“Dare to stand before those you fear and speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.” - Maggie Kuhn
I stumbled over this quote today and it's made me want to read some of this woman's writing. It's challenged me a bit. We all enjoy the "yeah! rawh! rawh!" feeling of support when one reads such encouragement... until you're the one whose voice shakes. You realise then that you didn't have an inkling of what that person had even meant up until that point.
I'm sort of there today. I need to share my thoughts on something that has me very upset and it can be read as direct critique on someone else's innocent creativity. And a critique on the response of others on the day that creative work was released. It can seem like a personal attacks against friends. So it's a bit of a minefield topic. For me at least. I'm a very 'do onto others as you would want done onto you' kind of person.
But here's the thing, the topic of this post is not all that uncommon... and that's the problem.
Confused the crap out of you? Let me paint the scenario as best as I can.
You have a one-shot role playing session, which means the K.I.S.S. principle is active. You page through your book of monsters. Find one. A succubus. It's perfect. Challenging, but this is going to be great. A quick story needs to be assembled: A group of men from a rural village choose to explore an old, abandoned mansion of a creepy magic dude. They encounter a succubus, who takes possession of them in some way, getting them to feed it their children. The monster also enhances their sexual cravings, which is how the adventurers who stumble onto this child-/youth-less village find themselves disturbed/intrigued enough to investigate, and end up facing off with it in the abandoned mansion.
Right. K.I.S.S. principle sorted.
It's sounds terribly innocent, right? Well, look, it is disturbing but you're dealing with a succubi - sex and such will be in there. But there's no underlying tone of anything. Simple one shot.
That wasn't the case for me. Maybe it's me being female and me being over sensitive - I fully own and accept that I'm both - but I'm going to share the story from my perspective (which is part of the wonders of RPGs: It really is your own adventure). Bear in mind that my 'story' is from the perspective of someone who doesn't know what the big bad is. I'm going to repeat it multiple times, because I had to remind myself that as well while writing. It was so easy to go "ag, you know what this is about" when my past self really didn't. And this post is more about her experience than mine.
Our adventurers consisting of two male and female characters (not players which were three and one of the respective genders) arrive at the village deciding to overnight before continuing their journey. Upon entrance, they notice women who are going about their chores. Oddly there aren't any kids around and the women seem disturbed to see the group. The adventurers enter the inn and the innkeeper invites us to a special annual banquet that happens to be that evening. They agree, sit and drink for a bit. All the patrons in the establishment are male.
At this point I'm still okay. It's most likely a misogynistic patriarchal society. My thoughts were "Ugh, bastards. Throw a rock and you'll hit one (or an entire village) of them."
Two of the adventurers spend time drinking and playing card games in the inn (of which I was one). The other two leave the inn to find out more about the town, to talk to the women, and to see where the kids are. They are met with fear and the local women end up saying just enough to be creepy before ducking and diving away from the pair.
Now here is where my antenna started pinging. Personally, I am terribly, terribly sensitive towards fear in women. And I'm not talking 'eek a spider!' kind of fear. I'm talking about that soul-chilling fear that often, not always, but often, surround emotional and physical abuse from the opposite gender. And I don't deal with that very well.
So at this point, I'm not okay anymore. Because I, as a player, don't know the plot. I am hearing that children are hidden or missing, and women are scared, perhaps terrified; all of which was prefixed by the image of a male-centred society.
The two return to the inn where one composes a note which read 'if you are in trouble, we can help' (or something like that). This was given to a woman by one of the female adventurers (yours truly). Time passes. The banquet begins. The men are having the time of their lives. The women aren't as lively. One of the women approaches the female adventurer who had passed on the note (me), hugs her and slips a note in her pocket. The note says that there is trouble and that they'll speak in the evening (I think. Something like that). The woman is trembling with fear.
The men of the village come onto the female adventurers rather strongly and can't seem to take a hint - not even one in the shape of a 7ft orc friend. The men become more "frisky" (the term that was used). One of the female adventurers - an elderly lady - falls asleep and a young lad seems intent on taking advantage of this situation. He gets thrown around by the orc. None of the villagers reacts to this, more intent on their own debauchery. The evening's merriment eventually peters down into the silence of a drunken ending.
Male-centred society. Scared women. 'Frisky' men. So in my mind I'm confirming the abuse and rape of these women, and possible murder of their children. I am no longer an adventurer in this story. I'm a woman listening to this concept being thrown around without people putting pieces together. I'm someone who is getting increasingly upset wondering how I can get out of the room, or how would be the quickest way to make an end of this?
In the evening, the adventurers go to their respective rooms. The women's rooms are not adjacent to the men's....
My thoughts at hearing this: "FUCK! FUCK! FUCK! FUCK! NO! YOU'RE NOT FUCKING DOING THIS TO ME! NOT IN A FUCKING GAME!"
"You hear a knock at your door."
I can't put into words what I was feeling at this point.
"The woman who gave you the note comes in. She checks the corridor but no one seems to have seen her."
I am still not a happy camper.
The woman reveals herself to be the chieftain's wife. She bids the adventurer to meet her the following morning when the men are still sleeping off their celebration. There is something wrong with them. They hadn't been this way before. Near the end of the conversation, the door opens. The chieftain's wife tells the adventurer to play along and kisses her - the townsman thus catching them occupied. The chieftain's wife turns to the man, "Fuck off. You can have me later." The man leaves.
...Right... So now it's so common among the men that women have to sleep with them regardless of their station and regardless of whether they want to.
My inner self isn't doing very well at this point. And it is here where I really have a tough time. Because this discomfort is misinterpreted as the idea of a woman kissing my character. And that really, really isn't the problem. I am stunned that no one seems to understand why I'm taking this as bad as I am. The word homophobia even gets thrown around which is even more insulting and embarrassing seeing as one of the other players is gay. I hear I must just get over this sex phobia of mine. (And that line is probably going to stay with me forever.)
The next morning.... blah, blah, blah... hears about mansion, should go there, blah. Go over. Fight zombies. Fight skeletons. Explore the house. Reach a door. A woman whimpers on the other side.
From here on out, I'm playing with my dice, wincing at every description.
The adventurers enter a master bedroom. *wince* There's a woman tied to one of the bedposts. *wince*
Another woman is holding a knife to her throat. The aggressor looks like the chieftain's daughter based on a portrait.
At this point, I decide to get it over with.
While the other adventurers debate on what questions to ask, one of the adventurers (me) opens fire on the aggressor - who dies with the one gunshot. The bound woman begs and pleads to be released.
More begging, more pleading, more whimpering, but I don't trust the story. It's too simple.
The adventurer studies the bound woman and senses that she isn't a victim but most likely the ultimate big bad. Again the other adventurers try to find out more information. Again the female adventurer turns to violence, pouring gun powder over the 'woman' and setting 'her' on fire.
Unfortunately, in this game succubi (which we only have revealed at this point) are immune to fire damage.
"Roll for initiative."
*sits and tries to think how to end this off*
I'm not going to elaborate further.
Dear, Reader. If you...
1. have read the encounter above and don't get it:
All I can say to you is, don't expect someone to 'get over' a situation like what has been presented up above. Instead... be kind. And if you can't understand, don't be an ass about it. Yes, it's a medieval setting in a medieval fantasy game there would be events like this. It's life. But most people don't want to face life when they sit by that table. Just... consider the follow through should you get into a situation like it.
2. understand and disagree or think that I responded too badly to it:
Yes, this is something I'm insanely sensitive about. But no. I'm never going to 'get over' stuff like it and will never forgive myself if I get to a point where I do.
3. you understand and agree... glad to know it's not just me. I don't think "we" have the moral high ground or something stupid like that. It's just really nice to know I'm not the only one who would have been freaking out.
NB. NB. NB: This was a random instance. It's a zero consistent reflection on my rpg gaming experience. But it was a tough one. And *shrugs* I had to get it out of my system, and chocolates and rusks binging didn't work.