Telling Stories: The attraction

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

Anyone who thinks that sexuality doesn’t define you as a person has never been a teenager.

I don’t mean that as a positive or negative thing, but as a statement of fact.  Sure, my experience as a 16-year-old boy staring at girls and being very interested in them isn’t the sole defining characteristic I have as a person, but it had a lot of influence on my development as a person.  It informs some of who I am now as an adult, half a life later.  It affects a lot of the person I am, and my comfort level with it affects the things I’ll do and talk about.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty sure that no one reading this is terribly interested in a detailed self-analysis when it comes to my particular bedroom preferences.  That’s not the point here; this is a roleplaying column, after all.  It’s about the way that your character’s sexuality can influence your character, and how broad a field that can be overall.  There’s a lot going on there, and even if you don’t intend to have your roleplaying circle around it, it’s worth addressing.

This picture is mostly unrelated, I just like the facial expression.

It’s a long flight over Wilderrun, you have to be thinking about something.

Before we go any further, I should note that your character having a distinct sexuality from your own is useful, good, and not an acceptable excuse for being a creeplord.  If you’re making a character something other than heterosexual because you want to explore what that means and you have a character for whom it makes logical sense, great.  If you’re doing so because you think that the ensuing makeouts will be super hot and you will not hush up about them, you are doing it wrong.

So why think about character sexuality?  Because it’s useful and informative.  It informs decisions that you make during your day-to-day life anyway.  You laugh, sure, but you also get just a bit more self-conscious when you know that the cute girl or boy from two doors down is watching you work out.  Even if you’re married and not in a relationship where anything extramarital would be on the table.  We’re attracted to the people we’re attracted to, it’s just the nature of the beast.

Right away, this is relevant to your character’s roleplaying – who does she find cute?  Who will she flirt with?  The two aren’t necessarily even the same; your character might be gay as the day is long, but she could just enjoy flirting with people.  It’s just a different sort of flirting, more playful and less concerned with any possibilities of romantic interludes.  Or maybe she’s not a flirt, period, whether or not she finds someone cute.

For that matter, how does she act toward people she finds cute?  Does she try to get someone else to make the first move, or is she willing to be the one who walks over and asks for a date?  How long does it take her to ask for a date?  What does she do on a date?  How comfortable is she discussing these matters with people she’s not necessarily attracted to?  How aggressive does she tend to be once she’s found someone she likes?

Note that this is all useful information, even if you don’t have the slightest interest in making it a focal point of your roleplaying.  Maybe it’s never going to come up that your character has a huge crush on her teacher, what with her fear of intimacy and her inability to express what she wants in a vocal sense.  (Not to mention the fact that her teacher is married and apparently uninterested.)  But it is going to influence the way she acts around her teacher, and it tells you something about her as a person.  If she has the crush but never acts upon it, it implies that she’s fine just being around someone, even if it never turns sexual.

Ah, well, other games.

If there were ever a character where I wish I had more screenshots…

Maybe your character is theoretically pansexual, but he’s really only attracted to specific people without much concern for their gender.  Maybe your character really likes having casual encounters with women but forms deeper emotional bonds with men, so if pressed he’d call himself gay but it’s really more complex than that.  Perhaps he’s straight, but he’s also comfortable enough doing so that he isn’t disturbed by the thought of contact with another man, even though he’s not no particular interest in it.  Maybe lots of things.

All of these traits help you understand who your character is.  I’ve talked in the past about character circles, and sexuality is one of those things that’s near the core for many people.  Having it further afield alone can be interesting; if it turns out that sexuality isn’t really important to your character one way or the other.  Some people have sexuality as more of a biological need than anything else, and that’s fine too.

It informs a person’s attributes.  It explains some of their history.  I have a character who loves dudes, but tends to make really dumb choices about who she dates and when she does so.  Her entire life is a history of bad luck and mistakes, in large part because she keeps making dumb choices.  To her, it’s an inevitable fact of life.  Realistically, it’s a product of her poor decision-making skills and a tendency to fixate on men that look good over those that are any good for her.

Does that make her dumb?  Hell no.  She’s just passionate and bases her decisions more upon that than long-term viability.  In the roleplaying I’ve had with her, she had at least one long-term relationship that was a real struggle for her, because she had someone who was attracted to her and cared.  The problem was that she wasn’t attracted to women, even if in this case she wanted to be, because it would make life so much easier…

Sexuality is important to human beings, and it influences our choices.  It drives our first impressions, it colors our ways of looking at the world, it distinctly influences how we think about the world.  Even if you’d prefer to not turn your roleplaying into endless examination of who’s boffing who, it’s well worth figuring it out.

Feedback is welcome however you’d care to leave it, just like every week.  Next time I want to talk about a game’s mechanics catching up to the same place that you’ve been in for roleplaying for a while and how to compensate for the change.  After that, let’s talk about the difference between being rude and just getting yourself involved in roleplaying as you pass by.

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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.

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