Friday, November 19, 2010

Roleplaying: Space for Futasexuals

Whether futasexuality is real or not, it is a fact that people who are into futanari can be found in places where online roleplaying is practiced. Over at Futanari Palace I'm always seeing topics on the boards asking where the futanari fans can be found in online MMORPGs such as City of Heroes/Villains or Champions Online. There's an entire section devoted to Second Life.

I should backpedal a little bit and try to explain what roleplaying means, and how it compares between the cyber world and the meat world. Roleplaying is essentially what actors do: they leave themselves behind and step into the role of another character, acting the way they would based on their traits and personality. Since you're reading this blog, you're probably technologically savvy enough to have heard the term "role playing game" (RPG for short) somewhere before, which could refer to a genre of video games or the pen-and-paper predecessors like Dungeons & Dragons or Shadowrun. (I just had to give a shoutout to Shadowrun, I'm a fan of it.) Some roleplaying game systems, like certain editions of Vampire: The Masquerade, use real life as the medium, and are referred to as "live-action roleplaying games", or LARP for short. Basically they're rule sets for what you see kids doing all the time: pretending to be the characters they see on television or in stories or insert your choice of media here. I personally believe that I've become jaded and lost my empathy because I stopped doing that kind of kiddy stuff.

Roleplaying is often used in sexual settings. Wikipedia has an article devoted to sexual roleplay. A common stereotype in comedy settings is that a couple will partake in roleplaying to "spice up" their sex life, and the results are portrayed as being awkward or hilarious when out of context. Roleplaying in the bedroom can vary from light changes of demeanor to fully scripted BDSM-style scenes. But that's the physical world. And like I've said before, futanari isn't real, and has no analogue in the physical world. Futanari has more of a presence on the internet. What's roleplaying like online?

Roleplaying games can certainly be played online easily. For video games, there's emulators, some of which have online multiplayer features. For Dungeons & Dragons, the paper and dice are replaced with text windows and random number generators. Another kind flourishes in various message boards, which I can only describe as open roleplaying stories: each user posts a write-up of their character in a separate thread, and then can jump into an on-going story with everyone else's characters. Perhaps the most famous board where this takes place is Gaia Online. I won't get into the specifics of it too much, but usually some ground rules are laid down and there are also parallel "out of character" threads where people can comment on the direction the story is going. In the actual thread, posts consist only of in-character narrative storytelling.

Speaking of ground rules, what happens when the story takes on a sexual nature?

Cybersex is a word that feels quite antiquated to me, but its meaning hasn't really changed. It refers to (at least) two people sending text back and forth that describes a sexual experience. To compare it to older practices, it's like phone sex or whispering what you're going to do to your partner once their clothes are slightly more off. The interesting thing about the internet, remember, is that someone might not be who they say they are. This makes it a perfect vehicle for doing exactly what roleplaying is meant for: transporting away the self and making way for a new character. Cybersex certainly doesn't have to be a literal description of its users; each person could make up a new persona, who may have a completely different background, body type, age...or gender.

These are just timid examples. The possibilities are far greater than that, but they don't have to be. I've only cybered once - in the role of the opposite sex, too - and thought it was okay. A very flattering experience, actually, but too engaging for me to masturbate to while participating. I think it would work best to keep a record of the experience for posterity and then throw it into one's porn collection. What I recall fondly as a funny detail was that I actually played my character as a futanari, and my partner wasn't into that, so I transformed my character into one definite sex for their sake. This took place on Phantasy Star Online, an RPG video game, by the way - definitely no futanari in the canon setting. I might still have some screenshots I took from the session, too...

Anyway, that encounter is an example of setting limits before beginning the scene, which is exactly what practitioners of BDSM do. While I'm not into that stuff myself per se, I consider that group to be the utmost experts on roleplaying in general. BDSM has a strong stigma of abuse surrounding it, but the key to it all is that all participants have consent, and have a general idea of what will take place during the scene. Even people who don't like being hit by things can apply this practice to their vanilla sex life, or...anything, really. Setting rules is also what makes competitive games work. People win chess tournaments by playing by the rules, not by hitting their opponents. (Unless it's full-contact chess.)

The positive influence of BDSM can be seen in the sexual arena. Scarleteen, a non-profit sexual education resource, has a large and effective "consent list" that partners can fill out for each other, so limits can be known without having to say it in awkward terms. The BDSM Resource Center has a brilliant scoring rubric as their checklist, so survey takers can self-evaluate how badly they really want to try certain kinks. And for the online cybersex equivalent, there's The Rabbit Hole, which is a roleplaying profile listing site meant for furries. Wait, what?

Now if you looked at all three, you probably noticed The Rabbit Hole is weirdest by far. Some of the kinks listed there seem to have no basis in reality. Avians? Cervical penetration? Vore? These things all seem quite impossible in real life. I could probably go on about this a lot longer, but suffice to say that hentai, and those with strong taste in it (like myself) evolved in quite a different direction from people who have sex in reality, because hentai is best at portraying sexual fantasy. Furries have different needs because cybersex is a convenient medium for sexual interaction. I could talk about furries in a different post, but I'm sure others have already explained that territory better than I ever could. That said, I see the Rabbit Hole used by a lot of non-furries too, it just started out to serve that interest group. Tons of people's signatures on Darknest link to their Rabbit Hole page, so anyone curious can play with them and know what to expect (or more accurately, what they expect).

Cybersex is a thriving domain for futasexuals. People can inhabit the body of a futanari if they so choose, or engage in sex with futanari. I know there's a flourishing scene for it over on Second Life, but I haven't seen it for myself - yet. I remember downloading Second Life when it was somewhat newer and trying it out on a very crappy old laptop I had, but the framerate was horrible so I gave up on the first screen. I guess I missed out on a burgeoning era. I never had any luck finding other futasexuals on PSO...well actually I met a MtF transexual, who was a very inspirational person to me. I remember being filled with a strange, torturous twinge of something like love the next day, but after a long walk outside I was able to reason with it. Still a nice feeling.

I've never felt that way about another person in the meat world.

I suppose that's proof enough, to me, that online roleplaying presents space for futasexuals. Every once in a while I become tempted to try cybersex again, in character of course, then I get distracted or intimidated and give up. It's not like me to be intimidated by social settings, either - I'm fairly extroverted - I think it's my weak sense of empathy and trepidation at the thought of improvising. But improvising is great; I know because I can do it in music. And improvising in sexual settings is great, too. Knowing what to expect makes it a chore. But knowing limits won't be crossed is also re-assuring and allows me to get really into it.

I'm just a bit sore that BDSM's practices for setting rules aren't more prevalent in online roleplaying settings. I'm even more sore that futanari is not widely recognized by BDSM. But BDSM has been around longer than the internet, and would probably know better than to include something that isn't a real fetish, like I said. I guess it might be a subset of genderplay. But I've never, ever, ever heard a kinkster say the word futanari. Spoken aloud, or in print. Is there an effort to divorce this aspect of the hentai world, and maybe others, from BDSM? I have to wonder. I think the two worlds could teach each other a lot.


While typing up this post, I came to realize this blog has a very dry, stern tone...I'll try to fix that up as it goes on. But I'm still laying out the basics. Plus, this is supposed to be more of an anthropology project and less of a sex blog...but I want it to be both.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"Futasexual": A Possible Orientation Vector?

Five nights ago, I rose from a one-hour nap and my roommate Q had come home with two girls. I recognized one of them, she knew me and we'd hung out before. She's a lesbian, by the way, and I presumed her friend who came with also was. I already had plans, so I left after a bit of banter. I also thought I might get in Q's way of having some physical fun with them, or in between the two ladies who had arrived. Sometimes I feel awkward in such situations, other times I feel very intimate and involved. It can really vary. But I digress.

Part of me had a twinge of guilt at denying that primal urge to get in there and help pretend to procreate somehow. But my rational mind dismissed it, and I trudged on to my original evening plans. And I had a great time. I came home later that night and Q was missing, so I assumed he had taken himself with more pressing needs, hopefully one of the girl's places. I asked the next day and he actually went to another woman's house entirely...he has a lot of female friends. Also, I hadn't missed much, except possibly the two ladies making out on Q's bed. Guess I lucked out on this choice.

Don't get me wrong, there is no moral to the story. "Hah, screw potential relationships or flings and have fun elsewhere!" No, I'm going to rationalize my decision.

I recently explained what futanari was to a boy I met who was in my room at the moment. I told him I identified myself as "futasexual", and tried to explain my definition of the term. Let's say, for example, that I'm a cis bi-curious-curious* male. Though I've stuck to one side of the orientation scale for the most part, futanari has made me develop an interest and appreciation in the other side. This isn't the case for everyone, but it's how it worked for me. If arguments that keep erupting on 4chan and Gelbooru are any indication, most males have an instinct to lash out at any depiction at a penis, and paint any other man who enjoys these depictions as irredeemably homosexual. "You're not attracted to the woman, you're attracted to the penis attached." This argument is flawed in a great amount of ways but the simple answer is "If that were true, these people would just move over to gay porn, where there are more penises".

Anyway, this boy caught on with what I said fairly well, though he couldn't get into futa like I could. So I would say he was not a futasexual. Did that mean we were uncompatible? No, not entirely. It was more our own usual sexual orientations holding us back. But as another example, I once asked a female friend of mine about her thoughts on futanari, and said it was not for her. The virtues of the male personality and physique were appealing to her, and futanari is a way of divorcing the male sex organ from those virtues. Though she is very physically attractive, and there may be a potential attraction between us, I would not pursue a relationship with her because I know she's not as futasexual as I. (Value-neutral sex would be just fine, of course, but if you follow the link you'll see that it's not necessarily a good idea.)

I made a post over at Futanari Palace's Discussion board (login account needed to see the place, but you can make one for free quickly and easily) to ask what people thought of the term. FP is the largest and certainly most resourceful futanari community I've encountered, so I should hope to find the most passionate (supposed) futasexuals there. But the results made me do a double take. The poll that went with the topic
had a 60/40 split between "Yes, I see myself as futasexual" and "This term is stupid, and there's no such orientation". The former didn't leave any responses in the topic, so I estimate they didn't examine my opening post very closely and just voted for the affirmative-looking answer. The written replies seemed to echo the latter vote. I think green52's response put it best:

I agree that the term is unnecessary if futanari don't exist. Your orientation is defined by who you flirt with at a bar, not what you beat off [to]. "Feet" isn't an orientation.

I'm not sure why I didn't think of this myself. The foot fetish, rampant and fervent its followers may be, don't get a term like "podosexual" to indicate their love for feet. In terms of compatibility, they need someone with feet, not someone who also has a foot fetish. So what's the futasexual equivalent, in this context? I can only love someone with a penis? That's certainly not true. I can only become enamoured by a trans person, or anyone with many travels through the gender spectrum? No, to date all my lovers have been cis. I can only love another futasexual? Maybe. Like I said, I'm very left-brained, and a bit more on the T side of the Meyers-Briggs scale. I consider my level of empathy too low to engage in love, or even risk getting involved in such a nebulous concept, for the sake of the other person. If to love someone means spending an indefinitely long amount of time with them, then yes, I would certainly prefer that they be into futanari, although I think the only possible end result of that would be the subject of our dirty talking and potential role playing scenes. If that's the case, being futasexual doesn't even matter a whole lot, does it?

But like I said before, being into futa for so many years has entangled and influenced my other orientation vectors. All that fetish cross-polination the Wikipedia article mentioned certainly fits the bill, too. I've seen no end of crazy things on this here internet thanks to my pursuit of futanari, more things a timid straight-laced person would never hope to see, and gained appreciation for several of them. I knew I liked futanari as soon as I saw it, which would ring true for anyone who discovers their secret orientation later in life. Now I feel like I'm having queer sex, even in the most vanilla of settings. But I think I know why that was the case, which I will cover in a later, later post.

In my next post I'll talk about role-playing, and what its significance is for futasexuals, whether they exist or not. Leave some comments for me. I want to know if people think futasexuality is a real phenomenon or not.

*Bi-curious-curious is just jokes. "Sometimes I lay awake late at night, wondering if I'm bi-curious." Let's say, to continue the example, that I'm a 75% straight male.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Futanari: A Proper Introduction

I feel like the initial post of this blog doesn't quite do justice to the obscure yet expansive phenomenon of futanari. I've read countless other essays and descriptions of futanari before, and Wikipedia has a good one (not work safe, if you decide to look up the term there), so I feel I shouldn't try to re-invent the wheel here. The sources I read were unabashed and sometimes smutty, though, so I'll try to write a pro-pornography style treatise, without being smutty. (If you want a smutty treatise, check out this in-depth essay at Elegant Succubus. NWS, obviously. But there are links to some work-safe reading material on there, which is here and here.)

Generally, people explain the appeal of futanari from a mainstream pornography perspective. They'll say something like "It's like hetero porn, but without a yucky male physique" or "It's like lesbian porn, but with a money shot and penetration so it isn't boring". I'm in agreement with these sentiments, and they're good enough for me, but not good enough for this blog. Note that both of these statements imply that a "futanari" is equivalent to "a woman with a penis", no matter what. Hence the colloquial term "dickgirl". (I have to admit I didn't put much thought into the name of this blog, but displaying the term in large letters, calling attention to its limiting and mildly offensive meaning, is part of my way of deconstructing the term.)

Like I said in the opening post, the etymology behind the term futanari is loaded. "Two forms" leads to a lot of possibilities, that is if humanity does exist in a mere gender binary. "Female + penis" is by far the most common, but what about other combinations? Male + vagina? I've definitely seen "cuntboy" art out there, and I find it fascinating. (If anyone feels like getting uppity about what words I use for female genitalia, see this post from The 1585.) What about more analogue definitions? Despite looking at this stuff for upwards of six years, the only perceived effort to portray true hermaphrodites I've found is by krisCrash (some thumbnails are NWS, be careful, but the gallery is pretty tame overall). I think it's because most people can say they prefer one sex over the other, and striking too fine a balance in appearance is too far removed from the human experience to be able to get off to it.

Yet, paradoxically, nothing is further removed from the human experience than the portrayal of futanari. In reality, intersexed people are never born with both sets of genitals fully functioning. Transwomen can be effectively castrated by hormone therapy (if they haven't undergone SRS yet) and are not seen as virile as most sex-addicted, juice-spraying futanari. For those like me who like seeking out transwoman on ciswoman porn, I haven't seen much where the transwoman is really into it, because - guess what - most of the population is heterosexual, so a woman, trans or not, probably isn't attracted to another woman. Whereas in the impossible futanari world, dick-less women are seduced and conquered by all manner of futanari for various reasons, as if a futanari's insatiable need to get off is even greater than a high school boy's. As for futa on male stuff, that actually could have some comparisons in the real world, but I'll write about that later. The vast majority of futanari material out there does not involve strictly male characters - it's usually futanari with "natural" women, or futas with other futas. ("Futa" is used as shorthand for a single futanari person in the community.) It's easy to see that futanari is effort to strip males away from hentai completely, and this will be the biggest issue I write about, but...later. (Another issue I want to quickly assuage: some people are upset by the use of male/female instead of man/woman, I guess, but the futanari community isn't. Also, look at the Wiktionary definition; I think the issue is that "female" could refer to female animals, but if that's the context that makes women feel queasy or afraid, then I have to say that's illogical. Zoophiles are probably more interested in raping animals than women, right?)

So what then, is the appeal of futanari? What is the point of it, if it cannot manifest in reality, like typical fetishes and paraphilias that are well-documented? Look at this expansive fetish map from 2002. Although furries are listed on there, giving reference to a well-known Internet subculture, there is no inkling of futanari on there at all. It must not even be a real fetish then. Indeed, it is not. Wikipedia says a sexual fetish is an object "not conventionally viewed as being sexual in nature needed to satisfy." What I get out of that is, "you perceive something non-sexual to be so sexual, its presence is essential for you to achieve orgasm". Like needing the walls of the room to be pink, or getting it on under a Christmas tree. And given that futanari should have an expanded meaning of "a person with alternate sex organs", it's irrefutable that the subject matter is already sexual in nature, and impossible to consider as a fetish. Yet people still list an interest in futanari as a "fetish" of theirs, when it might be more accurate to say they either have a penis fetish (need one in their lesbian porn) or a vulva fetish (need one in their gay porn...wait, not really).

Like certain branches of pornography, futanari is a zenith of escapism, a highly elaborate fantasy. The removal of male presence has an element of voyeurism for males who partake in viewing it, although for me, it's a strange kind of sub-voyeurism where I no longer even exist. The fact that it's very unrealistic means that suspension of disbelief can be empowered to its utmost; if one rule is broken, then the artist may as well break all of them. Futanari characters are often given unbelievable proportions, godlike stamina, and can be manipulative beyond understanding. This is why the Wikipedia article brililantly used the term "cross-pollination" in its futanari article, for a futanari character can infiltrate any fantasy setting. This is a fundamental difference between "futasexuals" (more on that term later) and the heteronormative general population: whenever a penis is spotted, the latter will think, "that's attached to a man", and then recalls all the notions that go with it. If said latter subject is a straight man, they'll be repulsed and accuse any male onlookers of being homosexual, even though all men have penises and (hopefully) don't feel gay when looking down at themselves. But a futasexual will see potential, and imagine what kind of woman might be attached to it. To give an example from computer science, it's kind of like object inheritance, or if you're a pervert, type-casting. (As an exercise to any adventurous futasexual reading this, try imagining a man attached to a vulva you see. And no, it doesn't have to be Buck Angel.) Likewise, women may be imagined to be packing male genitals, until proof otherwise can be seen firsthand. (Never seen your prof naked? She's totally a futa. Now you know why all the girls who see her in her office hours get higher marks.) Social contexts, re-imagined in this fashion, can have dizzying scope. Then again, I guess other fetishes can too, if you inject that into what you overhear in everyday life, but since most people have genitals futanari fantasy can act in a variety of ways. Imagine a woman with a full set of male parts, and then you can imagine her having all the difficulties of male genitals, such as uninvited erections. Add in other aspects of male fetishes and sexuality, and it gets more complicated; maybe she discovers later she's into cock and ball torture? (Couldn't find a work-safe link for that, sorry.) Men transforming gradually into women is another common theme in the futanari world, which is the closest thing we have on a large scale to the mirror image, where men begin to experience the troubles women have. Hopefully it isn't too hard to see how playing around with gender roles and sexual tension like this can make for a flavourful fantasy setting, one that has a vast following, if underground.

So there you have it. Futanari can be summarized as fantasy, not fetish, involving the swapping of genitals, or gender roles. Unfortunately, this only works if it operates on stereotypes. This post by Maymay, for instance, shows that some gender roles are still firmly entrenched. If the LGBTQ movement had been underway a long time ago, enough time to inform everyone about the fluidity of gender and sexual orientation, futanari might not exist, because the notion of combining the sexes wouldn't seem exotic or even taboo any more. Maybe that's why I've never heard a self-identified queer person ever mention the topic. The issue of "how do I combine the sexes and present them in one form?" either never comes up, or is a question already answered, or is a faulty question to begin with.

Too bad breaking stereotypes and defying the status quo is hot.