Courtship Rituals Tradition / Ritual in Mudewei | World Anvil
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Courtship Rituals


The social codes around courtship evolved out of male "peacock" behavior dating back to time immemorial, slowly building on top of each other. The sparring match is the oldest known custom, although Stenza are a social enough species to settle for one clear victor without the loser being killed in the contest. Developing perhaps concurrently was the method of allowing friends to screen potentials. Before Unification, this carried a lot of "clan alliance" implications, and shortly afterward it helped to bolster the newly-formed Stenza nation. Currently such a thing is no longer necessary, but the tradition persists.   Building on the "screening" process are a complex and ever-changing series of social rules, based primarily on the reputations of the individuals involved. For example, a brave soldier or skilled doctor would make an excellent partner, but dating an exile is steeply frowned upon (but not illegal). These rules have always had an interesting relationship with the chain of command in individual clan forces and later in the Stenza army more broadly, but the key thing to remember is that Stenza emphasize competence, so much so that the idea of an officer having any long-term power over anyone else rarely holds up under scrutiny.   Often, however, individuals look outside their clan for potential partners, so belonging to the same unit rarely comes up (and the health of potential pups is not as compromised as it could be through inbreeding). This has fluctuating taboo status, but is a generally accepted custom regardless.



  The first step is to gather data. An individual, usually male, asks his friends, litter mates, and Blood Siblings to poke around and gather information on whether a prospective partner is involved with anyone or actively looking for someone. The blood sibling in particular has a special responsibility to hype their friend up to potential partners. (For cases where one individual directly approaches another, the latter's blood siblings will often be placed in the role of "screening" the former in case they have bad intentions, or a bad history, or are generally someone their sibling should not be in any way tangled up with.)   If the answers are positive, a man then attracts the attention of a potential by engaging in sparring matches with others. Unlike other incidences of single combat, the rules emphasize clever, flashy tactics and innovative ways of taking down their opponent to show her that he is good in battle, flaunting his skill and knowledge in an effort to arouse her.   If she approves, she will invite him to a local bathhouse, which leads to an examination of each other's scars and a discussion of each other's combat history. This may lead to one of two outcomes, or a combination: an encounter later in the evening, subsequent meetings with each other, or subsequent "dates" leading to encounters. Often the foundation of a long-term partnership analogous to marriage.  


  It is becoming increasingly common among the Stenza to mingle with members of other clans (while this has been allowed and feasible for around 2500 years, recent circumstances have further facilitated the trend), allowing individuals to get to know each other outside of mating season and the attendant rituals. Therefore many individuals engage with each other around this time of their own accord, and there are one of two outcomes possible: either the parties never couple again, while continuing to engage in whatever they were doing before perfectly amicably; or they continue to meet with each other and may develop a loving long-term partnership and formally marry.


Besides the parties looking to hook up for the night, or longer, the key role goes to blood siblings and close friends (such as litter mates), who serve as wing persons in the initial stages of the affair. They read the room, look into potentials, consider questions either party might be asking (for example, if the other wants to have children), and so on. Occasionally they will also operate as informal matchmakers, if their assessment is their buddy needs to get laid.

On the Deed Itself

Although it is rarely discussed outside of medical or scientific contexts, it is known that following a particularly flashy sparring match, Stenza females lead their chosen mates for the evening to as secluded a location as can be managed. He may either go down easily or spar her as a form of foreplay, although the outcome is always the same: him sandwiched between a wall or a bed and her back. In this tight position he must maneuver his penis into the vaginal opening in the small of her back. After his initial penetration, he is helped along by the movements of her vaginal canal until his penis is fully inserted. If he can manage it, he may attempt to supplement her movements with such acts as biting or clawing, especially if he has known her before. The act of congress culminates in the female's orgasm, which triggers, through poorly-understood physical or neurological (or both) processes, male ejaculation and a sensation many men have described as profoundly satisfying, if occasionally painful.   Fresh claw marks on a man's thighs are frequently met with knowing looks and chuckles from women, and it is not uncommon for long-term couples to each sport claw scars of varying ages. Eagle-eyed inspectors boast that they can date the age of the relationship by these marks. It is further said, typically by religious experts, that Iradae and Lan'tha also sport such scars, as a mark of their devotion and continued attraction to one another.
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Feb 14, 2020 03:53 by Amy Winters-Voss

You had hinted to me before how the screening and wingmen would play into this, but it’s fun to see it set in detail so I understand it better! :D

Author of the Liminal Chronicles urban fantasy series | Author Website
Feb 14, 2020 10:35

It's been fun to explore and think about! :D

Feb 14, 2020 14:58 by Diane Morrison

This interesting article led me to reading more about your interesting species. Really cool aliens!   I am curious: if the women are bigger and stronger, why do the men do all the aggressive courtship displays? Evolutionary psychologists say that human sexual dimorphism is why men do the aggressive courtship displays among our species (of course, I think most evolutionary psychologists start with a flawed, and ultimately patriarchally-biased, premise, so I'd really love to hear a take I could throw back at them about this.) Are males more aggressive than females, and do they produce a sexual hormone that also seems to have ties to aggression? (Like testosterone.)   My second question is whether the courtship rituals are associated with any particular date or season, or do the Stenza experience a sort of "heat" or do they save courtship for a seasonal cycle? (Like, say, the deepest part of winter, which is too cold even for them, so they gather food for that time and stay close to home and concentrate on mating)? Or do they treat this as a holiday for the community once members of the community start these combat displays? I only ask because the challenge says "a holiday," and I wouldn't want you to be disqualified by not meeting that technicality, and these are all ways I can think of that this would meet that criteria that seem, from this quick look, to make sense "in world". (Of course, I'm talking about where it falls in their local calendar, since I assume their planet has a rotation cycle that is radically different from Earth's.)   Great stuff! Fun to see some genuine sci-fi! I'm a SFF writer, so it warms my nerdy little heart! Great work! I really like this!

Author of the Wyrd West Chronicles and the Toy Soldier Saga. Mother of Bunnies, Eater of Pickles, Friend of Nerds, First of her Name.
Feb 14, 2020 19:56

First of all, thanks so much and you ask such great questions! (This stuff makes me melt, I swear.)   Fights put on for the benefit of female spectators (and potential mates) are showy, and about demonstrations of skill and cleverness than anything else. Those skills are what men bring to the table in a relationship with a partner which can steamroll right over them (and possibly what prevented the Stenza from evolving a sort of anglerfish-like gender dichotomy, where the male latches onto a female and devolves into a sperm bank, basically). You could arguably think about it as akin to male tropical birds showing off their fancy colors as a sign that they have good nutrition.   I've been thinking a fair bit about the idea of a mating cycle. It makes sense, but I have/had a hard time with where it would fit in the calendar. I'm leaning toward a cycle which allows the pups to be up and about and up to things in time for their first migrations, which places them being born into the Ice Flats roughly a little before First Sunrise, meaning everyone gets "busy" perhaps a few weeks before takeoff. I'll have to write another article about this because I think I'm on to something good.   I did this primarily for funsies, but I'm glad you like it so much :D

Mar 1, 2020 20:58 by Diane Morrison

Thanks for the reply! I think this all makes perfect sense. :) Looking forward to reading more about the Stenza, and when you get the mating cycle article figured out, be sure to spot me the link.

Author of the Wyrd West Chronicles and the Toy Soldier Saga. Mother of Bunnies, Eater of Pickles, Friend of Nerds, First of her Name.
Mar 3, 2020 17:49

I haven't done a proper article on the subject (yet), but I have updated the main species page in order to reflect this development. That can be found here:

The Stenza
Species | Nov 11, 2023