Heeeello and welcome back to the blog! It’s time again for a RP related post. Ya’ll non-RPers who aren’t interested in the slightly controversial topic of ERP (erotic roleplay), especially in MMO roleplay settings, might want to look away. If you are looking for explicit content, move along – no porn here!
“Are they having sex again?” husband asks and curiously looks over my shoulder at the computer screen, having spotted a naked toon.
“Yep,” I confirm.
Husband snickers and leans in a bit closer to read. After a moment he sighs, and almost sounds disappointed.
“Why isn’t it ever any FUN erp? You should do some girl-on-girl or something!”
“It’s not porn!”
What is ERP?
Most roleplayers have encountered it at least somewhere. ERP, short for Erotic Role Play, is what we call RP when the characters have sex. More specifically, it’s the term used when sexual scenes are roleplayed and not just blackscreened or part of backstory.
Seems simple enough, but in practice that definition is terribly wide and encompasses completely different phenomena. Which in turn is tied in with the varied use of the word “roleplay” overall – are we talking about roleplay as in, playing naughty nurse in the bedroom, or pen & paper roleplay, or collective storytelling, or larp, or…? In ERP all those categories tend to be blurred. What I usually mean when I talk about RP is the kind I am most familiar with, which is RP online in MMOs, by the way. And there, I would like to make the following distinction:
ERP and cybersex are not the same thing.
In cybersex, people play out sexual fantasies in writing. The “character” is most often an avatar, a representation of the self, and the point of the activity is to get sexual enjoyment from it. It’s basically sex, online by proxy.
In ERP, characters have sex. That’s it really. It may certainly end up a hot scene, but that’s beside the point. It’s basically the same difference that you have between porn and a regular movie that includes some sex scenes.
Like any topic that involves sex, ERP is most often hard to discuss openly. It’s often seen as shameful and embarrassing, or even immoral and just “bad”. Yet at the same time it is an immensely common part of RP and without having any evidence for it I’d claim that most online roleplayers have probably at some point been involved and done ERP.
The division of opinions seem to be something like this:
- I don’t erp and I find it disgusting or wrong for some reason!
- I don’t erp because I’m in a relationship, I would otherwise though!
- I erp because sex is a part of IC life, and it’s nothing strange. It’s just RP.
- I erp because it’s hot, it’s basically masturbatory aid for me and I’m not afraid to admit it!
- I erp because it’s hot, but wouldn’t want to admit it!
This reluctance to speak openly about erp is just why I decided to write this post. It’s not shameful. Just as how sex is a natural part of life, ERP is a natural part of RP.
For many this is a silly question. Why shouldn’t sex be a part of a character’s life? In real life, sexuality is a big part not only of relationships, but of a person’s identity. This probably becomes most obvious when a person’s sexuality is oppressed or denied, even if it’s often taken for granted by those who are free to do and be what they want. If you aim to create and play a realistic character, is it really reasonable to avoid the question of sexuality? Most would probably agree that it isn’t. It’s a part of human nature and can’t be denied.
Having sexuality be a part of a character’s identity and backstory, and RPing actual sex scenes however, are two different questions. What would be the point of RPing sex?
Just as in real life, sexual compatibility can make or break a relationship. Sexual experiences can shape both how you view the other and how you view yourself. It can make you stronger, more confident and at ease – or it can grind you down, break you, damage you, all depending on what happens. Involve the risk/chance of pregnancies and you add even another dimension to it. It is the same in ERP.
“But sex is just sex.”
No, it isn’t. Especially with characters who have not been together before, or who are still rather new together, you never can know how it’ll go in advance. How they act, what they say, how they touch, all can have an impact.
Alright, it might not always have an impact! But, it might. And you never will know in advance.
This is not to say that ERP should be mandatory, of course. Just like any other part of RP, it may be that some simply do not feel comfortable with it, and that is fine. But, and this is a big but, engaging in ERP should be no more shameful than it is for an actor to play sex scenes in a serious movie, or for an author to include sex in a novel. It’s a part of life, no more and no less.
ERP vs Cybersex
A lot of the awkwardness associated with ERP come from people confusing it with cybersex. Some think it’s the same thing. Some pretend they are doing ERP when in reality they are just tailoring the scene to suit their OOC sexual desire while they get off to it. Is there anything wrong with cybersex? No, most likely not, but that’s beside the point – it’s just not the same thing.
Signs that your RP partner may in fact be cybering, not erping:
- You get the OOC question “Are you done?” or “Was it good for you?”
- It is all initiated by an OOC invitation, not an IC one.
- You get the OOC question. “So what do you like?”
- The common rules against godmoding and metagaming are thrown out the window.
- Characters and IC actions are adjusted to suit the other one’s OOC preferences. (“Oh so you like it rough? Sure we can do that!”)
- The player is for some reason very interested in your RL gender and the character’s interest disappears if finding out that it’s not what was desired OOC. (“You’re a guy?! I’m out.”)
- The player seems to want to speed things up to get to the erp, regardless of if it makes IC sense or not.
- The player makes up silly IC excuses to make it work. (“You play a tiny Asura and I play a huge Norn? Oh no problem, we’ll use… eeh… magical shrinking condoms!”)
And what if you are in fact after cybersex, not ERP? I would personally suggest that you bring those desires to a dedicated cybersex forum instead, or some private chat. And that I don’t say to be mean, I am just being practical. Do your thing, have fun, but please keep it where it won’t disturb more serious roleplay!
A good sign that ERP isn’t a sneaky way of getting cybersex is when the characters’ sexual preferences don’t actually match those of the player. This is where it becomes abundantly clear that the IC/OOC boundary is still intact. Would you get embarrassed if your RP partner said she really found that last ERP scene icky, even though her character enjoyed it? Don’t! It’s a good thing, remember that!
But what if sexual preferences DO match IC and OOC? Well, sometimes it happens. It’s certainly easier to play a character whose preferences you share, it’s just more effortless in terms of RP. On the other hand you can gain so much my creating a character who is not like you, and while it may be more challenging I think it definitely can yield a greater understanding of people IRL too.
Exploring OOC sexuality through RP
Hey wait, that sounds a whole lot like blurring the boundary between IC and OOC! Oh yes it is. And still it is done. And while I have already in a previous blog post argued for why it’s best to minimize the IC/OOC blurring, there is no doubt some players do benefit from exploring sexual themes in RP when they are still not fully comfortable with them OOC.
Sometimes it’s also a matter of exploring darker themes, tied to pain and perhaps even guilt IRL. There are rape victims who RP characters with similar experiences as a step towards dealing with their traumatic memories. There are people who dare not IRL come out as gay who feel they get to “practice” by RPing through it before. There are those who are ashamed of their sexual desires and are only able to confront them in a setting where it’s not personal, where it’s not real. There are all sorts of reasons, and it’s not just talk. It happens, it’s real. Whether or not it’s good I couldn’t say, it’s probably different from person to person in such specific cases. What is clear however is that circumstances are so varied that one can’t accurately generalize. In some cases it’s probably good, a way of strengthening a player’s self confidence before daring to take a step IRL. In other cases it’s probably… less good. Especially if it’s a form of self therapy with a risk of going wrong.
Those who oppose ERP often refer to potential legal and moral issues. How do you know the other player isn’t underage? What if the other player turns out to be a 14-year old and you’ve in fact committed a crime by ERPing with him/her?
It’s a valid concern, it really is. If you are uncertain of the legal side of it, check what the laws in your country says. It differs so much from place to place that it’s impossible to generalize.
Think the other player is in fact far too young? Just stop it then, blackscreen and carry on without letting it get explicit. Worried the other person may be lying about his/her age in order to get ERP or cybersex? These things do require a certain degree of trust, and if you don’t feel confident everything is in order, just don’t. There is no need for an “all or nothing” approach, just be careful. Know who you are playing with. Communicate OOC. If something smells fishy, if the other player doesn’t seem to be sincere, it’s never too late to just back off.
A little privacy, please!
This cannot be stressed enough. Keep it private. This is not the same as to say you should hide it, it just means you shouldn’t shove it in anyone’s face. It’s both a matter of not getting banned from whatever game you are in, and of respect for other players. Some may be able to laugh about it, but others will really be offended, so… better be safe than sorry, yes?
Of course, mistakes will always happen. In fact it seems to be incredibly common, it seems most players who do ERP at some point have posted a sex related emote in the wrong chat. When asking around for embarrassing ERP moments that the one that comes back, over and over again. It happens, people! Nothing to be too concerned about, however embarrassing it is in the moment.
Have I done that? I don’t think so, actually. I know I have accidentally slipped a message into the wrong chat that looked like an ERP-emote though, even though it wasn’t really. That was bad enough! And, once during ERP, the other player turned out to be… well, doing a second ERP scene at the same time through whispers, with another person. It was revealed when he accidentally mixed up which chat channels to put which emote in. That… was a tad awkward and I wouldn’t have wanted to be in his shoes right then!
Now this is a tricky one. If you ask me I will firmly say NO, it is not cheating to do ERP if you are OOCly in a relationship. ERP, mind you, I’m not talking about cybersex here but actual ERP. If your character has sex, how is that worse than say, you watching a movie that happens to have some sex scenes in it, or reading a book that features erotic scenes? Very few would think that’s cheating, after all, and what’s the difference?
There is a difference. Even if it’s not cheating, even if it’s not an OOC thing, it’s still more personal. Basically, it means you must be ready to talk about sex with another person! I don’t know about you, but I know there are people I wouldn’t want to sit down and talk about sex in great detail with! It’s personal, in a way, even when it’s… not.
So no. It’s not cheating. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be a sensitive issue. Want my advice? Ask your girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband/whatever what they think. Take it from there. There are no common rules or guidelines. Everyone is different.
The futas, oh god the futas
I wasn’t going to say anything about this but so many have left me notes about futas that I can’t just leave it.
Finally, FINALLY it is starting to become more accepted IRL for people to come out as trans. This is a big issue for so many people, it really is.
But why do people freak out when, in RP, a female turns out to have penis?
A futa, short for futanari, is a term most commonly used in manga/anime for a girl with a penis. The RP world seems to be absolutely brim full of futas, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. And while there are probably a couple of players who play serious trans characters, it seems to more often be a case of… well, to put it bluntly, mainly male players enjoying girl-on-girl action yet still wanting to have a big dick. It seems to predominantly occur when the players are after cybersex rather than erp, too.
Judgemental? Maybe. But after seeing how often futas seem to brought in for plain cybersex, the first thought when encountering one isn’t that “the character is trans” – but rather “oh it’s another futa.”
Want to play an actual serious trans character? Do so! I mean it. But before getting into ERP with someone new, maybe… give a little heads up at least? When you suddenly spring male parts on someone who expected woman parts or vice versa, the general reaction seems to be to run like the wind. Talk. Explain that it’s not a cybersex thing, explain that it should be taken seriously. If the other player still refuses to take it seriously, well fuck them.
In the end…
It’s just RP and the same rules apply as in any other situation. Communicate. Respect the other player. Keep IC and OOC apart. It’s just IC sex, people. No biggie.