Author Topic: Turning Same-Sex PCs On  (Read 14749 times)

dragonraven

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Turning Same-Sex PCs On
« on: May 05, 2013, 09:41:24 PM »
Myself, and friends, get to gather in a few days to play some Monsterhearts. Super excited.

Some of my friends and I are finding a problem with the Turn Someone On move, specifically used on males PCs, to other male PCs.  The male making the roll gets to describe his pouty lips, and strong hands, and thus (depending on the roll) gets to inform how the other character is turned on.

I've been trying to analyze this, wondering if it's the homophobia in me that is uncomfortable with the implications of this move. 

I do understand what the move is trying to do, having read the Queer Content section in the book:

"Characters can't help what arouses them ... It pushes the characters to some interesting places ... it creates another dimension to the character." (paraphrasing)

That's great from a storytelling perspective, but-

But it feels kinda false, like it doesn't spring from the fiction or from a logical place I can relate to.  Being a heterosexual male myself, I cannot remember anything so explicit ever happening like that in my life.  And I'm just going to assume most other hetero males cannot recall anything like that as well.  Also, it seems kinda absurd to tell another PC male that "your character is turned on! He is gay!" 

Aside from (immature?) statements like that, it is also a little hard to believe, because the move is telling the player how he ought to act, and what's he's supposed to feel, which takes volition and ownership away from the player.  That's the biggest problem I have with the move.

So question, does the other male have to be 'turned on' or can the move do other things instead? (like mesmerize the other character, impress them, etc)  Why does it seem like all the male characters are just a heartthrob and a dice roll from turning gay?  Should I just swallow my questions and accept the system/fiction?

What have other players done, in a male played game of Monsterhearts?

Chamomile

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Re: Turning Same-Sex PCs On
« Reply #1 on: May 05, 2013, 11:35:53 PM »
It's really weird that you single this out as a problem for male characters, because it's not like female characters can't be forced to go lesbian at a moment's notice in the exact same way.  The fact that you keep coming around to how its males being turned on by the same sex, apparently completely oblivious to the fact that lesbians are also a thing and also supported by game mechanics, suggests to me that yeah it's just latent homophobia, so get over it.

There isn't really a ton of loss of player agency, either.  Your character is turned on by something, but it's up to you what they do with that information.  Maybe they snap out of it a few minutes later and it's just a phase.  Maybe they're actually full on gay.  Whatever's cool with you.

dragonraven

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Re: Turning Same-Sex PCs On
« Reply #2 on: May 06, 2013, 01:44:27 AM »
Ha.  Yes.  This question arises to female Turning On Female characters.  It can also apply to a homosexual character being Turned On by a member of the opposite sex.

I'm using the male on male example because the PCs are male. 

My raging homophobia aside, I'm still trying to process this move and what it means for a heterosexual same-sex character Turning On another heterosexual same-sex character.  Are they 'turned gay.'

Or can the 'turning on' be something non-sexual?  An attraction to be like someone you wish you were? (as a friend suggested)

Daniel Wood

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Re: Turning Same-Sex PCs On
« Reply #3 on: May 06, 2013, 04:03:23 AM »
Or can the 'turning on' be something non-sexual?  An attraction to be like someone you wish you were? (as a friend suggested)

That's certainly how many self-identifying straight teenagers are likely to interpret their feelings, in that situation. Repression/sublimation are useful tools for coping with a complicated existence. Trying to decipher the difference between 'I want to BE you' and 'I want to DO you' is one of those fundamental teenage romantic difficulties, IMO, especially when it comes to the same sex.

I think this focus on whether or not they are being 'turned gay' is pretty far past the point; if the PC is heterosexual prior to the use of the move, then at most they would be 'turned bisexual'? Whatever that means?

The idea that these labels are prescriptive rather than descriptive is one of the things the game and this move are challenging. Not everyone is a 0/6 on the Kinsey Scale, and so even if you as a player have not had these sorts of experiences what the game is telling you is that your character does have them, sometimes, and how your character deals with that is probably going to be fairly interesting.

It seems to me you are asking the move to tell you too much about the characters. All it tells you is that, in that moment, they were sexually aroused/engaged by that other character. The idea that this fact, alone, could account for their sexual identity (they must be gay! now they're straight!), is not only wrong but also undermines the degree to which the move is specifically meant to show how that isn't so. The move provides an opportunity for your character to shape their sexual identity based not on how they feel or how their body reacts in the moment, but how they choose to act in response.





rusted barrel

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Re: Turning Same-Sex PCs On
« Reply #4 on: May 06, 2013, 07:14:21 PM »
still finding this move particularly weird, and I think it should feel so for everyone - homosexuals, bis, straights and whatever other identification you happen to be.  Attraction is not a test of strength or chance, it doesn't work more the harder you push.  You know those old carnival test your strength games, with the hammer and the bell at the top and if you hit it hard enough, bing, you get the prize?  This mechanic feels like that.  Oh, hot roll, now I'm leaning towards whichever way the wind blows.

  Dragonraven and I were bantering about this topic and came to a point of "well maybe we're overanalyzing and we should just roll with it" but I'm thinking, the game designer *chose* the name of the move.  He didn't choose "envy" or "impress" or "wow", so he's trying to say something about the make of the world - and maybe that's as far as it should go, that in "this" world and game, that is how things work - but I think an idea, a mechanic that expresses should be able to take a good shaking down, and I'm still unsatisfied with the logic of it.

Attraction leads to orientation, I think it's false and in bad faith to just say "oh, well you're attracted to this or that, but you don't have to feel it or do anything about it, you get to chose your response after this response is chosen for you".  That begs the question of why is it in the game, if it doesn't do anything?  A guru roleplaying friend once was fond of saying "If it is in the rules, it is in the game, it is real".  Or, the volition flipside which Dragonraven brought up, and I haven't seen addressed properly, and I believe is of utmost importance.

Which follows to, if I'm repeatedly finding myself swinging one way or the other or back and forth (because Chamomile was right, this applies as much to man-hating lesbians as to sworn off sex christians as to strongly identifying homosexual males or come-what-may bisexuals, or sluts of any gender, because that terms is multi-applicable, to whatever realistic nuance or comical stereotype you like, because the real world is full of both and everything in between, so the game world should have that as well) how can I just say "no, that's not really how I feel"?  Because that is what the dice will do to your character.

If I get shot in game, I don't argue about the harm, oh well, I got shot, deal with the consequences, maybe I should have thought out the plan better.  If I do the research roll, I found out the ancient secret or not.  Maybe I try again later, maybe I have to change tactics, whatever.  The fact this roll waffles -- well, it happened, you felt like this, but you don't have to *really* feel like this -- is a cop out.  I think this roll should have some spine, or should not be in the game.

I dig the youth aspect, I dig the supernatural horror, but mechanizing sexuality is proving to be unsatisfying.

Chamomile

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Re: Turning Same-Sex PCs On
« Reply #5 on: May 06, 2013, 08:15:47 PM »
It is true that the rules of the game are the laws of reality, that game rules either shape the narrative or else they are pointless busywork because the narrative is the game, and that's true even in games that have stronger routes in wargames than storytelling.  In D&D, most of the fiddly little bonuses are about knocking off HP or being 5% less likely to get hit or whatever, but all of that means something in the narrative, too.  Sometimes it's kind of bizarre and hard to imagine how it would work in the narrative (4e especially was rife with powers that were mechanically interesting, but left it entirely up to the player to figure out how the Hell the characters could actually do that in the narrative), but nevertheless when the bad guys' HP goes low enough they die in the narrative and not just in game mechanics.  So yeah, a rule that doesn't affect the narrative doesn't actually exist.  Honestly, that's not exactly guru wisdom, that's the most fundamental aspect of RPG design there is.

Sorry, that probably didn't deserve a whole paragraph, but how little understood that concept is kind of bugs me.

Regardless, look up the Kinsey Scale.  Someone else has already mentioned it.  And then consider the staggering number of people who experiment with homosexuality in high school or college before deciding they don't like it and moving on to completely straight lives.  As it happens, sexuality isn't the binary straight/gay switch that people think it is, nor is it the only slightly more complicated straight/gay/both.  It's really more like a pair of sliding scales for attraction to women and men, plus there's fetishes which can have pretty big impact on that (someone might not normally be that much into homosexuality but might nevertheless find themselves turned on by something homoerotic which appeals to a certain fetish).  And teenagers churning around in all that mess don't really have the slightest idea where they stand on either of those scales or any of the other bells and whistles on our hypothetical sexuality control panel.  The idea that teenagers couldn't be turned on by the same sex in one instant and then turn out to be completely straight is just false.  You could have a male Monsterhearts character who got turned on by a guy for a few seconds that one time and then went on to never have another homosexual thought in his life and that would be perfectly realistic.

writersmelody

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Re: Turning Same-Sex PCs On
« Reply #6 on: May 06, 2013, 08:43:03 PM »
To me, Turn Someone On definitely involves a sexual element. They did something that made you respond. And that is what can be cool about this move. It makes you think about the way your character might have viewed a similar action or situation in the past and what that'll be like for them in the future. Something happened and that should be taken into account.

In my opinion this move does have teeth when the response is played correctly.

In one game I played, my female PC and another female PC had just had a brief tussle that ended with both of them bleeding. The other PC felt bad about it and started to help my PC tend to her wound. The player decided to roll to turn on my PC. The roll succeeded.

So that got me to thinking about what this meant for her since she'd been previously a heterosexual character. Had these bicurious leanings always been there? Was she genuinely bisexual or had this just happened because? Since they were both bleeding were there darker elements to her response at that moment? What was this going to do to her relationship with the other PC down the road? Simply deciding that it was a fleeting thing and discarding any influence it might have had wouldn't have been nearly as interesting for me as her player.

The fact that succeeding gives you a String on the other character says to me that it should be more than a passing thing. No one is required to act on any attraction or arousal they may feel. But they felt something and players should be encouraged to consider what that means and use the game to explore their own reactions as well as their character's.

Daniel Wood

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Re: Turning Same-Sex PCs On
« Reply #7 on: May 06, 2013, 09:38:54 PM »
still finding this move particularly weird, and I think it should feel so for everyone -

Well as you can presumably see from this thread, it doesn't? So that's something to consider.

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Attraction leads to orientation, I think it's false and in bad faith to just say "oh, well you're attracted to this or that, but you don't have to feel it or do anything about it, you get to chose your response after this response is chosen for you".

I don't think anyone has suggested that you don't have to feel it. But what you choose to do about it is determined by the move, and the choices it provides. And what you decide it means about who you are as a person is completely up to you. That's the element of choice I was emphasizing.

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Which follows to, if I'm repeatedly finding myself swinging one way or the other or back and forth how can I just say "no, that's not really how I feel"?  

With increasing difficulty, I am guessing. Welcome to being a teenager who is confused about their sexual identity? Or maybe you won't say that, maybe you'll be like 'I guess I'm X', or maybe you'll be like 'fuck it, I'm going to get drunk and kiss whoever I feel like' or... who knows what? Maybe you'll have all these crazy feelings for the people around you and that will let them manipulate you in damaging ways? That's kind of what the move is for.

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Because that is what the dice will do to your character.

Well, it's what the move will do to your character, yes.

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If I get shot in game, I don't argue about the harm, oh well, I got shot, deal with the consequences, maybe I should have thought out the plan better.  If I do the research roll, I found out the ancient secret or not.  Maybe I try again later, maybe I have to change tactics, whatever.  The fact this roll waffles -- well, it happened, you felt like this, but you don't have to *really* feel like this -- is a cop out.

You're going up against this straw man over and over and over, so just in case this was a response to my post: I did not mean to imply that your PC does not "really feel" turned on. That is absolutely not how the move works. You are absolutely turned on, assuming there is a hit on the roll. You absolutely and totally feel sexually aroused. That is absolutely what happens to your character, in that moment.

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I dig the youth aspect, I dig the supernatural horror, but mechanizing sexuality is proving to be unsatisfying.

Have you played a session yet? I'd definitely recommend trying it out, and seeing how it works.

--

I mean, this is really a self-governing issue. If you and your players all share this same level of trepidation, then presumably you aren't going to actually roll to turn each other on willy-nilly, at the slightest provocation -- you're going to respect your understanding of the fiction, and be like 'well he's straight, so I guess there's no way he could be turned on by me, oh well' and the move won't come into play.

Or maybe you'll find yourselves looking for cases where it actually does make sense, despite these concerns. And maybe that will result in some interesting play? The assumption that 'the dice' are just going to descend in some arbitrary way and make a mess of your previously-coherent and totally-unshakeable view of your own PC's sexuality seems a bit paranoid, when you consider that you and the other players will have total control over when those dice are rolled.

But more generally, this move does mean something important about the world and about the PCs. It means their sexuality is extremely fluid and confusing and powerful. It means they don't actually know yet what will and will not turn them on. And they don't know yet how they will and will not react to being turned on. They don't know who they are, and that's part of what you play to find out.

rusted barrel

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Re: Turning Same-Sex PCs On
« Reply #8 on: May 07, 2013, 07:26:27 AM »
chamomile - perfectly reasonable to voice that first paragraph.  You can never go wrong hearing that sort of thing again.  There isn't much more advanced than solid ideas like that, I've found.  I think your very last point doesn't stand, however.  The world says sexuality is in flux, so long as anyone is rolling dice, so unless male example retires or goes off stage, who knows where the needle will land.

Daniel - my thoughts were not directed at you.  I enjoyed your first post, though it didn't answer my question, so thank you for sharing that.  Itemizing my thoughts and replying part by part seems unnecessary.  A sample of three opinionated individuals hardly makes a case against this being a weird move.  Should other internal features of characters be influenced by dice rolls?  Tendency to dialogue, patience, desire for a family or a long-term vocation?  Taste in music?  Desire for bloodshed and violence?  Gluten intolerance?  Any of those could change during adolescence or in game-play, but we leave that to the player's discrection.  I'm leaning absurd to make a point, but honestly, why sexual identity is turned by dice, I still can't say I'm satisfied.  And the answer will be, yes, it matches the fiction.

writersmelody - thanks for the share, sounds like a great scene.  Hope we can find some of that ourselves

Tore V

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Re: Turning Same-Sex PCs On
« Reply #9 on: May 07, 2013, 10:50:47 AM »
My understanding isn't that sexual identity is ruled by the dice. Is it his breathy voice that strangely turns you on, or the drop of sweat on his lip? Is it the inherent violence in the situation? Is it blood?
What I mean is, it's not necessarily the person turning you on, it's setting, mood, situation, something that gives you a flashback to a porn mag you read when you where 12...
Basically, you get turned on. You don't have to know why, but something tightened in the pit of your stomach when she looked at you, or when he smiled or....
Just because something gave you a hard-on in the presense of another man/woman/furry monster, it doesn't have to have anything to do with that person as such, but that person was present, and that opens the way for doubt.

arscott

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Re: Turning Same-Sex PCs On
« Reply #10 on: May 07, 2013, 12:03:19 PM »
Should other internal features of characters be influenced by dice rolls?  Tendency to dialogue, patience, desire for a family or a long-term vocation?  Taste in music?  Desire for bloodshed and violence?  Gluten intolerance?  Any of those could change during adolescence or in game-play, but we leave that to the player's discrection.

In fact, desire for bloodshed and violence is influenced by the dice in MonsterHearts:  For many skins, that's what the darkest self is.

MonsterHearts is by design a game where PCs have very little control over their character's feelings.  It's most obvious with Turn Someone On, but it's equally the case for Shut Someone Down, Hold Steady, most of the Darkest Selves, and several skin moves.

The point of MonsterHearts is that these characters aren't really in control of their own feelings and desires, whether it's the sudden desire to make out with other dudes, or the sudden desire to consume the flesh of the living.  Sure, it's removing player agency, but it's doing so in service to the game's theme.

Unlike D&D, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay doesn't let you choose your class.  You roll for it on a table.  Because WFRP is presenting a world that portrays the nasty, brutish, and short reality of middle ages life.  Peasants trod on by those who have achieved power by accident of birth.  If you roll well, hey, you're a Knight or  a churchman.  If you roll poorly, you're a farmer or a guy who crawls around sewers with a terrier for a living.

Ask yourself this:  "Am I okay with shut someone down dictating how I feel about being bullied, or hold steady dictate how fearful I am?  Would I be okay letting a table dictate whether my character is a peasant or a nobleman?"  If you answer "no", then maybe MonsterHearts just isn't the game for you.

If you answer yes, then clearly you have a more specific problem with turn someone on.  Despite all the talk of the Kinsey Scale an fluidity of human sexuality, I agree that it's somewhat unrealistic insofar as as it leads to "everyone is bisexual" syndrome.  That said, "everyone is bisexual" is no less realistic than "that dude is a vampire and that dude is a werewolf".  and just like the latter, the former fits the genre and makes for more interesting play.

If the unrealism of it bothers you, or you're bothered by the move or it's consequences for other reasons, then just house rule it.  I and some of the others maybe wouldn't have as much fun in a game where "Turn Someone On" was de-fanged, but if it's not working for you, then come up with a solution that does.  But don't be afraid to push at your own boundaries, because that's where the most interesting play happens.

Tore V

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Re: Turning Same-Sex PCs On
« Reply #11 on: May 07, 2013, 12:27:41 PM »
I really don't see the problem, to be honest. If all your players are homophobic, they won't roll to turn on someone of the same sex because they feel their character is straight, so they won't think to use the move.

rusted barrel

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Re: Turning Same-Sex PCs On
« Reply #12 on: May 07, 2013, 02:18:28 PM »
Arscott - I appreciate your efforts, tiring and rewardless as I and all this may be.  The Darkest Self point you made is good, that internal aspects of the character are taken over temporarily, good example (you do, however, get to choose your playbook, with the understanding of what sort of Darkest Self may come into play, and that as much as anything should affect playbook choice).  I don't, however, think the 'am I okay with ...' question you posed is quite so simple.

  I can think of numerous real *and* fictional but plausible examples of people being shut down and holding steady and lashing out physically and running away, throughout my personal experience and history at large (I'm intentionally avoiding the more magical and bizarre moves, to match basic move with basic, and because my issue has nothing to do with the supernatural element).  Heck I can even think of examples of staring into the abyss.  I can not think of examples of being turned on any which way.

  "About three days ago, a guy tried to walk out of a restaurant without paying for his meal.  The lady at the till shut him down.  She barked at him, the whole restaurant stopped, he stopped.  He gained the condition 'humiliated', stood there awkwardly, then decided to pay rather than try to run away or lash out physically."

  Simple situation, a real one I witnessed the other day, but could just as well be a play in game, imagine the character is the waiter or waitress or dine-and-dash.  I can't get the story-teller in my head to do the same with Turn On.

  Perhaps, long ago as it may be now, my high school experience was lacking and I'm thus unequipped to imagine such a sexually spontaneous school life.  This is where the pill catches in my throat, this is where the verisimilitude falls apart for me, that attraction can happen so freely.

  And I feel I should state, for the record, I am not homophobic, and it is not homophobia that is at the heart of this series of posts - it has never bothered me in anyway which way people might choose or be programmed to swing.  The move rubs my intuitions the wrong way, regardless of orientation.  I suppose I'm the sort who wondered why Shinji was complaining about his feelings so much, when he had a giant robot to pilot.  Maybe someone needs to make me a straight guy playbook.

Daniel Wood

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Re: Turning Same-Sex PCs On
« Reply #13 on: May 07, 2013, 09:35:47 PM »
A sample of three opinionated individuals hardly makes a case against this being a weird move.  Should other internal features of characters be influenced by dice rolls? 

Well, the answer is clearly 'yes, if that's how the game works.' The game designer made a very specific decision to have Turn Someone On work this way, which he attempted to support with an entire sub-section of play advice and explanation. The game chooses this one specific "internal feature" for a reason, and it explicitly steps over a line that lots of roleplayers are uncomfortable with. I think it does so for good reasons and with good effect.

As before, I'd just suggest you play a few sessions before deciding this move doesn't work for you -- as has been mentioned, it's likely to be a self-correcting problem, since your group (or specifically, the MC) will only call for the move when they perceive an actual possibility of sexual arousal. The game explicitly suggests that this could happen in unexpected ways, but there's no need to take that to heart if it's going to ruin the game for you.



noclue

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Re: Turning Same-Sex PCs On
« Reply #14 on: May 08, 2013, 01:57:48 AM »
The game isn't about people who know who they are and what they want.
James R.

    "There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which can not fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance-that principle is contempt prior to investigation."
     --HERBERT SPENCER