Sexuality is an aspect of personal identity comprised of the sort of people you're attracted to (if anyone), what you like to do with them in bed (if anything), and how often you like to do it (if at all). Sexual orientation is distinct from gender identity, which is how you personally feel about being male, female, neither, or both. Sexual orientation and gender identity are both distinct from biological sex, which is the bits you were born with. People naturally come in all combinations of sex, gender, and orientation.
In fiction, sexuality is an aspect of characterization that may or may not receive much focus in the story, depending on whether there's romance involved. Writers of fanfiction often take an unspecified sexuality as grounds to write the character however they want, which can be a good thing for increasing cultural awareness and acceptance of non-straight orientations—provided the character is kept in-character and the fic is written well, of course. When it's not, nobody is very happy about it.
Sexual orientation is a broad categorization of the sort of people you're attracted to. Here's a brief rundown of common orientations:
- Heterosexual (straight) - attracted to members of the opposite sex, usually also the opposite gender.
- Homosexual (gay/lesbian) - attracted to members of the same sex, usually also the same gender.
- Bisexual - attracted to members of both the same and the opposite sex/gender, though not necessarily in equal numbers.
- Pansexual - attracted to people of all sexes and genders, in any combination. In fiction, this may also extend to members of other sapient species.
- Asexual - not sexually attracted to anyone, regardless of sex or gender, though they may still desire romance.
It is important to note that transgender, otherwise-gendered, and non-gendered people have the same range of orientations as cisgender people (that is, people whose gender identity matches their biological sex). Also, this list does not quite cover people who may, for example, prefer a transwoman who has not undergone reassignment surgery, or other variations on the above, but we would like to acknowledge that they exist and are just as valid as any other orientation. In our book, and indeed our Constitution, diversity is normal and good.
By far the most common and commonly represented orientation is straight, such that fictional characters whose orientation is not specified are often assumed to be straight. This is not necessarily wrong, but only if we allow that it is also not wrong to assume they are gay, bi, or anything else. A person's orientation does not really have any bearing on how they choose to conduct the non-sexual aspects of their life, so it doesn't have to express itself in the course of a story that focuses on other things, such as saving the world. Where, for example, should J.K. Rowling have put references to Albus Dumbledore's sex life in the Harry Potter series? We're thinking nowhere; it's not his story, and anyway he's too busy doing important stuff to be gettin' it on. The fact that he's gay really doesn't matter and shouldn't have come as any more of a shock than if JKR had declared once and for all that he was straight.
On the other hand, when a character's orientation is specified, it is important to bear it in mind when writing fanfic about their sex life. Turning a non-straight character hetero is especially bad form, and breaking up an established canonical couple to do so is even worse. It IS possible to justify writing a gay character in a straight relationship or vice versa, since people often forget the existence of bisexuality and people who are bi are not necessarily attracted to both sexes in equal numbers. However, shipping a character outside their established orientation without regard to the rest of their personality, not to mention basic anatomy and good writing, is still bad, and may earn your fic a visit from the Department of Bad Slash or the Division of Bad Het.
People enjoy a wide variety of activities in the bedroom, ranging from cuddling to masturbation to intercourse to BDSM. There is a huge number of fetishes and kinks that are variously tame or adventurous.
What people like to do in bed is generally no one's business but their partner(s)', and has absolutely zero bearing on how they conduct their everyday lives, so it doesn't usually come up in fiction (unless it's designated erotic fiction). This gives fic writers a lot of room to make things up, provided of course that they write it well and actually know what the heck they're talking about. The PPC does not judge fanfic based on its content—see YKINMK—but it does take exception to godawful prose and blatantly not getting how a given sex act works. Research is your friend.
The PPC also takes exception to stories that make light of rape, including statutory rape, and other non-consensual acts. Consent is an important part of any healthy relationship, regardless of what you're into. Forcing or coercing someone to do something they don't agree to do is not okay, it is not sexy, and it's not an acceptable basis for a one-off bit of wangst that will never be referred to again. It's okay to write about dark subjects, but if you're going to do it, make sure you understand it very well and do not underestimate the long-term impact it can have on the victim.
Not everybody enjoys the same amount of sexual activity. People with a low sex drive might be happy with sexual activity every month or so, and people with a high sex drive might desire it as often as fifteen to twenty times a week, according to Wikipedia. This extends to whatever kinks they might be into, as well. Just because someone enjoys role-play, for instance, doesn't necessarily mean they want to dress up every single time.
Couples with differing sex drives may find it challenging to satisfy the partner with the higher drive while not exhausting the one with the lower drive, but with good communication and understanding, it is quite possible to make things work for everyone.
- Fanfic Tropes
- Citrus Scale
- Gender Bending
- Healing Sex
- Ho Yay
- Seme and Uke
- Sex god
- Yaoi and Yuri
- PPC Terms