So, I’ve learned a few things from ERP. I’ve learned a few techniques about how to write a good erotic scene. I’ve also learned (through some very cringe-worthy moments) about what does not constitute a good erotic scene or even good writing period. I’ve learned a bit about the spectrum of people that play Warcraft (or at least the subsection of players that are willing to take on a role-play scene involving romance and/or eroticism.) But the most important thing I’ve learned, and certainly the thing that I wish to distill into this week’s Everything I Need To Know I Learned In Azeroth broadcast is about communication.

Blizzard has by design limited the explictiness of sexual encounters possible in the game. Mods aside, your character cannot achieve true nudity and the animated emotes and the pre-programmed sounds that go along with them are written to be risque but certainly not offensive. (None of which I disagree with, just to set the record straight. This is a game that younger children can and do play, and I completely agree that Blizzard is responsible to keep their product acceptable to the parents of those children.) So, if you and an of-age and willing role play partner decide to engage in some adult recreation, your possibilites for body language are limited. You are, for the most part, restricted to writing out your scene, your reactions, your thoughts, your wants – in short almost everything that matters in an erotic encounter. (Yes, I realize that the restrictions in terms of body language apply to almost every in-character encounter, erotic or not. Keep reading, I promise I’ll get to a point eventually!)

When my single-and-looking gnome finds an acceptable playmate for the evening, she is limited to the boundaries of my writing capabilities to communicate to that playmate exactly what she wants and how she wants it. She needs to be explicit in her actions and reactions for the scene to have any meaning or purposefullness at all. While there may be a certain amount of ‘chemistry’-driven spontenatiety, there is very little room for mind-reading. To get what you want you have to say what you want, clearly and possibly in great detail.

So, with all the people out there role-playing (and erotically role playing) with fun and satisfaction had on both sides, how is there such poor communication skills in our daily lives and our at-home relationships?

I understand that there are socialization forces at work here. Men are told they are “less manly” if they don’t know what they want and get in there and get it. Women are told they are “unladylike” if they voice their thoughts on what they want and demand they get it. We are told that people who are together should “just know” what the other person wants and that saying explicitly what you want or want to try or are even just thinking about makes a relationship seem less sexy. Toss in a healthy measure of Puritanistic thinking about sex and you ceratinly don’t get an atmosphere that is in any way conducive to frank conversation.

I also understand that there is an element of fear here. If you turn to your partner and say “I want to try X, with Y and some of Z” then you’ve given them a very specific way to say no to you. To reject you and your wants. It’s frightening to open yourself to that kind of rejection from someone you are close to. What if they say no? What if they think you’re a deviant for even suggesting it? What if they tell someone else? What if they mock you? It’s a leap of faith, to be sure.

When you add in Internet Anonymity, a lot of those obstacles disappear. Gender and sexual orientation boundaries become blurred, the emotional investments lessen and the great warm security blankie of the internet whispers us the promise that if things turn really nasty, we can just disappear back into the crowd. Free from the frightening realities of having to look someone in the face and say “what I want is this” we are given a safer environment in which to hone our skills in terms of exploring the boundaries and possibilities of human interaction – sexual and otherwise.

I know that I have the skills to properly, clearly, conscisely and effectively communicate my thoughts on any matter up to and including sexual encounters. Just by some of the comments I get on this blog, I know that I am capable of making my point known and understood. I can also see concrete examples of other bloggers and other role-players, having the skill set to communicate the most exquisite nuances of human thought and interaction. We need to start trusting in those skills. We need to trust in the relationships that are closest to us. We need to be able to trust our friends and our partners to treat our emotional nakedness with tenderness and dignity. We need to be able to go to our guildies and speak our minds and be heard and understood. We need to go to our partners and express our wants and our desires, our insecurities, our hopes, our curiosities and trust that because they are there with us, they will understand us.

There needs to be less fear and more open emotional honesty in all of our human interactions. Yes, you might be ridiculed. Yes you might be hurt. But someone, somewhere needs to extend that first hand of openness. Every guild, every partnership, every relationship out there can benefit from better lines of communication. Trust me. Try it.