OK, kids, time for bed.
Are they gone? OK.
The subject of today's post is sex games, specifically sexual subject matter in non-electronic games such as board and card games. I'll cover a little about their history and then categorize them.
What do I mean by sex games?
There are games whose subject is about sex, games that are supposed to stimulate sexual desire, and games that are supposed to educate you about sex. There are games to be played before sex and during sex; I haven't run across any games yet that are meant to be played after sex ("Rate your lover's recent performance and move forward three spaces.")
Note that sex in electronic games (including DVD games) covers a wider variety of topics. Some video games reward you with sexual images, simulate virtual sexual activity, or are meant to stimulate you with minimal interaction on your part. These type of things don't happen in non-electronic games.
A thorough work on this subject called Sex in Video Games was recently published by Brenda Brathwaite, and you can read the entire brilliant first chapter online here (PDF).
What don't I mean by sex games?
The term "sexual games" generally has nothing to do with games at all, but connotes power negotiation within a relationship. I've complained before about how the word "game" is misappropriated for activities that have nothing to do with games per se, but does anyone listen to me? No.
Nevertheless, there is a relation between the above usage of the term "game" and its canonical meaning. A large number of "sex games" exist in order to help break down the power struggle of psychological "sex games".
Doing what the dice says in the context of a game is somehow more acceptable than doing the same thing when it's your partner who's asking. No requestor / requestee relationship, ergo the collapse of the power struggle. Of course, this assumes that the performer doesn't manage to muck it up in the small time it takes to perform the specified activity.
A lot of games "for adults" are not specifically sexual in nature, but deal either humorously or ironically with drugs, prostitution, the porn industry, cursing, crime, and so on, often mocking laws or inhibitions about the subject in question.
This is merely an overview, and not an exhaustively researched history.
There is evidence that human sexuality was not merely a response to reproductive need but a recreational activity from very early times. Sex toys exist from as far back as 30,000 years ago.
I don't really know what the earliest "games" were. Sometime in prehistory, grownups and kids raced each other or competed in non-lethal ways to earn prizes or status. And I don't know for sure, but I think it's a fair bet that sometimes those prizes or that status was sexual in nature.
Naked male Roman gladiators fought to the lustful admiration of both men and women. The same goes for the participants of the ancient Greek Olympics.
Throughout history, wherever there were adults and games, there were people taking their clothes off for money, a dare, or a loss, or to attract attention.
Physical activities such as sports were historically separated; croquet and gentler sports arising in the 19th century allowed for the mixing of genders and the obvious competition and flirtation that such mixing would allow. Even though board games existed well before the 19th century, women and men generally didn't mix over them. Women are known to have played Go and Mancala games for thousands of years, but not with men (unless perhaps they were married or siblings).
In the 19th century, genteel parlor games were often a rougher sort of sport involving blindfolded people running around the room grabbing people by whatever part of the body they could touch. These also occasioned many an "inadvertent" sexual flirtation or contact. In fact, these games had forfeits (or penalties) that would be considered racy today, such as kissing or other intimate physical actions.
Modern relationship, drinking, romance, and sex games came about only in the 1960s with the rise of sexual liberation and Playboy magazine, the latter of which featured ads for luxury gambling or sex games on occasion.
Modern sex games sometimes come complete with sexual aids, such as condoms or lube, edible clothing or spreadable chocolate.
The following is a rough division of modern sex games into types. These games are not hard to find on Google or other search engines.
These are generally trivia or roll and move / pick a card games that purportedly teach you about sex, abstinence, protection, disease, and so on. Unlike most educational games, these might actually interest kids enough to read the materials. Like most educational games, however, the game play is beside the point and usually pretty bad.
I'm an adult, woo hoo
Some games mirror standard board or party games but include sexual language or nude pictures, such as the infamous pattern matching game Busen Memo (try to match two breasts of a pair), the sentence forming game Dirty Words, or playing cards with erotic pictures. Like drinking games which are not specifically sexual in nature, these are marketed as a prelude to lowering inhibitions before sexual play, but are also often played for simple fun in an adults-only environment.
As a specially prevalent example of the above, this is your basic trivia game, but all the questions refer to adult subjects. One clever take on this is Dirty Minds, where the clues are double entendres but the printed answers are actually clean.
Many of these are of a humorous nature, especially ones that pit sexes against each other, or about knowledge of the other sex.
Dice, cards, or a spinner is used to instruct you on what you should say or do to your partner. The activities are generally of the romantic, esteem building nature.
These are straight out of modern marital philosophy. Marital therapy often includes activities such as: you and your partner write dozens of little notes about things that you want from your partner and each picks one from the other's pile on a regular basis. That's about what these games are like, except that the notes are pre-written for you.
A game that asks the players to tell each other fantasies, complement each other, or otherwise promote kindness to each other, can be just as erotic as a subtle or sensual sex game. In fact, probably more so. Meanwhile the usual sex games of simply doing whatever sex act the die roll says to do seems like it sets a couple up for the return of the power struggle when the act is over. It's not what you do, it's how you do it.
From adult versions of Mad Libs to competitive storytelling ala Once Upon a Time.
Truth or dare
The age old game of weeding children too foolish not to stick their tongues on an ice cold railroad track out of the gene pool. Those kids actually get off easy compared to having to listen to truths better left unsaid. Games range from mild to nasty.
With or without various accessories and "action" cards for when the clothing is already gone.
Move your body
Variations on the Twister theme, although the original game is hot enough for most people.
Random foreplay / sexplay
Dice, cards, or a spinner is used to instruct you on what you should do to your partner. I assume the science behind this is a) you may do something, or have something done to you, that you've always been afraid to try, b) you may gain complicity, or feel the need to comply, with something that you generally don't do because the game tells you to do it, and c) since it's not your partner telling you to do it, there's less of a power struggle involved.
In addition to the above randomizers, some of these games include darts, chips, or balls you have to toss, or other physical feats in order to secure an activity of your choice. There are also several revamped standard games where, as pieces are captured or points are scored, random instructions are revealed, such as Naughty Checkers.
I think it bears saying that just because the dice, cards, or spinner tell you to do something doesn't obligate you to do it.
These games warranted a special mention.
Indecent Proposal (http://www.simply4lovers.com/Indecent-Proposal-p-16709.html)
In this game whenever you land on a square you actually offer (game) money to your spouse for performing a task or collect from your spouse for acceding to a request. The object is to gain enough money to earn the right to do something that you really want to do.
I don't know what bothers me more: turning yourself into an actual whore, or the message that a healthy approach to sex is to persuade someone into doing something that they really don't like to do.
A strategy card game involving the playing of tentacle-like appendage cards onto a stereotypical hentai girl in order to perform unnatural sex acts. Actually has two published expansions.
1,000 Blank Cards
Every player creates their own cards with points, actions, and little drawings, which get mixed into a common deck.
While theoretically this is not a sex game, I've yet to see a completed deck that wasn't 95% penises, boobs, and bodily functions.
Now go take a shower.