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In the society and cultures of the Forgotten Realms narrative, are unmarried men and/or women expected to keep chaste?

Since this is about the game world's culture rather than any particular edition, if some niche realm/race/subrace has such custom, it is ok to answer about them. A blanket answer about the whole world of Toril is welcome, but also are more specialized ones.

I'm aware there are those who are by game design forced to maintain celibacy e.g. Unicorn Maidensm, aka Beloved of Valarian Lurue PRC in 3.5, or those that took a vow, or some paladin orders, or some individuals who have chosen to maintain that status. This isn't about them, but the world at large.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mindwin I've updated this to ask about unmarried people over maidens, because (a) "unmarried women" is more pragmatically useful for us readers than calling them "maidens", and (b) there may be related issues for unmarried men and it's not really a stretch from here to ask about that too. (In fact I'd consider it likely an answer to the original question would also touch on male expectations.) It also means we can just frontload the question, and it also means we don't have to immediately disentangle the people you mean from other types of people called maidens. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Oct 30 '17 at 8:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @dopplegreener :) CC-BY-SA 3.0 Be my guest to better the question in any way your wisdom sees fit, senpai. \$\endgroup\$ – Mindwin Oct 30 '17 at 13:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ Setting questions for published RPG settings are explicitly on topic here without special need to justify themselves. rpg.meta.stackexchange.com/q/3275 and rpg.meta.stackexchange.com/q/1604 (/cc @kviiri) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Oct 30 '17 at 14:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ I rolled that last edit back. An unhealthy cultural focus on specifically female celibacy is a current, real-life problem for people who count among our userbase; out of consideration and policy, we shouldn't unnecessarily poke them in the eye with it when they're reading Q&A about imaginary games we play. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Oct 30 '17 at 16:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ZwiQ the funniest part is that Lurue (Mielikki's exarch) unicorn maidens are required to mantain celibacy, but Shiallia (Mielikki's exarch) pretty much commands everyone to spread their seeds as much as possible. But I'll amend the Q \$\endgroup\$ – Mindwin Oct 31 '17 at 9:00
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It seems that there are no such expectations, as opposed to what would be the case in a historical medieval setting based on Earth.

There is a letter by Ed Greenwood addressing the subject:

The first part of the letter addresses the asker specific issue about sexuality in monastic orders, i'll skip these (but please follow the link above to read the whole post).

Then we reach the part where more general realmsfolk are adressed:

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 [...]

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. [...]

[As one example] 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.

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”).

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).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I was going to quote the same exact letter after seeing your original question and doing a short web search. Actually I have even identified the original Candlekeep post instead of the 2nd hand copy. But this answer is not exactly what you are asking. Greenwood's letter is more about kinds about sexuality. While it is certainly relevant to the question as it sets a context, it is not really responding: just like Maidens of Lurue are a specific example, so are clergy of Shillia or Sharess. These do not tell us how ordinary people behaved. \$\endgroup\$ – ZwiQ Oct 31 '17 at 7:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @zwiq i think the last two paragraphs quoted above are referring to the common people. If sexual expressions are not frowned upon, society would not forbid those that have already came-of-age from expressing themselves. \$\endgroup\$ – Mindwin Oct 31 '17 at 10:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ I read those two paragraphs still in the same context about the discussion of inter-racial or inter-gender, etc. relationships. It is possible to think of a society which does not see elf-human marriages or the presence of well-regulated sex-workers as problematic, but still frown up intimacy before marriage: "Yes, they do it son/daughter, but you shouldn't", or "Ok to have children with that elf girl, but after you marry", etc. \$\endgroup\$ – ZwiQ Oct 31 '17 at 10:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @zwiq One underlying argument that is in the letter is that the politheistic nature of the society removed the theological elements that created that ban in our earthen society. But you are correct in your answer, by pointing out that Ed avoided giving out an objective point of view, maybe by fear of hurting some sensibilities (as pointed out in d7's comment \$\endgroup\$ – Mindwin Oct 31 '17 at 12:12
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I believe it will be difficult to provide a concrete answer to this question, as the discussions of sexuality appear to be avoided by TSR and WotC, possibly in order not to alienate young audiences. Even in a setting like Al-Qadim (that is geographically located on the south of the continent of Faerun), where concepts of honor and marriage are discussed in detail (chapters 2 & 3 in the Land of Fate), this topic appears to have been glossed over. Hence the GM is given more than usual amount of flexibility on how they reconstruct their own campaigns.

If we try to make educated guesses about the personal choices of the creators of the Realms setting, of people such as Ed Greenwood or influential authors like Bob Salvatore, it is probably safe to assume that most Realms societies have a more "open-minded" view of intimacy between consenting adults than medieval societies of Earth. For example, it is worth noting that a fair number of famous Realms characters such as Drizzt, Wulfgar, Catti-Brie, Elminster, a number of the Seven Sisters, etc. are unmarried and the novels imply intimacy shared by these individuals; although we do not read the public's reactions to such relationships.

As another example, you can read Ed Greenwood's opinions about sexual attitudes in a Candlekeep post from 28 Nov 2012 (quoted also from a second source in the answer by @Mindwin). He mentions the role of polytheistic religion as an effect that encourages clergy to "avoid endorsing discrimination against someone because of sex". He also describes that rituals for powers like Loviatar, Sharess, Sune and Shiallia can and do involve intimate conduct. In particular, he points out that as expected from her portfolio, "Shiallia wants all creatures to reproduce and multiply". But it is worth underlining that these discussions come with a disclaimer that is most often not presented this explicitly in Greenwood's other answers to Realms-related questions:

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.


Additional and arguably more on-topic answers to this question can be found in the archives of Candlekeep forums. In another post from April 13, 2004, Ed Greenwood describes dusk-to-dawn marriages, which are meant to prevent commoner females from later demanding compensation from noble males in return for their "lost maidenhead", or commoner males from claiming that they are now part of the families of the noble females with whom they have had intimate relations. Greenwood mentions:

..., the clergy of Siamorphe, representing a deity catering to the nobility, are concerned both with being popular/useful to nobles, AND safeguarding the rights, privileges, and powers of nobles. Bastard children, loss of virginity, and so-called "immoral" behaviour are matters far more important to noble families than to the general populace.

He continues with the following additional arguments:

... neither I nor the nigh-immortal [not everyone, notice, just the Chosen and other live-for-many-centuries folks, and nobles and royalty who consider themselves 'above' laws and social rules, or to be the people who set such laws and rules] fictional Realms characters I've created view "sleeping with" people as being incompatible with having deep, committed relationships with someone else.

... "swinging" between committed or married couples isn't seen as Bad by a lot of Faerunians, in many places and situations (though among most citizens across the Realms, it would be). [It's fashionable among some noble classes and a LOT of "wannabe noble" rich, rising merchants, and frowned upon in places with small, stable populations where warfare or monster predations haven't forced folk into desperate survival measures (telescoping survivors down into a single extended family of multiple husbands and wives, for example).]

This post again ends with a number of disclaimers about how Ed Greenwood feels he is treading somewhat dangerous waters.

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