A recent question asked about designing the biological sexes of alien creatures. Not surprising in our world today, the OP's original question used the word "gender," even going so far as to identify the creatures as "woke" in the original title. I'm not complaining about that — it's the confusion that's the issue. The author thought the creatures had been designed with a third and/or fourth "something" that was called gender, but when you get down to brass tacks, the question was actually about sex and the design was basically the same two-sex procreative system we commonly see on Earth.

I've noticed that it's becoming more common in our world's current sociopolitical environment for the concepts of gender (the biology of relationships) and sex (the biology of reproduction) to become confused.1 That's also not the point of this post — but what started out as an effort to help worldbuilders sort that out... is.

I was going to post a question seeking to help worldbuilders understand what it means to have a "third sex"2 with the goal of Stack participants describing fictional examples. E.G.,

What are examples of fictional three-sex reproductive relationships that worldbuilders can use to guide them when designing creature reproductive relationships?

This would help worldbuilders not familiar with the terminology differences between the biology of reproduction and the biology of relationships. The question would have had the tag, the tag, and the tag.

Then I realized that our current rules won't allow for a question seeking comprehensive advice of this nature. It would violate the Brainstorming admonition as well as being open-ended (but not, I suspect, in the way Stack Exchange intended) and all answers having equal value.

Question: How can we provide insight? Or have we finally created a version of the rules that killed that tag?

Additional Insight

  • Assuming one interpretation of Stack Exchange's intent (to be a collaborative resource for solving problems), do we believe one of our goals is to help instruct new worldbuilders in the process of worldbuilding? (Not necessarily confusing this with the tag, but that could be involved.)

  • Our rules make it difficult to produce a "canonical answer" because we require what I'll call "effort-specific questions" (what help do you need with your own worldbuilding effort?) and a canonical answer would benefit from a more general question (Let's say someone might be interested in the following, what guidance can we offer?).

1And just to add to the confusion, the OP used the word "woke," which has no relevance to either the biology of reproduction or the biology of relationships. It's a word that only has meaning in culture, politics, philosophy, etc. It's not that we aren't completely willing to help worldbuilders to incorporate the idea of "wokeness" into their efforts, only that now we've muddied the question with three types of terminology: reproduction, relationships, and culture. It's amazing how well humanity can muddy the proverbial waters.

2If you're not familiar with the biological terminology, "sex" specifically refers procreation. Remembering that we're simplifying all this (a political debate is not useful for worldbuilding... well, not in this context). Thus, humans have two "sexes," male and female, both equal and necessary to procreate. Simplistically, a "third sex" might be a creature C that receives the egg from creature A and the sperm from creature B for gestation. Creature C being equal and necessary to procreate.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure I understand... Did you try to see how could we explain to people through worldbuilding's main site what... How to word it... Gender terms mean so that they can ask better questions about these points? And you didn't manage to find a way, even with the worldbuilding resources tag in hand? $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 19:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Tortliena What I couldn't find was a way to ask the question, "What are examples of fictional three-sex reproductive relationships that worldbuilders can use when designing creature reproductive relationships?" That question is brainstorming, open-ended, and requires all answers to be of equal value. I'll update the post with that statement to improve clarity. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 21:35

1 Answer 1


You just took the tag the wrong way ^^

Let's recall the tag's description first :

For questions seeking resources intended to help people with building a fictional world, such as books and software relating to worldbuilding itself (rather than the world that is being built).

This is one of the meta-level tags, and is specifically concerned with questions about books and technological aids to be used for hastening the process of designing and fleshing out your story-setting to make it as beautiful, believable and engrossing as possible.

From Worldbuilding-resource tag's description

When I read it, it's more like questions should focus on books, webpages purposely designed to help someone build worlds, rather than a list of real-world references which "could" be used to build worlds.

Let's find a comparison to better understand : The 12 principles of animation is a resource in... Welly, animation x). In contrast, this magnificent photo series could help draw great animations of baseball players throwing balls. But should you not know how to deal with key poses in the first place, this picture reference doesn't tell how you should use it to animate your character.

A series of photo picturing key poses of a player pitching a baseball ball A baseball player pitching very hard his ball. From Wikimedia Commons

It looks like your sample question was about the latter, a question about real-world rather than a question which welcome with a warm heart the worldbuilding technics. This is as you internally guessed it kinda non-suited here. Even if its content was well focused, non-opinion-based and clear, it would fall in the off-topic side of closure reasons.

As I can see it, some questions correctly using the tag and being on-topic would be akin to these (regardless if they would have been closed for other reasons) :

Are there worldbuilding books to help design societal issues regarding genders?


I read this book about worldbuilding, with this section on creating societies. I didn't understand this passage : Why would focusing on XX and XY help displaying the complexity of gender roles to my audience?

But what about the tag in general?

Beyond your attempt, I find this tag is tough. Like real tough and rough.

First and foremost, to ask questions about worldbuilding resources, you need worldbuilding resources. As far as I know, there's not that many resources directly tied to worldbuilding, and when it's the case it's under the prism of another domain, like art or writing 🎨🖊️. This could make questions unwillingly off-topic, as they would be easily linked to these arts, rather than worldbuilding 🌏.

Then, to ask questions about worldbuilding resources you should be clear on the trouble you're having, and not ask a general "catch-all, catch-none" solution. It's already hard for people to tell us what they want or need, it's even harder when you hit the meta-level ^^". There, opinions don't even try to hide anymore ("what's the 'best' book for worldbuilding?"). Moreover, people can't put a clear word on what they're lacking, because oftentimes you need to know enough about worldbuilding methodologies in the first place. It's very akin to the software-recommendation tag, or even better, the software-recommendation SE site having troubles people stating clear needs.

This makes receiving a receiveable question under this tag quite unlikely. Is it bad news? Well, as much as I'd like seeing questions on worldbuilding processes itself, I'd like to get the hand on some worldbuilding ressources, too! Standard references such like the ones in art, game design or animation really help understand the principles and sort out basic troubles. And having tools like on the list of worldbuilding resources specifically designed to build worlds really "hasten the process of designing and fleshing out your story setting". So yes, it's troublesome.


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