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The recent discussion on warnings and triggers has gotten me to thinking a bit, and instead of contributing in a major way to the discussion at large, I thought it might be time to post my personal warnings policy.


Introduction:

I'd like to explain where I'm coming from when I formulated this policy. First, I, personally, am not triggered by a lot of things that I read. In fact, I usually use the warnings and labels section of a header to search for what I want to read. Often, I search for the very things that trigger other readers, because I find a well-written fic that shows a character surviving and healing from the effects of rape, self-injury, that kind of thing, helps in my own personal healing. See, I was sexually assaulted when I was seven. I understand triggers, squicks, and the energy it can take to manage a trigger episode. I just seem to have the opposite reaction to a lot of people when reading about common triggers in fiction.

On the other hand, there are some things that trigger or squick some people that are legitimate parts of other people's sexuality. I'm thinking BDSM, knife play, that kind of thing. There's also issues like torture, or mpreg, which I don't generally think of as a trigger, but some people just don't want to read.

Finally, there's the ratings issue. Sometimes, you just can't handle large-scale violence, and need to read the equivilent of Happy Feet instead.

With that understanding, my standard header from now on will have three sections to it intended to give readers some idea of trigger content and etc: Rating; Warnings; and Kinks. The following section includes explicit definitions of warnings and etc. (Not 'graphic' definitions, just 'as precise as I can get them' definitions.)
 


Warnings

The things I consider appropriate to warn for are: rape, non-con, dub-con, child abuse/ child sexual abuse, violence, mental health issues, character death, self-injury/ suicide. 

Definitions:

Non-Con: Aliens/ sex pollen/ pon farr made them do it. The parties engaged in the sexual activities don't really want to, but because they would like to survive or stay sane, they do it anyway. The key idea is that an outside force is responsible for the situation, not one of the people having sex.

Dub-Con: One/more of the parties involved in the activity has consent issues the other party(s) is not aware of. This could be a mental headspace where the one party doesn't feel like they can say no, but neither can they express that. It could also be a weird reaction to drugs, accidentally overly tipsy (not all people are obvious about this), or other things.

Rape: One/more parties involved in the activity is either clearly saying no, or obviously unable to consent, and the other party(s) just don't care. This is the classic rape, date rape, etc scenario.

Child Abuse: Physical/mental/emotional abuse of a child by an adult.

Child Sexual Abuse: Sexual abuse of a child; includes things that would be considered 'sexual assault' in a court of law.

Violence: Violence directed at one specific individual. This doesn't include war scenarios/ descriptions, but rather things like one (adult) character getting the crap beat out of him in a mugging, or children ganging up on another child.

Mental health issues: This includes things like dealing with depression, excess paranoia, emotional disorders, etc, but specifically PTSD-related issues. I don't consider neurotypical issues like Asperger's, Autism, or Dyslexia to fall into this category. Being neuro-atypical often goes hand in hand with mood disorders, but they aren't the same thing.

Character Death: Includes the death of a major or minor canon character, may or may not be violent in manner. I won't warn for original characters biting the bullet, even if I've spent a lot of time developing them.

Self-Injury: Self-Injury includes the usual cutting, but also things like bulemia and anorexia in my book.

Suicide: Obviously, the most extreme form of self-injury. If the character in question makes an unsuccessful attempt at suicide, I'll still be using this particular label. 

Blank Line:  If the Warnings line is blank, it means I don't think the piece has anything that needs to be warned for.  Feel free to post a comment to the fic if you believe this is not the case.

 

Kinks:

I'm putting 'kinks' in a different section because a lot of people aren't 'vanilla het-sex' people in real life, and I want to emphasize that it's okay to have different sexual urges, even though they're not for everyone. Also, some things hit people's squick buttons that aren't sexual in nature, but aren't something that trigger everyone. I am *not* listing every single kink I may write about here - for one, I'm not omnipotent, and I don't know what I may come up with. For another, there are things I'm probably never going to write - scat or urine play is right out of the question. What I'm going to list here are things that I've found to be the most common squicks that I can see myself writing about.

Definitions:

BDSM: Stands for bondage/discipline; dominant/submissive; sadism/masochism. The key concepts here are consensual sex-play and power exchanges. This squicks some people out, but I and many others like a well-written BDSM story.

GenderBending: In my point of view, this could be anything from writing a character as the other sex from birth, to writing a character as Trans to any degree, to a character having a serious thought experiment, to body switch-a-roo. That all plays with 'how does sex affect character?'

Torture: My definition of torture is specifically a POW kind of situation. An adult is captured by the enemy, whether that's the bad guy, a rival gang, or the opposing army, and tortured for information. Torture can include physical, psychological, and sexual elements, and I'll tag as such. It differs from the warning labels above in that the purpose of torturing the captured party is to hurt a third party in some manner. I won't use this label to describe this behavior towards a child. If these elements occur directed at a child, I'll label it Child (Sexual) Abuse.

Drunken Rage: I have a fondness for seeing what people do when they're out of control, and how they repair the damage they did. Some people hate this. Thus, it's in the kink section.

MPreg: Yes, male pregnancy. Sometimes it's a squick for people, sometimes it's a kink.

Blank Line: If I leave the Kinks line blank, it means I don't believe anything in the piece rates even a squick/ kink mention.  Feel free to comment if you believe I am wrong.
 


Ratings:

Finally, I like to put a ratings section up. I use the movie ratings system from the 1980s, with a mild tweak here and there: G, PG-13, PG-15, R. I'm going to use examples to illustrate about where I situate my fics on the spectrum of these ratings. You may disagree, but at least you'll know where it's at.

G: Ok for General Audience, fluff-fic. Happy Feet, Aladdin, the old Sesame Street stuff, Bambi. I probably won't write a lot of stuff that's truly General, it's just not my thing. But when I use G, this is what I'm thinking.

PG-13: Parental Guidence required for those under 13. These pieces are generally fluffy, but may include swearing or dark humor. The occasional violent moment like a car crash where everyone survives with minor cuts and bruises. Character study pieces. Toy Story comes to mind, so does Dark Crystal and Labyrinth - things I wouldn't care if the kids saw, but pieces here and there might be occassionally scary.

PG-15: Deals with more mature subjects, such as sexual issues and diseases, can include Transformers-level violence (ie, where the good and the bad guys are clearly demarcated). Obviously, the Transformers movies are what I'm thinking here, also Major League with it's raunchy jokes, and Philadelphia with it's discussions of AIDS. I expect that many of the Green Day Universe fics will fall into this ratings category.

R: Lots of violence, OR lots of graphic sex, OR both. Friday the 13th movies, and from book land, John Ringo's Posleen series, the Black Jewels Trilogy, or the Magnificent 7 Escorts AU are all examples of things I think of in this category. An R rating may or may not come with a gross-out factor if something is prone to making people yak in the sink - the Aliens 'baby eating through the stomach' thing would warrent a gross-out tag, so would some of the earlier Anita Blake books. I recently described the smell of a corpse to a Sentinel in one of my WIPS, and it made me literally gag when I wrote it - I'll probably go back and give it a gross-out tag. 

Blank Line:  The Rating line should never be blank; if you spot a blank Rating line, please comment, as I need to go back and fill it in.  Thank you.
 

Notes:

In either the Warnings Section or the Kinks Section, an addition of '(M)' in the tag means that whatever-it-is is only being mentioned in the story; it happens off-screen or is a subject being discussed. For example, if I put in 'Self-Injury (M)', you might see Characters A and B discussing the effects of bulimia, but you won't see a graphic example of bulimic behavior.

Note also that I'm aware that I tend towards thinking differently than a lot of people in fandom. My boundaries almost certainly don't match up with other people's boundaries. I may write something that I don't think anything about, but that jumps out to my readers. I encourage my readers to point out if they think I need a label tag for something. Don't take me asking for an explanation of what exactly you mean/ need/ want as an insult or dismissive - I'm most likely trying to decide if I need to tag for a larger category of behavior, or a more specific one.

ETA 9/22/2010:  A few weeks ago, I wrote a short that I ended up labeling Agape in the Pairing section of the header.  I define Agape thusly (thank you Wikipedia):

"Agápe (αγάπη agápē) means "love" in modern day Greek, such as in the term s'agapo (Σ'αγαπώ), which means "I love you". In Ancient Greek, it often refers to a general affection or deeper sense of "true love" rather than the attraction suggested by "eros". Agape is used in the biblical passage known as the "love chapter", 1 Corinthians 13, and is described there and throughout the New Testament as sacrificial love. Agape is also used in ancient texts to denote feelings for a good meal, one's children, and the feelings for a spouse. It can be described as the feeling of being content or holding one in high regard."

I'm adding this ETA in case I use Agape again, people will be able to find out what I mean.


Finally, I'm not perfect. I'll be as consistent as I can, but allow me room to shuffle and correct things, mmmkay?

-bs
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