Telling Stories: Adult themes and porn

Yes, I know, it's a horrible logo. I'm not always good at those.

Let’s do something that I couldn’t really do back when I was writing Storyboard; let’s talk about sex.

I’ve touched on the subject before, but only broadly.  It’s hard not to.  But it’s also the elephant in the room, something that’s hard to talk about without it seeming as if that’s all you want to talk about.  Thanks to the people who use ERP as a free license to be as screamingly creepy as they could never be in the real world, no one wants to talk about it, because who in the world wants to be associated with that?

But it’s part of the territory.  Hell, it’s part of the community, something that it’s more than likely you’ve worked around even if you didn’t know it before.  So let’s talk about it, because it’s important and relevant, moreso than the roleplaying community as a whole likes to acknowledge.  Despite rumors, being involved in ERP does not automatically mean you are a supercreep, nor is it an activity solely reserved for people using it as a surrogate relationship.  Heck, you’ve quite possibly brushed up against it yourself.

One of the few times in FFXIV when dancing should not involve the Manderville.

In the midst of a group of dancing miqo’te being leered at by others, this man walked up, undressed, and started dancing. He was there for at least two hours. It was, in fact, the opposite of creepy. Bravo, sir, you are truly excellent.

In come the creeps

Here’s the problem – ERP is something that has always invited a very high quotient of people that you don’t want to interact with at all, much less roleplay with.  Which isn’t to say that it’s all of them, but it’s certainly a notable percentage.

In World of Warcraft, it was somewhere between a running joke and a dark legend that Goldshire was filled with naked low-level female characters prancing about and beckoning people into the inn.  These are not characters roleplayed to live rich inner lives.  More often than not, these are characters who exist solely for the purpose of exploring the storied land betwixt the sheets.  Far be it from me to suggest that everyone who creates these characters is doing so as a form of (ahem) self-insertion, but it certainly fits all the bits of evidence.

These people, at best, come across as kind of gross.  At worst, they’re bags of shit that are actively harassing and pressuring people, the online equivalent of a guy pressing you against a wall in a bar and whispering about what he’s going to do to you regardless of your consent.  It’s easy to get a glance at that and think that that is, in fact, the ERP community, or that anyone involved with ERP has gone that route.

But that’s not the case.  ERP is just another side of RP, just another aspect, and depending on your definition it can easily include characters discussing sex while fading to black if anything steamy starts to happen.  Like most of roleplaying, ERP has the misfortune of its most annoying and disgusting members being front-and-center while the people you’d actually like to interact with are more reserved, mostly because dealing with people who are some flavor of gross has made most veteran roleplayers vigilant in patrolling the boundaries of their personal safety.  There’s more there, and I say from experience that there are good odds that more roleplayers than you know have dipped their toes into the water, even if they don’t live for the swim.

Why even?

So why ERP in the first place, assuming you’re not in the aforementioned creep contingent?  Well, for starters, the fact that you’re not a creepy harassing jerk doesn’t mean you don’t like erotica.  It comes down to your personal tastes, and some people really enjoy reading fiction about characters that they know knocking boots.

For that matter, sometimes a lot of very important character development can come out of those interactions.  It can be cold and businesslike, quick and flirty, slow and romantic, silly and affectionate… there are lots of varieties, and what characters are doing up to that point and why they wind up where they are is sometimes very, very relevant.  Sex and sexuality aren’t super important to everyone, but they’re natural human priorities, and they inform facets of our behavior as much as anything else.

When done with a non-creepy agenda, ERP can be something fun for both participants, and a chance to step outside of yourself.  It’s crafting something consensual and sensual in what should be a safe space and with the understanding that it’s not indicative of the people behind the characters.  You can find things out about your characters you might not know otherwise, get a keener insight into their motivations and what they’re after.  The stigma is there because no one wants to invite the creepy portions into the fold as a whole, but the net result is that a lot of non-creepy people who enjoy ERP just the same wind up getting painted with a rough brush.

Seriously, Vic's a creep and a half, but that's kind of the point.

One of my favorite characters to play, but I have to be very careful with him out of fear that he comes across as an author avatar.

Still a closet

Half of the problem, of course, is the fact that there is seriously no discussion about ERP to be found.  Like, anywhere.

I’m as guilty of this as anyone else, due to both space and platforms; I’ve made my share of jokes about games like Second Life existing solely for the purpose of facilitating pretend hookups, despite the fact that I know people who are both excellent roleplayers and Second Life ERP adherents.  (To be at least slightly fair to myself, the jokes predate the friendships, and I stopped making them.)  But we’re in an environment in which no one is willing to talk about ERP for fear of a stigma, and the result is that having a discussion about the very idea becomes like an admission that you belong in the same bucket as the super-creepy contingent.

We as a community have ceded the stage of sexual interactions to the people who make the very idea of including them in roleplay gross and uncomfortable.  And we’ve done so by default, by making it a subject that is not discussed under any circumstances, much less one that we admit happens on a regular basis.

So what do you do?  Well, you start opening up discussions and hope that people take part.  Which is what I’m doing here.  Yes, there are creepy people involved in ERP.  Lots of them.  No, it’s not my main thing.

No, it’s not filled with universally creepy people, and no, it’s not shameful to be interested or take part.  And yeah, there’s a lot of merit there, and space to have a discussion.  If we ever want this to stop being something hidden away, that means opening the door and exposing it to the light.

Feedback, like always, is welcome down below or by mail, or by whatever other means you’d like to use to comment.  Next time I’d like to praise the virtues of being special in small ways, and the week after that, I want to branch out again by talking about how online games can enhance your tabletop experience.

Advertisements

About expostninja

I've been playing video games and MMOs for years, I read a great deal of design articles, and I work for a news site. This, of course, means that I want to spend more time talking about them. I am not a ninja.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: