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The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation


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so the history of warnings 101, i could go for this
children of dune - leto 1
seperis
Picking up a thought from about three different conversations:

I wonder if it would be worthwhile to have a panel on warnings, not just common triggers, but the historical perspective on them as vehicles of exclusion in fandom and how they've changed in meaning and reason for existence. A lot of perspective on them during the debates the last time and now is still shaped by when they were used against slash or against certain types of fic, vids, etc. And I didn't know until some discussion enlightened me on this that VVC was at least partially founded on a period of time when warnings themselves were used to exclude, not to facilitate inclusion.

Now, we use warnings to make things more inclusive to other fans, but there was a time they were a form of social control, and it could be institutionalized in ways that marginalized.

In all the debates, I really didn't know that as more than an abstract thing, and when I was in Smallville, there were still slash websites under password and some authors requiring direct contact via email for their fic because that was the only way they felt safe. I mean, I feel as if I should have guessed that one.

Anyone have more information on that? I get the impression this was also an issue before regular 'net access as well and that it might have come from cons originally, but a complete perspective would be interesting to know about and read. A lot of discussion during these two debates makes a lot more sense if the original purpose of warnings was to restrict access and exclude certain groups of fans entirely.

And when I say, "I wonder if it would be worthwhile", I mean, "Please yes one day let's do that?" Any con; just someone take good notes and post them so I can read about it.

Posted at Dreamwidth: http://seperis.dreamwidth.org/33057.html. | You can reply here or there. | comment count unavailable comments

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I still come across fics with the 'warning' for slash, even on slash-only lists. When confronted, they usually claim that they're crossposting, and that they'll get yelled at if they don't include the warning, etc etc.

Even now? Dear God. I've seen it a few times, but not anywhere I frequent, and off the top of my head, I'm not sure when the last time I saw it was.

Shit. I flagged an academic paper a while back on my old computer and now, of course, I can't find it, but it linked current notions of ratings and warnings to historical accounts of authors and literature and the need for secrecy in writing because, way back when, one couldn't be or write about the gay experience because everyone would be clutching their pearls and, y'know, sending them to jail for writing such "explicit" material.

Basically it discussed how, through time, all those "secret handshakes" in literature that certain people knew how to read but that were layered in such a way that "commoners" couldn't tell what was really going on, how those evolved into warnings and ratings, if that makes sense.

It focused more on old school literature and the history of film censorship and I don't remember there being a lot, if any, focus on internet literature and fandom, but the general idea might be interesting in this context?

God I want to see that paper. That must have been fascinating. *entranced*

It focused more on old school literature and the history of film censorship and I don't remember there being a lot, if any, focus on internet literature and fandom, but the general idea might be interesting in this context?

I think it really would since a lot of fandom is based off of pushing against social pressure/stereotypes or, in reaction, embracing some of them and not others.

IMNSHO this would be an appropriate panel for Escapade.

Agree. The room would be PACKED!

Well, let us think back to a time before the Internet - indeed, to a time Before I knew that "slash" meant something other than a vicious slice with a blade.

I was going to cons on a regular basis from 14 years old to about 21 years old. These were science fiction cons, generally lit based, with a strong gaming component. Balticon, Disclave, and others that I don't even remember the name of. Cos play was the norm, and hook-ups were half the reason you went.

The art shows at these cons were big and vibrant and vital, but if you knew where to look, and could get around the warning curtain, that kept it separate, you cold find the slash art. The one I remember was at the back, in the adult art section, and the print itself had a flap on itto hid the frontal nudity - no intercourse, just a penis. It was K/S (of course) and the title was something like "Who says only every seven years?" the boys were in an romantic pose - but they weren't having intercourse. I don't even think there was any touching of genitalia.

Fast forward a few years. I'm in my first online fandom - a really tiny fandom for the show Prey, which at that time was in syndication on scifi (as it was spelled then) My friends Margaret, Mary Willing-Prey and I started writing the first slash ever in that fandom. We warned for slash - I think. I should double check. We warned for it because no one else was writing it in that fandom, and there was a very strong following for the canon het relationship. I don't think we posted it on the main bulletin board either - I think we posted it on our own websites and on a mailing list. We were REALLY nervous about it at the time. I think we also warned for het sex in our het fics - I'd have to go back and look to refresh my memory...

Now, I still see "this is slash, if you don't like it hit your back button" as a warning on some fics - especially on ff.net

I'm not sure if this is exclusionary... but I know that it resulted from a feeling of paranoia and not wanting to get flamed.

I should clarify that I was 14 in 1979.

Yes, I know.

It was the stone age.

I have password protected my site(s) in the past, requesting that people who wanted the password simply make an age statement in an email to me. At the time it felt like the right thing to do, to make sure that I wasn't leaving my porn out for the kiddies to flip through. I also did it when I was first writing RPF - again, it felt like the right thing to do if, for example, in the admittedly unlikely event that Orlando Bloom googled himself, he didn't come across some awful thing I'd written about him.

I never picked or chose, all I asked was you say "yes, I'm 18." so yes, it was limiting access, but imo not any way that could be construed as marginalizing. I mean, unless you believe that 14 year old girls with crushes on Legolas should've had the freedom to read about Orlando Bloom tied up and fisted? maybe you do. I kind of doubt it, but maybe someone believes that.

*hands*

Are you making the distinction between porn and slash, though? *curious* Because I've seen people password-protect their PG-13 slash, and it still crops up semi-frequently in the warnings section (seriously, I mean; there's also quite a bit of tongue-in-cheek usage of warnings for both slash and het).

That would be a wonderfully fascinating panel. I started out in fandom via anime. I'm not sure if the convention still holds, but both general sites, and specific fic almost always warned for slash (or Shounen ai/Yaoi/BL whatever the Japanese term in vogue was). Also interesting, I remember warning/rating systems as 'Citrus, Lemon, Lime'. People rarely used citrus but Lemon and Lime (Lime being pg-13/15-ish, and Lemon R/NC-17) were quite prevalent. Also, that was how I first learned the word non-con because it was in use in warnings, though perhaps only on specific archives. I know I went to look it up when I first came across it. And, of course most of the warnings that were in circulation were Japanese words, I had to look up shota at one point as well. So the warnings weren't as specific or perhaps as common, but they were still there.

As I am not a writer, I can only comment as a reader. I like to read slash, for my OTP's, and so for me slash isn't a warning, it's an invitation. I also have a like minded flist. That means that I forget that some people really do find slash offensive. One fic writer, who I enjoyed, did an epic flounce out of fandom for a while all over slash. She had been rec'd a gen story and was horrified that the author, who usually wrote slash, had a slash banner on her site. The flouncer went back to her journal, ranted about how her virgin eyes had been subjected to disgusting material without warning, then ranted about how her epic wonderful work wasn't getting as many comments as it deserved because she held to her moral beliefs and wrote only pure gen or het. She was admittedly complaining that the seventh chapter of her work had only received 42 comments and if she had debased herself by writing about "those kind of people and relationships" she would be getting more reviews. I quickly deleted her from my flist and refuse to read her work to this day, even though she was a pretty good writer.

I guess my point is, some people hold some very intense views on homosexuality and warning for slash is probably more to protect the author from having a raving nutcase trash their work because they stumbled on something that they couldn't handle. Warnings may help keep the drama down more than anything. The part of this country that is homophobic is REALLY homophobic and it may just be safer to try and keep them away.

As I said, I'm not a writer, it's just MHO.

Warning for slash doesn't tend to protect you from the nutcases, in my experience. For example, I've gotten flames on a WiP that was thus far 100% gen with minor character het because I'd listed "eventual A/B slash," in the "pairing" section of my header. I've also gotten "ew, you made [male comics character] gay !!!11! Suddenly and without warning us, OMG, ew!!!11!" reviews on fics clearly labeled slash from fanboys who apparently didn't know what the word "slash" meant and thought the fic was gen right up until they got to the sex scene.

was admittedly complaining that the seventh chapter of her work had only received 42 comments

In most of the fandoms I've been in, even the BNFs almost never got that many reviews on a single chapter (except maybe in HP fandom). But then, I've noticed that getting what most fans would consider to be a flood of reviews but thinking they're not enough seems to be a trend with people who flounce because they're oh-so-unappreciated (ex: "There are a hundred people on my flist and only thirty of you reviewed the last chapter of my WiP! *flounce*").

My introduction to slash was through SV as well and I distinctly remember that the slash warnings were about excluding people. Some were even explicitly exclusive. “Contains slash. Yes male on male romance/sex. Don’t like? Don’t read.”

But in some way, even though the current vvc warnings wank is about inclusion, it still feels exclusionary. Instead of the author/artist pushing people away, it’s the reader/viewer choosing to walk away. No, it’s them demanding to know if they should walk away. It still feels like fandom wanting to self-fragment and this is just another way to indulge that.

On a frivolous note, what’s up with the “warnings for ooc” that I’ve been seeing lately? Is that because it’s shorter to write than a paragraph-long disclaimer of, “I have no talent for writing original characters nor would I have any talent for being on a writing team. Please forgive me?” Personally, I don’t know anyone whose health was harmed by reading poorly thought out characters, but you know, can’t prove a negative.

I don't read that warning as exclusive at all; I read it as defensive.

But then, I was around back in the days when alt.startrek.creative.all-ages regularly exploded in a frenzy of homophobia whenever anyone tried to post a non-explicit slash story there -- usually a story with the same or an even smaller amount of romance as a het story posted immediately prior.

That was the mid- to late-80s and people were regularly castigated for posting slash fic without a warning. (And how delightful to have seen that worm finally turn.) I read that example as written by someone who's been yelled at, a lot, for writing something "sick and perverted", often by people who didn't stop reading when it became obvious that it was something they wouldn't enjoy.

I know there were several authors from that Trek era who wrote SV. I remember being bummed a few times that a favorite author had moved on to a fandom I was actively avoiding.

Thinking back to the dinosaur days, when fic was only available through paper zines mimeographed off -- not even copy machines back then, kids -- there were very, very, *very* few venues for sharing your fic outside your closest friends who lived near you. If you were lucky (and 'rich), you could go to one of a handful of zine conventions or the mainstream literary cons (where you indeed needed to know the secret handshake, not only as a slasher, but just as someone interested in media zines at all -- zines were more common for "literary" work, with mainly reviews, commentaries and essays about particular authors or bodies of work and next to no fan fiction, although back in the day Katherine Kurtz, for instance, did allow fanfic of her world/characters, but she also vetted what got printed in her Deryni Chronicles -- I know, I know... who?); gaming wasn't big yet, nor was Anime. For most media fic fans, you got your fix through adzines: basically brief listings of all zines that were coming in print within the next couple of months, the adzine mailed out monthly or so, to whomever paid for an annual subscription. And because no one had any money then either, you had to be very deliberate in choosing, so the more details/'warnings', the better. 'Warnings' gave buyers the opportunity to decide what to buy -- or what not to buy -- of something pretty much otherwise went sight unseen until you bought it.

There weren't enough opportunities to have slash only events and mailings (though, yes, there were 'NO Slash allowed' distinctions), and most zine editors exercised their editorial control and wanted only particular types of stories for a particular zine or their whole line -- romance, action/adventure, wallow (old term for angst and/or hurtcomfort, slash). Basically, everyone had to play in the same, very small pool, so they wanted to know who and what was safe for their own comfort levels -- and who were the perverts (my kink is okay, yours is icky). Certainly some people used any type of classification to be exclusionary, while others used them as guidelines to seek out their favorite flavors. The divide between slashers and everyone else was very wide but, truthfully, kept that way by *both sides*. Certainly most of the slashers in my acquaintance were no happier to mingle with non slashers in person or in print, as in the reverse.

I know some others have commented on this era, but to fill in some more:

I got on the internet in 1996, and at the time it seemed to be not unusual, but also not always done, to warn or describe the content for explicit sex, and to warn/describe again if the explicit sex was slash. (About half the time the information was expressed as a warning, about half as a factual statement: This story contains explicit sex between two men, don't read if you're underage.)

I actually have a lot of stories saved from that era, and a quick, unscientific glance at some of them shows a lot of emphasis placed on age ("if you're not an adult/over 18 stop reading") over describing actual content--that is, an author is more likely to include just an age warning than an age warning and a content statement. Some stories had warnings/content statement, others didn't, but all of them were labeled as to pairings and ratings.

This is especially true of Star Trek stories posted to Usenet. The explicit stories had their own separate group(s), so anyone accessing that group already knew somewhat that they were getting explicit material. (Although there was a huge debate over different groups and slash in 1997-8, I think, with an effort to create a group that banned "non-canon" pairings, which of course would instantly eliminate all slash.)

I know that one reason authors warned for slash was, frankly, that a lot people didn't know what "slash" was. If someone came across a fan page or Usenet post and saw the term "slash," they were just as likely to think it was a horror story or a story about Guns N' Roses' guitarist. Spelling out that slash = same-sex relationship was a way of preventing misunderstandings at a time when slash fiction was pretty darn rare on the internet. (Just as a for instance, the first time I checked out the HIGHLA-FIC archive, of the more than a hundred or so stories on there, a grand total of three were slash, a trilogy by the same author.)

I have a lot more to say, but I have to go rescue a bunch of old slash zines. ;)

Here from Metafandom. When I first started reading broadly, I thought 'slash' meant 'really violent,' so I never clicked on it. Oh, the stories I missed out on!

When I was new to online fandom around 2002, it was very common to warn for slash. I followed the convention for a short while and then ditched every comm and list that demanded a warning or forbid slash, when it accepted all other pairings. Pairings are often required in headers, and to me, that's plenty of info for a reader to figure out if they are interested or not.

During the last warnings debate, Telesilla on DW, brought up some good points about how warnings for orientation or lifestyle choices were exclusionary - specifically people that did real life d/S and BDSM. (This post contains some discussion about triggery warnings.) Telesilla suggested that kinks, d/S etc... could be listed in other parts of the header and that putting them in the warnings was marginalizing. I think it was a good post because it talked about the idea that headers could inform readers without making judgments on groups of people.

Tossing one more thing out there, This Film is Not Yet Rated investigates the MPAA ratings board and how the board assigns ratings changes the size of it's potential audience. An NC-17 movie doesn't get as much attention, not because there isn't an audience, but because many theaters won't carry it.

The doc also explores how gay-themed movies are always rated high than similar het movies; unless it ends badly for the gay character. It also puts a higher rating on het movies where the female expresses extreme pleasure in sexual act - because it's scary when girls enjoy sex /sarcasm. Meanwhile male sexual antics and violence get kid-friendly ratings.


Re: Here via metafandom

During the last warnings debate, Telesilla on DW, brought up some good points about how warnings for orientation or lifestyle choices were exclusionary - specifically people that did real life d/S and BDSM. (This post contains some discussion about triggery warnings.) Telesilla suggested that kinks, d/S etc... could be listed in other parts of the header and that putting them in the warnings was marginalizing. I think it was a good post because it talked about the idea that headers could inform readers without making judgments on groups of people.

Thanks for those links! I remember her discussion on them and why in the context of a warning they were marginalizing and insulting. Someone was talking about that particular line earlier and I was thinking about it in terms of warnings this time around too; while the orientation and lifestyle shouldn't ever be considered a "warning", if specific acts within that lifestyle might be warned for (I was thinking of explicit hard scenes or knifeplay/bloodplay/consensual non-con or rape fantasy, etc) since those can be triggering to someone who had them perpetuated in a non-con setting, whereas just wanting powerplay or light spanking would be less likely to do so (and just having a header advertising line, not a warning, with that in it would separate anyone triggered by those from those for whom specific play issues would be a problem).

...I'm actually not sure, to be honest. Kinks I really am worried about if there isn't at least a working standard, because if anything is going to flashpoint warnings grey area, it's going to be kinks, and that's not only damaging to those who practice them, it's working entirely against our entire fannish culture of not judging them. That's not a step backward I think we should be willing to take.

Anyone have more information on that? I get the impression this was also an issue before regular 'net access as well and that it might have come from cons originally, but a complete perspective would be interesting to know about and read. A lot of discussion during these two debates makes a lot more sense if the original purpose of warnings was to restrict access and exclude certain groups of fans entirely.

When I first found slash fandom, "warnings" were both a signal to other slash fen that there was What We Were Looking For inside those covers, and something to shield us from those manic anti-slash fans going "I READ THIS STORY WHERE SPOCK AND KIRK WERE LOVERS OMG I NEARLY THREW UP!" This was in 1983.

(Also, the "over-18" requirement was fairly serious - as one editor noted to me, when I confessed to having sent her a slightly inaccurate declaration of age (I was 17: she wanted over-21) the first time I bought one of her zines, the reason she asked for age statements was so that if angry parents contacted her, she could show them the age statement their innocent flower had sent the editor: "hey: your kid told me she was over 21, not my fault!")

And, to the best of my knowledge, that remained the chief purpose of "warnings" and "age statements" for the next twenty years. The first time I saw "warnings" more complicated than "Slash pairing" was sometime early on in the 21st century, I'm pretty certain. I've published stories in zines in which a major character is raped or dies, without a warning being called for or absence of complained about.

I didn't care for the new system of warnings because they struck me basically as systematic spoilers. When I set up a website, this is what I posted as my non-warning-list: http://hjc.akicif.net/#WARNINGLIST

And I added a note that people were absolutely welcome to e-mail me to ask me about any of my stories before reading it. No one ever does, though.

Jane Carnall
http://janecarnall.insanejournal.com

PS And this is what I wrote about it in June last year:

I don't want to cause anyone unwanted distress.

But if you read my stories, you should know that I want to harrow up your emotions like a fork in butter frosting: to make you cry, make you laugh, turn you on, startle you like a thin knife that pierces your heart before you know your skin is broken, suck you in as if I were a black hole and you were my light, make you shake, make you shiver, melt your brain, make you keep coming back -

...if you want me to do that to you.

If you don't, you shouldn't read my stories.
http://janecarnall.insanejournal.com/126846.html

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