Warning and Labeling Policy

For the safety of my potential readers, I have employed a more uniform labeling policy. I warn for common plot-point triggers, situations that may prove triggering due to similarities to traumas, and tones of writing that could prove triggering to some readers if they are not forewarned. I also label for squicks and phobias to the best of my ability.

This warning policy was written for my own use, so it is largely specific to my own body of work, but if another writer finds any portion of it useful themselves, they are welcome to it without seeking my permission. I do not mean to state or imply that I am advocating the use of this specific warning policy as any sort of broader standard. It certainly is a little unwieldy for general use, as I have a large body of work that is frequently triggering in ways that I suspect are less common in fandom at large.

It is not my wish to marginalize or exclude anyone by leaving out any particular trigger. There are many that quite simply do not apply to my personal collection of fanfiction. The triggers named in this policy are either extremely common triggers in fanfiction, or are triggers which I personally have had specific reason to warn for on one or more pieces of fiction.

Added 07/04/2010: This policy applies only to my fanfiction, and not to my fanvids. My not-particularly-good fanvids are all light-hearted in nature, avoid dark or even serious subjects, and use only canon source material. Should that change, a separate policy will be created, because this policy applies pretty specifically to prose.

Overview

I will always warn, or otherwise label, for content that is potentially triggery for abuse and assault survivors, trauma survivors, those with PTSD, those dealing with self-harming and/or addictive behavior issues, and others who need to take precautions in selecting reading material. This content includes, but is not limited to, the following: rape, sexual assault, "non-con" (a sometimes misleading term for fictional rape meant to imply the piece is a rape fantasy or is in some other way different from an assault), dub-con (fic where, for whatever reason, sexual activity occurs in a situation where consent might not be clear to the reader), incest, child abuse, child molestation, domestic abuse, significant verbal abuse, confinement, specific sexual kinks which may be perceived in different ways by different readers (example: bondage, knifeplay, breathplay), suicide, self-harm, eating disorders, drug use, alcohol use, character death, graphic violence, torture, and plots using potentially uncomfortable power dynamics or with cultivated feelings or tones of discomfort or helplessness.

How I warn for violence will be related to the level of violence, as well as the level and type of violence typical of the canon material for the fandom in question.

Inclusion of a type of material in the list above is not meant to state or imply that said material appears in any of my fics. Much of it does not apply. Details below.

Note: Readers with triggers are strongly advised to always click the reader-optional warnings on fics warned for tone. More on that below.

About Triggers

A trigger is different from a squick (I also warn for common squicks). A trigger is a piece of writing (or in the real world, a smell or a situation) that causes an abuse or assault survivor to once again feel the emotions they felt while they were being victimized. It's not the "ew, backbutton" response. It's a feeling of helplessness and fear, often so intense that the victim cannot stop reading. This problem is not rare or trivial. This is a safety issue, and failure to warn is hurtful.

The same type of emotional reaction that applies to abuse survivors also applies to other trauma-related triggers that are common in fanfiction, such as character death and various types of non-sexual violence. These things will also carry warnings on this site.

A different kind of trigger in fiction is the one involving eating disorders, self-harm, or chemical addictions, where the fictional content weakens the individual's resolve to refrain from the harmful behaviors. It is an act of kindness to help people avoid that kind of content, and these things will carry warnings on this site.

A squick (as the word is used in fandom) is something that gives a reader an unpleasant feeling, of varying levels of degree, but not on the same scale. The reader might regret reading, and have their entertainment spoiled, but they retain power over the situation and can hit the back button. Warning for squicks is a courtesy, and I will make every effort to do so.

Labels Are Not Judgments

Labels are about safety and courtesy, not about judgment or morality. I make every effort to make a distinction between warnings for traumatic content and other types of labels, and my use of warnings is not meant to state or imply judgment on the lifestyles or fantasies of any individual or group.

Any sexual activity which is joyful, loving, and most importantly consensual should not be labeled as violence, either directly or by implication, and I will endeavor to avoid that mistake. However, a number of kinks which are commonly, if not always accurately, lumped under the label BDSM, can be triggering for survivors because of similarities in tones or actions to situations of violence. Therefore, labeling for activities such as bondage does fall under the category of triggering when deciding whether to label, and when relevant, I will label.

Kinks that might be triggery include bondage, D/s (dominance and submission), knifeplay, breathplay, erotic torture, humiliation, and writing with a general tone of loss-of-control or other feeling which could mirror a feeling that a survivor could find triggering.

Content of this nature is extremely minimal on my site, but it will always be labeled. To avoid judgmental phrasing, such labels will not be referred to as warnings, so if these triggers apply to you, please read a fic's entire header for other types of content disclosure.

For a more comprehensive discussion on these topics, which goes beyond the scope of this labeling policy, as well as links to further resources on these topics, try here. (insert link to LJ post)

About My Content

There are many common triggers which do not occur in any of my fanfiction. There are also a number of less common triggers which are relevant to my body of work. This is a breakdown of these topics.

Topics I Avoid

These are the things I have never written about, and don't anticipate writing about, but would absolutely warn for if I did. You're definitely safe from encountering these topics in my fanfiction whether you read any warnings or not:

*References may be made to canon events of that type. They will be warned for quite specifically and they will not be explicit or graphic.

**The exclusion of this topic from my personal body of writing is not meant to convey any particular political viewpoint. I simply have not written about this topic, nor would I find it a particularly entertaining plot point to explore in a piece of fanfiction.

Basically, I prefer to write fic which strives to be happy, funny, sexy, etc. Since I don't find the above topics happy, funny, or sexy, and I avoid them. Plus, when I do write angst, I like to find ways to write it that are less common in fandom. Hence the excessive warning policy.

Topics For Which I Warn For Safety

These are things I have written about, and which are labeled with safety warnings:

Tone (ie cultivated feelings or tones of discomfort):
This isn't so much a what as a how. When I play with my readers' emotions in a way that might be triggering because of the tone I use to build anxiety, or other emotional writing that is hard to capture with a simple label, the fic in question will be labeled potentially triggering for tone with a clickable link for reader-optional detailed warnings. Readers with triggers are always encouraged to click reader-optional warnings on fics warned for tone. (Readers without triggers are encouraged to ignore these specific labels.)
Dubcon:
Not only will this carry clear and detailed warnings, but it will also be rated Adult rather than ST-17, since that rating was intended to indicate consensual love scenes. This type of content will be rare on this site, and at the time this policy was written, it applies to only one fic, not yet posted. By dubcon I mean aspects of consent are unclear to the reader, and the sexual decision-making of the participants may be unhealthy or otherwise dubious, with one or more moral elements of the story left to the interpretation of the reader.
Suicide:
The three fics with content related to suicide are labeled.
Self-harm:
Reckless behavior that could be interpreted in this way is labeled; I have not written about cutting, but it is canon in one of my fandoms, so it is possible that it might come up in the future, and if so, it will be warned.
Character Death:
Character death will always be clearly warned, even if the death is a canon event, which is almost without exception the only time I write character death anyway. There are a few cases of incorrectly assumed death, but by their very nature, those deaths would be off screen, leaving the reader room for doubt, followed of course by a happy ending.
Domestic abuse:
Some readers found one of my fics to contain elements reminiscent of this issue. This was not intentional on my part, and in fact I don't see it, but it is labeled. It is not my practice to dismiss the feelings of others simply because I do not understand them.
Torture:
Graphic depictions of torture, discussions of torture, and threats of torture will have warnings. Starvation, should it arise, falls under torture.
Captivity/Confinement:
Fics focusing on extended periods of captivity will be warned. Being captured and escaping in a relatively short period of time will not necessarily be warned, depending on the emotional reaction of the viewpoint character. The latter is a frequent plot point in my action type fics.
Sexual Kinks:
All sexual content on my site is labeled as sexual content, and if no further information is given anywhere in the header, you may safely assume that the sex is vanilla in nature, with a level of descriptiveness appropriate to the rating of the fic. Bondage and other potentially triggering kinks will always be labeled. (Side note: Oral sex will not be labeled -- assume that any fic rated ST-17 for sexual content is likely to include oral sex.)
Uncomfortable Power Dynamics:
This term is a little vague, but when this is an issue, there will always be a clickable link to reader-optional details in the warnings, so that if necessary you can find a more detailed explanation before making your decision about whether to read the fic. I won't use this label for power-play of a sexual nature, so please avoid making assumptions without clicking the warning.
Helplessness:
When the viewpoint character is made to feel powerless or helpless in a situation for an extended period of time, I will warn for tone, and the explanation will be found in a reader-optional warning.
Violence:
This will be the most common issue on this site, because I do include fight scenes in many fics, but usually in line with the canon material for the fandom in question. I always try to indicate the level of violence in the header of a fic, and the rating gives some indication as well. If there's something unusual about the violence, or if it exceeds the level of violence found in the canon material, that will be noted and expanded upon with a clickable reader-optional warning.
Verbal Abuse:
This is a hard thing to define and an easy thing to miss in labeling, but I have tried to label fics in which sexist or hateful language lands with emotional impact. (Example: Kennedy being called a bitch by the mugger she's currently beating up -- not labeled. Inara being called a whore, unexpectedly, by a man she had admired -- definitely labeled.)
Alcohol or Drug Use:
Incidental mentions, like someone bringing a bottle of wine to dinner, will not be warned, but descriptive usage or notable intoxication will be labeled.
Property Destruction:
Random objects getting broken in the course of a fight scene will not be warned, however the loss of a character's treasured possession due to deliberate cruelty or carelessness, or in another emotionally weighted way, will be warned. (Examples: Sunday stomping on Buffy's Class Protector award, or Lister burning Rimmer's prized trunk on Red Dwarf.)

Other Topics I Label

These are labels which have to do with courtesy, rather than safety:

Sexual Content:
Sexual content is always labeled for the purposes of accurate ratings. ST-17™© is the rating I use for explicit sexual content, which may include descriptive nudity and consensual activities such as intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, or intercrural sex. Het, femslash, and slash can be implied from the pairings, or identified by the genre tags. They will not be "warned" in a manner that implies negativity. Less explicit content, including sexual innuendo, non-graphic sexual thoughts, and sexual imagery, may be found in fics rated M™© (equivalent to MPAA's R™© rating as explained here.)
Squicks and Phobias:
These things are different than triggers, and I'll admit to being less vigilant about them, but I will include them in a secondary position to more serious warnings. (examples: mpreg, certain kinks, spiders)
Kinks:
I don't write scat, watersports, or other common sexual squicks, and I'm not keen on googling for other examples of things I don't write simply for the sake of listing them here. If I feel compelled to write anything more adventurous than intercourse, oral sex, intercrural sex, or descriptive nudity, I'll label it.* Bondage is labeled.
Categories:
A category tag includes genres and other content clues to help readers find the type of story they want. Readers with depression issues might be cautious of fics tagged for angst, for example.
Spoiler Warnings:
All fics have spoiler warnings for specific episodes, movies, books, or comic book issues. These will be used regardless of whether an episode aired last week or twenty years ago, so they can also be used to avoid reading about a specific canon event.
Pairings:
All pairings are always labeled, with primary pairings emphasized and background pairings labeled as such. A complete list of pairings used on my site is available here.
Morality Labels:
A character may express an opinion that will challenge your religious or political beliefs, and I'm not particularly motivated to warn anyone in most cases -- fiction is supposed to explore such things in a way that reserves judgment, and I think I'm pretty good at keeping my own views transparent -- however the few fics that deal more extensively with potentially controversial and/or thought-provoking subjects are labeled. If you want a Twinkie™ on your lunch break, I'll try not to sneak any philosophy into it.
Ratings:
My site uses the fiction ratings system. Fic rated K™© is appropriate for everyone. That listed as rated T™© should be appropriate for teenagers and adults, with little or no adult language, although it may have some adult themes and limited violence which may result in injury, but not graphically described life-threatening injury. Fic rated M™© may contain violence, including violence resulting in graphic, possibly life-threatening, injury; or sexual innuendo. Ratings K™© through M™© are the property of fictionratings.com and are used with permission. The ratings applied to specific fics are not verified by fictionratings.com and they are not liable for any mislabeling. Fics rated ST-17™© will have sexually explicit content as mentioned above. Fics rated Adult will contain more extreme content and all readers are advised to proceed with caution, and read the warnings.
Things that will not be warned or labeled:
prayer or other references to God, discussions of evolutionary theory, passing mentions of same sex couples, or elements that are extremely common in a particular fandom's canon, such as vampires in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Reader-Optional Warnings

Reader optional warnings are accomplished using javascript, and are accessed by clicking the text indicated. If you do not have javascript enabled, you will not be able to view them. These warnings are intended to help the reader make informed reading choices. They will contain spoilers to the fic in question, so use them at your discretion.

I choose to err on the side of caution, so I encourage my readers to click on the reader-optional warning for more information before clicking the backbutton.

Anyone wishing to steal my javascript is welcome to it.

Fandom Specific Issues

I write in a number of fandoms, and when labeling I will assume that the reader is familiar with the canon in question. While I am very flattered if you choose to read a piece of fiction I have written despite being unfamiliar with the show, I recommend against it, as it could lead the reader to make incorrect assumptions about the safety of the piece. This is not meant to state or imply that I will not still make every attempt to label accurately, I am simply admitting that this is an area in which human failure is more likely.

Some examples include the unhealthy canon relationship between Buffy Summers and Spike during season six of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Vala Mal Doran's background as former host to Qetesh in Stargate SG-1, the events which occurred at Shelly Pomeroy's end-of-year party in Veronica Mars, or the experiences Max Evans had in the white room on Roswell. It's quite easy to let characters discuss or remember these things in the course of writing a fic, and then forget to label for them.

In Conclusion

Finally, I recommend reading the full header on my fics, because information that may prove relevant to you may be located outside of the warning line. If a particular canon event troubled you, for example, the spoiler warning line is the place to look. If you don't like romantic relationships that take place between individuals in certain situations, the pairings line will have the information you need.

If you have further questions to ask before reading a particular fic, you may contact me on LJ (preferred) or via email and I will reply when I am able, or if you prefer, I recommend the LJ community ficsafezone, where volunteer readers will screen fics for those with a particular need.

If you have a suggestion on how to make a particular fic safer, please do let me know.


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