Separating sexuality and romantic orientation in IFs

I have a question for all of you:

I have just gotten some backlash (form only one person though) who got mad at me for having an RO in my game who is homosexual and panromantic. The person accused me of being homophobic, as, according to them, allowing female MCs to romance a presumably gay character is ‘forcing’ heteronormativity.

A lot more people however said that romantic and sexual orientation are two separate things, and that I ought to keep the RO as he is.

How do you see this?

Is it better in IFs to keep these orientations the same or have them be separate things?

(edit: the person in question insisted that romantic, sexual and aesthetical attraction are inseparable)

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Romantic and sexual orientation are different things, but I think this idea is usually part of a discussion about ace orientations. I can have romantic feelings for all kinds of people without feeling sexual attraction for them.

And I can see where the the user is coming from. I’m not saying that your character or story is doing this (I haven’t read it!), but I can see how that situation would evoke a history of people who are sexually attracted to members of the same sex seeking out hetero-romantic partnerships either out of a sense of shame and internalized homophobia, trying to convince themselves that they’re not gay; or for social/cultural reasons (i.e. external homophobia). I’m not sure you can separate this kind of history from your character even if it’s not your intention.

Nothing exists in a vacuum. I don’t think my three paragraph response can settle this discussion by any means, but I guess I would recommend that you explore why exactly you feel it’s necessary to split this character’s attraction model like this, and what are the ideas this might perpetuate? Ideally (if you haven’t already) try to seek out some people who identify this way and see what they have to say, keeping in mind that, yeah, internalized homophobia might be part of their experience

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Okay, this is a difficult question… :sweat_smile:

On the one hand, real people can actually be romantically attracted to people they’re not sexually attracted to. For example, I’m very similar to your character, as although I’m only sexually attracted to other guys (and nb people), my first romantic crush was on a woman.

On the other hand, presenting a character as homosexual and then letting opposite-gender characters romance them can feel… well, I wouldn’t go as far as homophobic, but it can feel invalidating. It doesn’t help that it can tie into the legitimately homophobic narrative that ​"the right girl can cure you", which I’m sure is not your intention.

And this is one of the problems with trying to accurately represent reality: it’s not neat, and it doesn’t make good stories. And trying to fit it to stories will end up simplifying it in unintended (and potentially harmful) ways, especially if you’re talking about minorities.

In your case, it would probably be for the best to present the character as bisexual but with a preference for the same gender. This probably wouldn’t require much rewriting at all, but would avoid the potential harm caused by presenting a character as gay and then appearing to allow female MCs to “cure” him.

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I should have added that the person insisted that romantic, sexual and aesthetical attraction are inseparable.

And I have spoken to quite plenty of folks who say it’s separated. That it often overlaps, but that it’s much more complicated than ‘if X then 1’

I was thinking about this, but with the character in question it… doesn’t feel right, in lack of a better phrase

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Perhaps it should also be mentioned, that Said character is and stays in a relationship with His boyfriend. It is about how much he is ok with a female joining as poly

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I’m mostly just a lurker here, but I did want to emphasize ParrotWatcher’s suggestion as a more appropriate way to handle the situation. At a minimum, I would suggest reaching out to gay men to act as sensitivity readers, but it would be wiser to avoid the issue altogether.

When you’re talking about real-world people, sexualities are absolutely complex, messy things. In fiction, however…a lot of that nuance gets lost. Even in novels about queer identities, but especially in ones where that’s not the main focus of the novel. And unlike in real life, you have to think about what kinds of messages your novel is sending when you portray a character a certain way.

I don’t know. I’ve been trying to parse out my feelings on this topic and I think the truth is that I would personally avoid a game if I knew it had this content. I’m a gay man and it just…it weirds me out, if I’m being honest. Not just because of the message it sends (intentional or not), but also because of the fans it would attract. There’s very much a subset of straight women who try to go after gay men, maybe because it’s “taboo” or a “challenge,” and it just…makes me think of that. But I’m just one guy - like I mentioned earlier, I would highly encourage you to reach out specifically to the community and get as much feedback as you can.

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It’s going to be really situational and depend on how much you want to put in. If you’re ready to tackle a complex relationship dynamic, I think you can—especially as you’re taking the work to get input on it—but there’d also be nothing wrong with deciding it’s more complexity than you want to handle. It certainly is something that would require plenty of sensitivity.

Right, so that’s just wrong. That should be especially clear with the aesthetic side because, well, I can’t count the number of people whom I’ve felt look nice but I don’t feel physically drawn toward. But people can feel sexual and romantic attraction in different ways. The genders preferences for those don’t have to match. There’s also the notable difference between “primary” and “secondary” attraction, which can come into play for demisexual or demiromantic orientations, secondary attraction being attraction that you only feel after emotional bonding. Some people are attracted to people of one gender right away but only feel drawn toward another gender after forming such a relationship. Sexuality and romance can be a lot more complicated than the typical labels, and the two don’t always coincide.

That said, for a lot of people, romantic and sexual attraction are very connected. Some gay people have felt backlash against split attraction models because they consider it to deny gay sexuality as a component of gay romance. I can see this being valid and important for certain people; there are people for whom these types of attraction are indeed inseparable. But that shouldn’t invalidate people for whom they are separate.

Like, as for myself, I definitely seem to be just gay on the sexual side, not quite sure on the romantic side (very into guys, had female crushes as preteen/early teen, not sure I’ve felt that since then), and aesthetically I’m very much on the feeling that, you know, lots of people are pretty :stuck_out_tongue: But even if we restrict ourselves to men, I’ve definitely experienced romantic and sexual attraction feeling different and not always coinciding… They’re not always completely the same thing.

Well, you can also just be explicit about having the character present himself as panromantic homosexual. At least at some point before the romance happens. That’ll help present it as something that’s just true about him rather than something that’s just there for the player’s convenience. It’d depend on what conversations make sense in the context of the story, but really, the more explicit the better.

If it’s already clear, pre-romance, that he likes women but not sexually, it won’t feel like it’s forcing anything.

That also sounds to me like something that’d make a big difference. Hardly a heteronormative result.

Does it end up as a V or a triad, or possibility of either? What’s the boyfriend’s orientation?

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it’s a full-fledged triad (?). The boyfriend is panromantic and pansexual, and they both won’t start anything with the MC if the other isn’t okay with the MC at all. (if that makes sense)

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We already talked a bit before, but I think you should simply add to the RO descriptions on the forums that he’s panromantic and homosexual, AND maybe include a talk in the game, when it feels relevant, about him not being sexually attracted to women. Not really easy to add that but oh well…
I mean, the problem comes explicitly from the fact that person knew about the orientations of the characters, to begin with. But for the end product, people won’t have character info. So they won’t assume anything beforehand.

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Hi long time lurker, I hate commenting but I thought I should throw my two cents in. As an asexual I feel that double labeling only really works when the person is on the ace spectrum because there is no sexual attraction so they are asexual, but they can still be romantically attracted to people thus you can be bi/panromantic asexual, homoromantic asexual, and so forth. However pairing sexual orientations and romantic orientations that are opposites dont work and feel only disrespectful to, in this case, pansexuals and gay men. Maybe I’m being a little harsh but after the bullshit of bi/pan lesbians movement on twitter, I dont want to see it with gay men.

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Ah, updating the description sounds definitely necessary if it currently lists him as gay, as that would make it feel like the uncomfortable situation other people were describing. I’d say that an in-game conversation sounds quite necessary too, in whatever form would be most authentic to the characters and circumstances. You’re best served by being as open and explicit as possible to make sure the relationship doesn’t come across as some sort of “curing” scenario.

I’ve really got to disagree with this. People should be able to use whichever terms are the best tools to describe how they feel. It doesn’t disrespect me as a gay man if somebody else feels romantic and sexual attraction for a different combination of genders. It just describes them.

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The descriptions on the forums actually don’t specify the orientations, if I recall correctly!
But I thought people would want to know, generally speaking.

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Okay, yeah, that makes sense. Generally speaking, the more clarity both in-forum and in-game, the better.

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This response really hits home for me, I agree with you, if I saw something like that in a game I would just avoid the game all together, it personally would make me uncomfortable.
The good old

“Just wait until the right person comes along, it will set you straight”.

“All you needed was to give it a chance”.

“It’s just a phase, you’re partner won’t stick around long anyhow”

Because no matter what heteroness will find it’s way towards you. As someone else said it’s not homophobic but it is very invalidating. But that’s just me personally though.

No offense to you OP, as others said reach out to gay men and get feedback.

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I did reach out. Cis and trans gay guys alike.
And they agreed that it sounds about right. That society IS being an arse that tries to twist it, but that it’s valid.

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Okay, I’m going to give my grain of sand in this one, but first, que I want to address something, if you have a complain about something that might offend you or affected you in some way, please do it in a firm but in a respectful way, you can I doesn’t do any good lash out at other users or authors it really doesn’t do anyone’s a favor, thank you.

First, thank you for mention about this doubt you have which was adress by a user, and I have to read to actually gave my thoughts, and it’s right about it, and even if overreacted maybe a bit, the scenes about this situation felt outlandish and somewhat unrealistic from a point of view at first, and but sawing it in another perspective , its kind of offensive and unconfortable, to be clear its seems she was harrasing the guy, even with the fact he is gay, also it felt like she was harrasing him, and even reminds of people trying to turning an homosexual person to straight (both of those counts also as homophobia) which is traumatic for several people, and specially if was from family, and I might overthought it a bit, (or a lot and go straight to the moon with the topic) but I but that are some of the conclusions I get by giving some context, though it was only some misunderstanding from your part and wasn’t unintentional and even you actually create this post with the intention of having some clarification on the complain which was pretty good from your part, so my only recommendation for you is to do some research if you aren’t confident enough with any topic (specially in the social territory) and avoid a similar situation, but also it can help you to develop a bit better story/characters and situations.

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This is wrong, as a romantic ace I can tell you that is is very wrong, my aesthetic attraction is much narrower than my romantic attraction.

That being said, I never talk about my aesthetic orientation, because people do just not understand that people I think look attractive have nothing to do with the people I actually fall in love with. The majority just can´t comphrehend this. Just like the majority have a really hard time understanding the difference between ace and aro.

Peopole like this do exist, I have met them in the outskirts of ace communties or non-binary communities on the internet, but they are rare. And the fact that you need to go to the outskirts of such communities says something about how rare it is to openly identify as such.

If you are not of either the ace, aro, any kind of bi/pan or non-binary or that specific experience, I would question writing such a character because it is a path full of pitfalls. And it is really hard to a person who doesn´t experience any sexual, romantic or genderfluidity to understand what it feels like to not have all your axes of attraction line up.

Personally, I would think that is would be too complex for me, and I do experience some split, though nothing that big, to dare describe in a if-game, since it is such a complex issue.

First of all you need to thínk about how this man talks about himself. Most people who experience such a mitchmatch a met with a collosal amount of gatekeeping from the community and thus rarely speak about their whole identity at once.

He would most likely either identify himself as a pan who just doesn´t sleep with women or a gay man (and just not mention that he sometimes gets crushes on women). Or he would just identify as queer and avoid further details.

Secondly, if this is a part of a poly relationship not everyone in the relation needs to be equally involved with everyone.

Thirdly gay guys are not the first one who should be reached out towards here. (Well, it is good to get their opinion too), but the primary person you are writing about is people who have a mitchmatch between romatic and sexual orientation so you need to find someone who experiences this.

In conclusion, I really think that this is too complex to be able to be handled in an if (because this is something a lot of people just don´t understand. Just look at the emotional reaction in this thread) and I would just have the character self-identify as queer and not make it an equal triad.

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While the person that reach out to you was rude and could have been more grounded. I understood where they were coming from.

I personally think it would be best to make the character bisexual but that choice is yours to make alone

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I understood where they were coming from too up to the point where they called people that don’t have ‘identical’ orientations ‘broken’ and in need to be fixed.

Also, @Negg who are you accusing of harassment here?

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Andddddd that’s where they fucked up, ew all around

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