A female can be fertilized by multiple males within one season.
The act itself is quick and almost perfunctory. A clutch of eggs averages 6-8, but roughly half of dragon hatchlings die before leaving the nest, victims of their stronger siblings. Particularly weak hatchlings will be killed outright by the mother and fed to the surviving young. The greatest risk facing them once they've left the nest comes from other dragons, particularly males.
To a dragon, the following are considered attractive in a potential mate: glossy scales, a lush mane (not all types have manes, but some do), healthy coloration, a well-fed build, a graceful curve of neck and tail, and a wide wingspan.
The drakes, much smaller distant relatives of the dragons, have much the same standards of beauty and courting rituals. They differ from dragons in that male drakes tend to be slightly larger, both sexes can be any color, the females don't attack the males afterward, mated pairs remain together until the young are grown (or even longer; mating for life is not uncommon) and both parents provide for and teach the offspring.
The above are by no means all of the races and cultures I have pondered. There are a host of different human attitudes in a host of different game worlds, both in MageLore and otherwise. From the mountains where marriages consist of two co-husbands and two co-wives raising all their children equally, to the reserved and restrictive Rakvians, to the female-dominant Turans, there are as many possibilities as there are imaginings. And to that, there is no limit.
A scan of my bookshelf reveals that this is no idle hobby of mine. Had I continued my psychology studies in graduate school, I most likely would have ended up doing my thesis on some aspect of human sexuality and gender relations. I have a burning interest in understanding the way people think and why they do the things they do. The ways religion and society have sought to control sex - particularly female sexuality. The reason men like to watch two women together, but not vice versa. These are endlessly fascinating topics to me
Among the titles on that shelf - and not counting quite a collection of horror erotica, naughty anthologies, Jean Auel's "sex among the cavepeople epics" (thank you Stephen King for that phrase which sums it up so nicely!), V. C. Andrews trash, John Norman trash, a few good old-fashioned bodice rippers (mostly by Bertrice Small), and Victorian spanky books <g> -- are the following, which I recommend either for reference or a just plain intriguing read:
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