the Fairgame Archive

2006-05-13: More sex and gaming
by Meguey

So, over in the other sex and gaming thread, we're talking about attraction in a gaming group.

Since we humans are so head-twisted about attraction and sex, it's unsettling and shocking when we are attracted to someone unexpectedly or unintentionally. Check this out:

I've gone into a game with someone I'm not attracted to, and two sessions in, my character actively dislikes theirs. Does that make real, actual aggressive tension between me and the other player? Rarely. Do I act on it? No. Duh. It's a game.

I've gone into a game with someone I'm not attracted to, and two sessions in, my character's all crushed out on theirs. Does that make real, actual sexual tension between me and the other player? Sometimes. Do I act on it? Hm.

When I role-play with a person I am attracted to, or a partner, there is a spark of meeting them again, as if I get to experience becoming attracted to them from a new angle. Sex therapy and sex play would fully endorse this in a romantic, sexual situation.

Why is fire-walling feelings of attraction more difficult than fire-walling feelings of "Man, you are one twisted puppy-killer!" My bet is that we are more deeply interested in finding out who is possibly sexually compatible, and we aren't as good at protecting ourselves from feelings of attraction. Feeling of disgust or dislike, we have to learn to quell pretty early on, in order to deal with school/workplace politics and idiot drivers and so on.

2006-05-14 07:00:24 Mo


Good post, Meg.

2006-05-14 10:02:03 Charles S

I also wonder how much it has to do with physicality of sexual attraction.

While revulsion and hatred of a character are directed at the portrayal of the character, and not at the person doing the portraying, sexual attraction more easily slides over into becoming attracted to the person doing the portraying, because attraction has much more to do with bodies than hatred does.

2006-05-14 22:49:27 Mark W

I have a completely unsubstantiated and largely un-thought-through reaction. Creativity is sexy. Collaboration is sexy. This thing we're doing together is inherently sexy. When we firewall sexy, affectionate, intimate feelings, we're working _against_ the act of roleplaying together. When we firewall away tension, loathing, distrust, etc, we're working to _maintain_ the intimacy of the roleplaying act.

2006-05-15 01:18:00 Meguey

I think we do what Mark said because of what Charles said. We don't have good practice, culturally, to feel attraction and not act on it. We don't even have decent practice feeling intimacy and not assuming that means sexual attraction. This is why it's such a hang-up for some people if their partner has sexually compatible friends.

2006-05-15 13:50:21 Meguey

From marginalia: "Culturally we equate intimacy with sex, and I think roleplaying is potentially powerfully intimate."


And I think equating intimacy with sex is like equating role-playing with dice; there is a whole lot more range and nuance and depth in the world of the first than just the second. I'm looking for powerfully intimate role-playing, and I like facing my own emotinal reactions (most of the time), but I'm not looking to have sex with everyone my character may flirt with or even pursue.

2006-05-15 16:23:43 mneme

Hmm.  One point on this is that while I certainly have the issue above (that it's hard to firewall intimacy when you groove in-game) with a female player (I'm pretty solidly het), I don't think I have the same issue with a male player (assuming, of course, that we can get past the whole "I'm not youre type or vice versa but my character is coming onto yours anyway" thing).

This may, of course, be appallingly obvious.

2006-05-16 06:57:00 Levi Kornelsen


I'd put my money the same place you would, here.  The fire-wall people develop simply doesn't work as well for attraction or the lack of it, in my experience.

2006-05-17 22:56:17 Meguey

So, Mneme, let's talk about that, or at least a step side-ways from that:

Is playing a cross-orientation character more challenging than playing cross-gender?

2006-05-18 13:50:44 mneme

Meg: Sideways from that—I was referring to playing in-orientation (female->male or vice versa) with a player of the same sex.

Oddly (or not so oddly), I'm not sure I've ever done male->male with a male -player-; I've done every gender combination with female players, and female->male and vice versa with male players, but not, I think, played a male gay character (or, I -think-, a female gay character) with another mail player.  Of course, part of this is that I simply do less romantic play with male players, obviously.

Getting back to the is for me, or at least sort of.  I'd actually rank the combinations as 1. Male het character, 2. Female bi character.  3. Female het character 4. Female gay character.  5. Male bi character.  6. Male gay character.

I'm not sure I've done that last, though it's not something I'm amazingly averse to.  Oh, wait—I have, in a Nazi France larp, at least, but one has to make a distinction between "characters you'll concieve of on your own" and "characters you'll play if someone else concieves them"—and due to unrelated things, that character never really went anywhere anyway.  Game systems that involve other people making up largish parts of your character blur this distinction nicely.  My women will tend to end up bi (which I think is not atypical—it's easier, for obvious reasons, for someone attracted to women to play a character attracted to women, so characters will tend to slide in that direction regardless; don't know why the slide the other way aside maybe from pushing on the other side, though I may be missing something) if they last long enough, unless I ride herd on them (which I sometimes will).  My male characters won't tend to (unless they started out that way, anyway) end up involved with men, though some have had interesting situations that ended up that way (ie, pushing (or pulling?  dunno) from the other side, with fairly enthusiastic play back on my side).

So, um...maybe?  For me, it's more of a stretch, if for no other reason than because I play cross gender a -lot-, but my orientation choices are more constrained.

2006-06-06 18:28:42 Meguey


On a biological level, that "sex just [with] me" attitude is totally reasonable. It is fascinating to me how what we love is a laugh, an interest, a way of walking etc., that make up a complete person, yet we (speaking broadly) are so often still stuck in physical affection and sex as what defines 'love'.

If two people are having sex, that carries more cultural weight than if they are spending every hour together in intense, mutually fulfilling, stimulating, creative conversation and activity.


I think for me, I've played het male, het female, gay male, gay female, bi female, bi male. I find it more challenging to play a bi character without being a stereyotype. Which is odd. I think for me it's because the mythology surrounding bi women is so huge in het-boy fantasy as shaped by media/culture/etc.

I'm always interested in seeing how deftly people can fire-wall and how much explaining "I'm not into you/him/her/this, but my character is." And in what type of game. In D&D, I ran into this a bunch; in KPFS, not so much.

2006-06-06 13:58:00 Tris

"Equating Intimacy with Sex is like equating Roleplaying with Dice."

I've tried diceless systems before.  My girlfriend didn't seem to be even slightly upset, even if I was playing them with hot grrls.

I'm not sure she'd feel the same about me screwing some other woman, even if I didn't connect with her in any (non-physical) way.

There's something hard-wired, at least for me, that much as I'd like it not to, grabs sex and says "just for me", whereas all the bits that really make me actually love someone she can share with anyone she likes.

Isn't that really odd.

2006-06-07 16:53:54 mneme

Meg: agreed that playing bi characters without slipping into stereotype is hard, largely, yes, because you're running head-first into existing stereotypes.  For guys, I think playing het women may risk falling into the same trap (as well as risk drifting the character bi, for multiple reasons).

I think my cross-gender character development has been helped a lot by most of it, especially in the formative spaces, being one-shot characters (so I could build on my last experiences rather than perpetuating existing mistakes in the name of continuity) at cons.  In terms of continuing play, there was my high school D&D shugenga (basically, a stat on the character sheet and no more) in 87, followed, eventually ('96?  '98?  Something like that), by Regina, my bi, ex-drug addict, mother of three, pagan witch.  Who was saved from stereotype, despite the bi thing, by a lot of the other stuff, by being a minor character, by being a shameless homage to a Ru Emerson character, and, eventually, by going through a radiation accident to become a full PC in the second Cthulhupunk game.

In general, I tend to be fairly cautious with players who aren't in my range nor I theirs, and make things explicit even if I think there's something there in-character and am more likely to use implicit fire-walling with players in my range and vice versa (which, of course, generally translates out to "I'll let IC romance just happen with women, but will want to double-check with men").  Some of this is just because I'm more likely to be able to read the signals women send me and confident of same; some is because I'm nervious that I'll go over someone's comfort boundaries.

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