Incendiary thoughts ahead

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Title: Incendiary thoughts ahead
Creator: megyal
Date(s): June 18, 2009
Medium: LiveJournal post
Fandom: Bandom
Topic: warnings on fic
External Links: Incendiary thoughts ahead; archive link,
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Incendiary thoughts ahead is a post by megyal.

The subject of the post was a 2008 story she'd betaed called A Lifetime Commitment, her remorse at not standing up for its author at the time, and how it relates to another bandom story in the spotlight called Cello Sonata No. 1 in B Minor "Naissance de Libertè", and the current discussion: Trigger Warning Debate (2009).

The post has 165 comments.

The Post

Remember how I had this thing about wank, and how you should avoid it or jump in? Hey, how about you explore with me.

The main issue here is about warning about dub-con in fic. That is a very delicate issue to deal with, an extremely loaded aspect of writing. But that is not what I'm looking at now.

See, I tend to remember things.

I remember when TK, that's ficsoreal, posted a little fic called "A Lifetime Commitment." It's with Brendon Urie and he got assaulted with a speculum. I totally spoiled you all, you guys! Get over it. But you know what happened? Fucking dogpile on ficsoreal.

Readers attacked TK, personally. I believe she was called the antichrist. Or an attention whore. I didn't inspect the comments closely because I was kind of confused at the time, and I didn't have the balls to defend my friend. No, seriously. Yeah, I know.

I'm not disregarding how one's personal experiences have influenced an approach to reading fic online. Please understand that.

It's just that am I seeing is that there's a repeat of the same situation; TK didn't post a warning, or one that was clear enough for some, and people were upset about that. Upset enough to become pissy over it. It just appears that the same set of people that jumped down ficsoreal's throat, or who were conspicuously silent, like me, are now preaching about constructive criticism and not personally attacking the writer.

I could be very wrong, okay? It might be two different things completely, or a different set of players. I went through that previous wank kind of on the sidelines and it really affected me on how people view warnings, and I was simply amazed at how how fandom kind of exploded over it. And the same thing is happening, and it's like the rules have changed.

So I posted this so you can remember, Bandom. Maybe I'm missing the issue? Maybe. I doubt it, though, even through all this incoherence.

If you don't agree, I kind of don't care right now. Ask anyone, I'm usually fairly level, but I don't give a fuck. Remember, if you want to talk about warning about dub-con in fics, I'm not talking about that, so go find your wank-fix somewhere else.

Some Comments to the Post at the Post

A sample, see the original post for many more.

[ficsoreal, author of A Lifetime Commitment:] I'm not sure I'm supposed to comment here or not, but I'm going to. :) First of all, I never wanted you to feel like a bad friend during that whole wank. You totally advised me to give a warning! I want people to know that; it was a personal decision. Shoot, I'm just happy you still beta for me, have your name connected with mine and whatnot. ♥

Fandom has always played by two sets of rules, one for regular peeps and one for the popular peeps. This incident just shines a light on it. Don't let it keep you up at night.

*HUGS* Thank you for this post.
[vanilla alla:] hey girl, I agree with you, this issue is soooo complex. Personally for me, I'm more comfortable with like, over-warning? But at the same time I see the need to be vague in summaries. All in all though, everyone has the ability to close the browser as easily as they opened it. And I've read lots of fics that I've stopped in the middle because I just didn't like it or didn't feel comfortable. But then again, I'm not one to pick a fight. I'd much rather tuck back into my own corner of the world. Maybe that makes me a passive person, but it has just worked for me. gahhh fandom. i think we're getting a little too big/old for our own good :/
[agent99:] god, wank wank wank...i don't even know how many stories i've been reading and all of a sudden i hit an unexpected patch of squick where i had to go "uh no" and backtrack or just x out. you know what i did?...i xed out. and that's that. i'm not going to ream somebody over a fucking fanfic. i've been through things in my life that could make me VERY sensitive to certain events, but frankly? i'm not so thin skinned that i feel the need for personal attacks and other immature things of the nature. if you don't like it, either something constructive or just shutting your mouth works. and being hypocritical is a pile of fail anyway.
[jedi iwakura:] I'm honestly all for putting up warnings but I'm not so keen on people asking me to be specific for their sake. There's a level of responsibility I feel I have and that does NOT include singling you out for the sake of having your audience (or your vitriol, if it comes to that end). I like general warnings myself. And yes, it might be completely insensitive of me to think that that is more than enough, I really don't mind. I'd say I don't care, but I do to an extent.

I have my issues, and I don't mean to belittle or lessen anyone else's by any of this conversation or in the future, a lack of adequate warning in someone's eyes, but to be fair I don't feel like part of the support and cope should be coddling. I'm NOT a very PC person and while I don't ever feel I should apologize for that, I still do. I'm not saying everyone needs to face down their demons RIGHT THIS VERY INSTANT because I know personally that this does not happen. But I'm also not saying that I accept anyone's "authority" on such a matter.

If it loses me friends and readers then so be it, I'm not saying I don't care about your opinion, and I'm not saying that my creativity shouldn't be hampered by that, I'm only of the idea that if you choose to be surrounded by a certain set of people you have to realize that beyond that is a massive amount of people you DIDN'T choose, and they shouldn't have to be subjected to something that only your chosen set is aware of.

Like. I'm sorry shit happened, and I'm sorry you still deal with it. Shit sucks. Real bad. But no amount of my apologizing is going to fix that. A warning isn't, either. It's preventative, for sure, but I mean, in the past few days alone from all of this the list of specific things I'm going to have to put warnings for in my future writing has grown 4 times over.
[rilree16:] The responders said entirely different things, for entirely different situations.

arsenic listened, and even though she was coming from a completely different place she put up a warning, "consent issues" I believe, in less than 2 hours after her original post, even though she still was coming from a completely different place.

People asked, most of them beginning very politely, that ficsoreal put up a warning; when they explained why a warning was needed she was explicitly dismissive and disrespectful, and the "warning" she chose to put up didn't actually warn for anything, didn't even hint it could involve rape "This story has warnings that I'm not going to post but take that into consideration before you click the link. Have one of your friends read it first if you are leery". What possible "warnings" are out there? There are fucking hundreds of possibilities. As many people who experience sexual violence don't come forward, exactly how is that vague of a "warning" supposed to deter anyone, how is that supposed to keep someone from having a "stronger" friend read it before them to screen it, only for that "stronger" friend,, who may never have said anything to the other friend about hir rape, to be triggered? For all the readers know, it's just normal (albeit horrible) fratboy hazing, with no sexual component.

The only reason responders "dogpiled" or turned nasty when ficsoreal posted her fic, is because of the way she reacted to people when they were well-meaning and polite.
[emmucuka:] ... I do warn because I believe that it is more important to cater to the 2% than it is not to cater to the 98%. I don't like it, but I do it
[gingerbreadkula:] I hate wank as a general rule because, in most situations, it degenerates into a pissing contest between the supposedly righteous and the popular, or some combo of the two. I've always been a firm believer in the "don't like it? don't read it" rule.

I'm not trying to dismiss anyone's real-life concerns about triggers, but as someone who has dealt with dubious consent in her real-life and thinks about it everyday, that has no bearing on the way I read fic. I would never want someone to struggle with putting out a warning/disclaimer just out of fear that a small minority, someone like me, may have a bad reaction to it. I would never ask someone to edit their intellectual property just because I said so. I've always been under the impression that if we warn one for one thing, we must warn for everything. There's been many a fic that I never expected to make me so overwhelmingly sad that I'd sob like a baby for quite some time, but I've never asked anyone to put up a "tearjerker" warning. I never see fiction novels warning me about dubious consent, rape, character death, etc, so why should I expect a fanfic to do so?

BTW, sorry for the long-winded comment, just your post reminded me of ficsoreal and what happened to her, and it rekindled my anger at all of that wank too. I really hate that no matter how wonderful something may be, there will always be those who feel the need to nitpick over the slightest detail. And as a fandom, despite our fabulousness at times, we always feel the need to bitch about something.

P.S. Maybe I'm missing something here, but without even reading the fic in question I gathered that there would probably be dubious consent, just based on the summary. What the hell ever happened to context clues and reading between the lines? Aren't we supposed to be adults here? Then we should be wearing our damn adult thinking caps and be able to infer things ourselves without having shit force-fed to us.
[provetheworst:] yo maybe people read literary fiction for different reasons than fanfiction sometimes ?????????? hth warnings are cool bro, learn it, live it, love it
[gingerbreadkula:] I've been under the assumption that fiction whether it be published or fan-created, is read for enjoyment/leisure/pleasure, escape, and/or therapy of some kind. Maybe, there's something I'm missing in that equation, idk. I have nothing against warnings or lack-of-warnings, whatever a writer chooses to do is fine by me. I'm certainly not trying to start a fight with you or any one else who requested that she put a disclaimer on her fic. I specifically commented on those who demand things of a writer. In that part of my comment, I did not say I was addressing this particular situation or any of the players involved, only my own feelings about warnings, especially consent issues, and how fandom handles them. My comment was directed at the general wank warnings always cause. Every few months people are always defensive about some fic or meta, and that goes for every fandom in existence, not just this one; we're not special. Remember that it only takes one bad seed to spoil the apple. It doesn't matter how many people acted rationally and did not incite a war, it's always those that are overly incendiary, that people remember.... I honestly don't think [this post is] contributing to it. think you made an extremely valid argument about how hypocritical fandom can be. This is starting off very similarly to what happened to ficsoreal and I would hate to see arsenicjade's fandom reputation go the same way. I've greatly enjoyed both of their fics in the past, and it saddens me that a writer can be known for the drama/wank surrounding their fics because of something so insignificant as a disclaimer,rather than the actual quality of the writing they worked so hard to produce. Why can't we just live and let live?
[impertinence]: Why is it so offensive for someone to ask for a warning, because the content is triggery? It's not an attack on the fic. It's not a commentary on the author's writing. It's like asking for a cut tag. It's saying "hey, you missed this, would you mind adding it?" I think the real problem is when people decide that making such a request is a controversial attack, rather than a simple request, and dig their heels in because their pride has been damaged.... I absolutely think a fic writer has an ethical responsibility not to hurt their readers. Fandom is a community. We all have a responsibility to try not to hurt each other. I cannot imagine the mindset that places the artistic integrity of porn above a fellow human being's mental wellbeing, and I don't think I want to.
[megyal:] I'm not going to try and explain away ficsoreal's reactions to requests for warnings; it was just that the spiral got worse and worse, into a argument of insane proportions, metas and, frankly, abusive language. She didn't react in a classy manner like arsenicjade, that's probably true. They're different people. But the reactions now just seemed immediately hypocritical, maybe because arsenicjade acquiesced that quickly to what people asked. I'm probably not being clear at all, even though to me, they projected the same idea of the non-knowledge of the fictional situation being important to their bandom story. Like I said in my post, I may be wrong to try and compare the two, but I felt very strongly about it. I don't know if I wouldn't have been ultra-defensive and deleting comments as well in the face of my own pride as well, but I won't know until that happens to me, hopefully not. I really believe that in the beginning she wasn't... well not classy, as you might say, but rude. I believe she got defensive after a bit of hounding.

I'm not sure when that three-comment essay turned up on the replies to this recent fic, but the air it gave off in the reading was that the person had read the same kind of resistance to warnings. True, she gave in in time, and ficsoreal didn't; but that gave everyone an open party to follow the leader, you know? I know it's a community venture, and that fandom relates in an almost mindmelding manner, but the dogpile was incredible. If she still refused to change it, you say that you yourself would have told her to stop being like that; if she still resisted, what would you have done? I think there would have been another rash of metas and what-a-bitch posts due to the pressure, even if it IS a very valid pressure. That part kind of makes me more sad than the actual warnings part, and I'm the kind of person who prefers warnings.

Possibly you'll say that I'm dogpiling now, which, in retrospect, you're probably right. Look before you leap, and all that. And that this issue is not as important as the warnings part, it just is to me.

In terms of the worth of the warning, which is another point, I'm actually seeing your point, I do. When she put the notation at the top, which I'm sure you won't call a proper warning, it became another thing to latch onto and for people to get more combatative over. But we're definitely going to differ on where I do see it as a warning. From how you say it, you don't, and that's just that. Maybe that's an issue that is just as big; when people were done yelling and calling ficsoreal names because she was resistant, she posted a non-warning and it just pissed them off even more; probably viewed as a huge thumb on the nose.
[impertinence:] Wanking about a year-old wank holds little interest to me, to be honest. What concerns me about your post is you're ignoring that arsenicjade did put the warning up, even if she disagreed/had no damn clue what she'd written that was offensive. In this scenario, the author is fairly unimportant. What matters is that the warning is there, so that people who need it can use it.

I don't mind being dogpiled especially since I responded originally to you.

I viewed her actions as directly insulting, yes. Having at least an apologetic tone isn't a requirement, of course, but it's nice, if you're telling someone that they've hurt you. You know? This isn't really an issue of semantics or BNFdom or anything else. This is an issue that keeps arising repeatedly concerning people saying they're being hurt, and other people choosing to either disregard that or treat it with much less gravity than it should be.