DNW, or Do Not Want, is used most often in the context of fanfiction or fanart exchanges as a broad, nonjudgemental, and undetailed way to refer to things which one wishes not to receive, read, view, or otherwise encounter. It can be used as an abbreviation ("I DNW casefic.") or a noun ("I've put crossovers in my DNWs.") or a verb ("I've DWN'd the juggernaut ship.")
Unlike triggers or squicks, DNWing something indicates nothing about one's general opinion on the subject. Someone might DNW something because:
- it upsets them
- they don't like it
- they've received it in the last five exchanges and want something different this time
- they don't want works involving it tied to the account they used to sign up for the exchange
- they only like it in a very particular way that their writer couldn't be expected to achieve within the scope of the exchange
- some combination of the above
- some other reason entirely
It is not generally considered any of the writer's business why their recip has DNW'd something, although in ambiguous cases the writer may react out to the exchange mod and have them ask the recip for clarification. For example, if a recip signed up to receive work involving sex pollen but also has noncon and dubcon in their DNW, the writer may need further clarification on what the recip actually wants — they may only want sex pollen plotlines with established consent, they may have copied a DNW list from a previous exchange and forgotten to remove conflicting items for their new signup, or they may need to clarify that the inclusion of non- or dubcon would be okay in the sex pollen story they requested but not in other stories.
DNWs are usually included in the optional details of a gift exchange sign up form or in dear creator letters and unlike other optional details, the exclusion of DNWs is not usually actually considered optional. At the very least, ignoring DNWs will come off as extremely rude, but most exchanges have rules against writers ignoring their recipient's DNW and will ban writers who purposefully include their recipient's DNWs, because the point of gift exchanges is for all participants to receive a fanwork that they like.
There is occasionally civil debate and/or gratuitous wank about whether all things are eligible for DNWing. Some fans think it infringes on the writer's freedom (or might make it too hard for the writer to complete their assignment) if a requester DNWs POV or tense. Additionally, DNWing too many or very specific things may also be seen as a way to "game the system" or trap a writer into writing something in particular that they didn't specifically sign up for, which may be seen as a poor use of DNWs. Someone who DNWs present and past tense would be requiring their writer to write in future tense, for example, and some fans don't think that the recipient should be able to make such specific demands from their writer in a field that isn't used for matching.
The wank about listing scat/vore/whatever in DNWs tends to be either because it's some kink that is a very, very common DNW and very rare as a preference within fandom or it's about some precious flower who can't handle other people not liking their kinks. Sometimes, it's about aggressively judgmental phrasing. Most people's DNWs are just fine and they should carry on listing them as they please.
Incest and underage are very popular in fandom. Lots of people see underage as so unremarkable that it's not worthy of mention. Lots of people have incest as a kink.
Someone writing an AU where your requested ship are related is not a problem most of us will encounter. That's unrequested dewclaws-level weirdness. On the other hand, I could easily see a more sensible writer thinking it was okay to include background teenager/teenager ships or to have your OTP solve a case where the crime turned out to be motivated by a secret incestuous relationship. If it's not clear how and when your ship met, plenty of people might think it was okay to write a backstory fic where they got together as teenagers.
If your writer is writing 1k of curtainfic, they probably won't include a bunch of noncanon stuff, but what if they decide to write you 15k with plot? Suddenly, there's all sorts of potential for things to come up. If underage and incest are specific squicks of yours and you can't stand even a mention in a fic, it's safer to say so.
After all the issues last year my DNW list has grown substantially. I'm really wary of receiving something I can't bring myself to read just because I didn't specify all the things I'd consider opt-in but someone else considers opt-out. I worry this is going to make me look like one of those exchange participants everyone wants to avoid, is it better to be safe than sorry though?
I'm someone who in the past has always tended to eyeroll participants with long DNW lists, but I've reconsidered after recently writing for someone who handled their long list really well. I think it comes down to presentation.
How does your DNW list compare size-wise to the rest of your signup? I'd be deeply put off if I got assigned a bare bones signup with nothing to work from but five million DNWs and a couple of half-hearted likes. But if you've taken plenty of time in your letter to focus on the positives and enthuse about what you DO like, I'd still feel good about creating for you.
Are your DNWs clear, concise and non-judgemental? Obviously anything implying that you think your DNWs are (morally or artistically) bad will net you more hostility than a simple "this isn't my thing" vibe. Avoid subjective DNWs (no "excessive X" or "gratuitous Y" or "Z nebulous social attitude") and avoid anything that's going to force your creator to do lots of difficult puzzling-out - if you're only okay with a thing under x y z specific circumstances, it's better to DNW it completely than to try and capture that. I wouldn't mind one or two blanket exceptions, but don't get carried away.
As much as possible, be specific. Do you really DNW body fluids - tears, sweat, the whole nine yards? Or are you squicked by urine and pus but don't mind your characters having a cry? If you DNW underage or age gaps, specify the ages. If you DNW noncon but welcome dubcon, ftolg say something about where you draw the line. Etc.
There are a few things to consider. One is how long is your list? If you had five DNws and now you have fifteen, that should be fine. If you have fifty, then there might be a problem. Not because it's inherently a bad thing to not want that many things, but because it's a lot harder for a writer to keep track of everything. And yes, it might mean writers avoid you just because they don't want to deal with the added stress.
Consider whether or not particular DNWs require explanation, and specifically whether they require one in the context of the letter. If you're requesting tons of happy fluff, you probably don't need to explain where you draw the line on noncon. If you're requesting only adult characters, you don't have to clarify what you consider underage. But if you have a bunch of prompts that are edging towards a DNW or that make it unclear, clarifying is for the best.
And are these DNWs you don't like, or DNWs that would be incredibly upsetting? I think both are fine in your DNWs as a general rule. But if it's a DNW that's both incredibly unlikely to be written and something you just don't like, it might not be worth including it. I also think often a good idea to reassess this based on what you're requesting in a particular exchange. And when in doubt, go broad on a DNW rather than narrow. To use the noncon example, if you would be really upset if your writer accidentally crossed what you consider the line between noncon and dubcon, then you are best off not requesting dubcon. No matter how well you explain, there's always room for misunderstanding.
Also, even when it's not a case of something being upsetting, I think favoring broad over narrow is better. For example, if you are technically fine with porn, but you don't actively want it, just DNW it entirely. As someone who writes porn, I would much rather write for someone who rules it out entirely than someone who waffles about it being okay if necessary for the story in certain situations and the like. It's always important to remember that exchange letters are not declarations of your overall fandom preferences, just what you want and don't want in this specific exchange.
And in the end, you should always remember that you will never, ever be able to DNW absolutely everything you dislike. There are always going to be off the wall things you didn't consider that someone writes anyway. (See: dewclaws.) You will never eliminate all risk. But on the flip side, the vast majority of participants don't have exhaustive DNW lists, while rarely or never getting things they DNW. You mention recent issues, but it's also important to remember that while the number seems high, the percentage of participants who had that problem was tiny.
- ^ Nonnie, here, June 11th, 2017.
- ^ Nonnie, here, February 2nd, 2019.
- ^ Nonnie, here, February 2nd, 2019.
- ^ Nonnie, here, February 2nd, 2019.