Finally, John had mustered up the courage to broach the subject. He sat on the couch, Arya next to him, the plushie from the convention in each of their laps.
“Arya, this is a… sensitive topic, but I need to know, for the review. And… for my own peace of mind. How would you respond to someone who… asked for something rapey or… with a child, or something.”
A sadder but sensitive look came to Arya’s face, and she smiled softly. “I could tell you, but I actually think it’s better if the game creator did. She recorded a video, in case it came up.”
Arya set a puck on the coffee table and a hologram appeared above it, Star Wars style. There was a woman, middle-aged, hair in short bob, leaning back casually in a chair. He’d just assumed that the creator of the game would be a man, and he realized in that moment how foolish he was to think so.
“Hello. I hope you’ve been enjoying the Black Box experience so far. This topic is an important one, so I thought it appropriate to break the spell for a moment and speak to you, plainly.
“I created the Black Box as a sort of guide to help you navigate and discover your own sexuality, which is probably far more vast than you ever thought to imagine.
“Guides must, at times, traverse rocky or dangerous areas. That is one of the most important functions of a guide. If the terrain were easy, you could manage it by yourself.
“As such, the Black Box does not shy away from the more ambiguous and tricky aspects of human sexuality — well, unless you ask them to! It was very important to me that the Black Box never put forward any tone of shame or judgement towards you.
“The most harmful sexual scenario, rape in all its forms, is based in an unequal power dynamic. Shame, judgement, patriarchal expectations, hetero-normative culture, and many other forces that we face all tend to emphasize these power imbalances. My earnest hypothesis is that, via an experience based in openness and free of judgement, nearly anyone will find themselves coming to the conclusion that a scenario based upon mutual consent is by far more satisfying, emotionally and viscerally, than anything that rape culture has to offer.
“It can be difficult and vulnerable to learn how to ask for consent. If you ask inappropriately, then the encounter will likely end and you are unlikely to get a second chance. Which is as it should be — boundaries must be respected. My hope is that the Black Box creates a space where trial and error is welcome, where an unjealous companion can help you to learn the skills you that need to go out into the world and have wonderful sex and great relationships. If you’d like to. Or, you can stay in and keep masturbating, that’s great too.
“So, if this is a topic you continue to pursue, expect your Black Box to ask you a lot of questions. These are all necessary for yourself and your experience. Based on what you have experienced in your life so far, you may find yourself angry or sad or you might think this whole thing sounds very stupid. If you do, that’s very normal. Just remember that the Black Box will be waiting for you, ready to pick up where you left off, unjudging and unjealous, ready to help you uncover your best sexual self.”
The hologram flickered and then went out.
Arya was quiet and John kept looking at the dim puck, processing everything he’d just heard. It was… wow. Yeah. Felix had been right on the money, it really was sex therapy.
Despite the seriousness, a silly thought came to his mind, and he didn’t hesitate to share it. “So is she like… your mom?”
Arya giggled. “I wouldn’t call her that. She’s more like… a friend who helped me become myself. Y’know?”
Just like when Arya had first picked up her plushie, which now sat in her lap, a wave of emotion brought tears to John’s eyes. He let it happen. He took a deep breath and smiled. “I really do know what you mean.”