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.

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