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Character Theory Playing the Other Gender- A simple Guide

Idea

The Pun Tyrant
#1
I would like to start with a question: How do you introduce yourself? Do you do it with your gender?
"Hi, I'm Robert."
"Hi, I'm female Hannah."
"..."

You don't, do you? Some people I'm sure will add their role or age as additional information AFTER the name, but generally speaking one wouldn't ever mention their own gender in introduction. Why? Because it's not essential to their identity. Gender has an impact on one's identity, but it doesn't define one's identity nearly to the extent some seem to treat it. That fact is the pillar of how to roleplay charaters whose gender you don't belong to:
Play them as a character not as their gender.
Unless the setting or plot specifically state something about a specific gender, like say, a fantasy race where all males have a compulsion for blood, your character is unlikely to be very affected by the small personality differences created by one's gender. Ultimately, a character is a person just like you, and any character of any gender can have any kind of personality and characteristics you choose to give them. Neither man nor woman are really thinking about their private parts or their own genders most of the time, only if that's brought up or something specifically interacts with those parts. It's not a "different feeling", just a normality.

That's basically all you need to know to roleplay a character of a different gender. Don't be thinking of their gender, be thinking of how they act as a character and simply aknowledge them as being the other gender. Bring it up only when something outside of themselves brings it up, only if relevant for society reasons for example.

Still, maybe you're not yet convinced. Maybe you need something more concrete, so here are a few ideas to help you get more acquainted with playing the other gender:

Don't think in stereotypes:
By this I don't mean don't use stereotypes. Sure it's arguably better if you don't, but it's more important that you aren't thinking of your character as an accumulation of stereotypes. Try thinking of the character itself, their personality and history, and if it ends up reassembling the stereotypes, that's fine. Because they , as a person, happen to seem like a stereotype, but that doens't mean their depth is reduced to it, so long as you are still visuablizing them as a complete person moving of their own personality and experiences.

Create a character for one gender, and just swap it.
This advise is one I learned from another post, though I wouldn't be able to tell you who wrote it. But basically the idea is construct a character like you're used to, in the gender you're used to: Then flip that character's gender and play them like you would play the character normally.

Genderbender Plots
This is a type of plot where one or more characters has their gender flipped and the plot at least somewhat focuses on that. This is good, because apart from the comedy and drama which can arise from the situation, the plot gives you the ability to have a character who is exploring the other gender as you are: like a confused outsider. It's also great for exploring many themes like gender roles and sexuality if you're into having deeper themes for your roleplay.



Do note that I am not saying you HAVE to play the other gender or even should. It's a matter of preference in the end of the day. This guide is only meant to aid those who want to try it but are afraid they will screw something up in the process. So I hope these simple tips will aid you in expanding your horizons as much as you like :)

Good luck and happy RPing!
 

geeking out

One Thousand Club
#3
Yeah that was what i was thinking. I think the big take away ( looking at you romance rpers ) Gender is not a character trait. It is a physical one.

So if you define your character purely by what they have in their no no region than it's not going to make that character very interesting.

Because it's just like saying - My character has blue eyes.

Like that doesn't have anything to do with them as a person it's just a biological attribute they were born with. Same with gender.

Now if you're working with prejudices tied to that attribute ( idk Blue Eyes mean you are possessed by the devil ) than yeah that will play a part in their characterization. But it can't be the only thing that makes that character even then.

The same thing with gender. Even if you're focusing on gender roles / prejudices your character can't be solely defined by the fact that they have a sausage or two melons.

That being said as Idea mentioned, it's cool if you just have a personal preference for only playing yourself or variations in roleplays. Just don't think that gender is this huge defining part of someone's personality.
 

BackSet

Caffeine in Convenient Liquid Form
#5
I do agree with all of this.

To be honest, I'm not sure how I choose gender for characters. It's just a sort of thing where I decide this character is one gender and if I think of them as the opposite gender it just seems wrong. This usually results in more male characters than female characters as I am male and tend to default to male characters but I will play female characters if I feel that's how my character should be. (I also play characters of a certain gender to get a gender balance sometimes. I'm really picky about that kind of stuff sometimes. If a party consists of two males and a female then the chance of me playing a female increases and vice versa.
 

Bacon is fluffy

Wut'n th'name of davy jonez lockr is uh sall-add?
#6
Men and women think very differently on average. Women for example use Relational aggression a lot more than men, while men use practical aggression a lot more than women. A man can pick up on a hot 18 year old waitress and think she's a catch. A woman won't generally pick up on what she considers a hot 18 man because she's statistically more likely to look for someone older. More established and able to provide for her. It's just a fact of life that men and women think differently and are driven by different motivations in life. And to rp a woman exactly as you would a man, and vice versa, is over simplifying the human condition.

I'll never forget the moment it clicked for me. Was in class and was asked about social pragmatism. The girls in my group jokingly asked, " Is it possible to tell someone they're wearing too much makeup"?

My reply: Yes, if the situation doesn't call for it, then it's possible. Going to a pool or going to bed with an centimeter of chemicals made to change your appearance is silly

Their response, after a pause: Yes but it's only okay if your close girlfriend lets you know.

An example of how men and women think differently. The girl only would accept advice from someone she respected as an equal or above her. While I as a man just simply thought in terms of practicality. Thinking about why someone would wear makeup if they're literally going to bed.

Now this isn't to say that men cant act like women and that women cant act like men. Both sexes/genders/ whatever you want to call it use relational aggression. Both have people who won't marry down or only look to marry up. But in the end, statistically men and women tend to give different answers. Men are not women and women are not men. But if you're really trying to rp as a girl and aren't one. Or you're trying to rp as a dude but are a woman, it would be more authentic to put yourself in the other's shoes and ask how they'd approach a situation.
 

augmentedspartan

Surviving in the Metro
#8
Men and women think very differently on average. Women for example use Relational aggression a lot more than men, while men use practical aggression a lot more than women. A man can pick up on a hot 18 year old waitress and think she's a catch. A woman won't generally pick up on what she considers a hot 18 man because she's statistically more likely to look for someone older. More established and able to provide for her. It's just a fact of life that men and women think differently and are driven by different motivations in life. And to rp a woman exactly as you would a man, and vice versa, is over simplifying the human condition.

I'll never forget the moment it clicked for me. Was in class and was asked about social pragmatism. The girls in my group jokingly asked, " Is it possible to tell someone they're wearing too much makeup"?

My reply: Yes, if the situation doesn't call for it, then it's possible. Going to a pool or going to bed with an centimeter of chemicals made to change your appearance is silly

Their response, after a pause: Yes but it's only okay if your close girlfriend lets you know.

An example of how men and women think differently. The girl only would accept advice from someone she respected as an equal or above her. While I as a man just simply thought in terms of practicality. Thinking about why someone would wear makeup if they're literally going to bed.

Now this isn't to say that men cant act like women and that women cant act like men. Both sexes/genders/ whatever you want to call it use relational aggression. Both have people who won't marry down or only look to marry up. But in the end, statistically men and women tend to give different answers. Men are not women and women are not men. But if you're really trying to rp as a girl and aren't one. Or you're trying to rp as a dude but are a woman, it would be more authentic to put yourself in the other's shoes and ask how they'd approach a situation.
This is true when looking at the differences between men and women at a high scale. All these neurological, psychological, and physical differences will be apparent when you start to look at data points in the tens or hundreds of thousands, but when comparing a singular person to another? Anything goes. 'Putting yourself in another's shoes' in terms of gender differences doesn't really work when roleplaying a single character because, like @Idea said, you need to look at them as a person rather than as a gender. When comparing averages you'll obviously see several differences between the two sexes, whether it's stuff like pain reception, hormone secretion, white/gray matter ration, etc... which overall have a big impact in society as a whole, but in an individual scale? Negligible, really. A relevant quote that I saw a while back says something like "variations within genders are greater than variations between them," which is so much more on point when looking at individuals. Sure, the data may show that men are more violent in average than women, but that doesn't mean squat if you're making your female character violent and your male one a pacifist.

Of course, there are some differences here and there that would make playing a character of the other gender more natural, but these are things you'll probably pick up through normal social interactions or through consuming any decent media. There really isn't a need to get all picky with data and analysis when you're the one deciding the overall personality as well as their nuances.
 

geeking out

One Thousand Club
#10
Mmmmmm this literally helps so much 👌
I’m forced to play a male role too often.
Forced? Like in romances? If that's the case maybe ask your partner to do a character ratio?

Ex. You play one male and one female | They play the opposite characters for the romance

Or maybe try like female centric romances.

I mean I don't really do romance but I have seen those offered up by people who are tired of having to play males for other people.
 
#11
Mmmmmm this literally helps so much 👌
I’m forced to play a male role too often.
Forced? Like in romances? If that's the case maybe ask your partner to do a character ratio?

Ex. You play one male and one female | They play the opposite characters for the romance

Or maybe try like female centric romances.

I mean I don't really do romance but I have seen those offered up by people who are tired of having to play males for other people.
That’s a good idea, but I try to just avoid those RP’s because I feel uncomfortable RPing as a guy lol.
 

Bacon is fluffy

Wut'n th'name of davy jonez lockr is uh sall-add?
#12
This is true when looking at the differences between men and women at a high scale. All these neurological, psychological, and physical differences will be apparent when you start to look at data points in the tens or hundreds of thousands, but when comparing a singular person to another? Anything goes. 'Putting yourself in another's shoes' in terms of gender differences doesn't really work when roleplaying a single character because, like @Idea said, you need to look at them as a person rather than as a gender. When comparing averages you'll obviously see several differences between the two sexes, whether it's stuff like pain reception, hormone secretion, white/gray matter ration, etc... which overall have a big impact in society as a whole, but in an individual scale? Negligible, really. A relevant quote that I saw a while back says something like "variations within genders are greater than variations between them," which is so much more on point when looking at individuals. Sure, the data may show that men are more violent in average than women, but that doesn't mean squat if you're making your female character violent and your male one a pacifist.

Of course, there are some differences here and there that would make playing a character of the other gender more natural, but these are things you'll probably pick up through normal social interactions or through consuming any decent media. There really isn't a need to get all picky with data and analysis when you're the one deciding the overall personality as well as their nuances.
Feminists have shown that women can act like men, but idea wants to reduce men and women to nothing. What you want is to say a man is just a woman with a penis and a woman is a man with a vagina. That in itself defeats the purpose of playing the opposite gender. If I man who could never pass as a genuine female, decided to make my girl character act like a man. Then I might as well have played a man.
 

geeking out

One Thousand Club
#13
That’s a good idea, but I try to just avoid those RP’s because I feel uncomfortable RPing as a guy lol.
Fair enough, I know a lot of people like that immersion in their character in romances. I'm like the exact opposite. It actually creeps me out to play a character too much like myself in romance. Even females in general I just tend to find them boring in typical romances. One too many requests to play pretty lampshade characters just turns me off.

But I do think it's valid to want to play more what you know in romantic roleplays.

I myself do mostly platonic roleplays where the difference between genders is pretty negligible. I mean unless the plot requires some kind of gendered conflict there is typically not much difference between males and females.

( tbh faceclaims have far more to do with me playing females than any kind of writing preference. it is HARD to find good male faceclaims so i tend to default female in the stories where that's a requirement )
 

Idea

The Pun Tyrant
#14
Feminists have shown that women can act like men, but idea wants to reduce men and women to nothing. What you want is to say a man is just a woman with a penis and a woman is a man with a vagina. That in itself defeats the purpose of playing the opposite gender. If I man who could never pass as a genuine female, decided to make my girl character act like a man. Then I might as well have played a man.
Sure if your goal is to play the opposite gender, that is, playing the opposite gender is an end in itself, then the small differences are of course relevant.

However, the guide here present is not addressed at those who have that sort of goal, but rather those that simply are too afraid or uncomfortable playing the opposite gender. To them, for the most part, wanting to play the opposite gender would not be an end but a means to broaden the array of roleplays and experiences they have access to by being able to move into playing the opposite gender. So in absolute accurate expression, yes there are behavioral differences, but in terms of broad strokes the gender is parallel AKA unrelated to personality.
 

BackSet

Caffeine in Convenient Liquid Form
#15
You know what's hilarious: idea wasn't trying to offend anyone but people find need to argue anyways. Seriously guys, it's not that big a deal.
 

Idea

The Pun Tyrant
#16
You know what's hilarious: idea wasn't trying to offend anyone but people find need to argue anyways. Seriously guys, it's not that big a deal.
Ah don't worry about it. I welcome criticism :)
In my eyes, criticism is itself a form of respect for someone's opinion, a sign that it is worth considering and thus critiquing. Plus if there is something wrong with what I am saying, I would very much like to learn from another's knowledge and experience ;)


Nonetheless thank you for standing up to me!
 

Fatalis

Rain-Barrel Ivy
#17
Man the title just sounds so...wrong. Like "There's only 2 genders", y'now? Me no likey.

Well, I agree with most points nevertheless. Except for the "Create a character for Gender A and just swap it.", because, well, males don't think the way females think and vice versa. Most males I have seen don't think as rationally as females. Females are often more planning and looking at the possible consequences - While males usually don't. (I've observed it in me and my boyfriend and also some other friends)
Honestly, the best advice is: Just do it. "I am afraid I won't play them right" god damn you aren't playing someone who is a manic depressive, with schizophrenia. Don't be so coy. If you don't practice, you'll never start to learn it, or even play it. It's not like the other gender/s are some weird extraterrestial aliens
 

Idea

The Pun Tyrant
#18
Man the title just sounds so...wrong. Like "There's only 2 genders", y'now? Me no likey.
My own personal beliefs aside, the title is what it is due to it's target audience. The kind of person who states they are uncomfortable playing the other gender also tend to be people who think in terms of two genders. In fact, it couldn't logically be in any other way: After all, if you propose there are in fact more genders than two then your criteria for distinction cannot be physical, unless your extension is merely a flip like transexuals. Therefore one who claims there are more than two, maybe four with the aforementioned exception, genders ought to already be able to pinpoint the distinction and therefore would have no issue that this guide could possibly hope to solve.

In short, the title sounds wrong because you're not the audience it is meant to adress.

Well, I agree with most points nevertheless. Except for the "Create a character for Gender A and just swap it.", because, well, males don't think the way females think and vice versa. Most males I have seen don't think as rationally as females. Females are often more planning and looking at the possible consequences - While males usually don't. (I've observed it in me and my boyfriend and also some other friends)
As already discussed with Bacon yes, there are some differences (though the ones you mentioned are certainly are not among them) in behavior and thought patterns between genders. However, these differences are rather minor and not universal but statistic at best. Such differences are therefore irrelevant when it comes to making a character unless the point of it is specifically to explore the dynamics of those differences.

Honestly, the best advice is: Just do it. "I am afraid I won't play them right" god damn you aren't playing someone who is a manic depressive, with schizophrenia. Don't be so coy. If you don't practice, you'll never start to learn it, or even play it. It's not like the other gender/s are some weird extraterrestial aliens
Well, some people say that about people with psychological disorders. And some people look at what you said above and think "if there are differences and I don't know them, I'm gonna screw up". So, ultimately, yeah "just do it" is pretty much what it boils down to, but it's not helpful advise because it doesn't account for the need of a transition period
 
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geeking out

One Thousand Club
#19
Man the title just sounds so...wrong. Like "There's only 2 genders", y'now? Me no likey.

Well, I agree with most points nevertheless. Except for the "Create a character for Gender A and just swap it.", because, well, males don't think the way females think and vice versa. Most males I have seen don't think as rationally as females. Females are often more planning and looking at the possible consequences - While males usually don't. (I've observed it in me and my boyfriend and also some other friends)
Honestly, the best advice is: Just do it. "I am afraid I won't play them right" god damn you aren't playing someone who is a manic depressive, with schizophrenia. Don't be so coy. If you don't practice, you'll never start to learn it, or even play it. It's not like the other gender/s are some weird extraterrestial aliens
I think the idea is more to address your last point than to say - Men and Women are exactly Identical and there are no differences.

It's more - the opposite gender isn't some kind of weird space alien so if you make a well rounded character it shouldn't matter what gender they are. The character will still be well-rounded regardless of whether their male / female / nonbinary / some made up gender you create for the roleplay.
 

Necessity4Fun

Just a little more~
#20
This is pretty good and really, the differences aren't that much when you look at it.

Still, I'm gonna leave my two cents here because they could be helpful. I've seen the whole thought pattern between genders discussion above and it made me think about how I differentiate them, we'll, kinda, you'll see... >w<
Honestly, I don't give it much thought in that sense but I do take one thing in consideration: The society expectations.

AKA: The 'Men are strong, women are emotional' paradigm.

I'm aware it's been deconstructed and so on by the newer generations, but it is still quite the strong thing society just won't give up on.

Thus use that and think about your character's backstory, their motivations,
"Are they swimming against the tide or have them accepted it?" and "Are they happy with that?"

For example, maybe they are male and are going with the tide, so they restrict (conscious or unconsciously) their emotions, because men aren't 'supposed' to cry, aren't 'supposed' to make a scene. No! Men are rational! Bonus points if they come from a middle-class and kinda conservative family. It fits to a T. If they're not happy with the order of things then congratulations, you just got yourself a conflict to explore.

The opposite is also true, women are 'supposed' to be fragile, but what if they don't want? What if they were let down a bunch of times already and are sick of it, what if they grew up with poor examples of marriage and want none of it? What if they want to be independent but won't stop being understimated?
There is already lot to cover even when you're using simple things such as these society constructions.

It's just worth noting that it is easier to accept what society says, thus any movement out of it is going to be already struggle, or was already a struggle that some point. [This is useful for back stories!]

Again, this is just one more thing in the vast ocean of things that makes a person. Everything is complex and connected, a lot of pieces form a person. A lot of pieces should form your character concepts as well.

A fun experiment is to do the genderbent thing Idea suggested, but as an AU. Then think about how the gender expectations would come to play over the new concept. There's a chance that the very same concept, with the same idea behind it, will still ring somewhat different. (Ofc, 'cause it's not the exact same person anymore!)

Start by something simple, like IDK their new fashion choices and see how far it goes~!

So yeah, conclusion kinda is: Exceptions ARE a thing, society will just go harder to cover and 'reform' them because human beings hate/are scared of what's different, I guess : P

Phew! I talked a lot, hope this bible makes some sense ^^'
 
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augmentedspartan

Surviving in the Metro
#21
Feminists have shown that women can act like men, but idea wants to reduce men and women to nothing. What you want is to say a man is just a woman with a penis and a woman is a man with a vagina. That in itself defeats the purpose of playing the opposite gender. If I man who could never pass as a genuine female, decided to make my girl character act like a man. Then I might as well have played a man.
That's quite the jump to make, but I guess twisting my words makes for a compelling argument.

My point isn't that men and women are the same, but that you can't just "calculate" specifics of a character by their gender. There are variations between men and women, that's 100% true, but there's also variations between individuals. This means that you can have a woman who fits in every single stereotype about men and vice versa. I don't just make a character and go "oh well, she's a woman, so I need to subtract 7% aggression and add 2x multitasking proficiency", that's not how this works. I decide the personality and characteristics independent of the character's gender because, like I said, you can have any combination for male and females, statistics don't matter in an individual scale.

There are a lot of details that can make the character more believable, for sure, and depending the setting some social rules will be more present on the character's personality and actions. But if your goal is to just write a character that happens to be male or female, then it really isn't rocket science.
 

memphis

Hi Welcome to Chilis
#22
I think something many people overlook is the fact that someone does not just automatically behave a certain way because they are a certain gender. It's a bit deeper than that. I know some of you guys have already touched on this a bit, but the gender of someone does not define how they will behave; rather, societal and familial conditions are much more impactful on how someone will behave. It's easy to assume that perhaps a male character would be naturally more aggressive, and a female more rational, because we can, to an extent, observe this in society today. But, the fact of the matter is, we see many discrepancies in generalizations like this is because no two people are born into and raised in the exact same household under the exact same conditions. This is something important to take in consideration when writing a character of any gender. What kind of society do they live in? Is it Victorian England? Or perhaps it's modern day America, or a utopian society in the distant future? What was their family life like; were they raised with certain morals or expectations? Do those morals and expectations conform with or contradict societal conditions? I don't think there's any such thing as acting like any particular gender; there's only acting as society believes someone of a certain gender should behave, and vice versa.
 
#23
I once asked one writer lady who does amazing tutorials about her work this, as I feel like I fail at playing ladies. Her reply was short, but... I felt it. She said that a man and a woman are absolutely the same, and you cannot fail to write an opposite gender; but social expectations are different. So, the real question is, how people around react to a loud, emotional, crying guy; or a hairy woman who spits and smells.
 
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QuirkyAngel

White Masquerade's Blue Oni
#24
Sure if your goal is to play the opposite gender, that is, playing the opposite gender is an end in itself, then the small differences are of course relevant.

However, the guide here present is not addressed at those who have that sort of goal, but rather those that simply are too afraid or uncomfortable playing the opposite gender. To them, for the most part, wanting to play the opposite gender would not be an end but a means to broaden the array of roleplays and experiences they have access to by being able to move into playing the opposite gender. So in absolute accurate expression, yes there are behavioral differences, but in terms of broad strokes the gender is parallel AKA unrelated to personality.
Change 'gender' to 'sex' and the title will be more accurate.
 

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