Gay marriage: the database engineering perspective

Y’know, I don’t believe I’ve mentioned this article on here before, and I really should have.

Because – as a simple matter of contract law – marriage in the Empire and other Societies of Consent does, in fact, permit all the difficult concepts mentioned here and a few more besides, including all of reflexive self-marriage (mostly pointless as it is), really complicated notions of “sex” and “gender”, polygamy, people being simultaneously involved in multiple distinct marriages, the marriage of non-natural persons which can potentially include marriages marrying each other as a distinct concept from multiple marriages merging, intransitive marriages, double-marriages, and asymmetric marriage. Welcome to the bleeding-edge postsophont universe, although for the good of everyone’s sanity, most people stick to the simple options and don’t try and make use of all of these at the same time…

But it gives you an idea of just how eye-wateringly difficult the job of the DBAs over at the Central Office of Records and Archives can be, sometimes.

Trope-a-Day: Overly-Long Name

Overly-Long Name: Played quite straight among the eldrae, and other people prone to use relevant bits of the same name-format. Fortunately, most of it is optional – of course, that’s optional at the discretion of the name-bearer, so those wishing to use the diplomatic stalling gambit of demanding to be known by all 580 syllables of their name and storming insulted out of the negotiations at the first mispronunciation still have that open.

To cite a relatively mild example:

Miran Esitariel Prime Cyprium-ith-Avalae isil-Claves Linlethar ion-Atiran iel-Calandra mis-Eliera-en-Kiriv Leir

That’s a mere nine components, of which technically only the second, fourth, and sixth are absolutely compulsory, but this nine-component version works nicely on letters and such. The components are:

  • miran: That’s a status indicator, which takes the place of our “Mr.”, etc. Miran means “citizen-shareholder”… well, okay, it means “ordered one”, but that means “citizen-shareholder”; you can also use leran, which, if expanded, would mean “understander of civilities”, and can be glossed “decent chap”, or darav, which simply means “sophont” and implies nothing.  Really hard, sometimes.
  • Esitariel: Personal name. Do not feel free to shorten it. Nicknames work differently here, and that’s an insult that will hurt you.
  • Prime: Persona identifier. This one means that you’re talking to the primary version of a multiply instantiated person, not one of their forks (usually identified by ordinals, and if necessary sub-ordinals and sub-sub-ordinals). More complicated toposophies have their own entire systems that can be used in this place. (Note: Terrans and other primitives that don’t even have backup copies get to insert “Singular” here.)
  • Cyprium-ith-Avalae: Family name – specifically, for eldrae, House-ith-Lineage name. Comes in a few variants – for people who’ve been formally disinherited, for one, or the form for young children (i.e. Cathál i-sered-Ríëlle), which means “of the blood of the House, but not Accepted of the House”.
  • isil-Claves: Spouse’s House-and-Lineage name (and here’s another variant; she gets to abbreviate it in this form because she’s a Claves-ith-Claves), which is reciprocal; they include each others’. If you happen to be married to more than one person, yes, you get to include all of them here. (If this gets too unwieldy, you may include the name of your coadunation marital instead; essentially a company name.)
  • Linlethar: an attributive name (which does the job of formalized nickname, wish-name, title-name, court-name, office-name, child-name, friend-name, pen-name, art-name, field-name, lover’s-name, generalized epithet, and any one of a dozen other things – and who you are right now is indicated by which one you choose to use, by the protocols of valessef). They can also get quite long and flowery. And, depending upon the circumstances, you may include only the most relevant one, all the relevant ones, or simply all of them, of which you may have many, if not lots.
  • ion-Atiran, iel-Calandra: Patronymic and matronymic (“fathered by Atiran, mothered by Calandra”, or if you prefer, “out of Calandra by Atiran”). Traditionally, people preferentially cite the one of their same-sex parent, because equally traditionally they inherited their House and lineage from their opposite-sex parent, but since there’s no guarantee that you’ll have one parent of each sex, or two parents for that matter, it’s not a hard and fast rule; just cite whatever is most useful for identification. And, of course, anyone can cite both if they feel like it. They’re also recursive, so if you want to go back up your lineage to the nth generation, you can do that; just be aware that exponential growth grows exponentially, m’kay?
  • mis-Eliera-en-Kiriv Leir: Loconymic. Identifies the location that you’re associated with – estate, home town, etc. Not necessarily origin – there’s another particle for that, if you want to specify it separately, but this should not be assumed to be the case. It used to be just mis- and a location, but in these days of extensive multiplanetary polities…

And there are lots more optional components. Origin, as mentioned. Species and clade, for the body you’re currently walking around in, which is handy on invitations and RSVPs so people know what environment to expect/you’ll need. Mindstyle (similar to persona, but defines the whole person, not just this instance; usually used together with the persona identifier for those more complex toposophies). Era of personality formation (generation, essentially, and quite handy given how long people can live for). And associations – oh, yes, you can include as lengthy a list of associations as you want: philosophies, branches, corporations, academies, etc., etc.

And we haven’t even started on titles, qualifications, and awards yet…

How much of it you drag out on any particular occasion depends upon relevancy (most importantly), the formality of the occasion (if it’s your debut at the Court of Courts, be prepared to have every last syllable recited, for example), how much of a hurry you’re in, and just how much you want to be able to browbeat your hapless audience with how awesome you are and, for that matter, the terrifying prospect of having to repeat it correctly.

(Also, business cards have hypertext.)

I Now Pronounce You Trust And Trust

Lorcis Vianath-ith-Vianne & Selves Pty., Bonded Commercial Obligators, to Sens Dal Shen, Kar Riette, and Tir Ledeen, greetings.

With regard to your communication of the 20th inst., we have undertaken a preliminary legal investigation into the commercial contractual arrangements between the specified parties, Sentir Industrial Products and Nen-Palan Environmental Atmospherics.

As you may be aware, within the Imperial jurisdiction, the institution of marriage is for the most part legally undefined and constitutes a subset of contract law, operating within the same boundaries as other contract law. As such, a marriage may be contracted between an arbitrary number of contracting parties, provided that each of those parties is both legally competent, and a legal person. While not a common practice, it should be noted specifically that neither statute nor case law confines marriage contracts or the creation of coadunations marital to natural persons, rather than legal persons. As such, the marriage between the Imperial subsidiaries of the specified corporate parties possesses full legal standing under Imperial law, although the precise interpretation of the marital contract has not yet been tested sub judice.

However, inasmuch as any judicial interpretation of this contract will take place under the general principle el ulé an-úvaer an-jílquelár, what is not prohibited is permitted, and inasmuch as the Curial courts have, as a rule, decided in favor of independent legal innovations that do not contradict standing law, we would expect any such interpretation to uphold the fundamental validity of the contract and its distinction in law from a merger of coadunations.

As such, and in the light of a general climate that has proved highly unsympathetic to attempted extra-antitrust actions of this kind in the past, we would not recommend that you or your clients proceed with litigation to such effect at this time.

Lorcis Quintus Vianath-ith-Vianne, obl.

for and on behalf of

Lorcis Vianath-ith-Vianne & Selves Pty., Bonded Commercial Obligators

Ethnographical Questionnaire: IV. Questions of Family

So, I’ve recently been working on answering the “Ethnographical Questionnaire” set of worldbuilding questions for my conculture – not quite this version, but another version by the same person, I think – in the interest of, by so doing, expanding on all sorts of areas and possible unconsidered lacunae in my current imaginings. I thought I’d share each section with y’all as I got it done.

Previously answered:

III. Questions of Race and Ethnicity
XII. Questions of Sex

How many spouses may a man or woman have?

As many as they can persuade to contract with them; there’s no particular legal or social limit.  One is the social default/assumption for the eldrae, but those species and individuals both who prefer polyadic relationships are on safe and comfortable ground.  (Oh, and it’s not transitive; if A is married to B and B is also married to C, A is not married to C – unless the contract says otherwise, of course.  Make up your own topology – star, line, ring, helix…)

Who decides on a marriage?

The involved parties, and only the involved parties.  Matchmakers may matchmake, it is true, and friends and family may drop broad hints and arrange introductions, but family, parents, society, gods, and everyone else need not think they get to decide anything, here.  Anyone who even thought about inventing the arranged marriage, the shotgun wedding, or other means of forcing someone into such an arrangement would run straight into the culture’s attitudes on Coercion, Evils Of, followed by Slavers, The Righteousness Of The Shooting Of, in the worst possible ways.  Shudder.

Can a marriage end in divorce? How?

Well, it’s not called divorce, but a marriage can end in three ways:

1. If it’s written into the contract that defines the marriage.  This includes options to terminate at-will (mutual or individual), automatic termination after a fixed term with option to renew, etc., etc.

2. If both parties mutually agree to terminate the contract, even if such an option didn’t exist beforehand.

3. If one party defaults on the contract.  What exactly this includes mostly depends on what’s written into it in the first place (adultery, for example, counts as default if the contract includes promises of sexual/emotional exclusivity; financial misfeasance may well; domestic violence [see below] always does; and so on.)

Who usually takes custody of children if a marriage ends for some reason?

What happens to orphans?

In either case, it’s down to the contract, if the parents saw fit to make arrangements (and, in the event of default, bearing in mind that under any normal arrangement a defaulter on the marriage contract has defaulted on his children, too).  If not, the genarchs of the families (since – see below – children are not necessarily counted in the same lineage) find, bearing in mind this and keeping siblings together and so forth get to discuss matters and find the best place to put them in the families.  Failing such a voluntary arrangement, it will ultimately go to the courts to find the optimal place – but the courts get very ironic if they have to intervene in this sort of thing that people should be able to sort out amicably without making them take it to court.

Doubly so if they have to make these arrangements for young children after a voluntary termination of contract, because parents have contractual responsibilities to their children, and they really do not like people who play silly buggers with those.

How are families named?

Family names generally take the form “House-ith-Lineage”, which can reasonably be interpreted as “clan; family within that clan”.  Where the House and lineage name are the same (meaning the senior family of the House), they can be elided into just “House”.  Family names are neither matrilineal nor patrilineal.  Rather, children take the family name of their opposite-sex parent and are counted part of that family; i.e., siblings of different sexes would be considered members of different families.

How are boy and girl children treated differently?

By and large, they aren’t, except in re biologically or morphologically implied necessities.  See also under VIII, Questions of Labor (when I post it), in which I point out the lack of a distinction between “men’s work” and “women’s work” among sane and reasonable people; well, the universe isn’t kind enough to always guarantee that someone of the appropriately arbitrary sex is there when a job needs doing, so everybody gets to learn to cook and run a forge and make clothes and earn a living and sew embroidery and wrangle balky machinery back into operation and make beer and do science and raise children and shoot and fight if necessary (for “those without swords can still die upon them”) and and and and and…

People are people, and need to learn all the skills needed by people.  The universe also isn’t kind enough to give us the luxury of wasting the potential potential of large chunks of the population by declaring things Not Their Business.  And even if it did, doing so would be pure idiocy.

What, if anything, is considered a good marriage gift?

The traditional marriage gifts (from the families) are a forge and a fruit tree, in honor of the twin aspects of Medáríäh, eikone of fertility and mass production; in traditional and old families, an exchange with each other (the families) of statuettes of the principals for the family shrines; and weapons for the defense of the new household.  (Only the most formal of the war-temples require the happy couple to use them immediately.)  Those marrying don’t exchange gifts, because they’re giving themselves each other.

Gifts for the newly married from friends and relatives vary widely; they’re usually not household goods, because people tend to marry at a late enough age that they already have everything they need, if not twice as much.  Extra points go to close friends who can slip some sly ribaldry in without letting everyone know they’re doing it.

What inanimate or sexless things are considered male or female?

Sufficiently complex machinery – essentially, anything complex enough in behavior, principally meaning vehicles, heavy machinery, computers, assorted autonomous machinery, cities, etc. – is often anthropomorphized sufficiently to be given a name, and having been given the name, is assigned the appropriate gender in speech despite this being a technical solecism.  (For ships, the tradition is that the ship takes the opposite gender to his/her first captain, and most other such namings follow this pattern.)

Does this society connect the ideas of marriage with love?

Absolutely.  They’re a hopelessly romantic lot, and as such have a hard time imagining why else you might want to marry, really, given how many simpler ways there are to arrange most of those other things.

(But, as I said before, where it differs substantially from most of our cultures’ fluffy romantic notions, is that it also emphasizes that marriage and love are also extremely hard work, and that there are no Magic Relationship Fairies who will make it work out for you, or more importantly, keep it working out for you as the years, and decades, and centuries, and millennia roll by. Rather, it makes it very clear that you, newly-minted spouse, have just acquired a whole new obligation and career in making it work, and unilateral quitting is not an option for a gentlesoph, etc. It also, in fairness, tries its best to provide you with the tools to do the job, ranging from those which would be relatively familiar to us, to such uniquely-to-long-lived-species notions as taking ten or twenty years to go off and do your own thing, the theory being that at the end of that, you’ll both have a lot more to talk about, plus the chance to remember all the things that made you fall in love and want to marry in the first place…)

How big are families, typically?

Individual families usually contain, say, the parents and three to four children, but given the eldrae lifespan, those children can be spread out over hundreds if not thousands of years; except for twins, it is extraordinarily rare for your siblings to be within a century of you in age.  That being said, all of these are part of sprawling extended families (the Houses) and almost always interact with their myriad cousins and other relatives.

What constitutes a household? How many people live in one household? How many generations?

Households vary widely in size and structure.  The largest tend to be the home estates of the Houses, which can house hundreds of people over a dozen generations under one (admittedly very large) roof.  Sizes then vary down through the cluster-house (a half-dozen or so houses and private gardens around the inside of a circular wall, sharing common space in the middle), usually shared between an extended farm household or several generational/related/friendly nuclear families in an urban setting, to the single house or apartment-house occupied by a single couple or even single individual; the latter becoming more common in the modern era now the cluster-house’s advantages in defensibility and shared infrastructure are no longer so significant.

Are girls or boys preferred and why?

Neither, except for occasional idiosyncratic personal preferences.  Reasons being much the same as given above concerning them being treated differently.

How common is domestic violence? Is it understood to be a problem, or a normal aspect of family life?  If it is seen as problematic, what is being done about it?

Rare, very rare.  You see, eldrae by nature are very, very self-willed types who are thus disinclined to acquiesce to external self-valuations, and long before you can reduce one to the psychological state in which they’ll accept the way you’re treating them, you’ll pass through the psychological state in which they’ll reach out and gut you like a sturgeon, you lousy Defaulter bastard.  (Or someone else offended by your behavior will, which amounts to pretty much the same thing in the end.)

This ‘solution’ to the problem pleases everybody, and so nothing further seems necessary to do in those cases.  (Although there are legal mechanisms to take care of the rest, usually with a similar conclusion.)

Linguistic Oddnesses

In official Eldraeic, there is a single word – not hyphenated, even – which means ‘one who creates a forced-growth cross-gender clone of him/herself, imprints the brain of said clone with an animus/anima-inverted fork of his/her own mind-state, and then proceeds to marry his/her new duplicate’.  (There is also a parallel word that refers to following this same procedure with a same-gender clone and a non-a/a-inverted fork.)

Having established this, we can now make the following four deductions:

1. That when you put over a trillion sophonts together, even the most weird people and socioforms get their own words.

2. That however weird you might think yourself to be, you’re almost certainly weak beer in comparison with what is, statistically, quite a large number of people.

3. That Eldraeic, as a language, is more agglutinative than any language has a right to be.

4. That it’s probably a good thing that it’s quite a long word.

Trope-a-Day: Free-Love Future

Free-Love Future: Averted, mostly, even though Imperial society has long since built contraception in, made STI cures relatively trivial, and the decoupling of sex and reproduction is close to complete (most people come about either through ectogenesis or digital genesis).

Nevertheless, what is still there is the mental linkage between sex and pair – well, not always pair – bonding, and other emotional aspects, which people have decided not to edit out on the grounds that, well, it would make the whole business so much less fun.  Thus, while such matters aren’t so ridiculously prudishly handled as in the West today, sex is generally expected to exist within the context of some sort of significant emotional relationship (not necessarily a marriage, be it dyadic, star, line, or helix or whatever the sexes involved – they have terms and protocols for a variety of relationships all the way from the most formal marriages down to delesessqámél, loosely translated, “friends-with-benefits”), and such relationships are normally exclusive to one degree or another, and promissorily so (i.e., do not break your word on this point).

Further, while there are no taboos about premarital sex, etc., promiscuity and genuinely casual casual sex – as appropriately defined in the light of the above – is still frowned upon; for one, from the basic propertarian point of view that a product dumped on the market can’t be worth very much, and that they’ll take your self-valuation as you give it, thanks; and for another, that, well, there is the missing component implicit in the name, and if one is just looking to get one’s ashes hauled, there’s any number of Kiss Me, I’m Virtual software packages available with all the fidelity of reality and without the trouble of having to go outside and attempt to connect with someone.

(While this is a common pattern, of course, various other species may feel differently.  Void where alternate instinct-sets apply.)

What Therefore Contract Law Hath Joined Together

[excerpts from]

A Charter to Establish,
Under the Fundamental Contract and the Seal of the Guild of Formal Obligation,
And in Accordance with the Traditions of the Stellar Empire,
A Coadunation Marital,
Between and Among:

Runeth Allatrian-ith-Ancalyx
Diarí Octarthius-ith-Octantis

For the Purposes of Perpetual and Mutual Love, in the Light of Holy Éléia-Líëran…

…with the hope and object of eternity, this Charter shall possess unlimited duration…

…shall be modifiable solely by the mutual option of all spouses, recorded under obligator seal…

…shall be extendable to include further parties at the mutual option of all present spouses, on the same terms as apply to all initial spouses, without privilege or priority…

…property of the coadunation marital shall be recognized as separate from property of the individual spouses, and such properties as are designated marital property at the time of the establishment of the coadunation shall be those listed in in addendum A, while such property as is obtained subsequently shall be designated marital or personal property according to Lodvik’s Rules, unless otherwise specified or mandated by law…

…each spouse shall, inasmuch as their lives are pledged to each other, recognize this by mutual lien, and shall thereby refrain from engaging in voluntary cognicide, mental modification equivalent to voluntary cognicide, or permanent Fusion without the consent of their spouses…

…internal conjugal exclusivity…

…for the satisfaction of mutual obligations in extremity, each spouse shall be deemed to possess powers of medical authority and legal disposition in extremis during the incapacity of another…

…for the satisfaction of obligations to dependents, all dependents of any spouse, including but not limited to children created, shall be deemed dependents of the coadunation marital as a whole…

…while intended to be perpetual, upon the mischance of infelicity may be dissolved by mutual option of all current spouses, each of whom shall be entitled to an equal share of the assets of the coadunation, but shall have no claim upon each other’s private assets; and any spouse shall have the option to withdraw at any time, and in so doing shall be entitled to a proportionate share of the assets of the coadunation or its cash equivalent.  Notwithstanding this, all members of the coadunation shall be jointly and severally liable for all obligations by it incurred, even after its dissolution, save that an individual withdrawing spouse may pay into the coadunation at the time of their withdrawal a proportionate share of the liabilities of the coadunation, and thereafter have no such liability…

Trope-a-Day: Arranged Marriage

Arranged Marriage: Despite the plethora of old families, noble houses, and other outbreaks of hereditarianism, strongly averted in the Empire.  Partly because at least these strong individualist-propertarians can understand each other well enough to grasp the ethical problems here (see Blue and Orange Morality), and partly because they definitely understand each other well enough to realize that Nothing But Stabbings Ensues.

Doesn’t stop the matchmakers from throwing people at each other and seeing if they stick, often for similar purposes, but they know perfectly well that they can’t even hope to require.

Ethnographical Questionnaire: XII. Questions of Sex

This is actually something I finished and published on an old, non-dedicated blog some time ago (October 2010) concerning this particular piece of my worldbuilding, and for the sake of completeness – and because it ties into some of those issues and attitudes mentioned under Blue and Orange Morality – I’m reprinting it now here so that my worldbuilding category will be properly representative.

So, I’ve recently been working on answering the “Ethnographical Questionnaire” set of worldbuilding questions for my conculture – not quite this version, but another version by the same person, I think – in the interest of, by so doing, expanding on all sorts of areas and possible unconsidered lacunae in my current imaginings.

And since I know at least some of my current readers basically follow along just for the worldbuilding snippets, and the rest of the stuff I post here be damned, I thought I’d share each section with y’all as I got it done.

As it happens, the first of the sections which actually is complete – in the sense that every question in it is answered, not just some here and there, is section XII: Questions of Sex.  So if you’d like to know more than you knew there was to know, and for that matter probably more than I knew there was to know, about sexual mores in the Empire of the Star, well then, read on…

How does your society define incest?

Incest is defined in two ways; or rather, there are effectively two separate concepts both covered by the same English word, in translation.

The first is reproductive incest, which is a matter of genetic hazard.  Once genetic technology became available, technically it’s no longer even a matter of consanguinity – instead of concerning itself with reproduction of people closely enough related to probably cause bad recessive genes to pop up, it concerns itself with any reproductive act that could cause bad recessives to pop up, even if the people in question are entirely unrelated.  It is considered a de facto crime against the child resulting, by causing or risking its exposure to, genetic disease, and is punished accordingly.

The second, intergenerational incest, addresses matters of dubious consent due to familial authority issues.  Under these rules, incest as defined as sex with ancestors (or siblings of ancestors) or descendants (or sibling’s descendants) two or fewer generations away from you; i.e., parents, uncles and aunts, grandparents, granduncles and grandaunts, children, nephews, nieces, grandchildren, grandnephews, and grandnieces.  Stepchildren and adoptive children are considered as blood relatives for the purpose of this calculation.

Sexual relations with more distant generations, even in the line of descent, is not considered intergenerational incest due to the nugatory familial authority exercised at that generational distance, and the practical difficulties posed by the fact that, in a society of immortals, anyone who lives long enough will be related to just about everyone.

Note that by these incest rules, sibling/sibling relationships are permitted provided that all involved are consenting competent adults.  While extremely rare, certainly unconventional, and likely to draw social… curiosity, albeit not condemnation, in the absence of reproductive considerations, there is no compelling public interest in its prohibition.

[How does your society define] Rape? How do people react to these?

Imperial law and custom defines rape as any sexual activity involving another person without their consent, or when consent has been gained through means coercive (including but not limited to duress, and also including pharmacological and other technological coercive devices) or fraudulent.  Consent may be given or withdrawn at any time; there is no non-terminable advance consent (“unlimited right of conjugation”) possible under Imperial law.

As for how people react: well, the penalty for rape under Imperial law is death.  Sometimes, the courts even get to apply this penalty; usually, when it’s reported after the fact and prosecuted as the result of an investigation.  Those caught in the commission of the crime or in hot pursuit thereafter rarely survive the experience; which tells you the public view of things quite definitively, I should think.

(And just to make it completely clear, we’re not just talking about strangers in dark alleys, here.  Anyone unwise enough to believe that they’re safely surrounded by friends, fraternity brothers, or some such is just begging to have a short lesson in the consequences of betrayal added to the lynching which shortly will ensue.)

What secret vice is believed to be widely practiced? What secret vice actually is practiced?

It’s hard to really pin down something as a secret vice.  Seriously.  Again, it’s because this is such a very open society – and most professional procurers of one vice or another are as aware of the value of marketing as any other entrepreneurs, so most vices have fairly public proponents.

Well, I suppose that most people don’t admit to their sexual vices, but that’s not due to shame – that’s because ladies and gentlemen of quality (Eldraeic daryteir) don’t blether on about their sex lives or other intimacies in public, or even group, settings, for reasons that amount to showing a decent amount of respect for a partner’s privacy.  But it’s not like you won’t find information on them everywhere from Introduction to Practical Hedonics (okay, maybe Intermediate Hedonics) to Xenophilia for Beginners.

What sexual habits are widely believed common among foreigners?

Well, many less cosmopolitan citizens are of the opinion that since so much of the rest of the Galaxy is “a hotbed of strutting would-be authoritarians and deluded self-abnegating submissives eager to sell their precious sophont rights for a handful of shiny beads and some dubious promises” – to indulge briefly in stereotyping of rather doubtful quality – then they’re probably bringing their thoroughly nauseating ideas about dominance and coercion to bed, too, and just… ewww.

They are, however, and fortunately for foreign relations in general, aware that even acknowledged jackboot-analog-wearing discipline addicts still find overt coercion in this area pretty damned icky, though.  At least in public.

How do people react to homosexuality? Is it frowned on? Encouraged?

Pretty much the same way they do to heterosexuality, or bisexuality, or asexuality, or xenosexuality (incidentally, for anyone pondering mechanics at this point – and to borrow a note from a Spider Robinson book – every sophont species has fingers, tentacles, or some other sort of manipulators; anything else is gravy) for that matter.  Love’s a funny thing, and not all that common in this universe.  When the lightning strikes, don’t let go of it.  Mere bodily issues can be sorted out later.

(And, hey, these days when the exowomb and high biotechnology have solved the reproduction problem, uploading/downloading has made bodily gender the next best thing to a fashion choice, and psychedesign can rewrite your sexuality any time you want if your desires don’t match up neatly with your affections, then really, not only are the last qualms of the heir-desiring dealt with, but the whole question has almost been reduced to meaninglessness.)

Or, to put it another way: Their gods never said no.

Are premarital sexual relations allowed? Extramarital?
Is sex confined to marriage? Or, is it supposed to be?

Premarital, yes.  There is a notable societal preference that sex should take place within some kind of emotional relationship, however, but not necessarily marital, or even cohabitatory.  Imperial social custom provides for a number of semi-formal degrees of such things, scaling all the way down to delesessqámél, which can be approximated as but not precisely translated as “friends-with-benefits”, provided that the friends in this case actually do care about each other, even if not to the extent of love.

“Hooking up” and the one-night stand, however, are socially disfavored, not so much as a matter of morality, but as a matter of bad taste [and, yes, that applies to both sexes equally] (although a reasonable case could be made that anything called out by the Names, Numbers, and Novas as bad taste is probably in an even worse social position that something called out by the moral mavens).  There’s also an aspect of pity involved: much as a doughnut lover might have for someone who insists on only eating day-old doughnuts with the powdered sugar scraped off.  Sure, they can enjoy doughnuts that way, but one can’t help but feel they’re missing a large part of the point of the exercise.

As for extramarital, well, that depends entirely on the wording of the marital contract in question.  Virtually all of them mandate exclusivity, it is fair to say, whether dyadic (again, the majority) or polyadic.  To explain this, recall that the highly self-willed eldrae weren’t born a species of calm, serene, honor-bound ur-logicians; they achieved it through centuries of bloody strife and trying to put an end to same.  Promises of exclusivity secured on a daryteir’s iron-clad word serve to prevent society from tearing itself into shreds in fits of jealous rage (also, note, the property of no particular sex), and thus the cultural tradition is established and maintained.  Frankly, you’re much more likely to see an option to add a member to a polyad – or convert a dyad to a polyad – by mutual agreement in a marital contract than an “open-relationship” clause.  (Not that those are strictly necessary; you could just mutually agree to recontract, but some people like to put these things out there explicitly.)

That said, every probability curve has its ends, and so there probably are a few open-relationship contracts out there.  They may not have all that much luck finding extramarital partners in practice – since, well, everyone knows about the fit-of-jealous-rage thing, and even if someone claims to have set all such things aside, one may well prefer Not to Taunt – but there’s no ethical or social injunction against them.  Remember, the sin in adultery is the contract-breaking/betrayal, not the having of the sex.

How is adultery defined? What (if any) is the punishment? Who decides?

Adultery, sayeth Codex of Imperial Law, 114th ed., is defined as breach of contract, specifically, breach of a marital contract.  This is both broader and narrower than the definition here, inasmuch as it does cover non-sexual infidelities which our definition of adultery does not, if they’re specified, and it does not cover sexual infidelities unless exclusive rights of conjugation were specified in the marital contract as written.

As for punishment, that is a matter for the default law of contract, if not explicitly specified, and if explicitly specified, it’s determined to the marital contract as written.  It should be noted that the Imperial law of contracts doesn’t place any cap or limit on penalty clauses (since freedom of contract is a matter of public policy), so punishments can be quite severe; nonetheless, if you promise to forfeit it and still can’t keep it in your pants, well then, no-one can say you didn’t set yourself up for that, eh?

Is prostitution legal? How are prostitutes viewed? Is this accurate?

Well, it’s legal.  Just about everything that doesn’t involve coercion is, after all.  However, it never really caught on en masse, and I’ll give you the simplest reason for that: telempathy.  You tell me how well your sex drive works while basking in the cold glow of naked commercialism, and imagine just how good the market is for said service, except among the insignificant number of people who have that particular kink.

What is the greatest sexual taboo?

Coercion.  Which, yes, in its most obvious form is rape, but that may well not count as a sexual taboo, simply because it is a sexual crime, which is a whole other order of magnitude.  However, in taboo terms, the generalized taboo on coercion spills over onto sadomasochism and dominance/submission – while legally and ethically acceptable when consensual, they steer too close to the forbidden waters to be socially acceptable (in, for example, much the same way as indentured service contracts, only to an even greater extent, as more personal).

(While it might be thought that the opprobrium of coercionism would, in such cases, attach itself principally to the dominant partner, there is a matching opprobrium attached to willful submission to force, lack of the valxíjir proper to a free citizen, etc., that attaches to the voluntarily submissive.  Recall, please, that this is a culture which considers even the relatively small loss of autonomy inherent in the time-sale employment common elsewhere to be inadequate to truly support a freeman’s dignities.)

What does this society mean by the word “virgin” and how important is it?

It’s a medical term of art meaning ‘someone who has not yet had sex’, and unless you’re a doctor specializing in one of the related fields or possibly a lawyer involved in one of a rare type of lawsuit, it’s probably not of any great importance to you.

What constitutes aberrant sexual behavior?

As a general rule, “aberrant” sexual behavior falls into one of these four categories, in decreasing order:

  • Coercionism (not so much aberrant as Just Plain Evil)
  • Anything that, while it may be consensual, causes actual harm to someone.
  • Anything that, while it may be consensual, all parties involved aren’t enjoying.
  • Bedpost-notching without emotional involvement.
  • Non-consensual cession of privacy, or as one might put it without the legal jargon, “frightening the horses”.  Also covered here might be ungentlemanly sexual chit-chat that violates one’s partner’s reasonable expectation of privacy in their affairs, but that’s more a social deficiency than a sexual aberration.

Are there any cultural or religious strictures, norms or taboos that specifically address sexual conduct?

On the religious side, Cálíäh, eikone of desire, encourages, well, desire.  Although no more specifically for sex than for anything else.  Cinníäs the Reveler, eikone of hedonism (among other things), and Édaen, eikone of joy and recreation, want you to enjoy yourself – or more accurately, want a good time to be had by all.  Éjavóné, eikone of vengeance and protection, has some really harsh things to say about anything and everything not strictly consensual and, if relevant, intracontractual.  Lanáraé, eikone of romantic love (among other things), and the Lover Gods want you to find the right person to have it with. Medáríäh, eikone of fertility, industry, production, and therefore reproductive sex, wants you to make people with it.  Rúnel, eikone of etiquette and civilization, wants you to respect each other in the morning.  Véválíäh, eikone of hearth and home, wants couples to enjoy each other.  And Ithával, eikone of awesomeness, wants you to be really good at it.

Culturally – well, see the rest of these answers.

Are there secular laws that control or restrict sexual behavior?

There are laws against:

  • rape (no consent, or consent gained through coercive or fraudulent means);
  • bestiality (defined as sex with non-sophonts, including non-sophont intelligent machines; no capacity for consent);
  • necrophilia (again, no consent or capacity for same, although a case might be made if they bequeathed you their body specifically for the purpose, but fortunately no-one’s brought that particularly extremely gross case up before the Curia yet);
  • sex with currently unoccupied bioshells (not without consent of property owner, and eww);
  • sex with minors (i.e. not age-based, but all people who don’t meet the IQSC requirements; no capacity for competent consent);
  • reproductive incest (genetic hazard, and defined in terms of probability of same); and
  • intergenerational incest (i.e., sex with ancestors or descendants two or fewer generations away from you, due to familial authority issues.  And, well, genetic hazard, but that’s already covered).

Apart from that, so long as you’re consenting competent sophonts, go for it!

(Oh, except in the street, or other public volume not intended for the purpose.  Sorry.  It’s kind of distracting.  Remember, kids, the property line is your friend.  Addendum: vehicle hulls count as property lines, but please, tint the windows.)

At what age is it considered normal to engage in sex? Are there taboos against sex with children?

It’s not so much a matter of age, except by default.  Specifically, like all matters of majority and competence, your competence to engage in sex – which is one of the extremely short list of competences actually regulated by law – is determined not by age, but by the sufficiency of your self-signed (which is to say, held and paid for in your own right) tort insurance to cover the potential consequences.  Anyone holding this minimal quota of tort insurance is legally and socially empowered to have all the sex they want, provided that anyone else involved also does.

In practice, most people achieve their IQSC (Insurance Quota for Sexual Capacity) sometime in late adolescence.

Should sex be a one-to-one experience? Or are groups allowed?

There is no particular moral freighting either way, per se.  Of course, what’s already been said above on the topic of exclusivity rather settles the matter for dyads, and the social disfavoring of “hook-ups”, etc., answers the question for the casual orgy.  Polyadic relationships, or at least the smaller ones where the logistics don’t become impractical, do prefer to find ways to involve everyone, though.  It’s just plain nicer that way.

Trope-a-Day: Eternal Love

Eternal Love: Played straight – with the proviso that being an entire society of natural immortals, they understand exactly how hard it is to make a relationship work over the longest term, and so invest in cultural features designed to help with that, including marrying late, long and intimate engagements, a degree of cohabitation, short-term contract relationships as “trial runs”, etc., etc., before you even think about putting your seal on an indefinite-term relationship, and also includes a good deal of rather pointed cultural commentary on the obligation to work to make it work in the absence of Magic Relationship Fairies, and so forth, afterwards.