Unlike other posts, I’m including a warning on this one. This book is a LARP book that involves, sex and consent. If those topics make you uncomfortable, move along and catch the next RPG review. Otherwise, stick with me as I open a new avenue of exploration for the curious mind**. (I always wanted to say that.)
So, for Review Friday this week, we’re not tackling a new book. And the book we’re tackling is not really a new subject for Angel’s Citadel. One of the big things we’ve talked about over and over is the use of safety tools and consent. This book includes those things in a big way. The book is called Honey and Hot Wax and was Edited by Sharang Biswas and Lucian Kahn and published by Pelgrane Press. This book is about sex, sexuality, and exploring it in a safe and fun environment. There are eight games in this book that involve not dice rolling, but LARP (Live Action Role Play).
I’m not going to get much into technical details with this one. We only have it in PDF, but it is clearly written and easy to follow.
“This book contains games of imagination and pretend for mature, consenting adults, on the theme of sexuality. You can play them at home, and each game takes between 2-5 hours, depending on the game. They are all suitable for both newcomers and experienced players of live action roleplaying games”Honey & Hot Wax, p. 8
As with all such games, it is broken down into the Facilitator or the GM, different scenes to allow both in-character roleplay and breaks to allow out-of-character actions. This includes things like getting a drink of water, catching your breath, even doing wellness checks. “Are you comfortable? Do you feel safe? Are you ready for the next scene?” This allows people to recover and other characters who may not have been part of the scene to have their moment to shine. In some ways, I envision this as the Facilitator being the director and the person with the camera. Moving it to focus on different aspects, while still checking in on their actors or players. They’ve included a short segment on workshopping (or warming up), and debriefing (or post-game check-ins).
Before I get into the games themselves, this book talks about the Three C’s of Safe Experiences. Consent, Communication, and Calibration. These things are very important in games that are going to touch on sensitive topics that can cause discomfort. Consent is important, required, and you’ll want to check back in for it on the regular, particularly if you’re including new content. Don’t assume that just because they’re playing means they’re consenting to everything. If they don’t consent to specific things, then that’s their choice and you have to respect that. Keeping the lines of communication open helps keep the experience enjoyable for everyone. Not just negatives but positives too. These games are supposed to be fun. Calibration is fine-tuning the details, it’s similar to getting your car to run just right, or in my case adapting my controller to fit my hands perfectly for my gaming. You can use code words, such as the stoplight system “Red, Yellow, Green” and of course the simple ‘No’. They’ve also included a phrase for escalation, meaning you’d like to go more intensive. Their example was ‘In the midnight hour’, from the old Billy Idol song (indicating you wanted ‘more, more, more’). They also used ‘to the moon’ but every time I hear that I think of that old TV show where he kept threatening to send his wife to the moon with his fist, so that’s not a phrase I’d use personally.
They did include some commentary regarding those that would refuse to use or respect such things.
“We must acknowledge that no amount of safety and calibration tools will protect you from people who refuse to follow them. Sadly, there are always going to be rulebreakers, lawbreakers, and people who do not respect others, but you don’t have to play with them. In fact, you should not.”Honey & Hot Wax, p. 18
So there it is, if you don’t want to follow the rules and respect other people’s autonomy then you won’t be played with. Seems simple enough to me.
Now onto the games, they are all fairly short, two to five hours. They open each game with a section of what it’s about, the space needed, and the materials. Beneath it is the number of players, the duration, and how easy or hard it is to adapt to online play. After that are the facilitator instructions, including the discussion of what this game is.
The first one, Pop!, by Alex Roberts, is about Looners, or people who have a sexual fetish for balloons. I am not going to go into detail about this game but I will state: You are allowed to have a fetish or desire. That is normal. However, your freedom to express that fetish or desire ends where my freedom begins. Basically what I mean is that if you have this fetish, but I don’t. I do not have the right to make fun or tease you about it, you do not have the right to try to force me to join you or tease me about it either. The bulk of the game revolves around not necessarily the balloons but discovering people that have the same or similar fetish in the advents of cyberspace or the internet and what that experience of connecting with similar-minded people is like.
Echo of the Unsaid by Sharang Biswas and Nick Tyson is about two ostensibly straight college boys exploring unresolved sexual tension, and quite possibly, romantic attraction. It is a game about longing, about the identity boxes we build for ourselves, about unspoken words and how their echoes linger in the air and infuse our actions. This game, in turn, feels more like a coming of age game as they go through discovering not just who they are, but who their friend is. Yes, there is sex involved, but how much or how little is up to the players. If this makes you uncomfortable, then you skip it. None of the games require you to play them, they just exist.
The Sleepover by Julia Bond Ellingboe and Kat Jones examines the younger aspect of learning and sharing in sex, sexuality, and gender identity. Basically, adolescents who are learning, and take what they’ve heard from others, or the TV and figure out what’s true for them. (Please note: the players are still required to be adults) This game is meant to be focused on the positive exploration of sexuality, not the negatives, such as abuse, homophobia, or shaming. Sex is normal and, while awkward, it shouldn’t be something people should be afraid of.
Follow My Lead by Susanne, is a non-verbal LARP about kink exploration and kink negotiation that gives participants the alibi and tools to artistically play with submission and domination. This game focuses on the exploration of domination and submission but more importantly, it’s focused on:
“…capturing the sensuality and sexuality of the mating dance, where humans try to figure out what they want and what a presumptive partner wants. The thrill and terror, awkwardness and joy of exploring your own desires and trying to understand others’, of getting to choose, being chosen, being left – all channeled through movement.”Honey & Hot Wax, p. 67
Pass the Sugar, Please by Clio Yun-su Davis is a game about using food and drink as a euphemism of sex. This is because the players and the host are members of a BDSM club. The House of Decadence is a highly exclusive and elite sex club that specializes in BDSM (Bondage/Discipline, Dominance/Submission, Sadism/Masochism), though not all who attend participate in BDSM activities. Events put on by the House of Decadence take place inside a gated mansion, and are invite-only. It is strict in enforcing its rules. One of those rules is the obvious: what happens in House of Decadence, stays in House of Decadence (just like Las Vegas or the Fight Club). This game explores not just sex and sexuality but discovering that people can be very different in different social activities.
In the Clefts of the Rock by Lucian Kahn is a game of erotic surrealism. The game is about touching each other’s bodies while imagining them to be something very different. This game was created by a trans designer with the hope that it might teach all sorts of players to interact with literal and fictive anatomies simultaneously. I found this particular aspect of this game so interesting that I’m going to copy and paste a portion for you to read:
“This game can create the feeling of a separation between your body sensations and the idea of their fictional meaning within a fantasy landscape – or this may not happen to you, since we all have different brains. If it does, this may (or may not) cause discomfort or distress. This game may be unsafe for some players with medical and/or mental health issues related to dissociation, depersonalization, or body dysmorphia. However, other players with these same issues have found it safe and fun. Use your best knowledge about your own body to decide if you can play safely.”Honey & Hot Wax, p. 103
What I found so interesting here is the fact that this person is outright encouraging bodily autonomy. You know your own body, you decide if you can play. And they have given fair warning about what could happen. I found the game itself interesting and will most likely see if my husband wants to play it.
Feeding Lucy by Jonaya Kemper is an interesting take on vampires and sexuality. It’s a two-person, freeform LARP based on Dracula’s good girl gone “bad”. This game draws its inspiration from Bram Stroker and following interpretations of the Dracula myth. This game goes into a bit more world-building than the other games, which makes for an interesting and unique experience. The main focus of this game is the steadily growing corruption of Lucy until she comes into her own as a creature of the night. While the initial game and story are between a woman and a man, you could easily make it for two men or two women.
You Inside Us by Kat Jones and Will Morningstar is the final game in this book. You Inside Us is a romance for two people in one body. One of you will play a human Host, the other will play an alien symbiote that lives inside them and shares their senses. To be honest, the first time I read the information for You Inside Us, the first thing I thought of was Venom. This game has a very different feeling and is more focused on intimacy, sex, and relationships and creating new bonds over the previous ones.
In conclusion, Honey & Hot Wax is an anthology of games involving sex, but it’s also more than that. It’s about exploration and discovery and breaking through walls to find ways to discuss what was once thought of as taboo and even now is often hushed as being ‘unclean’. I recommend this book to people who are seeking something new and have a trusted group or person to play with. It is also a good way to explore your own psyche and learn new things about yourself. I hope some of you find and enjoy this book for your own personal use. I hope some of you buy it just because it makes you happy. Those of you that simply want to pick a fight because of its topic? Well, I find nothing in my heart for you but pity. I don’t know who hurt you, but therapy is usually a good place to start.
- Joann Walles
** Eat your heart out, Carl