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What happens to initiates who DON'T go mad in the Sex Pit?


Rob Darvall

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3 hours ago, Squaredeal Sten said:

Uleria does seem logical, though characterizing her as a demon seem to me to be a peculiarly antisex and perhaps anti-woman point of view.  

Remember, Uleria was the original owner of the communication? Harmony? Rune.  Is the only survivor of the Celestial Court.  Characterization as a demon seems a revisionist view. Perhaps God Learner manipulation.

Uleria would seem to be a choice for people who view the secrets of their adulthood  initiation (in the immediate case the sex pit ) as the only things  they need to know.  People who tend toward fundamentalism? 

But Uleria's rune being communication would indicate the Ulerian should be open minded.  That runs directly contrary to fundamentalism.  Maybe characterization as a demon is propaganda from a puritanical cult like Yelm.

I wonder why such options are only part of the male adulthood initiation.  The female initiation in Six Seasons does not have anything similar to the Sex Pit.  Rather, the female sexual options all seem positive.   There are off ramps toward Ernalda, Vinga, and  Babeeser Gor, but none of them indicate insanity.  Interestingly none toward Uleria.  

Uleria had those demonic associations because love hurts, love scars, etc. alongside the residual sex-negativity. But more broadly, Uleria has consistently been defined by a whorephobic desire to avoid examining the implications of what Uleria binding romantic love and sex work and counseling/psychotherapy up together in one bound means- she becomes a joke, a shadow, a demon. Her cult is marginal and gods don't act outside of cults, so she's a minimal presence. Streetwalkers aren't under the protection of Uleria, she only protects high-class courtesans. Uleria hears these propitiations as they wend towards her, and in her laugh and smile, there is only rejection of such pleas. 

Uleria violates boundaries casually. No scheme of classification can make her fit except as "Uleria". Strange are your ways, Uleria. No one else is like you. And so on. 

But of course, the women's initiation takes place after first menstruation according to Greg, so around the ages of 13-15. Uleria surely pays a visit to the girls and the boys and the enbies, but if it's a sexual one, I suspect it's look, don't touch. Time enough for them to experience death-in-life when they're ready. For the moment, Uleria speaks of love and desire in less sexual ways. 

But her appearances are secrets, to be kept within the closed circle. To spread knowledge of her tests means she'd change them, and back you'd be at square one. 

Edited by Eff
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Though a Lunar through and through, she is also a human being.

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1 hour ago, Eff said:

 

Uleria had those demonic associations because love hurts, love scars, etc. alongside the residual sex-negativity. But more broadly, Uleria has consistently been defined by a whorephobic desire to avoid examining the implications of what Uleria binding romantic love and sex work and counseling/psychotherapy up together in one bound means- she becomes a joke, a shadow, a demon. Her cult is marginal ...

More likely, the experience of sex is so overwhelming that it was easiest for the ancients to explain it in supernatural terms: the goddess possessed you for a few minutes.

Or as you used an apt word. the "whorephobic " could describe it as demonic.  But I wonder when that started.  We do have iron age documents that describe temple prostitution, and none of the translations I saw say "demonic."

But when all this got translated to 20th century minds steeped in 17th century puritanism, that's when we see demonic.

And I suspect that is how we get Uleria described as a demon.

Whether we really want that in Glorantha, and what the original concept of Uleria was, are two slightly different questions.  IMHO to literally  demonize sex - and in this case to demonize communication too - produces psychological problems, it doesn't prevent them.  Why keep that trope alive?

 

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7 hours ago, PhilHibbs said:

Nobody deliberately prepared a Sex Pit. That would be crazy!

So what is the pit being prepared?
1) The pit and the "uncle" appear in the ritual spontaneously. So no one has prepared it. It's a consequence of some god plane shenanigans.

2) The pit appears as a perversion of another pit

3) The village DOES prepare the pit but there's an expectation of success. Hence (in part) my question.

The answers of both Uleria AND Orlanth seem mythically justifiable. I lean toward Uleria because my feeling is that survival SHOULD be something unusual. However that leaves me with the question PhilHibbs has prompted above. What is the pit being prepared? And who is the uncle? (And does it matter? Is "wicked uncle" a sufficient mythic identification?)

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5 hours ago, Squaredeal Sten said:

Uleria does seem logical, though characterizing her as a demon seem to me to be a peculiarly antisex and perhaps anti-woman point of view. 

Yes it does. And a stance which seemed peculiar in light of the general sex-positivity in Orlanthi society. 
BUT if Ulerians are successful initiates through a pit with a reputation for breaking people quite badly I can see the society treating them with suspicion that hardens into that prejudice.
My point was not that Uleria is a demon but that in tribal Orlanthi society Ulerians are coming from the same pit as those broken by Ragnaglar which would account for something I saw as an inconsistent (and IMO thankfully retconned) attitude.

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3 minutes ago, Rob Darvall said:

Yes it does. And a stance which seemed peculiar in light of the general sex-positivity in Orlanthi society. 
BUT if Ulerians are successful initiates through a pit with a reputation for breaking people quite badly I can see the society treating them with suspicion that hardens into that prejudice.
My point was not that Uleria is a demon but that in tribal Orlanthi society Ulerians are coming from the same pit as those broken by Ragnaglar which would account for something I saw as an inconsistent (and IMO thankfully retconned) attitude.

Let's note that this does imply male Ulerians, who do not appear in the canon material I have seen so far.

Also note that the female adulthood initiations described so far - and I am thinking  of Six Seasons in Sartar - do not have anything comparable to the sex pit, nothing producing insanity.  Even though sexual scenes exist there.

So why the implication that sex is especially a mental danger to men?

Or is that an accident born of (1) The sex pit being 40 year old canon material, (2) the Ernalda initiation being written with care not to put off the minority of female players in a hobby that is still majority male?  

 

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15 minutes ago, Squaredeal Sten said:

Let's note that this does imply male Ulerians, who do not appear in the canon material I have seen so far.

Yes. Although I've always assumed Ulerians of all genders. And the seven different forms of love the Greeks enumerated (Hence the week long Ulerian festival in Harmony Dark, 1 day each)

16 minutes ago, Squaredeal Sten said:

Also note that the female adulthood initiations described so far - and I am thinking  of Six Seasons in Sartar - do not have anything comparable to the sex pit, nothing producing insanity.  Even though sexual scenes exist there.

So why the implication that sex is especially a mental danger to men?

Mythologically I'd think because the uncles are Orlanth's uncles specifically. The pit is a danger to men specifically because Ragnaglar is Orlanth's kin. It's as much Kinstrife as anything else.

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The implication of the Sex Pit is that rape and child molestation are real threats, and in the Ernalda initiation Greg wrote, these threats are sublimated into the succession of suitors starting with Flamal. The majority of the Ernalda initiation is one giant Sex Pit. 

(And then it all culminates in getting impregnated by Ernalda. Sheesh. The symbolism is almost text.)

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Though a Lunar through and through, she is also a human being.

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9 hours ago, Joerg said:

Which is describing the process of _adulthood_ initiation.

There is a fuller essay linked from that I had not seen before, which explains much:

https://wellofdaliath.chaosium.com/home/gloranthan-documents/greg-sez/orlanthi-initiation-rites/

 

Quote

The common Orlanthi initiation is simultaneously an initiation into manhood and the religion.

Quote

During this narrative the individual chooses the deity that he wishes to follow for the next twelve months. After this point the individual is an initiand, essentially initiated into the culture and religion, but not into a specific selected role.  They are an unformed initiated being able to have some benefits and obliged to perform most of the requirements of cults, societies and families.

 

Overall there is a 2 year 'apprenticeship' where the candidate chooses what they do in the first year, and the clan elders the second.

The women's rites are similar in this respect; the magic stuff happens first, without it being officially explained beforehand. Then there is multi-year process of processing, integrating and learning to apply what just happened. So failure is front-loaded, like an education system with exams before lessons.

The way I would interpret this in RQ:G rules terms, in the rare case it would come up, is that at initiation you typically learn one or more one-use spells. Over the next few years, you are developing the skills required to make those spell reusable, i.e. getting training in cult skills.

At that point your 'soul is unformed'. Mechanically, that means your rune pool could be fully renewed by worship within more than one cult. For example Orlanth and Yinkin both can renew Identify Scent. So if that is the only spell you learnt, you have the option of staying with the clan, or going for the year in the wilderness that dedicates you fully to Yinkin.

Or of course you could abandon your suggested calling and decide, or be persuaded to, to follow some other path. Sometimes the clan needs a bad warrior more than it needs a good basket weaver...

 

 

 

 

 

 

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24 minutes ago, radmonger said:

Which is describing the process of _adulthood_ initiation.

There is a fuller essay linked from that I had not seen before, which explains much:

https://wellofdaliath.chaosium.com/home/gloranthan-documents/greg-sez/orlanthi-initiation-rites/

I’m a bit confused, this does not mention the steps involved in the Initiation of Orlanth so do they not perform pit based initiation, having substituted a safer way, or am I misunderstanding the article?

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33 minutes ago, FlamingCatOfDeath said:

I’m a bit confused, this does not mention the steps involved in the Initiation of Orlanth so do they not perform pit based initiation, having substituted a safer way, or am I misunderstanding the article?

While not explicit, I've always assumed it's part of the confrontation stage.

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So here's my take on the sex pit issue.

I have an ongoing series of Glorantha stories I poke away at every so often and the third one revolved around a clan trying to do the initiation ceremony after having it invaded by Grazers the previous year, so they're kind of paranoid.  My own research which I can no longer figure out where I got this idea had four pits -

  • The Pit of the Strange Gods - where Orlanth himself went.  You have to stage a jailbreak with allies from the strange gods in order to 'win'.  In the story, Petrad recruits the ancient allies of his clan (a Westerner and a Dwarf) and the origin group of one of their blood lines (a Pamaltelan) to escape and later he is able to warn the other initiates and other people in the rite that the Ogres are coming and defeat them with the help of his allies.  This pit usally leads to becoming Orlanthi, but it might end up recruiting you to all sorts of weird gods.  You personally win if you make friends, good or bad, though your clan might not see it that way.  
  • The Pit of Combat - you have to fight *something* to win.  What you fight depends on your clan's history and what god you're drawn to.  Enfrew's clan was originally part of a bigger clan which, desperate for food, conquered the Helots only to discover they had no food, so most of the clan ate them and became ogres and the White Quartz were those who refused to eat humans and escaped, finding another way to survive.  So Enfrew, who wanted to be a Storm Bull, had to fight the angry ghosts of the Helots, and was tempted by Cacodemon (in disguise).  But he didn't just want strength, he wanted it to fight Chaos and so Storm Bull took him to the Monkey Ruins in Prax and he got to beat up a scorpion man (and nearly die) and become a Uroxi Initiate.  If Enfrew had hated undead or had a stronger knack for fighting, he might have ended up a Humakti.  You also might end up under Orlanth Adventurous this way or various other fighting gods.  
  • The Pit of Elements - Boys who are oriented towards an element more strongly end up here.  A future Helerite might have to figure out the secret of breathing underwater.  An Orlanthi figure out how to fly or at least get an ally to save you from falling.  An Elmal/Yelmalio person would have to learn to survive fire.  This is the most dangerous pit because if you fail the test, you probably die.  Big risk, big reward.  Harvald got lucky and was saved by a troll who was impressed by his determination (he was trying to do the Olanthi 'fall off Kero Fin, learrn to fly' thing) when he asked her to take him back to the top and throw him down again that he got an enchanted spear from her made of dragonfly chitin.  He also became an Orlanth initiate.  
  • The Sex Pit - This is complicated and I'll discuss it below -In the story, this clan had a Priestess of Uleria they hired for the initiation; this one went wonky and basically Heleric and the girl he liked (Oranessa) had to fight Raglagnar with the spear Harvald had gotten.  They both became initiates of Heler.

So what is the purpose of the Sex Pit?  The Sex Pit is all about a central problem of Orlanthi society - Men are expected to be impulsive and often violent, but that is easily a recipe for rape.  The Pit of the Strange Gods is about handling the non-sexual relationships you will have as an adult.  The Pit of Combat is grounded in how Orlanthi men sometimes *have* to fight, because Violence is not only 'Always an Option' but also 'inescapable if you don't want your reputation destroyed and your clan slaughtered' all too often.  The Pit of Elements is about *magic*; those drawn to magical power end up here.  And the Sex Pit is about sexual relationships and how to cultivate them.

The myths of the Orlanthi are riddled with stories of Orlanth seducing everything in sight (Ernalda is the same way) for good and bad reasons, so the Sex Pit can lead to Orlanth if you follow the same path as Orlanth himself in relationships.  So this is what happens in the Sex Pit.

You confront a being who you find sexually attractive - for most Orlanthi men, this is a woman, but it might be a man, a Vingan, a Nandan or whatever.  For that matter, it might be a troll, elf, dwarf, etc.  Basically, if you have a sexual orientation, it's whatever you would most want to have sex with.  (If you are asexual, you don't end up in the sex pit).  If you chose the sex pit (or it chose you), you're going to proposition them ((if not, you probably didn't end up in the sex pit).  They *turn you down*.

Because the heart of the sex pit is how you deal with someone who doesn't want to have sex with you when you want them.  

The worst solution is rape because it goes one of two ways - 1, you earn Raglagnar's favor, initiate to him, and become a rapist who eventually is going to die for it or end up a Chaos freak in exile, or 2, your target and/or their defender turns you into giblets and you come out of initiation as a corpse.  You can die in all four initiations but this is the death that reflects worse on you.  (You may be killed trying to escape if you chose allies poorly in the Pit of Strange Gods, you may die of combat in the Pit of Combat, and the Pit of Elements is very 'get magic or die')

But here's where character and proper preparation come in.  Bare minimum, anyone who goes into the sex pit knows about the romance of Orlanth and Ernalda (or the romance of someone with someone, depending on your clan's own mythology collection).  Ernalda makes Orlanth woo her and given Orlanthi women are expected to model themselves on Ernalda (and other goddesses don't just roll over for the first person who wants to sleep with them either), the correct answer to the sex pit is to woo the person you want to be your lover and to recognize them as a *person* and not just something to have sex with.  

How you woo the person and who the person is both influence who you end up initiating to.  You may end up doing a cattle raid, collecting shells, growing crops, all sorts of adult activities, but it's tied to building a bond with the object of your affections.  Your chance of death on this path is minimal, though dying in the Pit of Strange Gods is also rare.

Eventually, you woo them and have sex, and then return with some kind of gift and probably initiated to Orlanth.  (All the paths end up with some kind of gift or power, unless you die.)  You also now know better how to deal with people you're attracted to and that's a gift you're going to need in a society where unmarried people happily have sex, but may not want to have it with *you*.

Now, I have a comment on the Uleria thing and why Orlanthi society has issues with her.

Orlanthi marriages are intended to be faithful.  Critically, this allows you to be sure who are the parents of any child.  While someone in a Heroquest might have to have ritual sex for relgious purposes, that's done by priests and priestesses, not by the faithful.  There is no holy adultery tradition - rather, adultery is a crime that brings down disaster on the clan as the spirits of retribution start kicking *everyone's ass*. 

And that is why Uleria, who doesn't care if you're married or not, is a poor fit.  Uleria is a goddess of marriage, but also a goddess of sleeping around on your spouse.  She's effectively in sync with the unmarried young adults, but those young adults are expected to eventually settle down, marry someone and not sleep with anyone else so long as they are married.  (In practice, until you die.)

If her men and women are around, it's going to be a constant source of social strife.  A lot of her attitudes overlap with Orlanthi ideals but don't work well with marriage, which is what most Orlanthi are expected to do.

(So the Orlanthi are sex-positive, but marriage trumps that.  If it didn't, there'd be a lot less incentive to have marriage at all.)

 

 

 

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On 7/31/2022 at 3:03 AM, Eff said:

Uleria had those demonic associations because love hurts, love scars, etc. alongside the residual sex-negativity.

My reading is that Orlanthi think they already have a goddess of love - Ernalda, for ”socially proper” love, within (or before) the bounds of marriage. But Uleria is love beyond any boundaries or checks - it’s the source of infidelity, it can tear families and societies apart. This is why Uleria is called a demon - Orlanthi know her power and its potential effects and don’t approve. It’s Uleria who creates a Romeo and Juliet tragedy.

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9 hours ago, John Biles said:

So here's my take on the sex pit issue.......

  • The Sex Pit - This is complicated and I'll discuss it below -In the story, this clan had a Priestess of Uleria they hired for the initiation; this one went wonky and basically Heleric and the girl he liked (Oranessa) had to fight Raglagnar with the spear Harvald had gotten.  They both became initiates of Heler.

So what is the purpose of the Sex Pit?  The Sex Pit is all about a central problem of Orlanthi society - Men are expected to be impulsive and often violent, but that is easily a recipe for rape.  The Pit of the Strange Gods is about handling the non-sexual relationships you will have as an adult.  The Pit of Combat is grounded in how Orlanthi men sometimes *have* to fight, because Violence is not only 'Always an Option' but also 'inescapable if you don't want your reputation destroyed and your clan slaughtered' all too often.  The Pit of Elements is about *magic*; those drawn to magical power end up here.  And the Sex Pit is about sexual relationships and how to cultivate them.

The myths of the Orlanthi are riddled with stories of Orlanth seducing everything in sight (Ernalda is the same way) for good and bad reasons, so the Sex Pit can lead to Orlanth if you follow the same path as Orlanth himself in relationships.  So this is what happens in the Sex Pit.

You confront a being who you find sexually attractive - for most Orlanthi men, this is a woman, but it might be a man, a Vingan, a Nandan or whatever.  For that matter, it might be a troll, elf, dwarf, etc.  Basically, if you have a sexual orientation, it's whatever you would most want to have sex with.  (If you are asexual, you don't end up in the sex pit).  If you chose the sex pit (or it chose you), you're going to proposition them ((if not, you probably didn't end up in the sex pit).  They *turn you down*.

Because the heart of the sex pit is how you deal with someone who doesn't want to have sex with you when you want them.  

The worst solution is rape because it goes one of two ways - 1, you earn Raglagnar's favor, initiate to him, and become a rapist who eventually is going to die for it or end up a Chaos freak in exile, or 2, your target and/or their defender turns you into giblets and you come out of initiation as a corpse.  You can die in all four initiations but this is the death that reflects worse on you.  (You may be killed trying to escape if you chose allies poorly in the Pit of Strange Gods, you may die of combat in the Pit of Combat, and the Pit of Elements is very 'get magic or die')

But here's where character and proper preparation come in.  Bare minimum, anyone who goes into the sex pit knows about the romance of Orlanth and Ernalda (or the romance of someone with someone, depending on your clan's own mythology collection).  Ernalda makes Orlanth woo her and given Orlanthi women are expected to model themselves on Ernalda (and other goddesses don't just roll over for the first person who wants to sleep with them either), the correct answer to the sex pit is to woo the person you want to be your lover and to recognize them as a *person* and not just something to have sex with.  

How you woo the person and who the person is both influence who you end up initiating to.  You may end up doing a cattle raid, collecting shells, growing crops, all sorts of adult activities, but it's tied to building a bond with the object of your affections.  Your chance of death on this path is minimal, though dying in the Pit of Strange Gods is also rare.

Eventually, you woo them and have sex, and then return with some kind of gift and probably initiated to Orlanth.  (All the paths end up with some kind of gift or power, unless you die.)  You also now know better how to deal with people you're attracted to and that's a gift you're going to need in a society where unmarried people happily have sex, but may not want to have it with *you*........

That looks like a good and not necessarily destructive way to run the Sex Pit.  And a good explanation of why it is only in the male initiation.

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20 hours ago, John Biles said:

But here's where character and proper preparation come in.  Bare minimum, anyone who goes into the sex pit knows about the romance of Orlanth and Ernalda (or the romance of someone with someone, depending on your clan's own mythology collection).  Ernalda makes Orlanth woo her and given Orlanthi women are expected to model themselves on Ernalda (and other goddesses don't just roll over for the first person who wants to sleep with them either), the correct answer to the sex pit is to woo the person you want to be your lover and to recognize them as a *person* and not just something to have sex with.  

Yes!  And the myths of Orlanth's brothers chiding him for getting the bad bargain fit into this as well.

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On 8/1/2022 at 7:30 PM, John Biles said:

And that is why Uleria, who doesn't care if you're married or not, is a poor fit.  Uleria is a goddess of marriage, but also a goddess of sleeping around on your spouse.  She's effectively in sync with the unmarried young adults, but those young adults are expected to eventually settle down, marry someone and not sleep with anyone else so long as they are married.  (In practice, until you die.)

I thought that a big part of Orlanthi society is that marriage isn’t necessarily for life, in addition to year marriages I have the impression that divorce is fairly frequent. Don’t men who’s marriage ends (be it through death, divorce, or expiration) return to the “you can sleep around” rules until they get remarried?

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6 minutes ago, FlamingCatOfDeath said:

I thought that a big part of Orlanthi society is that marriage isn’t necessarily for life, in addition to year marriages I have the impression that divorce is fairly frequent. Don’t men who’s marriage ends (be it through death, divorce, or expiration) return to the “you can sleep around” rules until they get remarried?

Yes, though I would expect the pickings are a lot more slender at that age.

My own impression is that most Older Orlanthi who aren't wanderers are married most of the time.

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1 hour ago, John Biles said:

Yes, though I would expect the pickings are a lot more slender at that age.

My own impression is that most Older Orlanthi who aren't wanderers are married most of the time.

That is also my impression, but it is important to note that this creates a situation a where a not insignificant number of older individuals are free of the constraints occasionally. I would imagine that it would not be that unusual for such individuals to sleep around with the young adult crowd a bit before remarrying.

I think one of the reasons they find it better to tolerate Uleria than not is because the spirits of retribution, in my understanding, don’t register sex with Ulerian temple prostitutes as adultury. It would look bad for them to crack down when their god so clearly tolerates it.

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7 hours ago, John Biles said:

Yes, though I would expect the pickings are a lot more slender at that age.

My own impression is that most Older Orlanthi who aren't wanderers are married most of the time.

Possibly not. The older folk will have aquired some level of prestige/notoriety. Even now you can see this at work in some environments that throw younger and older adults together in the RW. It's not ALL exploitation.

Running a stead is a group effort, so remaining partnered (if not actually married) makes sense. As marriage involves oaths there may be magical benefit to marriage as opposed to just shacking up together.

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As far as I gathered from my readings of the texts:

Isn't the primary problem with extramaritial sex not dishonesty? Like, this is a matter of honor. If everyone agree on a Open Relationship, that is not a problem, but non-consensual nonmonogamy is the dealbreaker?

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The problem is keeping the mariage wows - if those wows includes some free range options (things like main wife + concubines or possibly ulerian professionals), there's no oathbreaking. Which means from a mythical angle, no problem. And if the spouse is aware an ok with it, no dishonesty invloved so even less problems

But if the vows includes monogamy, then there's oathreaking - which is worse than mere dishonesty. And gives the betrayed party quite a bit of levereage against the straying one (even if it doesn't end in a 'volontary' offering to the Earth as a certain hendriki king in Esrolia....)

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