A WAY WITH
SEX: A completely boring discussion
By Steven Savage
Archives available at The Way With Worlds Home Page
Despite the title, I'm afraid this column is going to be rather dry - what to look for when dealing with love and reproduction in designing your world and its contents. There shouldn't be anything here that will offend anyone or be inappropriate - consider this column as "Rated R" for your own assessment. So, if you're worried you may be offended, please go somewhere else, if not - read on.
Anyway, on to creating worlds and sex. Sex is going to be part of your world as long as you have living and emotional creatures in it. If people/creatures in your tales fall in love and reproduce, you'll need to deal with it in your world design.
Sadly, in discussing sex in a continuity or a story, people get confused, lost, embarrassed, misdirected, or overly concerned. So, in this column, I'm going to look at areas of your continuity and world where you'll need to deal with issues of sex. Think of it as a checklist and map to avoid confusion.
So, without further ado - where sex impacts your story.
If you have stories with regular humans, then you know how you get more humans . . . or do you.
Let's be honest - if the biological aspect of sex is going to impact your story, KNOW YOUR SUJECT MATTER. Any biological process is usually more complex than it seems, from vision to digestion to reproduction. Pregnancy, physical reactions, chance of miscarriages, diseases - they're not simple to describe. If you write them, be sure you know what you're talking about.
If you aren't dealing with humans, then you have to ask how your species in question reproduce - and again, it's not as easy as it may look. A few good books on biology and different species on earth my give you some idea.
If you think reproduction is simple, ask your parents. I'm sure they'll inform you in excruciating, guilt-inducing detail, that you are wrong.
When writing about sex and related issues (romance, etc.), you'll run into dealing with the human mind - love, hate, jealousy, guilt, paternal/maternal feelings, and more.
This is another case of knowing your subject matter and being realistic - almost everyone has some opinion on love and sex, and your characters may if they're old enough. Take the time to figure out their attitudes, it will likely come up in a story - and definitely will if you have any romantic plots.
In the case of non-humans, you've got to determine how minds work and then individual personalities and opinions about sex, etc. In this case, you're back to biology for part of your explanation - and for humans and new races, you also have to remember psychology comes from society . . .
You don't have a society without people. To get people you need to have reproduction, and to have a society, you need to have ways people come together. Both of these, of course, can evolve sex and love.
Constructing a society's attitude towards sex is not as easy as it may sound, and most societies approaches to dealing with sex and love are not as simple as they sound. If you're using a culture like one you live in now, analyze it carefully and don't make assumptions. If you're designing a new cultures . . .
Then, as I've advised before, do research, get to know other cultures, especially cultures reminiscent of the one you're designing. Write down the important aspects, traditions, beliefs, and taboos of your culture or cultures, and make sure they make sense - if not in what they do, then in why they exist.
Remember that traditions and taboos exist for a reason, and they may NOT make sense - having outlived their usefulness, being manipulated, etc. When you reach sensitive areas of human life, such social complexities can only get . . . well, more complex.
Spirituality? Yes, it does relate to sex, love, and reproduction.
If you're dealing with religion as a large part of your world or story, the religions, religious professionals, and the gods themselves may have opinions and policies. In the end, religion really is how people understand and relate to the universe - and that includes sex.
As much as you may run into embarrassment, concern, etc. in dealing with sex and related issues in your world, you will likely have to. Do your research, remember the different levels it may involve, and forge on ahead.
I've focused a lot on utility and self-promotion - now a quick look at places to get inspiration:
Memepool - Just all sorts of weird, interesting, and strange stuff, updated reguarly. You never know what you'll see.
News of the Weird - Get the latest updates on human strangeness and the human condition. When you can start making up things as weird as these, then you understand humanity.