James Edward Raggi IV (who has the most fun name to say in all of gamingdom) recently waxed verbose on the topic of Sexuality and D&D. He then invited comments on the topic, posing a handful of interesting questions. Of course, mention was soon made of the juvenile antics of teen boys playing the game, which made me think of the halcyon days of my own youth. And that made me question certain assumptions about our gaming from those days.
The assumption appears to be that sexuality is played as a lark and a joke, and works to further the power fantasies of young men with easy conquests of exotic beauties. Much could be written about that, but, at least in our case, it wasn't true, and judging by some of the stuff I've seen on the 'net, it wasn't terribly true for others, either.
First of all,yes, romance was all but non-existent. When it did happen, it was between NPCs, and was the subject of much lampooning and MST3King (long before there was an MST3K). And yes, it was all about casual romps (“hook ups” as they call 'em these days) and yes, it was pretty much governed by a series of dice rolls. But the results of those rolls bear a bit of investigation, I think.
First was the seduction roll. Do you manage to sweet-talk the object of your affection into bed? (We had one female player in those games, so it wasn't always the barmaid or Duke's daughter being wooed.) Sometimes that was followed by a roll which described the quality of the experience. But after that came an entire series of rolls that just invited disaster. Rolls for disease, rolls to see if she got pregnant, followed by a roll to see if you woke up alone with all your coin or a random magic item stolen.
Sex, in short, was dangerous.
And this pretty much mirrored how we saw it back then. Like delving into dungeons, sex was thrilling and risky, a matter for much preparation and planning, but to be tackled with swashbuckling abandon and enthusiasm. The rewards were found primarily in the daring of the deed rather than any outcome to be expected from it. It was hardly the stuff you'd assume to find in male teenage fantasies and yet it fit the character of our games perfectly. Maybe it was the risky nature of the games we played back then, or just something about the '80s that shaped the character of our games. Maybe it's different today?