Slash warnings, please write them!!!!

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Title: Slash warnings, please write them!!!!
Creator: Martine and commenters
Date(s): June 15, 1997
Medium: online
Fandom: The X-Files
Topic:
External Links: Slash warnings, please write them!!!!
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Slash warnings, please write them!!!! is a 1997 post to alt.tv.x-files.creative by Martine.

Some Topics Discussed

  • warnings
  • discussion of an X-Files Mulder/Skinner story called Post Mortem by Anne Smith
  • definitions of slash
  • grammar and a non-apology
  • tolerance
  • hypocrisy
  • "please warn us if their is any queer content involving our heroes in a story!!!!"

The Post

This is a little thing that happened to me earlier... I was reading a nice story, where all things were going well, when suddenly, a totally unexpected slash event hit me in the face... I cringed, and I couldn't help but being angry at the author for not putting forth any warning about this... I'm not discrimating homosexuals, some of my best friends are, but I am very ill at ease with the fact that this story (which was rated with a mild PG-13!!) might have fallen in the hands of minors... or might have upset some other ppl who do not like to imagine some male characters of our favorite show doing *it* together... Not that there was any sex involved in the story, but it was more than strongly mentioned, and that made me mad...

So I beg you! PLease, please warn us if their is any queer content involving our heroes in a story!!!! I would more than appreciate it!

Thank you, Martine

Fan Comments

[Lyana]:

> I was reading a nice story, where all things were going well, when suddenly, a totally unexpected slash event hit me in the face...

I guess that can be messy, huh? It will usually wash off with soap & water. ;-)

> I'm not discrimating homosexuals, some of my best friends are,

Discriminating? Watch your grammar there...

> but I am very ill at ease with the fact that this story (which was rated with a mild PG-13!!) might have fallen in the hands of minors...

Minors aren't allowed to hear about gay people? What if they're gay, & it's some of the only indication they ever get that they're not the only one?

> or might have upset some other ppl who do not like to imagine some male characters of our favorite show doing *it* together...

I don't much like to imagine M & S doing *it* together, but I don't go freaking out over any MSR that doesn't say so in the title!

>Not that there was any sex involved in the story, but it was more than strongly mentioned, and that made me mad...

If there wasn't any sex, PG-13 was perfectly appropriate.

> So I beg you! PLease, please warn us if their is any queer content involving our heroes in a story!!!! I would more than appreciate it!

Yes, & warn me if the story has Scully in a tacky outfit, because I HATE that, or if Krycek has his arm ('cause that's not canon), or if Krycek doesn't have his arm ('cause that freaks me out), or if they eat messy food in a rental car (SUCH a bad example to Our Youth), or if there is any Presbyterian content (them people jest ain't right), or....

Lyana
[Martine, original poster]:

Your deeply exagerating there... I won't apologise for my grammar, because I am french, and I have no reason to. You were not very polite, and you had no reason to be. I hate to say this, but I don't think you read the story I am talking about, and therefore you don't have the right to critisize my view of things. Granted, it is not necessary to rate everything, but slash stories are a special part of the fanfic world, in the same category as stories containing sex or explicit references to sex, and I wouldn't like a kid (cause I know we have some in the fanfic community) to fall on somethng like that. Some parents depend on the rating of the story to see if they will allow their kid to read it, and I think it is only fair that the ratings be appropriate.

Thank you Martine
[Lisa Dee]:

> So I beg you! PLease, please warn us if their is any queer content involving our heroes in a story!!!! I would more than appreciate it!

I forgot to add that I'd appreciate it too, since I hate to miss a slash story. :-)
Loligo Opalescens:

>We just had this entire discussion on Fictalk. I love slash, but I agree, slash stories should be marked as such. Only because it is such a controversial subject. And because some people are violently offended by it. However, a PG-13 rating on a story with no sex in it, is, I think, appropriate. Just because it is a slash story does not mean it should automatically be rated NC-17. NC-17 is supposed to be reserved for stories with graphic sex (hetero- or homo- )or violence.

I think this is an eminently reasonable compromise. After all, fanfic is intended to be entertainment, not education, and if there are some people who find slash to be exceedingly un-entertaining, they ought to be given enough info to make their choices.

On the other hand, there is simply no good argument for why slash should be considered more "adult" than hetero romance, and if a scenario would earn a PG-13 between Mulder and Scully, it should earn a PG-13 between Mulder and Krycek.

(In other words, this post is a big ol' "me too!")

L.O.
[Layna]:

> Your deeply exagerating there... I won't apologise for my grammar, because I am french, and I have no reason to.


I apologize for that then, because you are certainly a lot better at English than I am at French! > You were not very polite, and you had no reason to be.

I did not mean to be impolite, but only emphatic. I did not intend to attack you, but only squeamishness over slash, as if people (of whatever gender) enjoying each other were a nasty thing.

> I hate to say this, but I don't think you read the story I am talking about, and therefore you don't have the right to critisize my view of things.

Well, let me know what it is, then; I'll read it & see if it is too explicit for a PG-13.

> Granted, it is not necessary to rate everything, but slash stories are a special part of the fanfic world, in the same category as stories containing sex or explicit references to sex,

But no they AREN'T! Do you mean that *love* or *attraction* to someone is PG-13 if it is between different genders, but R or NC-17 if it is between the same gender? That's just ridiculous.

> and I wouldn't like a kid (cause I know we have some in the fanfic community) to fall on something like that.

But why not? What is wronge with a kid (which we certainly have in the fanfic community, and they are welcome here) reading a story in which people of the same sex have a relationship? Not explicit sex, because that would be NC-17, but a relationship or an attraction. Is it somehow intrinsically wrong for kids to know about same-sex relationships?

> Some parents depend on the rating of the story to see if they will allow their kid to read it, and I think it is only fair that the ratings be appropriate.

But a PG-13 rating for a story without explicit sex IS appropriate. If parents don't want their kids to know about same-sex relationships, they had better keep them off the net entirely, and also lock them up in a closet so they never hear from anyone in the world - and even then, some little mice in the closet might be indulging in slash activities, and then the cat would be out of the bag.
[Martine, original poster]:

> You're welcome! I'm not trying to give you a hard time - I'm just bugged at the idea that different-sex attraction is OK, but same-sex is somehow nasty.

I apologise too then, but just one thing... attraction is okay... But you know, some things just gross me out... IN this story, since I will now tell what happened, Skinner tells Scully (in more words than this but it's still evident) that he has had anal sex with Mulder... If Skinner would have said that he were attracted to Mulder I would have only ticked, but that mentioned grossed me out, and that's why I would have greatly appreciated a warning...

Anyway... Thank you Martine
[cathy lee]:

I think we've unintentionally wandered into a grey area here. Does all slash have to be N-17? I say no. But the whole "slash" label seems silly and arbitrary when we consider that it only be applied to stories that feature "same sex" relationships. How about a really strong M/M freindship hinting at sexual attraction like we see in a lot of John Wu movies? Would that be slash? It seems silly that slashers willingly confine themsleves to the slash label when one considers that one of the best things about writing fiction featuring same-sex love relationships is the total freedom from gender-specific traits and gender dictated power relationships.

Martine, I'm guessing you're talking about "Post Mortem" by Ann Smith. How did I know? Because that was the *only* slash story in on any of the X-Files slash webpages that didn't have a slash warning. But you'll have to admit, it was a *great* story. I agree, this story was mis-rated. If there had been the same mention of heterosexual anal sex, it, of course, *still* should have been given an NC-17. Granted, having a character mentioning to another character that they engaged in anal sex is less graphic than an actual description of the event. But it was graphic enough to warrant the stronger rating.

As far as you being grossed out by a mention of M/M sex, well that's how you feel and I can't fault you for it. But please be advised there is a *large* audience out there for slash. And many of them are self-described heterosexual women.
Stef Davies:

I don't much like to imagine M & S doing *it* together, but I don't go freaking out over any MSR that doesn't say so in the title!

You may not, but you would be surprised at the number of people who moan loudly if they accidentally read something that turns out to be a non-platonic Mulder/Scully story.

So it seems only fair that if it is *obligatory* to label non-platonic Mulder/Scully stories as MS*R* - even when the "R" part is totally inappropriate - then to label clearly a M/M or F/F relationship story doesn't seem too much to ask...... ;-D

But to be serious, it comes down to the fact that it's just common politeness to warn your readers if there's something in the story that you know a significant enough proportion of them will not wish to read.

Such things would appear to be:

1. MSR - or NPR ( non-platonic Mulder/Scully)

2. NC17

3. M/M or F/F relationship notation... (not necessarily a 'slash' notation, of course, if slash by definition implies NC17 same sex, or NC17 violence/dominance, which I have understood is the meaning)... if there is an implied or described M/M or F/F relationship involving one of the main television characters.

4. Character Dies

5. Mulder-Torture of the extreme kind.

The above seem to be the types of stories that a chunk of readers wish to know to avoid in advance.

There is also the important point that sometimes even the comment "M/M relationship" in the introduction would give away a significant plot point, and the author will decide perfectly legitimately that they don't *want* to include it in the introduction. A good example of this is a recent PostEpisode late season 4 story. All that will happen then is that the author will piss-off the readers who definitely *didn't* want to read an M/M story or an MSR or a slash story - and said readers may avoid that author in future. But an author who specialises in M/M or MSR won't of course care - because those readers wouldn't have been reading their stuff if it *had* been labelled properly :-)

The only time I would feel comfortable actually *urging* an author to specify in an introduction would be if the story was very different to their usual work - say if a high-profile MSR author wrote a slash piece, or a high-profile M/M author wrote an MSR.
[Cassandra]:

To Martine (and others) who think that any reference to being gay automatically requires that the material be labeled R or NC-17:

1. Far too often, those who find something offensive use the excuse that it might harm children as a means for discouraging speech. This argument is currently being debated in our highest courts. If the court sides with Martine, we wont be able to read *anything* that mentions *any* sex -- we won't be able to even discsus whether we are disgusted by a story because that discussion will require more than a PG-13 rating.

2. The fact that Martine et al. found the story and the concept of gay sex disgusting is not relevant to the discussion. Otherwise, I could just as very well say: I find the whole concept of people writing stories based on someone's else characters to be offensive because it violated copyright and steals Chris Carter's work. Or, even more ludriciously, I believe Scully is a tool of the male patriarchial elite used to convince women that they should become more svelte and red haired. And then require labels to fit my personal religious outview.

3. Please explain how if someone find gay sex disgusting, and does not want to hear about it, and does not want any discussion of being gay, and does not think children should know that there is/are gays out there, this is not homophobic. If I find French people rude (another national sterotype) and unfit to be around children, what does that make me.
Sheryl Martin:

well, this is one of those problems that won't ever be solved to anyone's satisfaction, IMHO... grin... the problem is how do you put a summary and a rating on your story without giving away too much; or alienating potential readers - the most interesting experience I had was when I listed one story as a MSR and then got a note from someone who had read it and was pleasantly surprised, "because I don't read MSR and was about to delete it without reading" - thus pointing out one of the flaws in classifying stories... I don't think of a lot of my stuff as MSR, but others do... and therein lies the rub...

yet to write a comphrensive summary gives away too much; and you risk losing your reader because of the lack of tension if you say "death of major character" because then you know what's going to happen... me, I just flip to the end of the story and the death scene... chuckle...

I don't label most of my stories as anything, except for the Rating of G, PG, NC-17... a listing of if it's a story, vignette or what, and if it's Paranormal/Action Adventure or what... spoiler warnings, and then make the summary as vague as I can without giving away the entire story, which kinda makes it pointless to even read it if the summary is too full...

I guess the point of my rambling above is that no matter how detailed you want your ratings and summaries to get, they'll still be insufficient for some people - and too much for others - so the best you can hope for is to hit a middle ground where you tell a little but not divulge the entire story in a single sentence...

and follow the rules in the FAQ as much as possible to help out - but if mistakes happen and people get upset, remember that this is still shifting sand under our feet - and what one person wants/requests/needs/likes may not be what another one wants... and this is an environment where definitions are never set in stone; thereby making everything flexible... and therefore so should be the writers/readers...

so a little tolerance, please...

-)
Sarah Stegall: Sheryl, I agree. If anything, I am less willing than you are to cater to the prejudices of readers. There comes a time when you have to stop pre-digesting a story. If we only read stories we knew in advance we "liked", we would never be challenged, much less entertained, by fiction. I personally *like* being surprised. I think a warning about explicit sex to cover our assets re: underage readers should be sufficient. Beyond that, hey, stop reading when it bugs ya.
Dawson Rambo:

> I betcha the story is Smith's "Post-Mortem". Well written, but I wish I'd been warned. Why? I think anal sex is disgusting. It put's me off my feed. It coulda been Scully Mulder for all I care, I still woulda been grossed out. It coulda been two people who deeply love each other, I still woulda been grossed out. Hey, I think rimming's disgusting, too, even though I think D. Rambo's stuff rocks. Had I known, I'da skipped it.

Okkaaayy...I was reading this thread (being the "D Rambo" you mentioned above,) and was trying to decide where my 'stand' was. I appreciate your nice comment about my stories 'rocking', but I was concerned by your 'Ida skipped it' remark.

My stories to have adult content warnings. Right at the top.

Rating : NC17 (Adult Themes, nudity, sexual contact)

Now, I am not trying to insert myself into this argument, or climb up on my soapbox, but I was wondering what I could have changed about that line to a) warn more clearly that what follows may not suit all tastes, without b) giving what was going to happen later away.

As for 'rimming.' Rimming is a specific act; it uses the mouth. The only chapter of "Umbra" that...whoops. Never mind. You're talking about "Snapshot," aren't you? (nodding) Now I remember.

OK. You're right. I just need to think of a way to come up with an appropriate warning that won't give the plot away, because part of the lure of erotica is not knowing, exactly, what's coming. I agree that slash stories should be rated, and that there should be some kind of way to indicate that what follows may be to all tastes.

However, I dislike the 'slash' label because to me is has a very specific connotation, and I personally don't feel that my stories fall into that catagorization.

I'm open to suggestions. I want my stories to be read and enjoyed. I don't want to offend anyone, or 'trick' anyone in to reading a chapter of one of my novels that contains depicitions of sexual activity that might disgust, offend or otherwise 'turn off' anyone reading.

Perhaps we need to standardize a way of representing that information. I may put a ROT13 portion at the beginning containing the description of what happens, and so if the cautious reader wants to un ROT13 that portion, they can see what might be coming, but the reader that is not offended can just ignore it without having it spoil what's coming.

(For those of you that don't know what ROT13 is, it basically transposes text by 13 positions, so "A" becomes "M" and "B" becomes "N" and so forth. Thus, that portion that is ROT13'd will appear to garbled text. By using most newsreader's ability to un ROT13 something, the REST of the story would be temporarily turned to gibberish while the part describing the specific sexual activity would be in clear text.)

Any feedback is appreciated... Dawson
[Stef Davies]:

> OK. You're right. I just need to think of a way to come up with an appropriate warning that won't give the plot away, because part of the lure of erotica is not knowing, exactly, what's coming. I agree that slash stories should be rated, and that there should be some kind of way to indicate that what follows may be to all tastes. However, I dislike the 'slash' label because to me is has a very specific connotation, and I personally don't feel that my stories fall into that catagorization.

No, I don't think your stories fall under the category of slash either :-) But I don't think that the poster meant that they should be. NC17 is the correct category, and your stories very clearly give content warnings. I *think* (and I could be totally off base here!) the point the poster was making when citing your story was that even within NC17 there might be activities that any individual might not want to read about, but that's the chance you take. I think. I may be wrong :-) I love to read erotica, but I don't find every activity described equally appealing (I am old, I am old: I wear the bottom of my trousers rolled). That's just tough on me!

Your solution is very ingenious, but probably beyond my - or my newsreader's - capabilities!

I still think that as 'slash' isn't synonymous with 'same sex relationship story' they ought to be annotated in different ways.

Maybe 'slash' should be kept for stories of extremely violent sex either M/F or same sex (slash *can* be M/F - right?), the violent domination stuff - which would presumably include rape.

Then *all* other stories would be rated PG13, NC17 or whatever acompanied by M/M or F/F if they are same sex, MSR, Scully/O or whatever the particular story is.

Or is it fighting a losing battle to try and redefine something which was set in concrete ages ago?
[Veronica P]:

But "slash" *is* synonymous with "same sex relationship story" --at least it has been in zine fandom for many years. IME, people who define "slash" as *by definition* including explicit sex or domination scenarios don't read or write slash themselves.

I have heard people, including some slash fans, suggest that Mulder/Scully stories could be considered slash. However, they've all been basing that on M & S's partnership, the equality of the relationship, the fact that the characters were friends first -- all of which says "slash" to them.
[Martine, original poster]:

Okay, I reread all the posts, and the idea of putting a content warning at the end of the story seems fair. I don't want to be judged homophobic for I am not, otherwise I would never have went to my sisters during five years, because the friends she was living with at the time were gay. In fact, I enjoyed their company a lot because one of them had as big an attraction to Mulder as I did, and I had the time of my life discussing eps with him! ;) What I meant was the *grossed out* issue. While I have nothing against relationships between ppl of the same sex, I found that references to sexual acts perfromed between people of the same sex gross me out! And although the story was a good one, and I understand the author didn't want to ruin the plot by revealing too much, the slash reference disgusted me... Too bad, cause I did think the story was well written and that it was interesting... Only I would have appreciated a warning. I might have read the story anyway, who knows!

I agree with the person who said that since shippers have to rate MSR's, and that we do rate Mulder/Other, Scully/Other and such stories, it is only fair that a warning M/M be apposed. And if there is no sex, than say it to, it might encourage those of us repulsed by the idea of anal sex to read the story anyway!

I hope I made my point clear... Martine
Teddi Littman: I think you missed the point though. Shippers don't *have* to rate MSRs etc. etc. No one here *has* to rate anything! It is merely a suggestion (and a good one at that) and a totally voluntary choice. I believe, in most cases, summaries, categories, and even "warnings" help a story get read by people more likely to enjoy and appreciate that story. The writer of "Post Mortem" made a choice between providing a slash warning which in this particular case, would have totally ruined the impact of her story and leaving the warning out most likely knowing a few people would get angry with her. She had an absolute right to this choice which really should be defended at all costs... especially against seemingly well-meaning intentions of "protecting the children." Too much freedom has been stolen and continues to be stolen for the sake of "protecting the children" when the thing that the children most need protection against is slavery. I am 100% in favor of summaries, ratings, and warnings but only if they continue to remain 100% VOLUNTARY!!!
[Cassandra]:

I understood that it wasn't 'gay sex' but anal intercourse (not the : same thing) which one of the posters found disgusting.

Thanks for the clarification. So perhaps the author should have labeled her story: NC-17, MM, Anal (no rim), kiss, possible gross (your mileage may vary, please refer to your socio/polit/relig decoding ring included in cereal box).

[Stef Davies]:

> But "slash" *is* synonymous with "same sex relationship story" --at least > it has been in zine fandom for many years. IME, people who define "slash" as *by definition* including explicit sex or domination scenarios don't > read or write slash themselves.

Ah, well I stand corrected, not knowing anything about any fanficdom apart from and before XF.

But you've confused me thoroughly, I'm afraid :-/

Having stated that 'slash' can only mean 'same sex sex' - you then suggest that some slash fans suggest Mulder/Scully sex stories are slash???? To say that any relationship in which the lovers were friends first and where they have an equality of relationship is 'slash' seems just - well - ridiculous. Sorry. Either that or the term 'slash' is truly meaningless.
[Sydney]: I think there should be a warning on stories that contain questionable material because alot of young people read the fanfic here. Megan, I love your stories and have nothing against you as a person, but fanfic should carry a warning because it can. I am sick of all the letter combination classifications. I can't keep up with them. I do think a simple PG to NC17 to slash rating would be fine though.
[Pat Herring]

Instead of re-defining the meaning of the word "slash", why not just leave it out? M/M F/F is infintely more informative and less degrading. Besides, that way there is absolutely no confusion.

Or, to expand upon that, perhaps ?/? relationship or ?/? sex can be used as a content warning. Or even just a plain warning of a same gender relationship/sex reference.

And, of course, the rating should be included.

I can tell you however that when I was a newbie to the fan fiction world, I had *no* idea what slash was, and *that* was a suprise when I found out.
Lee Burwasser:

Slash began back in the 70s with a story in the "adult" _Trek_zine GRUP (from the word for "grown-up" in the episode "Miri") about Kirk and Spock. At about the same time or a little later, the nonSF _Trek_ fans got into the zine scene and began writing "buddy" stories about the same characters. The pairing code had already evolved for the m/f stories: surname initials (where there IS a surname), senior or eldest first. So the erotic Kirk and Spock stories came to be known as "K/S" while the buddy stories were designated "K&S" to distinguish them. Hence the term "slash" for stories like the K/S when they came along.

These stories were written by and for heterosexual women. In this, they were like the so-called "lesbian stories," which are written for a hetero male audience. The current theory is that the turn-on is the lack of a competing figure of the reader's own sex. I should point out here that while lesbians have nothing good to say about so-called "lesbian stories," gay men were at worst amused by slash; now that fan writers are more aware of alternative sexual practices, they even enjoy them. According to those who know these things, the early K/S stories read like female homosexual fiction -- i.e. aimed at a lesbian readership -- with the sex reversed.

Back to the point. "Slash" originally referred to: 1) erotic fanfiction 2) aimed at a heterosexual female readership (and usually by a hetero female author) 3) which portrays as lovers 4) two men 5) who in their original incarnation had a close but nonsexual relationship.
Teddi Littman:

SPOILER WARNINGS FOR THE STORY, "POST MORTEM"

I agree it is not unreasonable to request a slash warning for a story. I recently gave my opinion over on the XFF mailing list about using a summaries and some authors' reluctance to do so for fear of "giving something away." I stated there that if the story was of significant length and didn't have a summary or classification of some sort, I tended not to read it.. or I tended to skim it first (often to the end) giving much more away than a well worded summary could. It is my opinion that it is quite possible for a writer to write enticing summaries to most long stories without giving away significant plot points... after all, every book in the bookstore has one as well as a classification in a particular genre. Here's where the BUT comes in. It is much more difficult to "summarize" or categorize short pieces without giving the whole thing away. Fortunately, I don't think summaries are really as necessary for shorter pieces for obvious reasons. In the particular case of the story, "Post Mortem", a slash warning would have given away (for my lack of a better word as the story was not a joke) the "punch line" of the entire story! It is for that reason that I felt the above spoiler warning *was* necessary for just discussing this story in this vein. Ultimately, summaries, categorizations, and even warnings are merely voluntary services of a sort provided for readers that in most cases, will help entice more readers who will more likely enjoy a particular story. Summaries, categorizations and yes, even warnings are *suggested*. They have never been and should never be *required*. I think what set off those who were offended by Martine's original post, was her misplaced "concern" for minors over what she and others need to recognize is really just a personal hang-up. The PG-13 rating was totally appropriate. The story referred to anal sex in only the most clinical, scientific terms...i.e. presence of semen in the rectum. Martine, you need to honestly ask yourself, would you have been so concerned for the welfare of minors here had the story featured an autopsy of a woman where presence (or absence) of semen in the vagina was a significant finding? Or what if someone personally believed vaginal penetration with a penis was "nasty" or "dirty"? Would their concern for minors (other people's minors!) therefore be justified?
[nichol]:

Yes, please write if slash or not; 1)for people who don't want to read it. 2)for people who do want to read it.

Also it would be MOST helpfull to know the pairing. See above. The most important thing is HAVE FUN!!! After all we do this to enjoy ourselves.

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