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Fantasy birth control talk

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by AnnaBlixt, May 4, 2013.

  1. topazfire

    topazfire Minstrel

    I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce. Alana (the FMC) uses an amulet that was given to her by a maternal figure the first time she menstruates. Those books are YA so they are light on any in depth description so there is no mention of STD's, just that the amulet prevents pregnancy (as well as doing a few other things if I remember right). The amulet is a bit of an easy way out (as someone else mentioned in relation to magic), and it still left the birth control as the responsibility of the girl, but at least in a YA novel it was mentioned and discussed... so that's good, but I would expect much more from a novel geared toward adults.

    All of the comments on teas/potions/concoctions of some sort, feel the most realistic to me and the most relatable as a reader (other than barrier protection). Like in the real world, perhaps a combination of the two would work best... and they both fail? It happens.
    Rosemary Tea likes this.
  2. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

    On the flipside of things, there's also Pushing Daisies, in which the two lovers can't even touch each other, and invent all manner of cute ways around this. I don't think that style and genre necessarily needed PIV (an acronym that here does not stand for Parent Identity Verification.)

    Still, it's your story, and you make the call.
  3. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    It is funny how times have changed since Pierce wrote those novels. YA/Teen novels today go into a fair amount of detail about sex, and also include things like rape, pregnancy and abortion, STDs, suicide, depression, drug use, and so on. Having read a number of these novels targeting Teen/YA, I'm not sure there is any subject matter that is verboten anymore, and some of the description of sexual situations between characters gets pretty explicit.
    topazfire likes this.
  4. Sinitar

    Sinitar Minstrel


    I haven't read it, but I completely understand what you are saying. I guess it all rests in the matter of the relationship development. To me, it isn't the sex that is important. It's the implication of it, and good writers can portray a very strong character bonding without even getting to that part. It seems that you like the concept of risk and reward though, and that's okay. You know your characters way better than I do, and in your story, it may very work ok.

    Hmm, it very much depends on the characters I suppose. If the human female cannot bear a child and die in the process, then some may very well consider a very irrational thing to do. Will they go to such great length to satisfy their lust alone? I think you should establish what sort of personalities your characters are before taking this leap. Are they ready for it in the first place?
  5. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    This might seem like an obvious solution, but why not just make one partner or the other sterile? They don't have to know about it before they try to have sex, but it could come as a relief when they find that there's no risk of endangering the female's life with a baby that would otherwise kill her.
  6. Jess A

    Jess A Archmage

    This is more about the discussion on birth control than the birth control itself, I've just realised. My bad.

    I would probably have the characters address it at various points leading up to it. It could cause tension or arguments. It could aid some plot. There could be a scene where the man has to source this herb for her, because he so desperately doesn't want to kill her. Even better, he accidentally gets the wrong herb and the herb fails.
    Rosemary Tea likes this.
  7. AnnaBlixt

    AnnaBlixt Minstrel

    Does everyone have to act in a rational manner at all times? ;-)

    One thing I really admire about Game of Thrones is that some of the events that trigger the most exciting storylines are irrational couplings. Cersei doing her brother? Completely irrational. Robb hooking up with some nobody? Completely irrational. The honorable Ned Stark cheating on his wife wasn't very rational... nor Robert getting every whore in the kingdom with child. But without irrational acts of love and lust there really wouldn't be much of a Game.

    It's hard to get a good story if everyone is going to be rational about who they sleep with. People make mistakes, fall to their impulses and rush into things they are not ready for. It's human nature.

    My story isn't a vanilla love story about two people who fall in love and act on it in a mature, safe and rational way. I get bored just thinking about it. In some ways they are ready for it, in other ways definately not. But we sometimes need to do things we are not ready for in order to grow. The girl ends up with the fantasy version of an alien pregnancy and she isn't anywhere near ready to make any decisions about it. Nor does she need to be in order to create an interesting story.
    Rosemary Tea likes this.
  8. AnnaBlixt

    AnnaBlixt Minstrel

    Interesting idea. ;-) However, if you knew that a pregnancy could kill you, would you leave it up to your partner to find the right plant? ;-)
  9. AnnaBlixt

    AnnaBlixt Minstrel

    Well, for me, sexuality is a critical part of a character. I don't want sexuality to be implied. I feel that our sexuality is a strong part of who we are, and how our sexuality is expressed with a partner says a lot about the person. It also bugs me a lot when violence and death can be extremely graphic, but as soon as the characters kiss... it's curtains flapping. Man on top implied. I mean, it doesn't have go porn, but nor should sexuality be skimmed over. I like the level that Robin Hobb uses. GRRM goes a bit too porno at this, but Hobb keeps it more on the exciting side that tells a lot about the characters without being overly graphic.
    Rosemary Tea likes this.
  10. Jamber

    Jamber Sage

    That's being rational, AnnaBlixt. :)
    The sex/death aprodisiac thing works for some people. (What was that Normal Mailer quote? Something about women not respecting a man who has sex with them non-reproductively, because there's no threat of death involved?) Not my whimsy, but it's out there, and I think readers would cope if there's a fair bit of heavy-duty chemistry involved.
  11. Chinaren

    Chinaren Scribe

    In the books you'll notice that the characters (including Cersei and her brother) are a lot younger than on the TV series!

    If you read Jack Vance at all, many of his books have quite explicit scenes in, including rape, which is sometimes carried out by the protagonist! (Cugel's saga for example). He is/was* a truly fantastic writer though.

    Sorry, veering a bit OT, so...

    In my latest one, a sci-fi, the characters have genetic modifications so they don't become pregnant if they don't wish it.

    *If he's still alive he's pretty old now.
  12. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Archmage

    That's what I always think of when I think of fantasy birth control. To this day, I envy Alanna: she has such an easy method. If only it were real!

    You might recall that of the three partners she has over the course of the series, one knew about the charm before they got romantically involved, one asks her about it before making his move, and while there's no explicit discussion with the third - just a reference to them sharing a bedroll - it's implied that he knows about it too. And further implied that none of these men would go there if she were unprotected. In all of those relationships, too, there's some discussion of what it means to them emotionally, before they do the deed. Which is no less important a discussion than birth control, and as a literary device, having an easy method of birth control leaves more room for the emotional focus.

    Teas/potions/concoctions of some sort are the main kind of birth control that's been used throughout history. Barrier methods as we know them couldn't be made until the smelting of rubber, invented in the mid nineteenth century. Older types of barrier method existed, but they weren't as comfortable.
  13. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Archmage

    I haven't read that (minority me!) but there's no need to invent one, just use something historical. Post coital contraceptives have existed forever. Before modern methods came along, taking something to ensure menstruation happened as expected was the usual go-to. Whether that actually prevented pregnancy or caused a very early abortion is a toss up - an extremely early abortion is indistinguishable from a heavy menstrual period, and in times past, no distinction was necessarily drawn. It would just have been viewed as a contraceptive measure. Possibly, those methods could work in either way.

    One method I've worked into some of my fiction is eating seeds of Queen Anne's lace. That has both historical precedent and some modern research backing it up.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2021
  14. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Archmage

    Here's an exercise: what are the genders (if known) of the fantasy authors who include a mention of birth control when their characters have sex that is not intended to be procreative, versus those who don't?

    Seems to me that the authors who do think about it and put it in the story are overwhelmingly female.
    A. E. Lowan likes this.
  15. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    I don’t go into it, because the stories don’t call for it, but birth control exists both as a medicinal herbal thing and via magic. It is very easy for a priestess to keep herself from becoming pregnant while at the monastery no matter how busy their social life… on the flip-side, she’d also be able to make herself fertile as heck, if so inclined, LOL. The big trick for any priestess dealing with Elemental Life on a regular basis while pregnant would be side effects, hence pregnancy during their early years of training is frowned upon because control or abstinence from Life would be required in order to carry a baby to normal term without potential problems.

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