I finally got an answer on the Candlekeep Forums. I asked: Okay, some questions for Ed and THO. I'm wondering about the sex lives of monks in the Forgotten Realms. Being that their monks are not the monks we think of in Western culture, and aren't really Far Eastern monks, either (given that Danica Maupoissant married and had children with Cadderly Bonaduce). Are monks in the Forgotten Realms allowed to have relationships? And is this decision made by the monk him or herself, their superior at the Monastery they are raised at, or by the order the Monastery is a part of? And if Monks are allowed to marry and have children, where do these loved ones and offspring stay when the monk is at his or her monastery? I assume, that, like the children of clerics, these children are prime candidates to be future monks.
Secondly, on a related note, I noticed in one of the earlier year replies from Ed, it was implied that homosexuality and "other" sexuality is not considered with any great horror or interest in the Realms. Is there any sort of prejudice at all towards people whose sexualities are not the "Usual" ones (asexuals, polysexuals, bisexuals, etc.) in the Realms, and if so, who or what is this from? i.e. Religious, cultural, etc. Is there any specific religion which looks down on "Non-standard" sexual interests. (Shiallia, I noticed, thinks that all creatures should produce offspring- how does this work out in a day to day fashion?) I'm sorry if this "rustles anyone's jimmies" so to speak, but I love this aspect of the Realms, and I wondered how this plays out. Is any kind of attitude which looks down on these sexualities accepted if it comes out of a certain faith, or is it something that people would call the person expressing such an attitude out on? Do characters of an evil persuasion have more of a chance to be against such relations? And would such an attitude, if it exists, be more likely to occur in the smaller towns/hamlets or in big cities? Or is it just a non-issue entirely? Or am I completely wrong? I ask because with the release of the Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition, they are adding a character who is bisexual, and this has some people in an uproar about how such things don't exist in the Realms... which I know from reading this website, and these threads, just aren't true. But I was wondering about the attitude towards such things as a whole. And I apologize in advance if any of this has been asked before... there are so many threads, and I don't have much time to read them. I am going through them SLOWLY, but I did hope to get some kind of official or semi-official feedback. I apologize also about asking about such a hot-button topic. If only there was some way of searching these threads... Or did I just miss how to do so?
Another thing is... when it comes to festhalls, is there some way of knowing if a particular festhall caters to your, um, tastes? A long time ago, I read a fantasy novel where the houses had a system of colored lanterns hung outside to signal that they catered to: women for women (pink), Men for men (green), Men for women (gold/yellow) and women for men (white/clear). Is there something similar or analogous in the Realms?
And Ed Answered!
Hi, LadyRhian. Thanks for your questions, and here we go…
The rules governing the lives of monks vary from faith to faith and even from holy order to holy order, but in general, monks aren’t celibate, and are allowed to have long-term relationships (both formal [[marriage]] and informal). However, they often aren’t allowed to marry until they have fulfilled a personal quest, holy task, “degree of enlightenment” or other spiritual training or attainment.
In theory, decisions as to sexual conduct of monks are made by the deity; in practice, the abbot or prior or heirophar or (insert title of head of monastery here) makes the decision, and if a deity disagrees, dream- or altar-visions are sent to both the superior and the monk concerned, and the decision is altered. In general, an order will have “teachings” that outline rules that postulants (would-be monks) agree to accept as a condition of joining. In the Realms, all sane deities accept that mortals grow and change throughout life, so no choices or decisions are necessarily “final” and irrevocable. Circumstances change, and so do people.
Almost all monastic communities (except for the most remote mountain and cavern ones) have nearby or even surrounding settlements full of “lay” folk, and these include the families of monks - - and yes, indeed, the children of clergy (including monks) are seen as “the first and most fertile of ground” for finding future clergy (including monks).
Some orders take vows of chastity or seclusion from the secular world or the company of other genders, but it should be noted that such faiths almost always observe annual holy festivals during which these vows are relaxed or specifically set aside (so there can be fraternization, lovemaking, “unwinding” of cares, and so on).
As to sexual attitudes in the Realms, there is indeed local prejudice against individuals who have “different” or “unusual” sexuality—bigotry and a dislike of change and “what’s not usual” is everywhere and is (unfortunately) part of being human.
Specific religions often invoke temporary abstinence as punishments for transgressions against the creed of the faith, but other matters sexual are usually ignored in doctrine, rather than policed by doctrine (consecration or baptism of willing, old-enough-to-choose offspring being an important exception; this is urged and promoted by almost all Faerûnian faiths).
Yet in a polytheistic setting in which everyone “believes in” and worships (in some fashion, even if it’s only “Here’s a prayer, now please don’t bother me today”) ALL of the gods, clergy avoid endorsing discrimination against someone because of sex. Which doesn’t mean they won’t severely speak to someone they think does something inappropriate, like trying to fornicate with grieving individuals at a funeral, or anyone forcing their attentions on someone except a recipient receiving such attentions as part of a ritual to Loviatar or Sharess or Sune or Shiallia the recipient has agreed beforehand to take part in, and knows what this will mean [[in other words, self-chosen submission is acceptable, but being on the receiving end of forced and unwanted sex is not]].
Shiallia wants all creatures to reproduce and multiply, which means fertile females should engage in sex with partners of their choice, regardless of their marital state (and all devout worshippers of the goddess should help in the feeding and rearing of said offspring); it does NOT mean those fertile females have to accept the advances of every passing creature.
In general, “anything goes” in the wilderness, the settled status quo is most valued (and adhered to) in small villages and towns, and as places get larger and have more contact with the wider Realms (market towns, being on caravan routes), the more tolerant and varied sexuality can be found and is tolerated/ignored. Bisexual characters exist in the Realms and always have done, as have “out” homosexual characters, May/December partnerships, polygamy, and just about everything else.
Yet matters sexual are seldom the “big deal” in the Realms that it is in any real-world area dominated by one faith, where clerics of that faith presume to tell others “how to behave.” The polytheistic nature of the Realms is one reason for this, and another is the D&D® game itself, that with its array of sentient races, presents what some would call “bestiality” or other terms for “coupling with other races” as a fait accompli (otherwise, there would be no “half-elves” or “half-orcs”).
Yes, this has all been discussed before, but that’s okay. The computerized search-fu in the Keep is frail, but the minds of its scribes are sharp, quick, and apt to dredge up old lines from older scrolls when the need arises.
The beauty of fantasy roleplaying, and the Realms, is that anyone playing in it can include or leave out or ignore or gloss over what they want to or are most comfortable with. The darkness creeps in when one player or group tries to impose their preferences on everyone else.
Some festhalls, brothels, and clubs signal whom or what they cater to, but most don’t; locals just “know” (and tavernmasters and innkeepers will discreetly answer queries as to “where to go” without misleading or reacting with hostility to such questions; correctly guiding guests without making judgments is just part of their livelihood). Carved signboards are the most common advertisement (depicting entwined, kissing couples or triads or quartets, usually in no more detail than heads, arms, shoulders, and bared breasts, with the participants indicating what “goes” inside: for example, two men together, or a lizard man and a human female, with a free hand raised to hold a glass if it’s also a drinking club, or holding a hand of cards or a platter of food to indicate a gambling establishment or that food is served, and so on).
Speaking of which, I must rush to prepare lunch and then commute to work at the library now, so I hope this scratch-the-surface reply will suffice. By all means ask more questions. My replies can sometimes take years, but I will try to get to everything . . .
So saith Ed, creator and Godfather of the Realms (no, not the Mafiosi kind!).
love to all,