1. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Gender in a magical world

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by digitig, Feb 16, 2015.

    I'm playing with ideas for a magical world in which everyone is born with a fixed (typically very long by our terms) life expectancy that they are aware of at all times and can (theoretically) bring about anything they desire through magic. Of course, there are limitations:
    • All magic has a cost, and the cost is that it reduces the caster's lifetime. Particularly difficult magic might need many people's lifetimes, so could only be done by a team effort.
    • People get more efficient at doing particular magic through practice.
    • There is a sort of "conservation of magic" in place. It's sort of possible to use magic to extend your lifespan, but for a novice it would cost about 3 days to add one day. With extensive practice it might be possible to add a day at a cost of 26 hours, but the caster always ends up losing out.
    I've a fair bit of thought into how economics and politics would work. Much of it would look like the real world: we already give up part of our life for work, and some of the benefits we get for that go in taxes. Potential issues like race would not be issues at all because people could change them at will. What I'm struggling to work out is how gender would play out. Of course, people could change their biological sex, with a moderate expenditure of magic -- far less trouble than gender realignment in the real world. And yes, I expect adolescents would experiment a lot, and do things they regret later in life. And yes, there would be a system of laws and sanctions, and flipping your love-rival's sex would get you in a whole heap of trouble.

    As a middle-aged male that's pretty comfortable in my body I probably wouldn't change much if anything. But I'd be interested in what others might choose to change about themselves. I'm particularly interested in views from women and from gender and sexual minorities because they're completely unrepresented in my present sample of one!

    Also, do people think that gender politics as we see it would exist? Could there be an equivalent of GamerGate? Might there be pressure to "commute" to a particular gender for some jobs? I'd be interested in thoughts.
     
  2. stevesh
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    stevesh Banned Contributor

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    If I understand your world properly, it's hard for me to imagine any curious person who wouldn't try living for a while as a member of the opposite sex, assuming that returning to one's original sex was possible. I would expect it to be the same as would apply to trying other races, ages and nationalities, etc. Of course, I only recognize two sexes, and reserve the word 'gender' to apply to language.

    I saw 'GamerGate' as an example of the immaturity of many of the male children (of all ages) who inhabit the gaming community rather than an actual sexist conspiracy, despite the fact that the victim was a woman.
     
  3. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Can everyone have babies, and can everyone nurse them?

    I think the burden of childbearing has been the biggest factor in gender relations in our world, so if your world doesn't have that differential, I think the gender politics would be very different. And, no, I wouldn't think you'd have the sort of ridiculous, petty nonsense we saw in Gamergate in a world where everyone could chose their sex and had almost certainly lived as the other sex for at least a period of time.
     
  4. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Iv'e always wondered what it would be like to be Pinocchio...
     
  5. odolmen
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    odolmen Member

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    I don't see how there could be any kind of sexism in such a world, given everybody would have tried everything at least once. Are people born in a defined gender or do they get to choose it? In any case, the male and female population would understand eachother to the point where the likes of Gamergates wouldn't make sense (Not that it even does with fixed genders, mind you...)
     
  6. kfmiller
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    kfmiller Active Member

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    As a women, no I have never had any desire to become a man.

    Even if I could snap my fingers and change it I don't think I would, and it sounds like the magic required to do so would have some consequences, making it even more unlikely I would.

    Someone I went to high school with is transitioning from male to female and it's not something she undertook just because she was "curious."

    Of course this is *your* fantasy world so you can make the characters act however you want. In your world I think people might experiment more especially if it's always been like that and there wasn't the stigma of being transgendered.

    As far as gender politics goes- hmm interesting question. If people are changing their sexes I would assume there would more than likely be reasons behind it then just being curious to try something different. For instance, you might have a certain job that for whatever reason only females can perform. If a male feels drawn to that job is he willing to become female? I think the gender politics wouldn't be the "girls have vaginas and are inferior!" that gamergate devolved into.

    Edit: i just re-read to the end of your post and saw that you already thought about the changing genders for job thing, oops.
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2015
  7. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh, I'd change for sure! I guess in a world like that it wouldn't be a "see what it's like to walk down the street as a different sex" type experiment, but for sex? It'd be really cool to see what it was like!
     
  8. kfmiller
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    kfmiller Active Member

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    LOL, I don't know why but that made me giggle.
     
  9. kfmiller
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    kfmiller Active Member

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    The sexual fetishes in that world would get weird fast...
     
  10. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Or be totally a non-issue. I mean, if you can change bodies whenever you want, presumably you could change kinks, too? So maybe everyone would just try everything, and it would all be just standard...
     
  11. kfmiller
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    kfmiller Active Member

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    I dunno. A world where there is no racism, no gender issues, no sexual issues, no issues at all, no conflict, would make for a pretty uneventful story. At the end of the day, magic or not, they are still human.
     
  12. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's been done already in a book called Biting the Sun. I have not read this book only heard about it. Unlike the OPs world, death is not an issue either. You can change your body however you like, even commit suicide a thousand times. No one has to work. It's a disaster.
     
  13. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    A few interesting thoughts already, thanks.

    Following up on a few of the points mentioned:

    Everything is possible, but everything has a cost (in lifetime), so I think there is scope for tension. Basically, the unit of currency is life days (or minutes, or years, whatever), because lifetime can be transferred between people (though they usually use credits because the transfer is slightly inefficient - and yes, there is a problem with magical forgery of high-value tokens).

    Because particular magic becomes more efficient with practice, there are work specialisms within magic, and because magic has a cost it's often worth doing things the non-magical way. It's a trade-off. And would you give up two days of your life to shake off a minor cold, rather than waiting a week for it to clear naturally, you probably wouldn't -- unless you have a really important meeting you want to be on top-form for.

    Parents can choose the sex of their babies, but doing so has a cost (less than changing gender after it is born, though).

    Anybody can be female (at a cost, for those not already so) and so can carry and bear babies. They can even conceive without a partner (at a cost). If they change gender during pregnancy it would normally terminate the pregnancy (though there are less costly ways to cease to be pregnant), but the term can be accelerated (at a cost) so the baby could be born at term instead. The person's imagination -- and wealth -- is the limit.

    Death is an issue. It's not necessarily permanent, but it would take a lot of lifetime to reverse it -- the worse the state of the body, the more costly it would be to fix it. That means that lots of people still alive would have to want the person back.

    I'm not sure what "changing kinks" would be. Is it meaningful to want to do something you don't want to do? I'll have to think about that.

    And as for Pinocchio, I suppose people could transform themselves into inanimate objects and get stuck...
     
  14. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's just occurred to me that I'm going to have terrible trouble with pronouns :(
     
  15. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Have you read Ancillary Justice? It's scifi, and there's lots going on, but relevant to your pronoun issue is that the MC comes from a culture that doesn't distinguish people based on gender. So the MC uses female pronouns for everyone, confuses genders, etc. It was interesting.
     
  16. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    It sounds like that "In Time" film, which is a sci-fi version of an economy where time is money, literally.

    In the Culture novels by Iain M Banks people can change sex and do so regularly, they are largely immune to death due to mind uploading etc. It is basically a Utopia, which means that the only way he can tell his stories is to have them on the fringe of the Culture where people work in clandestine jobs involving more barbaric species. I like Banks a lot, but the perfect Utopia is often detrimental to his stories; there have been occasions where I have read his novels knowing from page one that the astronomically intelligent AI (who manages all decisions on behalf of humans, thus maintaining the utopia) will have been aware of the plot all along and will have put contingencies in place to ensure everyone's survival, and that inevitably is the conclusion.
     
  17. Nicoel
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    Nicoel Contributing Member

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    I've never wanted to be male bad enough to spend anything on it, myself. I might do it once, just to see what it's like to have a penis and to be with a girl and all that..

    Ooh interesting side track - how will sexual orientation work in your world? If I turn male will I suddenly be attracted to breasts and want to have sex with a female? Or will I still be "me," and still really like men. How would this affect my self image if I really loved men and turned myself into one? I could just stare into a mirror all day and admire my handsome form. I think this could affect your "kink" too, as you mentioned before. I feel like kink and sexual orientation could possibly go hand in hand as they're both argued about whether or not it's a choice.
     
  18. Okon
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    Okon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Interesting concept, and an example of thought-inducing sci-fi:agreed:.

    Yeah, it'd be fun having cleavage for a change. I'd finally know: is it really that easy to accidentally drop food on/in them? Because whenever I'm on a date/picnic with a girl something edible always lands up in the valley, so to speak:p.

    As for changing just for hank-panky, for some reason I'm hesitant on that. It would make me a better lover as a man for when I change back, though, so I guess I would try it.
     
  19. Nicoel
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    Nicoel Contributing Member

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    It's even easier to do than we make it seem. Popcorn and little pieces like that are #1 on the list of things that are attracted to the "valley." Though, finding an extra M&M is always nice. ;)
     
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  20. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    In terms of similar ideas in other works, there's some parallel with Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, though in that book there didn't seem to be a cost and the tension was between those with the abilities and those without. There could even be an element of What Women Want, for those who care to expend the timeline on it.
    Changing just for hanky-panky? Well, changing has a cost, so folks aren't likely to be doing it nightly depending on how the evening is going (unless they've acquired a lot of credit somehow), but I think a lot might try once or twice.
    Does one's orientation change with one's sex? Well, one must presumably remain more or less the same person. Transgender people seem to retain their original orientation so I don't think it would. Of course, it could be changed - everything is up for grabs - but independently of body form.
     

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