Separating sexuality and romantic orientation in IFs

Yeah, for some reason, some people who doesn’t experience split attraction themselves just won’t believe that others do, and get very aggressive about it. :woman_shrugging:t2:

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OP, I do want to say this - when people are encouraging you to reach out, it’s not just a one time thing. When you are writing about a marginalized community that you’re not a part of (and frankly, even for people who are a part of a community, because we are not a monolith), you have to keep seeking a diversity of opinions. It’s a continued conversation that needs to happen, and one that involves a lot of openness and a willingness to understand the lived experiences of others.

It seems like you had something very hurtful happen that spurred you to make this thread. And in those cases, it can be very easy to throw up one’s defenses and only look at opinions that validate one’s own world view. Even if this one person was saying some pretty upsetting things, I hope that at least the diverging opinions in this thread alone can show you that there are legitimate concerns around portraying a character like this in an IF novel. I hope you will continue to engage in this conversation, and I still highly encourage you to look for sensitivity readers who are gay men.

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SAM has quite a bit of stigma surrounding it in society. Quite a few people outside the aspec think it’s only for those who are aspec and even there are aspec who think the same. However, I do not. SAM is for anyone to use to figure out and better explain to themselves and/or others how they experience attraction.

I think it’s still letting the people who say stuff like “Oh, you just haven’t found the right person yet” dictate how a person should be, keeping them in a neat little box that they may not fit in for fear of hearing “See, I told you.” It doesn’t have to be that way. People should stop caring about what those people say to try and invalidate another’s experiences. Not to say I think it’d be easy to do so… But I’m so tired of seeing people trying to force their own beliefs on others just so people can’t say “Told ya so.” Is it really a “told ya so” if it’s said out of ignorance or lack of understanding?

Also, as a SAM aspec, it makes me a little mad to see that people think someone couldn’t possibly have just a romantic relationship with no sex because they aren’t sexually attracted. It’s not lesser to just be romantically attracted and sex isn’t the only form of physical intimacy. There are hugs, cuddling, hand holding, back rubs, drying and brushing hair, cheek kissing, forehead kissing, resting foreheads together, tickle fights, resting chin or cheek on top of the head, kissing top of the head/hair, etc.

As for my opinion on the character, I say keep them as they are, if that’s how they are supposed to be. Will there be backlash? Most likely. Changing people’s mind about stuff has never been easy and it’ll be fully understandable if you don’t want to deal with it in the end. But while some people will hate it and stop reading, there will be others who will be the opposite and start reading. Heck, there might be people who will hate it initially but end up liking it if you write it well and carefully.

A good variety(SAM, pan, gay, polyam) of sensitivity readers would be a good idea, too.

This choice is yours in the end, though.

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This is wrong, as many of us have already affirmed, but that doesn’t invalidate the other half of their feedback–or, at the very least, the questions their feedback has raised–even if they were being a dick.

This is my major takeaway from the discussion so far:

To me, the question isn’t ‘do people like this exist?’ but ‘can the author be trusted with this topic?’ For some, the answer will be yes and for others no. I don’t think either side of this divide is wrong, but I also don’t think that the people who are uncomfortable with this situation can be argued into thinking it’s okay.

So it seems to me that the choice is (1) leave it the way it is and alienate some readers or (2) make a change that comes with no guarantees.

I also want to second this:

If you choose to continue with this character, I think the opinions of the kind of person you’re trying to represent (a person with a SAM) are at least as important (more, imo) as the opinions of the cis and trans gay men who have given you feedback. If you were going to represent an ace lesbian (no sexual attraction, romantic attraction for women), you would want to talk to an ace lesbian, not just any lesbian

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People, please stop assuming I didn’t reach out to a variety of people already, thank you.

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I don’t entirely think that’s correct, I think gay men have just as much priority in opinion as it does for those whose romantic/sexual orientations do not match. Gay men are homosexual and/or homoromantic, after all. But I’d also add pan people as well. I think all three groups should be given equal priority in discussing this.

I don’t think anyone is explicitly assuming that, I think they’re more just trying to affirm it in general for any other authors reading this thread.

Personally, I think that diving into the complexities of romantic vs. sexual attraction in a game format is opening a can of worms that was in the fridge for too long. I just don’t think this is the right medium for it. As someone said earlier, this sort of topic has tons of nuance and delicacy that can be very difficult to get across in writing for entertainment, and people have raised a lot of good points about how this can hurt and re-traumatize gay players who have had “wait for the right person” forced on them. OP, I am sorry that that person came to you with such god-awful rhetoric, but unfortunately sometimes the worst people you meet can have good points, and they are right that this sort of trope, when used in fiction, is not used in a vacuum, and it does bring to mind really precise and painful histories.

At the same time, though, there are people in real life who struggle with feeling fully understood because of their split attraction, and we should not write them off as people who are confused. There’s a reason a lot of people these days prefer to identify with the umbrella term “queer.”

Ultimately, it’s your decision. Please just be aware that this is something with a painful history and despite only hearing from one person right now, you’ll be hearing from a lot more when the game comes out.

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The person who reached out to you was absolutely rude and disrespectful. Humans can’t easily be defined by labels like Homosexual, Heterosexual and even Pansexual. There are even people who think they’re straight, but fall in love and can develop sexual attraction to the same sex. I say write your story. A gay character falling in love with the opposite sex is a story that people ignore and ridicule is because they’ve been taught to follow dumb rules. I’ve met several men and women in these situations and it proves that love is infinite and beautiful! Your heart can’t be labelled!

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I’m sorry but, this is confusing. First of all, I agree that the question is not whether there are people like this, but whether the autor is equipped to deal with this. And second of all, the question is pointless. The whole objective of the cog forum is to create a safe space for writers and coders of choicescript. We have absolutely no right to decide whether someone is or isn’t the right person to write something. As long as it isn’t hate speech, let them goddamn write. I mean, if you think it’s not well represented, ok, say it. Maybe the writer will learn something, but we don’t get to choose whether someone is or isn’t qualified.

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Amen my lover from another mother!

Throwing my hat in the ring to say I agree that this is a tricky topic that takes a certain nuance and sensitivity/diversity readers to sort out, unless OP is writing from experience. Because of course no game dev wants to hurt their players (in an un-fun way at least).

I wouldn’t say interactive fiction as a whole genre is incapable of tackling the topic. It’s up to the game dev to put in the work, both in terms of research, self-reflection of why/how they want to tell this story, and getting in real deep with the specificity of language. I’m reminded of the movie Chasing Amy and the book Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy. In both media, a woman who IDs as a lesbian falls for a man, and her whole sense of self goes to pieces. She grapples with internalized biphobia and the sudden loss of the local lesbian community, who rejects her for daring to love a man. In Chasing Amy, Alyssa ends up breaking up with Holden and “returning to the lesbian fold” because neither of them could take the loneliness and pressure (her, from her “friends” and him, from internalized homophobia and his absolute trashfire of a homophobic best friend). By the end of Ramona Blue, Ramona rejects labels altogether and decides to do who/what she wants.

Ask yourself why you want to write a gay man. Why do you want to write a polyam triad? Why do you want to write a gay man in romantic relationship with a woman? What’s your goal here, with the story? Is it necessary for the story’s plot and themes? Which story elements are important to you, which are unimportant, and what can you change so gay male readers can feel validated and seen? I had a super quick brainstorm of ways you can tinker with the characters to make gay-man-in-a-triangle-with-a-woman work:

  • make it queerplatonic: There’s lots of different types of love and commitments, and you could emphasize that the love between the gay man and the female PC is platonic and they’re in a committed queerplatonic relationship.
  • give him a character arc where he discovers his bisexuality Mimicking the above-mentioned movies and novels, maybe he discovers that he’s bisexual with a preference for men. This option will be more difficult because you’d want to make triple sure it doesn’t come off as “curing” him. Say the word “bisexual.” Have him still express interest in men and be fond of his times with men.
  • Make them best friends Maybe there’s no romance and they’re just besties
  • Non-monogamy This could be paired with the best friend angle, but make it so they’re both sexual/romantic partners with the third. And not each other. So like, Character A is in love with and dating Character B and C. B and C love A. B and C aren’t in love or dating each other.
  • Nix the romance Like others have mentioned, you can just delete the whole arc. The gay man is present in the story and happy in a relationship with another man (who is not romancable by the PC). Like Illtyd and Bisclavret in Moonrise. Maybe the PC can help get them together.

That’s what I got. Best of luck! I love that gay men are chiming in on this thread. Thank you! :gay_flag:

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Does he actually consider himself gay? Is he presented to the player as a gay man? If so, then I agree with the other comments.

It would feel a bit invalidating to his identity and can, as others have said, play into negative associations. Further, it could invalidate the PC’s identity by implying he sees the female or non-binary PC as a man.


But if you aren’t presenting him as a gay man, then frankly, I don’t understand the objections.

If he’s attracted to women and non-binary people – what exactly is the problem with him ending up in a relationship with them?


I understand it can invoke the history of ‘gay man pressured into/cured by relationships with women’, but it doesn’t sound like that’s the case here.

He is panromantic, right? As in, he’s romantically attracted to all genders and would genuinely enjoy/be open to having a romantic relationship with a woman or non-binary person?

See, I interpret this situation as someone who is attracted to multiple genders having the possibility to end up in a relationship with… multiple genders. I don’t get where this ‘OP wants to write a gay man romanceable by women’ framing is coming from, because I’ve seen no indication that’s the narrative at play here.

Split-attraction is complicated, and under it homosexual is not synonymous with gay. A non-homosexual man (e.g., an asexual homoromantic man) might well consider himself gay, and I don’t buy that a homosexual non-homoromantic man is under any obligation to view his orientation as gay (gay as in, exclusively interested in men), especially if, as in this case, he’s attracted to non-men.

So why is ‘gay man’ the framing, rather than ‘pan man who is romantically (but not sexually) attracted to everyone’? I’m not arguing that’s the correct interpretation, but blatantly disregarding the panromantic part of his orientation to define him solely by the homosexual part is pretty crude. And it reminds me of the way bisexual people’s identities are disbelieved and reduced to their attraction to men: i.e., bi men are ‘gay men in denial’ and bi women are ‘straight attention seekers’.

It also reminds me of the way romantic attraction is considered less important than sexual attraction, and how relationships without sexual attraction are viewed as undesirable or unfathomable. (A relationship where this man is romantically but not sexually attracted to his partner? Why would he ever? Unthinkable!)


Unpopular opinion it seems, but I strongly disagree with the idea that you should change or censure this character’s orientation because his experience is reminiscent (not even depicting, reminiscent) of a negative real-life phenomenon.

Split-attraction people exist. Their existence isn’t ‘homophobic’ or ‘perpetuating heteronormativity’ and I’d argue they need no more justification to exist in media than any other orientation.

Handle with care? Sure. But I think it’s worth doing if you’re interested.

Finally, as TSSL said, I think emphasizing his panromanticism would be a good idea. It’s corny that bi and pan characters have to ‘prove’ their attraction by referencing exes/crushes/openly stating it/etc, but in the compressed space of a CS game it’s unfortunately necessary.

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So at this point I think we need to look more into the specifics rather than just abstractly discussing split attraction ROs in general.

So I followed this to your WiP thread and tumblr, which provide some pretty significant context… it’s so much easier to discuss this with those in mind.

For one thing, I guess this is a historical setting, albeit an alternate history, where it sounds like we wouldn’t be hearing the terminology like “gay” or “panromantic homosexual” or “queer.” All important because it’ll change the way they talk about the experiences. Would make it rather harder, to be honest, given he wouldn’t be able to be as precise about it.

Most importantly, I read the excerpt showing one way the conversation could end up going. I think this is what we all need to look at to get an idea for how his orientation is described and how the relationship would be portrayed.

And… at least as for me, it reads more like agreeing to a V rather than an all-around triad. It sounds like Tommy saying he likes you and is okay with having you be with Seán rather than saying that he’s entering the relationship with you as well. The romantic side isn’t all that clear to me; you can like cozying up with someone totally platonically, and I don’t see anything that indicated a romantic connection with the main character.

I also took a look at the original ask and followup and… okay, yeah, that followup is extremely out of line and invalidating to the way plenty of real people actually are. That’s never okay. However, as for the initial ask, it does make a good point about a vee being a valid possibility.

Like, polyamory in general is quite underrepresented, but when it is represented, a lot of times there’s more focus on triads and the like rather than other configurations (aside from “traditional” polygamy, which is a very different matter altogether, not at all the same sort of relationship). But it’s my understanding that a lot of times poly people who are in a relationship with each other will date separately because they’re compatible with and interested in different people, and that that can be more healthy than trying to force a link between all involved parties. I think it might be worth thinking about at least the possibility of a V in which the main character and Tommy are friendly together but not necessarily linked. Potentially involving cozying up too, sure :hugs:

Or at least making some boundaries very clear so it’s clear the MC isn’t pushing them.

Well, also be prepared for gay men to have very different opinions :sweat_smile: I mean, in this thread alone, we’ve been saying rather different things.

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