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Miss Shad

Hello ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to "Post Dealing With The Ratings Issue #71,519!" :P

But in this particular post I want to touch on a somewhat different issue concerning ratings. I'm sure that there are instances where much of the explicit sex found in some fics here can go over a younger reader's head (case in point, my first experience with "Rule 34" came through this site when I was a younger teen via a femmeslash lemon, and the descriptions of the, ahem..."acts" left me scratching my head at times...I think someone else brought this matter up in a different thread). But what about certain complex emotional issues, say some things related to relationships and family? This sort of thing is kind of my specialty at the moment, and the issues are things I know I would have had little to no understanding of when I was younger. I rate such stories T by default, but is there ever an instance where M is more appropriate maturity-wise?

6/7/2012 . Edited 6/7/2012 #1
LMRaven

I'd have to see if it causes you to pause and question, error on the side of caution and rate it at an "M". Even if not sexually explicit or violent, certain sensitive topics are not meant for young eyes.

6/7/2012 #2
LMRaven

I should clarify by adding topics that may include cutting, eating disorders, molestation, suicide and depression, etc...

6/7/2012 #3
The Lauderdale

Yes, and that is why there are children's picture books on subjects like reproduction, death and molestation. ;)

It isn't the "what" of the subject matter, it is the "how" of its written treatment.

6/7/2012 #4
Miss Shad

If it helps anyone, here's an example of what I mean:

The mother of one of my protagonists was head over heels in love with this one guy whom her dad and brother didn't like. The guy gets her pregnant, and she assumes he is going to marry her; in her mind if he winds up marrying her and caring for the kid her dad and brother will see he's a good guy and shut up about him. Alas, the guy pretty much just abandons her, but she believes he'll have a change of heart and return. Years pass, and her son wonders all his life where his father is (he's not spoken of in the household often, and when he asks about him the answers are vague). Finally when he asks his mother to finally tell him the whole truth, he discovers that she has never truly gotten over his father, and still clings to her fantasy of his great return. He becomes very disappointed with her for never moving on, bad enough to cause somewhat of a strain in their relationship. And when his friend similarly refuses to let go of a certain woman in his life, things become even worse.

Now I don't necessarily think this is inappropriate for younger readers per se (though the matter of the premarital sex may be up for debate), but I don't know if they could appreciate/grasp it fully. The only reason I would rate this M would be in the hopes of attracting a more adult mindset, but I don't know how much of a difference it would really make, or if it's truly warranted.

6/7/2012 #5
Canisse

The M rating wouldn't help attracting more readers of whatever age, because the standard search results won't show M-rated stories. You can get them if you specifically ask for them, but people who don't know about that won't.

6/7/2012 #6
cathrl

If you have an adult protagonist with an adult outlook on life and your plot is based around adult issues, I'd suspect that's M.

That said, rating is not the same as target audience. What do you think the rating of "Lord of the Rings" would be? It's certainly not M. It's probably a low T. No way the target audience is 13 year olds (though plenty of people that young and younger have read it). It's aimed at adults.

The only reason I would rate this M would be in the hopes of attracting a more adult mindset

That's going to cut both ways. I've seen a lot of people going on about how M stories are so much better, so much mature, and so on. It's my experience that M stories are often written, aimed at, and read by kids who think using that letter magically makes them more mature. Stories aimed at a more mature audience in my fandoms are almost without exception not rated M, because they explore adult issues like trust and responsibility and betrayal which don't trigger a high rating. It's the less mature writers who make everything about sex.

Your mileage may vary, of course. If you're writing romance, then the rating probably ties in quite closely to the target audience.

6/8/2012 #7
Miss Shad

That's going to cut both ways. I've seen a lot of people going on about how M stories are so much better, so much mature, and so on. It's my experience that M stories are often written, aimed at, and read by kids who think using that letter magically makes them more mature. Stories aimed at a more mature audience in my fandoms are almost without exception not rated M, because they explore adult issues like trust and responsibility and betrayal which don't trigger a high rating. It's the less mature writers who make everything about sex. Your mileage may vary, of course. If you're writing romance, then the rating probably ties in quite closely to the target audience.

You're spot on about the less mature writers, and there are certainly plenty of them in my fandom. I'm not of the "M = more mature story" mindset, but I also believe the M rating isn't just there for sexual/violent content alone.

And yes, this story has romance in it, but not enough to qualify it as part of the romance genre. It's more gen than anything.

6/8/2012 . Edited 6/8/2012 #8
Corinne Tate

I write primarily M rated stories. What's funny, is it's the sex that makes them rated M, but the maturity is found all throughout the story, the sex just happens to be a part of it. I've written of divorce, custody issues, grief, cheating, aging, r***, abuse, lying, job insecurity, financial crisis, suicide, assault, and setting curfew and bedtime for the teens in the story. I write adult stuff, and I don't ramp it up or tone it down when the lights are off. It's consistently adult across the board. I put it under the M rating for that reason.

I've thought about what I'd do if my stories are targeted for deletion. I know some plan to rework their stories to post them here again. But I don't think that would work for me. There's a reason I don't fade to black during sex, and it's not because I want my readers to see the hook-up. It's because there are things that get revealed during intimate moments, that don't happen in other situations. The shields come down and emotions are raw and vulnerable. I write these things into my story, and taking out the sex would mean taking out some of the emotion and connections formed as well. So, if my stories get deleted during the purge or for any other reason, they won't be coming back.

6/8/2012 #9
Miss Shad

This story doesn't have any sex at the moment, and I don't plan on adding any.

I guess if I'm understanding you correctly, Corinne: you're saying that if it doesn't have any sex it doesn't need to be M, no matter how adult other matters in it may be?

6/8/2012 . Edited 6/8/2012 #10
Corinne Tate

I'm not sure how the ratings work for the site, but I had to come up with what worked for me. If you don't have sex or violence in your story, I'd go ahead and rate it T, as that seems to be the sticking point for most. I'm more comfortable with M, as I've had several reviewers tell me they only read M rated stories because there are not enough good T rated stories. You might want to take this with a grain of salt, as I'm writing in a romance fandom.

I've heard of others who read M with the expectation of seeing intimate scenes. I've heard some of the forum writers have actually been flamed by readers who read their stories and the characters did not get busy.

Personally, I think a well written story, using the rating as a guide, is very unlikely to be removed. I may not be one of the sites top authors, but I know I'm not in the bottom one percent. If someone reports my work, it's not likely going to be because they read twenty chapters of the story and discovered my sex scenes cross the line. It would be more likely they didn't like my opinions on the forum or some personal issue with me.

6/8/2012 #11
Miss Shad

I'm really not afraid of anything getting removed, I just don't know if my work is attracting the kind of readership it deserves.

What does anyone here know about AFF? Is that place mostly for smut or are there some non-smut but still "mature" works there? Would I be better off there in any way?

6/8/2012 . Edited 6/8/2012 #12
cathrl

if it doesn't have any sex it doesn't need to be M, no matter how adult other matters in it may be?

No, that's not true. It's normally the case, but not always. I've seen stories which are (genuinely) M rated for horror and violence. Over on my fandom's site, we have one story which is MA rated despite zero sexual content. It involves detailed torture and very serious injury.

6/9/2012 #13
Miss Shad

No violence (or at least no heavy violence) or horror in my work either. Guess I should just stick with T?

(I think this is one of several instances where AO3 has an advantage over FFN, as they have an option to leave stories unrated)

6/9/2012 . Edited 6/9/2012 #14
Canisse

I've seen a story rated M just for swearwords, although I hope it was excessive. I mean, there are litterally no dark theme, absolutely nothing that would be more than K, except for the swearwords. And from what I've heard about movies in the USA, having swearwords can sometimes make the rating become a R, so according to this, the author was probably correct in their choice of rating. Weird, huh?

6/9/2012 #15
Mrsbonnieful

I know of a story that has I*** and Slash in the summary. The author rated it "K". I wrote her and her reply was that the guidelines don't say anything about I*** and Slash needing a "T" or "M" rating. She's 15. This is a Sound of Music story.

Am I totally wrong?

6/19/2012 #16
The Lauderdale

I found the story you are talking about, and so far - it's K. Shocking, I know, but nothing's happened yet, unless blushing warrants a K plus.

6/19/2012 #17
Mrsbonnieful

Thank you. So the words in the summary don't matter? I just hope the story goes away; meaning the author doesn't write any more chapters.

6/19/2012 #18
The Lauderdale

It's an interesting question. We're supposed to rate stories based on their content, and can rate proactively, based on the content we know is coming - but that latter is up to the author's discretion. Example - I had a story that became M rated in later chapters: I rated it T initially because the first four chapters were T and I wanted the story to have maximum exposure until I actually had to make it M.

So far as the words in the summary: "Entry title and summary must be rated K for all audience." Does the word "i***" or its diminutives invalidate story guidelines about summaries being K for all audiences? My leaning would be that it is a clinical word (ie. objective, analytical); also that removing it (in those instances where it is used in a story summary) is likely to cause more problems than keeping it, due to people complaining that they weren't warned in the summary.

For what it's worth, if I was the author I would just have rated this T to begin with, but I think (s)he's within guidelines at present.

6/19/2012 . Edited 6/19/2012 #19
cathrl

I think she's flirting with the admins having a bad day and deleting it, to be honest. The concept of i*** is intrinsically not K because it is about a sexual relationship. I guess you can argue that on its own it's just a word which an 8 year old wouldn't understand...but what's the point? The moment there's any i*** at all in the story, that's not K either. Similarly with slash. If there happen to be two men living together in the story, sure that's K...but then why put slash in the summary?

If her story contains anything worth listing as "i*** and slash" in the summary, it's not K. If it doesn't, why bother putting them in the summary?

6/19/2012 #20
JadedPhoenixBurning

I have one better for you. A K-rated story that has a School Shooting and an execution thug style in the FIRST chapter. It was in great need of editing for other reasons and contacted the author, helped them edit some, and pointed out that the subject matter alone warranted a higher rating. Not to mention the way the execution was graphically written. It was taken down until she and her co-writer could talk. There had been 4 chapters posted and no mention of the canon setting or characters and I had suggested that perhaps (in that fandom at least) she should go in and try to add them in some way since in that fandom no canon means no readers. But really K for a school shooting and execution? Even if it was poorly written.

6/19/2012 . Edited 6/19/2012 #21
The Lauderdale

If her story contains anything worth listing as "i*** and slash" in the summary, it's not K. If it doesn't, why bother putting them in the summary?

I disagree on the "slash is automatically a higher rating" for reasons I've given elsewhere, including the mutable definition of "slash." I'm still wondering, though, about whether words like "i***" (or "r***," or "cutting," or "abuse," etc.) could be construed as making an actual story summary higher than K.

6/19/2012 #22
cathrl

No, you misunderstand me. I don't think slash is automatically a higher rating. I think anything worth labelling as slash is bound to be a higher rating. If it isn't a higher rating I don't think it needs the label either. Her story so far isn't slash or i***.

(I have an obvious gay relationship in one of my stories, un-warned-for, un-rated-for. They're buying a TV. I think it matters that background characters aren't always het and that readers, especially young readers who may have lived fairly sheltered lives, learn that gay people don't come with labels and are just people.)

I'm still wondering, though, about whether words like "i***" (or "r***," or "cutting," or "abuse," etc.) could be construed as making an actual story summary higher than K.

I'm wondering that too. I mean, technically, would even saying something like "adult themes" render a summary not K? It's difficult. I'm looking down my own summary list, and I have phrases like "The war's continuing" and "medical problems" and "mysterious illness" and "a disastrous attack" and "defected" and "died". They're not words I'd use in a conversation with someone else's 5 year old. But that is what the K rating requires.

6/19/2012 #23
Corinne Tate

I really think the site rules are silly where the summary is concerned. Not meaning to start up that whole argument again, but the site is for 13 and up. I imagine they would have made the rating T, but T allows for some light profanity, and they probably wanted to discourage that in a summary anyone could read. I can understand limiting language and descriptions in the summary, but when you're talking themes, you really run the risk of forcing a summary to be so generic it won't say anything about the story.

As far as a summary mentioning slash and i***, but the story is rated K. If I were the mod, I'd get rid of it, just because the potential is there for her to upload a truly offensive chapter, and it might fall into the lap of the youngest of readers, already reading along. It's too late to undo any damage once its done; I'd err on the side of caution. I'd also take into account that the fandom is The Sound of Music, a G rated show, if I remember correctly. If there is any sexuality in it at all, she should change the rating. If someone has brought this up to her already, then she's being a bit of a stubborn idiot for not changing it. I wonder, if it gets deleted, will she be one of those in here whining about how she didn't get any warning?

6/19/2012 #24
Mrsbonnieful

I don't think they monitor SOM stories. There are others very similar. One author had a "T" story and then a very detailed sexual encounter. Another had a "K" and talked about slave trade, Maria was bought as a slave for the Captain and also talked about domestic violence.

6/19/2012 #25
Corinne Tate

Ya know, even if those things were rated correctly, there's just something wrong with that kind of thinking and The Sound of Music. I think when some people "unleash their imaginations," maybe they should at least keep it fenced in the yard! (grin)

I've written more than my share of M, and even MA, but I hope I've at least aimed it at the right audience. If I were to write an M rated story for SOM, I imagine it might have something to do with war, or losing a spouse, or life as a nun, but I don't think slavery would enter into it -- or i*** either.

It must just make you want to scratch your head, or pull out your hair to find stuff like that on a beloved classic.

6/19/2012 #26
cathrl

They don't monitor any sections as far as I'm aware. They rely on reports from users.

6/19/2012 #27
The Lauderdale

(I have an obvious gay relationship in one of my stories, un-warned-for, un-rated-for. They're buying a TV. I think it matters that background characters aren't always het and that readers, especially young readers who may have lived fairly sheltered lives, learn that gay people don't come with labels and are just people.)

I think it goes to the mutability of the term "slash" though, that some people who use the slash label would apply it to "two men buy a TV together" if they were writing it as a slice of life story about a relationship. That's because they aren't restricting "slash" to stories with sex acts but will apply it to fanfiction about same-sex relationships, or even solitary feelings, in general.

That's a very liberal definition of slash, of course. Another term I've seen in those instances is "slashy."

No argument with your latter point. I'd say "I don't label for slash in my stories at all," but that doesn't mean much coming from me as I only have one story that might qualify, and the "pairing" is just one of several subplots.

6/20/2012 #28
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