Welcome to Part 10-2 of my World Building blog series :D I’ll be covering just about every topic I can think of that goes into world crafting. If you have any topics you’d like me to write about, please let me know :)
Buckle up, we’re going to talk a lot in this post about what’s going on with fantasy world vaginas. Sex shows up a lot, but menstruation is almost never mentioned unless it’s a lack of it happening to announce a pregnancy. Pregnancy and birth are usually skimmed over when they occur and they deserve a little more attention.
If any of your characters have a uterus (barring them being super young or having other health conditions) they’re going to menstruate. It happens to half the population, so why does no one talk about it in literature? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read something where a uterus-bearing character is on a journey, etc. for months and there is not a single mention of what is going on with their body. You don’t have to be graphic, but acknowledge it. A lot of people are in a lot of pain/have other debilitating symptoms. Acknowledge it. Deal with it. How are your characters going to deal with bleeding for days if they’re out saving the world? It happens in real life, the world doesn’t stop and life has to keep moving, so how do your characters manage? If you’re squeamish, again, you don’t have to get graphic. Mention pain killers, mention hygiene supplies, don’t be afraid to say the word tampon. It’s not a curse word and variations of them have existed throughout history. Give your female characters the means to manage their own bodily functions.
Do birth control and contraceptives exist in your world? They probably should in at least some capacity because people have been focused on stopping baby-making for a loooong time. Herbs, barriers, magic, etc. are all alternatives you can look to. If your characters are having sex in m/f pairings, this should be a consideration. Do your characters want children? Why or why not? If not, are you going to help them along with that by developing something that makes it possible? If you have birth control, does it apply to men too? It’s fantasy, you can make it happen if you want to. What happens if a character gets pregnant and doesn’t want to be? How available is abortion, adoption, etc. and how is it treated in your world?
On the flip side, how is infertility treated in your world? Does the view of it change based on which partner is infertile? Are there treatments for it? Are there alternatives for characters that want to have children and aren’t able to procreate themselves?
On to pregnancy! What happens if your character develops complications? Do they just die or have you developed something in medical system to treat it? Consider things like hyperemesis gravidarum or prenatal/postpartum depression. Alternatively, some people have really easy pregnancies and your story can reflect that too. In terms of the social side of pregnancy, how would a character be treated if they were unwed or underage? What about if they’ve been abandoned or their partner is dead? What are the circumstances of the pregnancy and how does it influence the characters? How does society treat pregnancy as a whole?
Birth, especially in a setting without modern medical care, can be terrifying. How does your pregnant character (or their loved ones) feel about the impending birth? Who is going to be delivering babies – physicians, midwives, relatives? Where is the delivery going to happen – hospital, home, during travel? How are multiple births treated? Some cultures have superstitions about twins, how do your societies feel about it? Are there any rituals your culture has related to birth/pregnancy?
In regards to sex, I want to tackle the concept of consent and autonomy. How easy and safe is it for characters to refuse sex? Do people have the right to choose what happens to their own bodies? Are there any circumstances where this would be overridden? Does your society have an age of consent? If consent is an important factor in your society, what happens to people who violate consent? If it’s not consensual, it’s rape. Don’t romanticize it or try to explain it away.
Does the concept of virginity exist and how does society view it? As a final note here, PLEASE don’t make a character’s first time having intercourse hurt just because that’s a common idea. It’s not supposed to hurt and it doesn’t have to (barring underlying medical or physiological issues) if time and care are taken.