Mirrored from Sythyry.
A didactic essay by Vind, Alzagond, Hrone, and Invincible Fire Demon.
Much has been written in Ketheria about the Hanijan social role of the ‘tofyof’. Unfortunately, much of what has been written has been written in ignorance, leading to many horrible misunderstandings of this remarkable feature of Hanijan culture.
Ordinary marriage in Hanija is, crucially, a marriage between people of similar social status. By preference, the status will be equal. In practice, it is often necessary to allow one or perhaps two degrees of separation (there are, loosely speaking, seven ranks in Hanija), especially in large upper-class Cani marriages where there simply aren’t enough eligible Cani of the highest degree.
Still, all spouses in a marriage are considered to have the same rank after marriage, and to be equals in all ways. This is not true in practice of course (one spouse may own a bank or a village that the others do not have rights in), but it is a socio-cultural ideal, and honored in law and custom.
In Hanija, as everywhere, not all people are willing to confine their amatory attentions to their spouses at all times. Hanija attempts to regulate this tendency, and to ameliorate its worse abuses and defects, by the creation of the ‘tofyof’ status. (The word comes from tofju, attached, and zo-choyof legalization).
The only form of non-spousal body-play that is legal in Hanija is between a tofyof and their keeper. All other adultery and fornication are punishable by law, in greater or lesser degree. These laws seem to be taken quite seriously: it took our expert investigators several hours longer than usual to find prostitutes. Despite some stories about Hanija, it is far, far from a country of libertines.
A tofyof is assumed to be of lower rank than their keeper — if the tofyof is of a higher or equal rank in reality, their effective rank is lowered for the duration of the tofitude. A typical keeper is, say, a Rassimel of middle years and some financial success — a master-crafter, say, or a doctor or tree-mage — if not actually a noble. The keeper must be or have been married after the fashion for their species, or be of a sufficient age and stature to have been married even if they are not currently married. The tofyof must not be. Beyond that, certain social restrictions that apply to marriage do not apply — in particular, a tofyof may be of a different species or a different city-state than the keeper.
There are a number of laws and customs surrounding tofyofs. Most of these are, remarkably, designed for the protection of the tofyof. There is some historical force to this — in the first decades of the topic, tofyofs were abused in certain famous cases to a serious degree, and the laws were amended and strengthened.
- Tofitudes are registered with the civic government. (Marriages are not.)
- A keeper’s spouses may forbid the keeper from having tofyofs, when the tofitude is contracted. If the spouses do not exercise this option then, they must be carefully well-behaved towards the tofyof. Certain offenses that would not require legal action if performed against a passer-by on the street can inspire fines or even beatings: e.g., if the spouse insults the tofyof more than three times in one day, the tofyof can sue for an extra week’s salary, and these suits are generally successful when there is corroborating evidence.
- Tofyof relationships are for a fixed term — seven years for most species of tofyof, though only one for Orren and four for Herethroy. After this time, the tofitude is dissolved automatically. It may be renewed easily, and (anecdotally) often it is.
- If the tofitude is dissolved, the former tofyof returns to their prior social status. There seems to be little social stigma attached to having been a tofyof. It is proof that one was (at that time) appealing and compliant, and of low social status: not a particularly good thing, but not a particularly bad thing either. Indeed, many respectable middle-class people were formerly tofyofs, and used their wages from that time as the seed of gaining status.
- The keeper is required to support the tofyof, providing certain minimums of food, clothing, shelter, entertainment, medical care, and so on, increasing with the rank of the keeper. These are similar to those of a live-in servant. In practice, most tofyofs seem to be treated far better than the minimums.
- Tofyofs are granted a certain salary, increasing with the rank of the keeper. This salary is placed in an escrow account which the keeper is forbidden on pain of execution (resurrection automatic) to meddle with. Neither keeper nor tofyof can touch the escrow account during the term of the tofitude.
- The penalties for sexual misconduct — that is, activity outside of the scope of a tofitude or marriage — are variable but generally seem rather higher than in most places. In particular, an unregistered concubinage, in which a high-ranked person takes a lower-ranked lover, makes the law quite wrathful: such relationships can be done legally, so the law is enraged when they are not. (Conversely, naive embraces between lovesick adolescents, say, are punished merely by mild beatings.)
- A keeper can divorce a tofyof before the end of the term, but in doing so must pay half the estimated remaining upkeep and salary of the tofyof. But it is a serious crime, punishable by execution (resurrection automatic), for the tofyof to attempt to force a divorce.
- The tofyof is required to be perform certain customary duties, which the law is quite coy about. These can include actual work, but only two-thirds as long and hard as the keeper and spouses are doing — the other one-third being the coyly-described marital duties of the tofyof.
- Tofyofs are subject to corporal punishment for serious violation of their primary duties — infidelity in particular. (Infidelity between a tofyof and a keeper’s spouse is a very troublesome topic, and about a quarter of the tofyof laws concern it. Much attention is paid to making sure that the spouse is not coercing the tofyof, or that the keeper is not coercing both of them, into unwanted sexual entanglements.) Actually performing the punishment requires a routine visit to a civic court, and the beatings are administered by a court official. (Servants, by contrast, can be cuffed several times a day without such formalities.)
- A tofyof has either a single keeper who is not a Cani, or a married Herethroy triad collectively considered their keeper, or a full Cani marriage who each individually is their keeper.
- Children from the union of a keeper and tofyof are legitimate children of the keeper, and must be adopted by the keeper’s other spouses. (This is often used in same-sex marriages.) The tofyof retains certain quasi-parental rights with respect to them even after the end of the tofitude.
- There are certain species-specific further laws. Cani, for example, can only keep tofyofs if all the Cani spouses in a marriage enter separate, independent tofitudes with the tofyof — in practice, Cani are all but forbidden to keep tofyofs, for it is quite expensive. The theory behind this is that Cani instinctively share with their spouses, but it is a humiliation and an inappropriateness for a tofyof to be shared, so the tofyof must be kept by all concerned.
There is no great dignity to being a tofyof. It is better than being a prostitute (which is illegal) or seduced (which is also illegal but less often punished). It is not quite a humiliating social position, and a significant number of respectable people in society were tofyofs in their early years. Indeed, it is a means for social mobility — a low-ranked person who serves as the tofyof of a prince is likely to be mid-ranked afterwards, due to the salary, connections, and training in upper-class manners that come from the connection.
First Steps towards a Statistical Understanding
The civic records of Hanija are open to Hanijans. Our well-paid Hanijan informant was able to acquire statistics of the last hundred tofitudes entered. Of these, 78 were same-species and 22 were different-species. Contrary to previous essays on this topic, we find that even in Hanija, same-species relationships are greatly preferred.
Furthermore, seventeen of the twenty-two different-species tofyofs were Orren. This fact, plus a certain amount of listening to people talk, suggests that Orren tofyofs are — or can be — taken far more lightly than those of other species. They may be regarded far more as medium-term prostitutes than the quasi-marriage that tofyofs of other species enjoy. (The rights of Orren tofyofs are the same, but the duration of the tofitude is one year rather than seven, and thus the costs of early divorce are far less.) It was impossible to tell which of these seventeen are people who particularly enjoy Orren, and which are people who wanted some extra-marital attention but wanted to keep the costs and potential difficulties under control and were willing to accept an Orren in that role.
Twenty of the hundred tofitudes sampled were renewals. This suggests that, though tofitudes are intended as short-term matters, a significant number of them result in long-term relationships. (Anecdotal evidence confirms this: we met one Rassimel tofyof who entered tofitude in her adolescence, and has renewed it nineteen times, though she and her keeper are quite old and decrepit.)
On the Social Status of Keepers
The civic style of Hanija seem to change every two decades or so. Currently, tofyofs are in-style. Anyone respectable who can afford to keep one, does so. More precisely, a crude attempt at a statistical sample of forty high-ranked adults found that thirty-one of them had tofyofs, for a total of thirty-four tofyofs. Two decades ago, the number would have been more like ten or twelve.
An even less reliable attempt at statistics suggests that a gap of approximately two or three ranks (out of the seven that Hanija recongizes) between keeper and tofyof is preferred. Larger and smaller gaps are certainly known: indeed, last decade, an unmarried child of the royal family was a tofyof to a mere but married guildmaster two ranks below him, as that was the only way to consummate their love legally. This situation was considered quite romantic, but fairly foolish. The royal’s rank was restored upon their automatic divorce.
Towards an Ethical Understanding of Tofitude
Our impression is that tofitude does not so much encourage or legitimize as regulate. The relationships that it governs are common in all places — powerful and high-ranked people, by a variety of means, command the sexual attention of weaker and lower-ranked people, of whatever prime species. The tofyof laws do not say that this is a good thing. They seek to minimize the damage that it inspires — in effect protecting the tofyof against the keeper and the keeper’s spouses.
With this understanding, we consider the tofyof laws to be good laws. However, we would not, ourselves, choose to be tofyofs. We can, at least, understand how someone else might choose that — under the pressure of penury, or under the pressure of passion. And, if we were somehow required by whatever pressures to be concubines, we would prefer to do so under the formal laws and protections of Hanija, rather than the informal customs and scant protections of (let us say) Barency.