Here’s my latest draft for stuff about how gender and marriage works. Essentially, nobles have political marriages most of the time, and no one cares about how common people arrange their things.
The real challenge for me has been to both keep it inclusive and at the same time, have enough variety among the different cultures to keep it interesting.
Marriage, sex and gender
What varies a lot in Irminsul these days is the way people organize their private life. In practice, the common people stopped having formal marriages during the Great Mortality, apart from Novgorod. However, formal marriage vows given in public are still common in most of Irminsul among the nobility, since for the nobles, marriages are primarily political arrangements.
In Karelia, the concept of romantic marriage does not exist, but marriage is recognized as a rite of passage: you’re only considered an adult when you leave your parents homestead and move in with someone else. It does not matter who that someone else is, frequently it is a friend as opposed to a lover. In Sweden, usually a marriage is essentially a combined housewarming party and a moving away party. Divorces are not unheard of, either. Novgorodians still often say their marriage vows in churches but it’s not seen as necessary by the commoners, but most like to have a priest perform the augury rituals.
Same-sex marriage isn’t frowned upon, but for practical reasons nobles engage in it less than the common people, because nobles are frequently concerned with issues of inheritance. Both having a third person help out with carrying out the line and adoption tend to have political issues attached to them, but neither are exactly unheard of. Mixed-sex marriages among nobles commonly feature both parties having lovers on the side and the way of dealing with this varies: Sweden tends to acknowledge the existence of royal children born out of wedlock and hand out titles to them. In Novgorod, most nobles who grow tired of their partner turn to courtesans (called so regardless of gender) and children born from those encounters have no special status whatsoever.
Polygamy is accepted but as in real life, somewhat uncommon. The Hessians in the Danubian Empire more commonly accept it among nobles but only if there’s a clear distinction between the social stature of the people involved. Nobles that are equal in rank would not live in a polygamic marriage. Karelians tend to not tell the difference between polygamic and non-polygamic marriage since their concept of marriage is different. Novgorodians tend to favor courtesans instead of polygamic marriage.
Gender roles in Early Modern Irminsul tend to fall along the same lines everywhere in the world: the difference between men and women is largely restricted to what clothes people wear. However, some cultures have a more or less unified dress code for all genders, such as the Hollandian traders who all wear long gowns to show they do not have to perform any physical work. Soldiers tend to all dress the same, as do traditional dwarves.
Transgenderism isn’t unheard of and with the generally weak gender roles, most people do not give much thought to the idea of how someone wants to present themselves. The sole exception here is the Norse who tend to think transgenderism is for the extremely brave and an honorable choice, because going against nature is according to the religion of the Norsemen one of the bravest things anyone can do.
The fact that gender equality is more or less absolute has also led to sexual assault being basically unheard of. General opinion tends to think of sex assault along the same lines as cannibalism.
Elves tend to not marry anymore apart from the times when they marry humans. Dwarves only marry when they become old because a young dwarf is supposed to spend their time working and not faddling about with romance. There are of course exceptions. Polygamy among the elves is rare these days but dwarves occasionally practice it. Neither elves or dwarves practice genderized dress so transgenderism is practically invisible among both of them and totally accepted.