Sex in LARP?

You’ve seen it on TV: a town of robots and people roleplaying cowboys, an orgy occurring every other episode. You’ve wondered – does such a thing exist? Is LARP Sex a Thing?

As someone who’s been LARPing for about 5 years now, I’ve seen a wide variety of different types of games, settings, and locations. I consider myself having tasted a healthy combination of LARPs, from boffer (using foam swords to whack opponents) to blockbuster (generally high budget ritzy weekend events) and the spectrum in-between.

When people from outside the hobby hear about my strange addiction, there’s often a question they ask me about – so I thought I’d take a moment to write about it. Is LARP sex a thing?

At many of the local boffer events I’ve attended, sex during the event is prohibited in writing. For example, here’s a snapshot of one rulebook where it identifies ‘doing it’ at the event as grounds for expulsion:

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Even with it in being in writing in cases, there’s been a lot of talk of ‘two people wandering off into the woods’, taking showers together, or generally getting frisky at events. But it has never been an integral part of games, required, or at any point expected. Generally, it’s been between already dating couples.

Another huge aspect of LARPs is that the hobby has a disproportional amount of polyamorous, LGBTQ+, and generally queer composition. I mention this because it is important to know that oftentimes people have really unique relationships that trickle into game. You wouldn’t just assume the sexuality of other players.

A recent wave of events have brought in a more responsible and realistic view of sex in LARP. I’ll call this the ‘Zoned’ approach, because essentially, specific areas are defined as being open to more sexual or adult specific scenes. When I first heard about this, I was riding in a car, and I can recall giggling like a school child. I’ve had a few romances in LARP before – but nothing beyond an elementary school crush. The idea of taking a relationship from the ground up in an event astounds me, and as I’ve gotten to know other LARPers, some of them pursue responsible romances in game as a primary objective and have developed strong feelings that in many ways transcend the short time they have been together.

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Figure : Sinking Ship’s Scapegoat has implemented a robust Zoned system with a required workshop.

Other game designers, like Mighty Narwhal, have implemented clothing optional zones with thematic adult content – their venue actually being at a clothing optional camp. There are several areas which are deemed as ‘clothing optional’.

In all of these scenarios, consent is paramount, and harassment is not tolerated. You can avoid situations you are uncomfortable with or would personally prefer to avoid – so you can’t ‘win’ by engaging in sex or nudity.

One of the more interesting things about intimacy in LARP settings relates to how it can be portrayed through narration and light hand touching, called Ars Amandi. Back in the day, Shakespeare was likely considered very forward – but to an in-game couple lightly touching each other hands (think similar to ‘footsies’) can symbolize something more intense.

LARP definitely has a long way to go to get to the sex heavy scenes that we see in popular shows like West World where robots or NPCs are used and abused for sexual purposes. Instead what we observe is an opt-in culture of consent and negotiation. Asking someone what they’re comfortable with and establishing out of game boundaries is critical in keeping things safe for everyone.

Sources:
Stark, Lizzie. Intro to Ars Amandi. Available. Online. Intro To Ars Amandi

Sinking Ship. Scapegoat Participant’s Guide. Available. Online.
https://www.scapegoatlarp.com/participation-guide

Lost World’s Gaming. Rift Fallen Rulebook. Available. Online.
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1qCyoPZ4JPxsvCVuqOS_WV1_YRClZA2vvcAQk3M2kOuE/edit?usp=sharing

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