As a heads up, I'm not going to be going into any graphic depictions of sex in this blog post. I am, however, going to be talking about sex in your games and sexuality in characters. Also, nothing said here is meant to insult. If I make a mistake when discussing some aspect of sexuality, please let me know I am in error.
That said, let's begin.
Sex has an interesting place at the gaming table. On the one hand, you can't go 5 steps into an internet community built around RPGs without getting some variation of "Bards seduce everything. EVERYTHING." On the other, a lot of people - with good reason - think that sex has no place at the game table or in gaming, that simply isn't the kind of content they're interested in. As always, the truth lies somewhere - generally towards the middle - in practice. Where exactly though is different from group to group. Still, done right - and maturely - sex and sexuality can add a lot to your game and your game world. So today I want to talk about it.
Limits Are Important
The most important thing to keep in mind with any conversation about sex in game sessions is that the comfort of all the players (including the GM) is more important to maintain than the desires of some group of the people at the table. Yes, flat out I am saying it, if one person is uncomfortable with sex being a part of the game, then sex should not be part of the game. You may want to have a conversation with that person about their views, but don't make a no into a yes through arguing.
This is one of the reasons that I start all my campaigns - even with people I've run for before - with a conversation about limits. Those limits often include the explicit statement "sex may happen in the game, but it won't happen at the table. We'll fade to black. If there are details that are important for the game, those will be discussed as little as necessary to convey the information needed."
It's worked so far without worries, and the times someone has brought up the limit that they didn't want even that it was honored for the game.
This is about sexuality not sex, but representation matters. Even among your friends you might not know the extent of everyone's private life and what is there. At store/internet and games where you are pulling in people you don't know this can be especially important. Even if everyone at the table is 100% straight representation matters, and you make your world feel more real and more alive by including it. You can do it without shoving it into people's eyes, but it should be there.
The Oldest Profession
Those points out of the way, sex is an important part of human history and the human condition. Beyond it's role in pro-creation, sex is also one of the common outlets for emotions and tension. As your game progresses into more complicated themes beyond "kill evil monsters get treasure" it is naturally going to come up. There is a reason prostitution is known as the oldest profession, and it is because that is how big sex is. Ever buy something from a store? Pay for a service? Perhaps subscribe to a magazine or internet service? That all started with someone paying for sex, and you know that's true because if it wasn't "merchant" or "tradesman" would be the oldest profession.
Sex is a way for characters to form or strengthen a bond. Sex makes people vulnerable and puts them into vulnerable positions. In some settings - like Rokugan - sex, and knowing who is having sex, can have political implications and repercussions. Sex determines bloodlines Finally, as set before, sex is a way to relieve mental and emotional stress, as well as tension.
These are all ways that it can come into your game, or be used in your game to make plots, further plots, or get PCs involved in plots. None of it requires any sort of details at the table beyond X and Y are having/have had sex.
Sexuality Is Part Of Who We Are
Believe it or not, our sexuality is part of who we are and has impact on not only our interactions but how we come across. Now this isn't a constant figure. Some people are more defined by their sexuality than others. For some it is a very small part of who they are. For others it is a very large part. For everyone - even if their sexuality is a lack of it - it is part of who they are.
Knowing the sexuality of a character can thus inform you about the character themselves. Are they promiscuous or more reserved? Are they aggressive and willing to make the first move, or do they prefer to be approached? Is sex something they desire, and perhaps need or want, or something they can live without. Who is the person interested in bringing to bed? Do they find certain features attractive? Repulsive? Is sex a big deal to them, to be done only with a committed partner or someone they know well? Or is it just some fun and a good way to kill time and/or make friends.
Do you see how knowing the answers to those questions can inform something of a world view for someone? Yes, it needs to be added to other things - how the character was raised, their profession, their life experiences, any racial stigmas or views they were brought up in, etc. But having this piece can enrich a character, and pursued to the fun of the game, can not only add to the stories but make the character feel like a real person and go from being just another Cleric of Light to someone players will be talking about, and remembering, for years to come.
On a larger scale, views on sex is a big part of cultures and civilizations. Some settings are more repressive and try to hide sex and have it viewed as something that shouldn't be done except for pro-creation (the Victorian era has a reputation for this.) Some settings, like Rokugan, have a very mixed view where emotions in general are to be hidden and so you can never let people see this side of you - but everyone knows it is there, and will ignore it as long as you are being appropriately discreet. Meanwhile others have gone the other way. Theah from 7th Sea 2nd Edition and the world of Dragon Age are both incredibly open and clear on both the sexes being completely equal and all relationships from 100% homosexual to 100% straight to 100% asexual are all 100% ok.
Put Them Together....
Sex is a big part of our world, in particular the social world. Wars have started over it (Troy, anyone?). And like D&D 5E spells out clearly, the three main pillars for any RPG breaks down on Exploration, Combat, and Social interaction. Sex, and through it sexuality, is part of who we are. It is part of who we are as individuals, and it is part of who we are as cultures and civilizations.
If it can be part of your game, it's worth giving some thought to. You might be amazed how different two different places can be just by changing their views on sex - or even some aspect of sex.