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Homosexuality in Exalted second edition

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  • Homosexuality in Exalted second edition

    Exalted is great for LGBTQ representation, right? It is very explicit in books like What Fire Has Wrought, and I think we all have fond memories of the many gay characters throughout first and second edition. Right? I know I did.

    But then I noticed a thing re-reading second edition:

    In first edition, the Mask of Winters and the Walker in Darkness were former lovers; in second edition they are described as former compatriots.

    In first edition, Ragara Szaya and Ledaal Kes were both openly gay, even if they were married; in second edition they are only named as a married couple in Wonders of the Lost Age. Kes also crops up in two or three comics, but nothings hints at his sexuality.

    In first edition, Azure Path and Ophilis Ses were same-sex lovers; in second edition there is no mention of Azure Path at all or of Ophilis Ses' sexuality, but there is mention of him having a son (and yes, gay people do have children, but when there is no hint at gayness, the presumed heterosexual tryst that led to him having a son shifts the needle towards heterosexuality).

    In first edition, Rune was seduced by male Fair Folk Lios; in second edition this may still be the case, but the gender (or gendered appearance) of Lios is never explicitly stated.

    In first edition, it was explicitly said that to seduce someone of a different sexual orientation added one to the difficulty of the roll; in second edition this is not mentioned.

    In second edition, though, we get the added facts that Rain Deathflier prefers bestiality to homosexuality and we get notorious sadist homophobe Tirak, none of which was in first edition. And in second edition, we get a sidebar saying that it is okay for Dynasts to be gay as long as they are not effeminate as that is associated with weakness (I am not sure it this is also in first edition).

    Iron Siaka still exists in second edition and some of the Abyssals are at the very least implicitly bisexual with plausible deniability (the Lady of Darkness having seduced most of her Circle; the relationship between Chorus at Midnight and Star of Dirt and Doubt), but really, that is a lot of gay and bi erasure between editions.

    I hate to bash on second edition, because I had a lot of fun with second edition, but this is kind of weird, right?


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  • #2
    Second Edition often depends on a strong familiarity with first edition to really appreciate what's going on. The art direction has an insistance on using characters who at best don't really get introduced until Scroll of Exalts.

    Tirak was actually in 1e Savage Seas though, the second edition compass book model just brought him into greater prominence.


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    • #3
      Originally posted by Jutlander View Post
      In first edition, Rune was seduced by male Fair Folk Lios; in second edition this may still be the case, but the gender (or gendered appearance) of Lios is never explicitly stated.
      Let's not forget the comparison of Games of Divinity and RoGD2. In the former, they specify that Gervesin fell in love with a male soldier while piercing his heart; despite his 2e writeup being very similar, one major divergence was not using any pronouns or other indicator of the soldier's gender.


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      • #4
        Originally posted by TheCountAlucard View Post
        Let's not forget the comparison of Games of Divinity and RoGD2. In the former, they specify that Gervesin fell in love with a male soldier while piercing his heart; despite his 2e writeup being very similar, one major divergence was not using any pronouns or other indicator of the soldier's gender.
        I'm not sure if it's deliberate erasure or Exalted 2nd edition having a tendency to rest on its laurels, it's like Tepet Lisara was written as a subversion of Ejava and all the competent female officers running around except that there weren't anywhere near that many in-lore.


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        • #5
          OP is not one to bash 2e on this, but kind of in my view, 2e is actually as a line did a lot to almost set Exalted back a bit save a few spots here and there. When something could come up it could do without erasure or having some issues (namely transphobic ones) it often took the bad route.

          The textbox in the 2e DB book was extra-clumsy on the whole "The Realm hates effeminate men" thing. Which when trying to present things as matriarchal or whatever, is pretty fucking yikes.

          There is also some I think outright transphobic stuff in some of the text of 2e in my view. Kind of notable is the bit in Compass: Underworld's House of Succulent Tears which combines a lot of 2e's favorites of that plus uneeded rape for shock. And the Abyssals book in the area of Eye and Seven Despairs makes pretty disparaging remarks about that Deathlord often shapeshifting into female forms.

          In Dreams of the First Age, nearly every single Lunar-Solar pair is a cis-normative married couple. The sole exception to my memory being Arkhadi and Leviathan....which still had them being Platnoic overall, Arkhadi being a scumbag piece of shit, and their affair being straight still.

          Tamuz was implied that he basically inserted misogyny into Dezlahn culutre due to the stereotype of gay men hating women. And his Solar wife being a controlling jackass was also both 1) Forcing him in a cis relationship in the First Age and 2) Implying he's gay due to a bad marriage which I am sure swims well as stereotypes go.

          (Note that 1e did have a similar of the above with Nellens Malakai who spends a kind of surprisng amount of time in his first person perspective writing on how women are icky, which seemed just kind of out of place hwen the game never tried to "justify' someone being LGBTQ+ and not in a way that was disparaging to others there.)

          Ma-Ha-Suchi's take in Dreams of the First Age being bisexual kind of hammed-up the degenerate bi-character thing in a way that I think feels outdated about a decade on out from that book. Somehow he has even more problematic to him, shocking.

          And kind of a bonus bit, the original draft I'm told of the Souslteel sig' character had his deep cover form being a woman and the mark he was keeping an eye on and falling in love with being a man. Their genders got swapped in the final tex

          There was at least a piece of art of Harmonious Jade and Disicple of Seven Forbidden Wisdom's First Age incarnations making out in Scroll of Heroes which while something on representaiton in art, is not something I think the text really assumed was there a lot.

          So there's a few more in there, but it's not just a case of erasure afoot IMHO. I actually think there were authors who thought that since Exalted already had set itseff up as open on that, fell right back into the bad stereotypes Lioness noted...and then also just tossed in a lot of just the more cliche bad shti while at it.


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          • #6
            Originally posted by Blaque View Post
            The textbox in the 2e DB book was extra-clumsy on the whole "The Realm hates effeminate men" thing. Which when trying to present things as matriarchal or whatever, is pretty fucking yikes.
            I realise the devs have strong opinions on this... but like, where? Where in Manual: DB (or any other book from any previous edition) is the term "matriarchal" used to describe the Realm?

            Exalted: The Dragon-Blooded has a sidebar on sexual discrimination which says the Realm is a meritocracy that doesn't have gender roles, but men face some "glass ceiling" discrimination.

            And that's it.

            The only time "matriarch" shows up in MoEP: DB is talking about Lookshy (where it says "Each is normally led by an elder member, typically known as a matriarch or patriarch").

            The Realm is (was) an empire, run by an empress, with matrilinity.

            It's a matriarchy in the same way Sweden is a patriarchy.

            There is some, persistent, gender inequality. But that doesn't make mean that a man being "thuggish" can't be seen as a negative trait in Sweden and a man being "effeminate" can't be a negative trait in the Realm.

            It's perfectly internally consistent.

            You can not like it for making a game world that's hostile for RL players. That's valid. That's a "yikes".

            But, no, the book doesn't present the Realm as a matriarchy, and even if it did, it could still have nuanced, if irrational, prejudices -- that wouldn't be a "yikes".

            ****

            Going back to OP:

            This is a conversation we have periodically -- you're not the first person to notice it.

            I believe the answer is something like this:

            Just as 3E de-emphasized parts of Exalted that don't fit the tone, 2E (which launched with a promo in direct competition with D&D and took Exalted from a super-niche game to it's highest level of popularity) did the same thing. And they did it by pandering to the lowest common d.

            I can't think of anything where they out and out erased a gay character, but they certainly deemphasized. And partly it's because they were relying on folks knowing the old lore (my first thought on Kes was sharing a prostitute with his wife, before I remembered that's from his Aspect Book 1E entry not MoEP: DB). But mostly it was "don't ask, don't tell" to sell more books.

            Which is kinda gross... but 2E is a dead edition from eight years ago. The last book that wasn't a spin-off was nine years ago. The last dead-tree book was eleven years ago.

            I'm not saying "be blind to homophobia". But the problem you're highlighting was fixed in 2016 when 3E dropped.

            Unless you meant it as an interesting observation rather than a complaint. In which case:

            You are correct. I noticed that too.


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            • #7
              Leviathan could also have been read as ace and aro in 1e, but 2e dumped him into a love triangle with Arkadi's Solar wife in a clumsy attempt at giving him a back story more elaborate than "he gave the Wyld the finger and protected the other Lunars".

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              • #8
                Originally posted by JohnDoe244 View Post
                I realise the devs have strong opinions on this... but like, where? Where in Manual: DB (or any other book from any previous edition) is the term "matriarchal" used to describe the Realm?

                Exalted: The Dragon-Blooded has a sidebar on sexual discrimination which says the Realm is a meritocracy that doesn't have gender roles, but men face some "glass ceiling" discrimination.

                And that's it.
                A bit of this is the text never actually bore this out in 1e or 2e actually. It mentions it but then we mostly see most house founders and leaders are men. Most major bureaus and positions of power we see, such as most generals, satraps, Deliberative members, the head of the treasury, majordomo of the Heptagram (who's sex actually changed between E:tDB and the Aspect Book), and admirals are all men. So we kind of start off not really on a good start there since well, the text says ones one thing, but few examples given show this.

                Originally posted by JohnDoe244 View Post
                The only time "matriarch" shows up in MoEP: DB is talking about Lookshy (where it says "Each is normally led by an elder member, typically known as a matriarch or patriarch").

                The Realm is (was) an empire, run by an empress, with matrilinity.

                It's a matriarchy in the same way Sweden is a patriarchy.
                My guess is this is similar to what Lioness noted. 2e authors seem to have assumed it was the case (as it contrasts the Realm with Lookshy) but never like...actually talked about it. And it didn't really do a lot still to actually address or pretend to be what it said it was in 1e. And to add to that, Lisara kind of exists in a context of "Women usually are officers, but she's an incompetent who slept ot the top." Which, if I rmember correctly, was also one of the descritpions of a fleet admiral in Savage Seas to boot, so it's not even novel in Exalted about women.

                Originally posted by JohnDoe244 View Post
                There is some, persistent, gender inequality. But that doesn't make mean that a man being "thuggish" can't be seen as a negative trait in Sweden and a man being "effeminate" can't be a negative trait in the Realm.

                It's perfectly internally consistent.

                You can not like it for making a game world that's hostile for RL players. That's valid. That's a "yikes".

                But, no, the book doesn't present the Realm as a matriarchy, and even if it did, it could still have nuanced, if irrational, prejudices -- that wouldn't be a "yikes".
                As I said, it siad something on matriarchy in 1e, 2e only ever hinted at it, and in any case, it never actually showed it in practice since apparently the most powerful folks in the Realm besides the Empress and Mnemon were almost all depicted as men.

                As for the yikes, it's actually not on matriarchy or patriarchy but actually just "Don't be a sissy" terminology which to quote:

                HOMOSEXUALITY VERSUS EFFEMINACY
                Same-sex encounters are both common and ac-
                cepted in the Realm. Realm lore has a long history of
                celebrated warriors who were also lovers extending back to
                the Shogunate and beyond. Intimacy between battlefi eld
                comrades is almost an institution all its own. What is
                not accepted in Dynastic culture, though, regardless of
                sexual orientation, is weakness in women or effeminate
                behavior in men. Such softness is never tolerated, and is
                often harshly ridiculed and even punished. Whatever else
                they might be, the Terrestrial Exalted are warriors, and
                there is no room for those who assume effete mannerisms
                or deliberately portray themselves as “soft” in any way.
                This textbox has like, a load of issues. Mostly in that it kind of is written, a priori, that being a gay man = being effeminate. That there has to be that contrast there. It also note takes what are considered "weak" feminine traits IRL and presents them negatively. See the term "weakness in women or effeminate behavior in men" which is kind of rich. Basically women shouldn't act like women and men shouldn't act like women either...as defined by what I assume we're assuming "womanly = bad" that that is kind of assumed and not stated here.

                Like, this is kind of what I mean. Even in assuming the matriarchal take that 1e had was assumed in 2e, it still fails at that. And if it s trying ot be netural egalitarian...it sitll fails at that as it is brining particular takes on what is even femminine for granted here.


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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Blaque View Post
                  My guess is this is similar to what Lioness noted. 2e authors seem to have assumed it was the case (as it contrasts the Realm with Lookshy) but never like...actually talked about it. And it didn't really do a lot still to actually address or pretend to be what it said it was in 1e. And to add to that, Lisara kind of exists in a context of "Women usually are officers, but she's an incompetent who slept ot the top." Which, if I rmember correctly, was also one of the descritpions of a fleet admiral in Savage Seas to boot, so it's not even novel in Exalted about women.
                  Ragara Feria was better in that Savage Seas doesn't try to slut shame her like Lisara's write-up did and the concept of transactional sex to help secure positions of power in the Realm could've be pretty reasonable, if the male NPCs had interacted with that notion in any meaningful way. Instead it was used for 2/3rds of the female admirals and the 3rd had the position because her husband was the admiral and she assumed the role illegitimately when he died.




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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Blaque View Post
                    It mentions it
                    No, see that's my point.

                    No Exalted book in 1E or 2E ever, ever, calls the Realm a matriarchy.

                    The published game text never says this once.

                    The 1E text explicitly calls it out as a society without gender roles.
                    The 2E text approaches it as a gender neutral society where a married couple might form a household in either spouse's family.

                    3E made the Realm a matriarchy.
                    Fanon calls the Realm a matriarchy.
                    The devs have gone on record saying the Realm was meant to be a matriarchy.

                    But it's not something the text has ever mentioned in previous editions.

                    The books didn't represent the Realm as a matriarchy because the books never once - in 1E or 2E - claimed it was supposed to be one.

                    (Didn't respond to the rest of your point because I broadly agree with everything else you said.)
                    Last edited by JohnDoe244; 03-31-2021, 02:56 AM.


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                    • #11
                      I think definition somewhat matters a bit. Female-biased inheritence, a glass ceiling on men, and a bias towards men in power is matriarchal in the same way modern Earth is patriarchal. I would actually note too that the way the Realm in 3e runs is actually still fitting more to the way that the 1e book describes it than not. To me a stand-out is the level of matriarchy in the Realm feels more like say, 20th Century Western patrairhcy in the amount of bias and pressure it creates versus what I think most fantasy stuff presents it where it is basically humans living like hyenas.

                      It is a bit off topic mind. But It hink that at least the implications were to have a societal bias towards women which 1e never showed and which 2e actively undermined, which is the general thing I was focusing on here.


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                      • #12
                        Yeah, "Realm is a matriarchy" is a more of a new thing that you can't evaluate 1st / 2nd in light of. (There's often this kind of back projection when it comes to the Realm because the changes are generally subtle and evolutionary and of emphasis, but extensive.). The 1e Realm book and the Aspect Books are reasonably internally consistent in distribution of powerful characters. Or at least that's how it seemed when I went through and counted characters. If there's a difference it's more in "Authors happened to talk about more male characters" (and we can take that up as a problem or not) than "Elder, socially powerful DBs skew more male than the whole character set".

                        Harks list is here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets...IAIzE/htmlview . They didn't get round to gender coding it tho, which would make it easier to know quickly.

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                        • #13
                          This is super interesting!

                          the word matriarchy isn't worded in the 2nd edition... I just found that 1st Edition and 2nd Edition had intergrated the ideas implicitly in the text.

                          "Matriarch" is in and I guess you could push it depending what House is a matriachy during the ruler's reign.

                          I try though to keep things in the sandbox and in part 1st Edition and 2nd Edition treated aspects of mature content while other games had less of it and was more interested in what dongeon to pillage and raid (I'm reducing the essence of it for brevety).

                          Negative reaction on the writing (content) of the material and past canon is totally legit, and yeah there are alot of presupositions from the authors (and readers) on a whole bunch of things if you look at it with the "current look on things" lens. I say current because next year that will have changed and progressed (or "progressed") depending on how you see things (and bias).

                          Then I'm looking at it from an cold "academic" point of view... and it's my opinion and I don't want to offend anyone (no sarcasm, because this is text format and people can read things outside my intention).

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                          • #14
                            Even barring whether the setting was trying to be matriarchal or not, I think a lot of 2e generally did have what at least read as transphobic stuff, a lot of subtle erasure, and when gendering came up, often did it in pretty gross ways like was noted with Lisara, the textbox on homosexuality in DBs 2e, and also conflating male homosexulaity as anti-woman, whcih are all not good looks to have there.


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                            • #15
                              At least during 1st and 2nd edition, male and female Dragon Blooded could rise to the highest levels of society, run their own Great Houses, be great generals, etc. Tepet Arada, one of the most celebrated and respected generals in the Realm is a male. Ragara Bagwei, the head Sorcerer and leader of the Heptagram is a male. Many other extremely important and prominent individuals were males.

                              None of these individuals were ever held up as wildly exceptional, (ie the books never said something like, "Tepet Arada is one of the few male generals to have ever been held in such high regard," or, "Ragara Bagwei is the first male to have been given the opportunity to run the Heptagram.") Ultimately there was never any effort made to present these individuals, their successes and positions as exceptional or unusual in light of their sex/gender.

                              Now, among mortals it's very plausible that males suffer from discrimination and whatnot, but among Dragon Blooded it always felt like the Blessing of the Dragons evened the playing field out such that it was a non-issue (if it even existed) in prior editions.

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