My newest TTRPG is probably my most Queer game to date (and other updates)

A few creative and writing things have happened since my last post, but all of them are to do with tabletop roleplaying games. The most important in a global sense has to be that my first two published games – “Goals And Goals” and “Starship Bodge-up” – are included in the bundle TTRPGs For Reproductive Rights that has been set up in response to the leaked draft ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States about overturning the previous finding that access to abortion is a right covered by privacy and bodily autonomy. It’s encouraging to see how much has already been raised, and to see how many people have already downloaded one or both of the games. If you haven’t yet a) bought the bundle and b) downloaded my games, click the link and do it now, then come back and carry on reading!

~ * ~

As the heading of this post suggests, I have also released a new TTRPG, Finding Styles, and my feeling is that it is the most Queer game of the ones I have written or am writing. It’s inspired by An Abomination by kumada1, and attempts to mediate a combination of several different TTRPG styles into a single system or mechanic. It also does a thing I’ve been pondering for a while, which is to use tokens as a form of stats in their own right.

FindingStylesLogo

What I’m intrigued by is why it is that this game immediately felt more in tune to me with LGBTQ questions, compared to the other games.

While I have always taken effort to ensure that the text of my games allows or encourages people to play as whatever gender and orientation they want, the subject matter and style of the games really don’t to my mind have anything that leans away from the cultural norms. Pivotal Destinies is in many ways a traditional High Fantasy setting, with the same kinds of tropes. I’ve arranged the system in a different way than many, but in terms of the general feel, it is fairly normative. Goals And Goals is a game about sport, and again, while you can absolutely play as a gay or trans footballer, the core of the game doesn’t do anything to reflect that. It’s about playing a football match, and while you can make that gay, it is still a game with the standard “Here’s a GM, here’s a setting, here’s your character constraints, here’s your enemy. Have fun!” structure. And Starship Bodge-up is almost entirely about the situation the characters are in, and having fun making up solutions. The characters can be all manner of nonconforming Queerness, it’s just, they’re not likely to be focussed on any of that while they’re trying to mend a spaceship in danger of blowing up.

Finding Styles, on the other hand, handles everything through the other players and keeps the style of play shifting. There is no single focus. I leaned hard into the idea that it’s a combination of styles, so you build your characters collaboratively, using three of the different gameplay styles to choose the three dice-roll attributes. That in turn makes your characters a collaborative effort, as much as the gameplay will be. The pattern of opposed urges, or perhaps a cycle of steps, drawn out by the logo I made for it also feels like it lends itself far more to questions of relationships and social situations. “Testing or Trying” versus “Feeling or Expressing”, and “Learning or Discovering” versus “Knowing or Deciding”. Alternatively, a cycle from Trying something, leads to Discovering something, leads to a new Feeling, leads to a Decision, which can then be Tested, leading to a new discovery, and so on. (It can also work in reverse: Trying something leads to Deciding on a course of action, which will produce Feelings that lead to me Discovering something about myself, that I can Test in the real world…)

This is not, of course, a real suggestion of an approach to life or therapy or whatever. It was just the sort of vibe I got from the concepts as they laid out and played out in building the system from the influences. Please do NOT treat any of the ideas in the previous paragraph as a self-help guide, it is a game, nothing more!

The other part that felt to me intrinsically leaning in a Queer direction is that there is no way to increase your own power on your own. The tokens you have allow you to Decide things about the game world, but you cannot gain more tokens by your own gameplay decisions. Tokens are gained when someone else wants you to decide something about the game, and thus are determined by your fellow players. That sense of being united in supporting each other felt to me strongly like the vibe I get from Queer spaces online.

So when I came to thinking of scenario suggestions for the dice-roll lists I included, I ended up needing to work to find versions that weren’t necessarily about being Queer. I am sure LGBTQ players will have no trouble using the system and the suggestions to tell stories they find meaningful, if they choose to do so.

~ * ~

The last piece of news is that my first draft of the text for Pivotal Destinies is completed, and I have completed a cover design for the itch-funding release (I want to get the money for some proper illustrations). I am busy putting the text into a Desktop Publishing app to create a decent-looking layout, but I wanted to share the cover design I did in the DTP now.

pivotal-destinies-draft-cover

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What Use A New Left Party?

Today, I checked why “Corbyn” was trending on Twitter.

It turned out, the Telegraph published a piece suggesting Corbyn is being encouraged by those close to him, to set up his own political party.

I take with a pinch of salt anything the Telegraph says about the former Labour leader, or indeed about anything to do with the Left in this or any other country.

That said, I feel the prospect deserves some consideration and response rather more deep than the average “LOL the Centrists will be cross” and “LOL he’ll have more canvassers in Islington North than the Labour candidate will have voters” I saw from leftist commenters.

There have been several attempts to set up “Revive the Left” parties in Britain since the rise of Tony Blair, the abolition of the original Clause 4, and the general centrification (is that a word?) of Labour politics from the mid-1990s onwards.

The first I remember was Arthur Scargill, whose “Socialist Labour Party” disappeared without trace after the 1997 election. It may still exist, for all I know, but who notices, and who cares? That split was all about restoring the original Clause 4, and a fat lot of good it achieved.

Another example that springs to mind is George Galloway’s “Respect” party – which apparently existed before he joined it, and before he became its leader. Again, who knew? According to the Wikipedia page, it formed out of the Stop The War coalition. (Apparently, he’s now leader of “The Workers Party of Britain” – again, the who, now?)

Rather like organisations on the Right, these parties gained their coverage on the grounds of having a prominent figure as their figurehead, but in terms of actual electoral success achieved very little on the national stage, and a few hotspots of local government support. Galloway was Respect’s only MP, and the Socialist Labour Party never seems to have troubled the corridors of power at any level.

The fact is, most splinter parties fail and disappear into obscurity – some more quickly than others (Change UK, take a bow). The only example I can think of that actually did anything is the “Gang of Four” who set up the SDP, promptly formed an alliance with the Liberal Party, and proceeded over the course of a decade or so to merge with them. (Arguably, you could claim that Change UK just did an any% speedrun version of the same course.)

Over the past year I have seen numerous commentators on the Left remark that the Starmerite project is to create a hostile environment for leftwingers and socialists within the Labour Party; and that the only real hope of advancing genuinely progressive politics is to stay within the Labour Party and organise for the future to try to regain some influence over its direction.

How, then, can Leftists achieve more by backing a new party on the left of British politics? And, can that party avoid the problematic tendencies of their predecessors?

Suppose Jeremy Corbyn does launch a new political party. In order for that party to be at all successful, it will need to attract a significant amount of media interest for the long-term. If Corbyn can attract several Labour MPs to join him, then there is a much greater chance that it would have a foundation in Parliament to stand on, and make a case for their inclusion in mainstream news and comment programmes (such as Question Time).

The other key element is to be able to form constituency branches and stand candidates in a large number of constituencies. Organising candidates, raising funds for the deposit and campaign materials, and arranging canvassers and phonebanks, is not easy work. The majority of people who joined the Labour Party to support Corbyn, never got involved in their local constituency party activism. While Corbyn has the fame and recognition to bring out the local activism, other candidates might struggle without an established party structure to lean on.

Corbyn’s policies were generally popular, so it might be possible to create a groundswell of support, but only if the word can be got out. In the same way that Corbyn dragged some of the other leadership candidates towards the left just by the threat of his being there, it might be possible to pull Starmer’s Labour to the left just by threatening to take votes from them by existing.

On the other hand, failure to do so risks splitting the leftwing vote and allowing the Tories even greater hegemony in Parliament.

* * *

In some ways, avoiding the problematic traps of the far Left is the greater challenge. As much as I admire his principles and policies, Corbyn has not shown a great track record in navigating the implications around certain positions, and while his supporters may be a younger generation and more aware around issues connected to the EU, the track record on other positions is less promising.

Looking at the history of leftwing parties, there’s a deplorable lack of nuance around the issue of Palestinian rights and criticism of Israeli policy in the occupied territories.

It remains a problem that any criticism of Israel will be conflated with anti-semitism by its defenders. Sadly, that can lead to a broadening of that criticism in which the nuance is lost, the distinctions blurring until the defenders of Palestinian rights end up goaded into making comments that include antisemitic language.

The recent history of the Left within the Labour Party made the perils of this entirely too clear. Young activists without the depth of education (and the tendency to think in very direct lines – I was one myself, 25 years ago) and older Leftists with ideas deeply ingrained from often a White, male perspective, both have a tendency to miss the implications their impassioned statements can convey to people not in their own peer group.

A huge challenge will be to keep the mainly older Leftists – particularly those with histories connected to the problematic organisations such as SWP – from hijacking policy areas and steering a leftwing party into the political long grass of theoretical Marxism (and leftist conspiracy theories) far from the grassroots community support and feedback that Corbyn’s leadership bid connected with. Their tendency to view things in stark terms of right and wrong and refusal to temper those views according to circumstance, can be a liability.

To build a functional and successful challenge to the left of Labour, Corbyn and his inner circle would need to learn from the failings of the previous attempts in this regard. Some way to keep in touch with the moderate left and develop a plurality that, rather than seeking some mythical ideological purity of Socialism, or even, Marxism, seeks to shift the centre of gravity of leftwing politics in the UK towards the modern needs in social justice, in which intersectionality recognises that there are multiple experiences of oppression, and multiple voices that have to be heard to bring about lasting and worthwhile change.

For four years, we fought for that within a revitalised Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn. The general consensus seems to be that we need to continue pushing within the Labour Party for that plurality, left-of-centre, social-justice view of the country. Pushing leftwards from the inside feels more useful overall, and hopefully soon, the wheel will turn again and the Left in Labour will rise, just as it did in 2015.

(For a similar perspective from one of those sources mentioned about the struggle for the last two years of the Left within Labour, see Corbyn and Islington North: Let’s Not Go There, a piece by David Osland on Labour Hub)

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STORY: She Knows I Hate Mornings

This tale is told in the context of a consensual D/s relationship in which both partners know the other well enough to manage the power dynamics in play here. Nevertheless, CONTENT WARNING for dubious consent, pee play, forced orgasm and D/s dynamics.

She knows I hate mornings.

I’m like that opening scene in Shaun of the Dead except less groan-y and more zomb-y. Barely any higher functions at all.

She also knows that I have a huge hard-on. Nothing to do with arousal just an aching need to urinate.

Most days, she respects all that, sleeps (or pretends to) through my shuffling, shambolic progress, waits for me to feel, if not human, then at least ready for a working day that starts way too early for my brain’s idea of working hours.

But today, she doesn’t. Today she shows what an act of love, of self-sacrifice, her pretence of ignorance really is. Today is the last day before the holidays, and she’s been waiting…


She grabs my wrist as soon as I lever my protesting joints up from the bed and roll over to find the floor with my feet. I mumble disjointed syllables to the effect that I haven’t time and can she bother me later?

She lets go and I force my creaking knees to straighten and take my weight. With the swiftness and stealth of a hunting feline, she swings round the other side of the bed, places herself kneeling in the bathroom doorway, chest defiantly trust forwards, hair still wild and matted from the pillow, face turned expectantly upwards to meet mine when I eventually find my way there and find my route to the loo blocked.

I mumble again, but this time she has her prize where she wants it. Both hands guide it to her mouth, and she engulfs me between her lips – between her tongue and the roof of her mouth. Eager, hungry, rapid strokes as my hands take my weight against the door frame. I’m trapped, no way to escape the devouring fiend at my feet. If I was awake, functional, in command of my faculties, I’d have a million ways out – but it’s way too early for that. The fog clouding my synapses keeps me at her mercy.

I don’t want it. It’s painful, arousal only intensifying the ache, the agony, from needing to empty my bladder. I don’t want it, but she does – she’s eager, desperate, and will not be denied. That makes it hot, makes all the difference. She works like a demented succubus, and makes my knees tremble with every dirty-minded bob of her head.

My orgasm is feeble for the work she put in: she pulls back to take it on her tits, but the force isn’t there, just a thick, oozing dribble to coat her hands as she finishes me off. If you thought she’d be disappointed you are mistaken. She wipes her cum-stained hands across her breasts and rubs her face on my still seeping cockhead, smearing herself with her prize like a young hunter celebrated for their first kill.

She leads me by both hands, still on her knees. We climb into the shower like that, and on autopilot I shut the door.

“Do it, you bastard,” she challenges me.

It takes conscious effort to force the pee to flow when your cock is that hard. I’m leaning one-handed, whole body pitched forwards, straining. At first, it is a few drops, a trickle, arcing back towards me so it runs down my shin. Then, in a moment that catches her completely off guard, the stream gushes, showering her hair, her face. I know what I want now. I want to wash every trace of the seed she stole from her smug, pretty little face and her gorgeous bouncy little tits. The marauding thief deserves none of my powerful essence! I soak her from brow to hips in my golden wastewater before the torrent is done.

“Out!” A casual gesture. She waits on a spare towel while I shower and shave, and brush my teeth, then it’s her turn while I dry myself and dress for work. A suit and tie, because video meetings.

Of course, she uses her time to relive the filth she perpetuated, to finger herself and take the pleasure she set up. Of course, as soon as she emerges, it’s obvious she came.

Three swift moves: spin her, grab the back of her neck, push her against the shower door. That moment of terror, the instant she realises how far she pushed me this time. Her hands outstretched, taking her weight in mimicry of my helpless posture before.

I open my zipper flies. A yelp, “You’ll be late for work!”

“I’ll take a short lunch – and whose fault is that?” I pinch her scruff and she squeaks: “Mine, sir!”

My cock is hard again, every detail of her betrayal and my forthcoming retribution serving to fuel the erection. Her cunt is still puffy and sensitive from her illicit climax, while my thrust is vicious with the desire to impale her. She squeals,and I doit again.

I wrap one arm round her waist, the other hand reaches down to her clit.

She moans, as helpless as I was before, unable to escape the pleasure I inflict. I show as little mercy as she did: pounding her cunt, circling her hard nubbin with my fingers. And she comes for me.

It takes longer for me, of course. I have to concentrate, grind, relish every aspect of her degradation and willingness, but as determined as she was, I can do better. Long before I flood her with my semen, she’s begging me, “No more!” – too much pleasure, too much of what she demanded.

And when I finally finish inside her she gasps, “Thank you, Sir.”

I acknowledge the thanks by grabbing a face towel and mopping up the cum leaking from her over-used hole, reaching over her shoulder, and wiping it across her face again.

I fasten my flies. As I leave the bathroom, I cast a casual remark: “This evening, you get a proper punishment.”

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REVIEW: Slippery When Wet bodysuit from Brand X Intimates

I saw Brand X Intimates via Girl On The Net’s twitter feed, and any company she recommends is worth checking out. I didn’t know if anything in their range would be relevant to me and my kinks, but the fact that they cater to plus-sized ladies meant I was keen to see if my feminine side could find some hot modes of expression through their products.

A few items looks promising, but eventually I settled on the Slippery When Wet bodysuit, part of their Slide range. I ordered mine on Thursday last week, and it arrived yesterday (Wednesday).

I was too eager to try it on to wait, so I got my first impressions last night, before today giving myself the treat of shaving as much of my body hair as I could, and posing for a couple of selfies on the camera timer.

That means I got to have two “first impressions” takes. Hairy bod and shaved/feminine me. (You could add a third “first impression” when I tried it with my false boobs in place too, but that to me is part of the shaved experience.)

I suspect that my male-assigned-at-birth physique may not be quite as well aligned with the measurements the bodysuit is made for: I felt as though my torso is somewhat longer than the ideal fit. That said, there was no element of discomfort anywhere in the fit and the sensation on my skin (even with my body hair) is wonderfully sensuous.

And then, there’s the effect when I saw myself in the mirror for the first time: instant delight! I looked, and felt, sexy!

Slippery When Wet bodysuit looking like a fetish/kink version of dungarees or overalls.
Slippery When Wet bodysuit

While even my noticeable moobs did nothing to fill out the cups, the appearance was like a fetish version of dungarees or overalls. A gloriously androgynous, genderqueer, sexual and kinky appearance that I absolutely loved, and instantly longed for Covid to be over so I could go out to a fetish club and strut my stuff, let random hotties of any gender play with the zips to expose my crotch and butthole, and do extremely naughty things with me.

(And I’m an introvert! Fetish clubs are not my natural environment)

Suffice to say, even feeling hairy and unprepped, the Slippery When Wet bodysuit fulfilled everything I hoped it would. Yes, the fit isn’t perfect for my body shape, but so what? It still looks and feels awesome.

This evening, as I said, I took the time to do some prep, get rid of some of that body hair, and see just how good this thing really is. The fitting issue remained, of course. But with the material closer to my skin than ever, and the feel of being closer in touch with the rest of my gender, combined to convince me I’d made an excellent choice. (And yes, I really want to be able to go out in the semi-public environment of a fetish or BDSM club wearing this, and really enjoy the sensation of being out there.)

Wearing the Slippery When Wet bodysuit. Side on image, hand on hip, coquettish pose. Shows off the fishnet on the outside of the leg
All fetished up, and nowhere to go!

The last thing to do was to delve even farther into the feminine expression of me. Slipping out of the shoulder straps, I dug out the pair of falsies that make my chest the size I wish it could be in real life, strapped them on in their bra, and pulled the Slippery When Wet’s straps, and cups, back into place, just to see how well it fits when I give it something to contain up there.

Still not perfect, but the look was close enough to the promo photos on the site that I was satisfied they do the job. I was embarrassed by what felt like the sartorial faux pas of the chaste white boob holder bra against the shiny black kinkiness of the bodysuit. I couldn’t possibly go out looking like that,so maybe the next thing is to get a boob holder in matching black so that (when fetish clubs are a thing again) I can really strut my genderfluid stuff.

I genuinely cannot recommend this highly enough for other genderqueer enby types who want a different, sexy, look in their wardrobe.

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STORY: Between The Cold And His Heat

Content Note: spanking, exhibitionism (imagined), first-time sex with a partner

The cold weather recently got me thinking and a few little prompts here and there coalesced into this vividly imagined scene. I hope I’ve left it ambiguous enough that any gender can insert themselves into the first-person narrator’s place, although I was picturing a woman. However you choose to picture it, I hope it warms up your evenings – and let me know in the comments!

It’s cold outside. Cold enough that frost is already forming on the back lawn. Cold enough that my fingertips are numb, pressed against the full-length window pane. It feels like an hour since I took up this position, fingers splayed, legs apart, staring out into the indigo light of pre-dusk, enhanced by ambient light from the moon, and my neighbours’ bedroom or living room lights – the only thing that protects my modesty is that it is darker in here than it is out there. If He should switch on the light when he comes through, then all it would take would be for one person to glance across the gardens to see my nude, presented, form framed there.

I am to stay like this, staring forwards, looking neither left nor right, neither up nor down. Meeting the gaze of my own reflection.

So the first I know of His presence is a looming sense of his features in the window, filling the scene and imposed upon the scene outside.

And impose he does.

He’s wearing a cashmere pullover, and nothing else. I feel the loose soft hairs close to my skin. The heat from his body is such that I’m sure there must be steam rising from his every pore. His hot breath against my frozen cheekbone, the rise and fall of his fur-clad chest. The searing touch of his fingers gliding down my shoulders, caressing my elbows, stretching forwards until he’s pressed right against my back while his fingertips trace the backs of my fingers. His cock tip traces its own patterns against my behind.

With his right hand, he reaches over my shoulder, stretches one finger farther than the others. Etches into the condensation a single word. I shiver when I see what he’s written. And nod.

“Check-in?” His deep voice, so close to my ear.

“Green, sir.”

His hands stroke down my sides, making me twitch on my toes – but I know if I break my contact with the window, it could all be over in an instant. I dare not let him down – let myself down – by disobeying.

He fumbles with my hair, fingers untangling the strap before he slides a sleep mask over my eyes. I know the one. Frilly edges, shiny black. Cute and slutty all at once. I picture myself as my neighbours would see me, if they looked. If he turned on the lights. It’s almost too dirty for words. It’s almost too dirty for me.

Almost. That’s his skill. That’s why I agreed to be here. He knows where the “almost” is. And I know that tonight, tonight will not be an “almost” night when we’re done.

I moan when he caresses my buttocks, whimper when he spanks them. Yelp and squeal when he takes the belt he wore to come here, folds it over, and whips my thighs and behind. Tears flow from beneath the mask, streaking my cheeks with the mascara he told me to wear, because he wanted to see those streaks in the reflection.

I only realise it’s over when I hear a slight tearing sound, a faint, slick, rustle, and a final little squelch.

He takes my hips. His cock brushes my inside thigh. Those sounds: a condom, and lube.

“Last chance to say no, slut,” he says. But if I cried ‘Red!” He’d stop instantly, I know he would. But after this point, nothing will change the fact that he’d have penetrated me.

I just nod, not trusting my voice with words. His fingers brush my hair, then both hands grip my hips, and I feel him push inside, lifting me up onto my toes, and he fucks me there, between the cold and the heat.

* * *

After he finishes, he closes the curtains, relieves me of my posture. Holds me close and tight, wrapped in the cashmere top and his arms. He turns on the lights, eases my blindfold off. Feeds me comfort food and talks softly about his day and mine. And then apologises that he has to leave.

Once he’s gone, still naked, I tiptoe to the curtains and peek through. The word he wrote is still there, emblazoned across my window like a declaration to the world.

“MINE”

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Oh No, It’s Gender vs Dr Who Again

SPOILERS: I guess Major Spoiler for Doctor Who: Trial Of A Time Lord and minor for Doctor Who: Flux and other recent stories

MP Nick Fletcher has been ridiculed for stating that the Doctor in Doctor Who needs to be male, because without that role model for boys and young men, “all the male characters are criminals”.

It is an absurdly overblown statement, of course, but too many of the responses either made equally nonsensical reductio arguments (e.g. “Oh yes, in the 70s there were no criminal men at all”) or else claiming there are plenty of male heroes.

The thing is, as I argued while the debate was going on before Jodie Whittaker was revealed to be the new Doctor, there are very few role models for men that counter masculinity, especially its toxic aspects of solving problems through violence, suppressing emotional range and expression, and expressing success through sexual (or romantic) conquest.

So, there is a case for saying that a male Doctor is a more positive and constructive role model for young men, doing more to counter those aspects of masculinity that lead to criminal behaviour.

As I noted in the post linked above, this hasn’t always held up in the writing: Steven Moffat (particularly for Peter Capaldi) wrote the Doctor as if he was a typical macho man relating to other men only in Patriarchy-approved ways. (I think also of how Russell T Davies wrote a scene between the Doctor and Captain Jack Harkness and talked about it in Doctor Who Magazine as “they’re men, so only in extreme danger can they have a conversation about their feelings.” [paraphrased])

What’s really hurt me with Chris Chibnall’s spell as showrunner, and Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor, has been a similar problem in reverse.

I was overjoyed by Jodie Whittaker’s casting as the Doctor (not least because I saw her in Attack The Block, which was about as good an audition for Doctor Who as it’s possible to come up with). Her performances have been fantastic, and I love her portrayal.

But, Chibnall has managed to write her badly.

I’ve always hated attempts to frame the Doctor as unique by her origins, rather than by her choices. It is her choice to leave Gallifrey, to intervene, to be passionate, to care and to do something. Not only did the “Timeless Child” story arc rob her of that self-determination, but it also portrayed her as helpless at the mercy of others.

And then the big hook in the current season (given its own subtitle, like a cheap spin-off series) is that her mind and memory have been manipulated again!

Chibnall’s Doctor is not the strong, independent, in-control person that I came to know and admire as a young person, and continued to love and view as a role model throughout my adolescence and adulthood. Instead, now that she’s a woman, it feels like the Doctor is manipulated, weak, and a victim. Yes, she fights back against the forces and foes doing it, but she’s written as fundamentally lacking the agency she tended to have when she was played by a man.

(I should at this point mention a counter-example: when the Time Lords literally treated the Sixth Doctor (played by Colin Baker) as a puppet to summon him to trial by taking control of his body, leaving Peri to presumably be murdered, in the subsection of Trial Of A Time Lord. That was a massive loss both of agency and in terms of upholding his values. The sheer outrage and fury shown by the Doctor when this is revealed to him is palpable.)

I am furious with Chibnall for doing this to Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor. Others have written about how his stories betray a desire to be “woke” but have a tendency to miss the point somehow, leaving a jarring sense of condescension or not-quite-rightness at the end. This feels like that kind of thing but written into the character herself, as if despite all Chibnall’s intentions there’s some underlying unconsciously ingrained Patriarchal belief that a woman cannot be strong in her own right.

A previous showrunner (I think Moffat, it may have been RTD) said that the key to writing the Doctor was to write to the opposite elements from those that come naturally to the actor. A softer actor needs to be written stronger and more powerful; a more forceful actor needs to be written weaker. After Jodie Whittaker’s reveal, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek piece about what I hoped to see from a female Doctor. The serious point underlying it, was that they should write to the masculine elements of the Doctor’s personality, emphasise the parts that you would normally tone down to suggest femininity. While some of the historical situations Chibnall put the Doctor into would require acknowledging the attitudes of the time towards women’s agency, the Doctor’s personality needed to be written more, not less, “masculine”, so that her gender was clearly not a determining factor of who she was. Instead, it felt like men were writing the Doctor as a lady Doctor.

I strongly feel that Chibnall failed heavily on this point. While some of it may have been Jodie legitimately bringing her own take on the part (like wanting to call the TARDIS crew her “fam”, perhaps?), in a wider story-level sense, that definitely comes down to the showrunner.

After the second episode of “Doctor Who: Flux” I’d had enough. I was already feeling like it wasn’t something I needed to see as broadcast but would catch up with later. But I haven’t even bothered to do that for the last however many. No doubt I will get around to watching them eventually, but even though I consider myself a pretty hardcore fan, the new season doesn’t feel like Doctor Who any more.

If I have a conclusion to this, I think it’s that ultimately it doesn’t matter what gender the Doctor is, as long as they are written as the Doctor first and foremost, and gender is secondary to the character. I would love to see a trans actor (man, woman or nonbinary, I don’t mind!) take on the role, if only to really mess with the minds of those who couldn’t even handle the Doctor being a woman for a change. But I would almost feel a sense of relief if the Doctor was a man next time, just because I hate how it feels like femininity=weakness is being played out in the writing for the current Doctor.

Or, just a thought, cast an older woman. Someone who has authority by seniority, just the way the Doctor should (by virtue of being over 2k years old at last estimate).

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Emotions of Sexuality

So a few days ago, a November writing prompt popped up in my twitter timeline, saying, “What emotion do you equate with sexuality?”

My immediate reaction was, it’s complicated, because sex for me kinks on strong emotions and sensations, and that’s what BDSM is about. But that’s an answer to what emotions I associate with sex, or being sexual, rather than what emotions I equate with sexuality in general. That answer is about the “doing” rather than the “being”,the action rather than the self (to the extent that the self is something different than the sum of our experiences and actions, of course – there is always plenty of overlap even if they are distinct).

So I pulled back and went on a deep dive into my mind to see if I could talk a bit about what my emotional associations for sexuality (my own, or generally speaking as I view others).

On one level, it’s difficult to make an association at all. Sexuality as a broad concept, manifested in various ways by various people, is just like a variable in a computer program to me – it’s something that for a given entity (person) has a value or range of values attached. Which is to say, different people have different sexualities (which may include asexuality, for example), but as far as my emotions are concerned them having sexualities doesn’t really inspire a particular emotion. It’s just a part of the world we live in.

My emotions towards sexuality on that level only come into being when people start to apply value judgements – e.g. straightness is the only “correct” way to be, and when people say that, it makes me feel protective and defensive of all those other sexualities. That is what I mean when I describe myself as “sex-positive”. I fiercely assert that there is no intrinsic value either way of being gay, or bi, or pan, or ace, or demi, or whatever other variant you want to say.

But is that an emotion I equate with sexuality?

So let’s get more specific. What emotions do I equate with my own sexuality?

At present, I describe myself as bi. It’s the best fit and the word that was available when I was really coming into an understanding of whom I find attractive beyond the messages about sexuality that Patriachal society put in front of me.

But understanding that was not a simple step, and generally growing up, sexual feelings and sexuality were frustrating, challenging and perplexing. The emotions from that past seem like pain and confusion because the world as presented by Patriarchy seemed so stark and inflexible, and I lacked the tools for along time toget past that.

At the same time, being now open to myself and rejecting (as far as I am able – those messages sink deep, my friends, in the psyche, and their roots do not die easily) the cisgender and heteronormative demands, leads to a new world. Still, alas, confusing, because humans just are mysterious to me as a (mildly) autistic enby. But also joyous. Because sexuality to me relates to enjoyment. Enjoyment of each other, and of the acts. The term relates to the sorts of bodies and persons who create pleasure for us and for whom we create pleasure in turn.

So the emotions I equate with sexuality are not the suffering of being denied or confounded in my quest for sexuality. They are not the emotions of political passion and ethical conviction.

They are simply the emotions of pleasure and connection, through bodies and desires. Enjoyment, excitement, and so on. And even when sex to me means fear, and tension, and anticipation, those emotions are only in service to the greater goal of sexuality.

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Kier Starmer And The Ten Lacking Principles

Kier Starmer today published an essay via the Fabian Society outlining what he thinks are values for the Labour Party to build a campaign on. He calls them, “10 principles for a contribution society that will form the basis of a new contract between Labour and the British people, rooted in both our party and our country’s values.”

To which, I just have to say: bullshit.

These principles are not rooted in the Labour Party, and they do not form the basis of a “contract”, except in a very exploitative and top-down, oppressive way, the way a minimum wage job contract works, perhaps.

The principles in themselves seem fairly inoffensive at first glance, but the second you take a closer look, and think about the underlying implications, you quickly find out that this is not so much a contract as it is good old-fashioned 19th Century Tory paternal capitalism. The very thing that the Labour Party was created to oppose and roll back.

“We will always put hard-working families and their priorities first;”

Since when has it been the Labour Party’s policy that a person’s worth and value are determined by their economic productivity? I’ve been out of work more than I’ve been in work, over my lifetime. Not by choice, but by circumstance. Others struggle to work because of disability, exclusion or other challenges beyond their control. The foundation of the Labour Party’s policies in 1945 created systems to value those in need first.

“Hard-working families” has always been closely associated with being in opposition to “scroungers”, a category including the unemployed, immigrants and anyone else the Right wishes to demonise. Adopting that language is a dog-whistle to continuing the same policies as before.

This translates as “Screw the poor, the disabled or unfortunate.”

“If you work hard and play by the rules, you should be rewarded fairly;”

Working through this backwards, the first flaw is that “rewarded fairly” is widely open to interpretation, and most of those do not actually translate to “adequately” or “well”. The fairness of wages (which is what this is talking about) is usually determined more by employers than workers, unless they have strong unions and protections – something these “principles” notably fail to mention.

But the most insidious part is “Play by the rules”. No. Playing by the rules is aout knowing your station and sticking to it, hoping maybe to be elevated by chance or your betters to a slightly higher station. Change has never come from playing by the rules. No rights were won, no injustice ended, no abuse prevented, by “playing by the rules”. If we care about social justice, then we simply must raise our voices, be awkward, and refuse to accept rules that are designed to keep us and our fellow humans in chains.

And again with the hard work.

This translates as, “Know your place, sit down, shut up and do as you’re told.”

“People and businesses are expected to contribute to society, as well as receive;”
“Your chances in life should not be defined by the circumstances of your birth – hard work and how you contribute should matter;”

These two mean roughly the same thing in the end, and don’t add a huge amount to what’s gone before. While we might applaud the demand that businesses contribute to society, grouping that in with similar demands for people to contribute casts a pall over the whole thing.

The constant refrain of “hard work” shows that Starmer doesn’t view this as anything other than a capitalist, Tory-style conception of a person’s value being determined by their economic usefulness.

That is not a principle I can share. All people matter, not just the “productive”. All people contribute, through their social and intellectual participation. I stress the importance of quality, not quantity, here – as a lifelong introvert, I may not participate often in person (I am more active through online actions!) but I do try to put out positive effects and create good feelings. My paid work means little to me, but my creativity I hope sparks joy in the world.

And, even without all that, a person has innate dignity and value. They deserve a good life, regardless of “hard work”.

So Starmer has basically said, “If you want rights, you have to pay for them.”

“Families, communities and the things that bring us together must once again be put above individualism”

The homophobic, transphobic, and right-wing dog-whistles are shrill and clear. This is another demand that we sit down, shut up, and conform to heteronormativity like good little workers.

While I am no fan of “individualism” that lauds ignoring the needs of others and the harms our own self-interest can cause to them, talking of putting family and community “above” individualism feels to me more like a veiled reference to “identity politics” in the way that people concerned about women, or LGBTQ, or race, are dismissed as being “divisive”.

Maybe I’m reading more into that than is intended, but at the same time, it’s not easy to tell what is there. The appeal to family and community has been used by every band on the spectrum, from Nazis to Communists, taking in paternal Tories, the soft Left and many more. Forgive me if, in the context of the rest of these “principles”, I am disinclined to give Starmer much benefit of the doubt.

This principle translates as, “Conform to cishet norms, and don’t dare to be different.”

“The economy should work for citizens and communities. It is not good enough to just surrender to market forces;”
“The role of government is to be a partner to private enterprise, not stifle it;”

Taken together, these aren’t just bad: they’re incomprehensible, incongruent and contradictory.

While the Tories certainly view private businesses as their partners, that is because they have shared interests and motives, and see their role as keeping the workers in check so the business owners can maximise profit. But for a Labour Party to view private enterprise as a partner? That’s not what government is there for. And if the government is really there to make the economy work for citizens and communities, it simply has to take sides against private enterprise to ensure that happens. It has to regulate, govern and direct business to serve those needs. Ideally, through public, democratic, ownership of key industries, but we’ll let that one go for now.

I can’t even come up with a summary for this, it’s so incoherent, so I’ve lumped it into the next one:

“The government should treat taxpayer money as if it were its own. The current levels of waste are unacceptable;”

This is also illiterate and baffling. If government treats taxpayer money “as if it were its own”, then it is surely free to spend and waste it as much as it likes! It certainly frees government of any kind of obligation towards the taxpayers. No: the government should treat taxpayer money as if it was their employers’ – used for the purposes intended, and in accordance with policies agreed and signed off on.

“Current levels of waste” is another dangerous term. What counts as waste? Is it the money spent tracking supposed benefit fraud, which costs more than the fraud it’s supposed to stop? Is it (for example) large military projects of questionable usefulness to our defence? Or is it considered “waste” to support disabled, homeless, unemployed and others who might not fit into the “hard-working families” category?

Translation: “All your money are belong to us”

“The government must play its role in restoring honesty, decency and transparency in public life;”

Another perennial, heard from all quarters of the political spectrum, and thus potentially meaningless. But “decency” is a buzzword often associated with homophobic and whorephobic rhetoric, so forgive me if once again I feel horribly unsupported by Starmer’s leadership here. I can’t help but suspect transphobia lurking behind the “honesty” and “transparency” terms, given how TERFs, including several prominent members of the Labour Party itself, try to frame trans and bi people especially as being deceptive and sinister.

It’s not necessarily the case, but context means a lot, and with all the references to family already, this feels like “Don’t be LGBTQ” again.

“We are proudly patriotic but we reject the divisiveness of nationalism.”

Uhhh… what? The best I can do with this is guess that he wants to avoid offending flag-shaggers, but also knows it sounds bad to say it, so trying to deflect accusations of racism.

Well, it sounds racist anyway, Kier.

Specifically, it sounds like, “Don’t question the historical basis of racism in this country or in any way threaten or challenge the White British national self-image.”

* * *

Taken all together, the “principles” Starmer laid out sound indistinguishable from rightwing ideology and wouldn’t seem out of place in a Tory manifesto, particularly the Thatcher or Major era. It’s not at all reflective of the principles of the Labour Party that I want to support. Fortunately, I know many Labour Party members who share a more vibrant, coherent and above all leftwing vision of what the Party should be, but these feel like grim days to be poor, or LGBTQ, or disabled.

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Goals And Goals: My New Tabletop Roleplaying Game!

My creative wheels turn slowly at times, but I don’t think I’ve ever completely stopped developing music, stories, and ideas. One project that has been steadily working its way from a vague concept towards concrete reality is a roleplaying game (TTRPG) based on the theme of football (soccer, if you prefer).

And today, I have finally put together a full rulebook document – it’s a first draft, but I nee people who can actually get together to play it, to try it out and let me know how it works in practice, as opposed to my attempts to simulate the fun and frolics.

The concept I wanted was to focus on all the things that go with being a star, whether local, national or even global. I wanted the game to be like the highlights show version, all the chances, none of the tapping around in midfield for umpteen passes before the ball idly trickles out of play. And if I did that, then I wanted to have something depend on what you achieve on the field. So I’ve given the player characters goals off the field, too: romantic, artistic, financial, causes – just about anything the players might decide to pursue with their new-found fame and glory.

Of course, I immediately started thinking of all the different stories that could be told, and even this first draft “version 0.1.0” document comes with two “quick start” campaign ideas and the NPCs needed to give them a go. First, there’s the Semi-Pro Cup Run with ever increasing difficulty of opposition as the competition progresses, but can you somehow steal the glory against the Top Tier teams? And then there’s a full season of games for a tiny 6-team league, with two of the teams overlapping so you could play both campaigns alongside each other, if you wanted.

I wanted to find some way to talk about the story of developig it, but it really has just been a case of jotting ideas in a notebook as and when they came to me, before knocking them together into enough of a shape where I could run some dice simulations to check the balance.

I kind of feel the real story is starting now, hopefully with some lovely players who’ll let me know what works and what might need improving.

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