Race Cultures- Romance & Sexuality (3.5e Other)
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Dating is common in many societies, while in other places arranged marriages are more typical. Some people practice abstinence, whereas others sleep around. Whether one's spouse is expected to be an emotional partner and dear friend, or simply a familial unit crucial to stability, also varies from culture to culture. Some people greet any acquaintances with kisses on the cheek, yet others consider touching or sitting next to a person of the opposite sex an egregious faux pas.
Among the common races of D&D, these behaviors vary. Humans naturally display the widest range of behaviors, both within and between cultures. The other races show more generalize-able trends, just as they do in personality and religion. Herein are this author's takes on the twin issues of romance and sexuality in the cultures of different races. (The BoEF may have a more “canon” take on the matter, but this author wouldn’t touch that with a mithral lance, lest he suffer sanity loss.)
Dwarven marriages are typically arranged, usually in a way which would benefit both parties. Families seek out a kind of mutually-beneficial hypergamy, in which neither family would be rising in social status, but increasing their ability to do so through what they believe will be a synergistic partnership. The strictness of the arrangement is different depending on the particular culture, and may also differ by social class. In many kingdoms, the male dwarf is betrothed at a young age to a particular clan, rather than a particular person. When he is older, chooses a particular suitor from among the clan members available. The individual female then has the right to accept or refuse his offer. The relationship of a dwarf couple is culturally seen as primarily utilitarian in nature, and the often begin that way: the man has a wife because he needs to have a wife, and the woman has a husband because she needs to have a husband. However, usually couples grow fond of and close to each other over the course of their years together. Dwarves marry for life, and normally do not remarry in the event of a spouse's death.
Signs of affection are not given lightly in dwarven society. Between close individuals, full-bodied hugs are the most commonly seen display of affection, and these are reserved for great occasions such as reunions and weddings. If the two individuals are not very close, two-handed handshakes (in which each person is clasping the other's hand in two of theirs) are more common at such occasions. The most meaningful symbol of affection is a kiss on the forehead; this occurs between two people who are very attached, usually husband/wife, mentor/apprentice, or parent/child.
As an interesting side-note, dwarves' brains don't chemically associate happiness with particular people, but with particular bonds. Thus, a dwarven soldier, for example, who is particularly close with a certain comrade-in-arms, feels intimately tied with any other soldiers in his company, not just that one close friend. In fact, the term "best friend" in Dwarven more closely translates to "of best relation." (Of course, because dwarves don’t marry more than one person, this attribute creates no considerable difference in how they view their significant other.) This trait greatly contrasts with elves, which are fond of making many close and personal connections, further contributing to the two races’ inability to understand each other.
Dwarves are hardly fond in any way of sharing their genitals with others, and if sex-play ever occurs among them, it's very, very rare. (In some places, other races joke that dwarves don't orgasm.) Culturally, though, there is an understood importance of the genitalia, which are sometimes symbolic of health or social status. Individuals of other races sometimes find confusing (or humorous) the gravity with which dwarves mention genitals.
Marriage is a somewhat fluid concept to elves. As they grow closer to individuals, they may develop romantic feelings and ultimately dedicate themselves to them. This dedication is usually symbolized by some object or work, often a dedicatory poem or piece of jewelry, which the two individuals exchange with each other. However, this union is hardly binding, and merely expresses a strong desire to be with that person. An elf may naturally fall in love with someone else afterwards, possibly committing to them as well. They may have multiple significant others at once, though as they meet more, other relationships fade. Over the course of their long lives this may happen many times, and is considered natural.
Signs of affection are common among elves. Which action represents what degree of intimacy is roughly similar among humans-- kissing is more intimate than hugging, which is more intimate than a handshake-- but they less reserved than most humans; elves will kiss where humans would shake hands, and shake hands where humans would just give a passing nod. Often elves will add embellishments to these actions, such as a wink with a nod or a back-rub with a hug, as the fancy strikes them. When two individuals grow close, particular embellishments may become regular between them.
In some places it is common knowledge that elves are more likely to be homo- or bisexual than other races. This is or is not the case, depending on one’s definition of sexuality. Elves see appreciation as going hand-in-hand with affection. Affection, however, for either sex, does not necessarily lead to sexual tension or desire, nor is sex as crucial to a relationship among elves as it often is among humans. Because of this, the type of relationship one elf might have with another isn’t restricted by gender, and elves may “marry” one gender as they might the other. Naturally, one is still more likely to marry members of the opposite sex than the same sex (assuming he/she is heterosexual), but sex is not an imperative part of intimacy. Also of note is that the esteem with which the elves regard the act of making love (see below) somewhat curbs the typical elf’s willingness to try new things, making homosexual intercourse rarer than one would expect among a society of affectionate, change-loving creatures .
Sex is held sacred to the elves. While they may do it for pleasure’s sake, calling it “recreational” would be misleading; it is treated more as ceremony, not sport. Elves make love infrequently, rarely more than perhaps twice in a month (and that’s considered frequent). Just as elves do not hurry in general, they are slow to climax, savoring the act over several hours. After climaxing, elves experience a euphoric kind of high lasting between one and three hours, during which their senses are slightly heightened, and all perceptions seem more pleasant: colors are prettier, sounds more melodious, arrangements more aesthetic. The strength of this “afterglow” is roughly dependent on the “quality” of the intercourse. When in this state of mind, elves have a 35% chance to enjoy a +1 bonus to spot and listen checks, and people attempting to influence them may have a small bonus on Diplomacy checks and small penalty to Intimidate checks, at the DM’s discretion. Of course, the hours after intercourse are usually spent with their partner, so these mechanics rarely come into play.
Gnomes usually wed for life, committing themselves to a single partner. Should one of the couple die, it is customary for the widow/widower to seek out a new spouse. Courtship among gnomes usually involves dating, during which they seek out their potential partner, and typically takes place just before adulthood. By the time the one is ready to live autonomously, he/she usually has someone in mind to live with. Being a dedicated bachelor or bachelorette is slightly more common among gnomes than among other races, as they are more likely to prefer devoting themselves to an interest before a family. Many of the greatest minds of this race never married so that they could better pursue their craft.
Every gnome is, shortly after birth, given a well-crafted ring or bracelet, often an heirloom, which they keep until adulthood. When they propose, they offer this ring to their prospective spouse. If the spouse says yes, then the two exchange their treasures at the wedding.
While most of the common races, save humans, are not strongly attracted to members of other races, this is especially true for gnomes. A gnome which is sexually attracted to another race is about as rare as a lawful-neutral demon. Whereas most men of other races, for example, are "programmed" to be attracted to breasts, no male gnome would be attracted to breasts not belonging to a female gnome. If the Venus of Willendorf had been crafted by prehistoric gnomes, they would've created it with something to make it distinctly gnome in form.
Gnomes are notoriously flirtatious. Piquant winking, playful looks, gentle kisses, and stray hands are all part of how gnomes get along. The degree to which they exhibit this behavior around others varies from one gnomish culture to the next, but is common to all of them. They may do this with their fiancées and spouses, or with close friends or even family members; none of it is taken seriously. (Some sociologists hypothesize that it simply gives more opportunity for wordplay, given the sexual lexicon's broad array of euphemisms.) In fact, recreational sex is rarely practiced outside of marriage among Gnomes, though some of the younger ones may, like humans, experiment. Actual sexual relations are quite far removed from the acts of flirting, and all gnomes understand this.
Halflings usually choose their spouse fairly early after coming of age-- though in some cases they don't begin living together until some time later, depending on if the clan is currently “settled down.” As a halfling approaches adulthood, they usually have a few ideas for spouses in mind, typically childhood friends. Dating usually begins around their twentieth year, and isn't typically a way to get to know a potential partner better as much as it is a type of courtship. Less hindered by fear than most races, halflings find it comparably easy to approach the subject of starting a relationship. Who ultimately proposes to whom is a matter of age rather than gender, with the older person proposing to the younger. Before any engagement is official, both partners heavily consult their families. The marriage is most often approved, but the family might urge caution or ask that it be delayed if the prospective partner is not well known to them. When a couple finally moves in together they begin starting up a family, conditions permitting, and it is a given that requesting to live together is at the same time a proposition of having children.
Kissing is a common sign of affection among halflings, usually reserved for significant others or family members. In many cultures, close friends are greeted and/or parted from with a kiss on the cheek. If not close enough to a person to kiss them, they usually shake hands. While hugs fit in-between the two customs, the practice was a cultural import for Halflings, and many of them still prefer to either shake hands or kiss. Halflings are rarely embarrassed about their ties to other people, and unless they are trying actively to blend in with another society, they aren't shy about showing eachother affection in front of others.
As halflings are fine with enjoying life's pleasures, many are fine with the idea of "fooling around" with others; this can change drastically from clan to clan, but it isn't uncommon. It's a more private activity than say, enjoying good food or having a darts contest, and isn't usually brought up in conversation, but it isn't considered immoral or deviant. Note, though, that experimental/recreational sexual activities among halflings outside of marriage usually only occur between members of the same sex (if not fiancées). Non-committal sexual relations between halflings of opposite sexes can be seen as an affront to the very serious cultural concept of parenthood, and the idea makes most halflings uneasy at the least.
The Savage Humanoids
The closest thing most members of the savage races know in terms of “love” is usefulness. Besides that, there isn’t much to say about romance among the evil humanoids. As for family patterns, orcs are polygamist, with women being more like possessions; drow are polyandrous, though the head mothers of powerful households usually only admit to marrying one person (the one with the most political clout), and other husbands are mostly just slaves; goblins are polyamorous, and extremely lecherous; and kobolds sometimes have regular sex partners, but don’t have any concept of marriage.
Among the savage humanoids, sex [DATA EXPUNGED]