A bridge over a beautiful waterfall

A bridge over a beautiful waterfall
Nature brings magic

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What about monthly curses and bodily functions in fantasy?

I've noticed in a lot of fantasy novels, you don't see much about personal hygiene situations and a lot of mentions of food and eating. Both of which are a part of every day life. So why don't we talk more about women warriors having cramps or the half orc rogue eating and drinking except in the bar?

There are some topics we just don't feel comfortable talking about. Women's monthly cycles are one of them. Bathing and using the toilet are also high on that list. But people deal with them on a daily basis. Women get them on a monthly basis. (Don't let the books fool you. Not every woman gets it for only 3-5 days.) What are you going to do if you're out in the wild and it starts? Are you going to have supplies on hand or are you going to just bleed down through your trousers, out your armor, or whatever you're wearing. Where's the reality in dealing with that?

The next thing right along with women's monthly cycles, is using the bathroom. Do your adventures hold it in until they reach the next town? Do they go behind a bush? Yes, it's not an integral part of the story unless they get attacked doing so, but if you're injured you're probably going to need help with it. If so, why don't we see that.

Then there's bathing. Are characters so different that they don't have to bathe? Or are they so stinky by the time they get anywhere that flies drop dead within fifty feet of them? When you're on the road and there's no inn, you have to find an alternative to bathing. And overloading on perfumed oils or something like that isn't going to cut it if you're on the run.

Sci fi sees the same disparities, don't get me wrong. I'm well aware of that. So what makes these topics taboo in writing? Is it because many of the books are written by men who aren't sure how to deal with some of these so they don't mention them at all? There are books written by women that don't address these either.

In Marked and some of my shorts, I do address this. Not in gruesome detail. I'm not that interested in grossing out my readers. But I use it to show how difficult things are, how supplies are low, how someone who's injured can't take care of basic needs because of her injuries. More authors need to step up and say, “Yes my characters are human(oid).” If your characters don't suffer from these needs, why? Make it clear why they don't need to do any of these things and make it at least a little believable.


  1. I love this post, Annikka! I have this struggle in erotic romance/erotica too. I mean, you'd think in books about sexuality that issues of going to the bathroom, bathing, and women's cycles (unless it's an all male book) would have some affect on the book. This has been a focus for me in Vala's Story, although not letting "it" become too much. There's a balance to it, I think. Like I can think of two situations off the top of my head where someone enters the quarter's bathroom and starts going while talking to someone else (because of the communal nature of the set up I have, of course there is that lack of privacy lol)

    1. If you're stuck in a small space with a woman for any length of time, she's going to have her period and have to deal with it. Whether you're male or female, you're going to see it. Though if you're a female old enough to be undergoing it you'll show some empathy with her. Also, what about women warriors? What about women mages? Do people think their periods aren't going to affect them? I just wish people addressed things like this more.

    2. oh definitely, on mages and warriors. I remember distinctly having an issue with "Mists of Avalon"- the notion that Morgaine would be more powerful, able to do more powerful magics on her period. um, really? You know how I spend my first day or two of a period lol- I can't imagine being a mage engaging in magic at that time

    3. Yeah. Mine doesn't start like yours, but mine still isn't comfortable either. I can barely focus on what's going on around me. Trying to be a mage or warrior during that time would be just too hard.