Privilege wank

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Privilege wank came out of a June 2009 kerfluffle in bandom over story warnings, the second major battle over this subject to take place within that fandom in two years' time, and then spread into greater media fandom after linking on metafandom and unfunnybusiness. It is also a partial extension of Race Fail 2009 and gender wank in that it shared a number of the same participants--some of whom were criticized this time around for taking a seemingly contradictory stance in their refusing to acknowledge the privilege of those who had not suffered sexual abuse or rape, whereas they had argued vehemently before about privilege in race and gender issues.

Two of the major focal points of Privilege wank were when aukestrel appeared to accuse impertinence of lying about having been sexually assaulted, outraging many[1] and also zvi's postings on the subjects of warnings and privilege before she locked down comments.

Although the events are difficult to summarize neatly as the discussion spread so quickly through numerous communities, branching out into arguments about various types of fic and their authors, on July 1, 2009, lady_ganesh provided this facetious yet concise summary in unfunnybusiness:[2]

1. Someone writes up a big fic and omits a warning.
2. Someone says, 'hey, please warn!'
3. Author warns.
4. Some fuckwit writes a three-comment whining about why warnings are IMPORTANT.
5. Everyone tells fuckwit to stfu as the warning has been given.
6. An asshole, deciding the fuckwit hasn't added enough stupid to the discussion, complains that anyone asking for warnings is stupid, that her friend didn't get treated so gently when she wrote her Surprise Rape story, and BNFs suck.
7. Internet explodes (part 1).
8. Assault survivor writes up interesting and heartbreaking post on exactly how triggers work and why warning for The Big Things is important.
9. Internet explodes (part 2).
10. Amidst the assholery (much of it involving challenging and/or not believing aforementioned assault survivor), a few people make interesting posts about warnings, and the sockpuppet trigger_fence decides to make a list of authors who do not warn.
10a. Trigger_fence includes BDSM as warning-worthy, which makes many people offended.
11. Internet explodes (part 3).


Screencap of nightengale's comments on arsenicjade's story.

In June 2009, a very large warnings kerfluffle broke out across media fandom in response to a bandom story by arsenicjade, "Cello Sonata No. 1 in B Minor 'Naissance de Libertè'" posted on June 17 in bandombigbang.[3] The story contained a dub-con scene, which was not warned for. As the community required warnings in the header, readers assumed there was no content that required warnings, and some readers asked for such a warning to be put in place. The author complied with requests, adding a warning stating "Issues around consent" though she objected to the scene being defined as such. Some readers were still not happy, including nightengale, who wrote a lengthy criticism of the author's actions. Other readers objected to the readers who were asking for warnings, and a widespread reaction and debate on the subject of warnings continued after follow-up postings from megyal (a friend of ficsoreal, who had been the target of the 2008 warnings debate) and okubyo-kitsune.[4],[5] megyal felt there was a disparity in the way ficsoreal was treated as compared to arsenicjade, because arsenicjade was more of a BNF in Bandom (even though ficsoreal refused to add warnings to her story when asked, as compared to arsenicjade).

From this point forward, the argument morphed into Privilege wank‎, with some who had been active participants in Race Fail 2009 making seemingly contradictory statements in their positions on warnings and apparent dismissal, in certain cases, of victims of sexual assault. On June 20, 2009, impertinence made a very detailed post about her experiences with sexual assault and explaining triggers and how they differed tremendously from squicks.[6] While most comments on the post praised her bravery and clarity, aukestrel made a comment which she later deleted where she cast doubt on impertinence's telling of what had happened to her. impertinence reposted the comments to preserve them.[7] aukestrel then made a post in her own journal about a case of Munchausen's by internet, which she then quickly deleted despite denying it had anything to do with her actions regarding impertinence.

Additionally, Zvi made a post on June 22 seemingly comparing having a trigger for non-con and dub-com to having a food allergy, which upset many readers as it appeared to be an effort to derail the conversation, an action she had argued strongly against during Race Fail 2009.[8] On June 24 she froze the comments on the post, stating "I am no longer able to have this discussion in my space"--yet she made several further posts on the subject with comments disabled.[9],[10],[11],[12]

Amidst all of this, a new LiveJournal community, ficsafezone, was created on June 23, where readers could post a link to a story and ask if it might contain content that would trigger them.[13]

On June 24, a sockpuppet formed the LiveJournal account trigger-fence, with the purpose of being a "resource to help assault survivors and others make informed choices when reading fanfiction, as well as to promote the use of clear labels on potentially triggering pieces of fanfiction, and to provide a space for dialog on topics related to safety warnings and labels."[14] An initial post made where authors were asked to comment if they did not use warnings for what were posted as "common triggers".[15] A large discussion followed in the comments of this post, much of it arguing over the wording of the post and the way BDSM, being listed as something that needed to be "warned" for, upset those who considered BDSM as part of their normal, healthy lifestyle. The post was reworded several times. A post made with a list of authors who voluntarily made comments about their not labeling to certain content was locked after those authors began to receive harassment and criticism as a result of their volunteering their info.[16] Discussion (and some anonymous trolling) followed further posts by trigger-fence trying to come up with better labeling for content that may trigger.

Multitudes of postings on the subject followed and were linked to on metafandom. Unfunnybusiness provided a thorough breakdown of the events[17], where many commenters found it difficult to reconcile the statements of some involved individuals, such as zvi and liviapenn, during this as compared to their stances during Race Fail.[18],[19],[20],[21],[22] At the same time, members of fandom who chose not to engage in the argument and said they were growing tired of the whole warnings debate were chastised by others for making such comments.[23],[24]

On June 27, Aukestrel locked down her journal and replaced all public content with an apology and statement that she was getting out of LiveJournal fandom involvement.[25] On July 1, Zvi posted an apology for her involvement in the situation.[26] Discussion of triggers and warnings continued after this, but the bulk of the heated arguments appeared to die down by the beginning of July 2009. A few fans who felt disgruntled with the way the situation went down posted comments about how they would be leaving internet fandom or at least stop posting their stories on-line because of it, not liking the trend toward warnings and fic labeling and preferring the environment of fanzine publishing instead.[27] This included merricat and Melody Clark, who on July 2 posted "My mini-Declaration of Fan Independence", asking others to continue distributing her message as a "meme" (Melody adds: This did NOT include Melody Clark's posting which was made for reasons entirely independent of the metafandom controversy, not that metafandom ever helps.

The Players


Aukestrel accused Impertinence of lying about having been sexually assaulted.

Well, I don't quite know how to say this, but you weren't actually called a liar. According to what I read, two of those times you called yourself a liar because you were put in the unworkable position of having to figure out that pleasing your mother was what your survival depended on. You weren't called a liar when it first came up; you made a choice to survive and retracted your original statement. You went to your mom, she asked you in front of your abuser if you were lying, and then you *understandably* said you were. But she didn't call you a liar until (I assume) *after* the fact according to the timeline you supplied.
Do you see why I am questioning this? You seem to look for the negative in any situation and to paint yourself as more of a victim (if you could be) than you already are. I found mara_snh's insights very helpful on that front.
And as you show in your last paragraph, you know very well where the (false) claim of "privilege" could be said to elide. I'm not saying it *does*. But in the original comment, which was an outstanding use of hyperbole, when the privilege comparison was made, it seemed to me - given the way your bandwagon jumped on one person who disagreed with you in a dehumanising and unsettling fashion - that actually one *could* argue there was a weird kind of reverse privilege obtaining. If one wanted to. Which I do not.
Just like cyatnite, I'm not a troll. I've been around fandom for 10 years. (And I do use warnings and have advocated for them in the past.) But I am one of those very few people in fandom who can follow a logic chain for more than three steps.
The people who are shouting your rights from the treetops and using your pain and abuse to excuse and justify the oppression and verbal abuse of another WOMAN could turn around tomorrow and do the same to you if they disagree with you. And that is WRONG. If you, as a human, demand to be treated with compassion and respect then you have a moral obligation - no matter how much or how often someone disagrees with you - to treat others with compassion and respect. (It is clear - meaning no disrespect - that this behaviour was NOT modeled for you as a child and that it is something you are having to learn.) Allowing, encouraging, and even participating in the disrespect and oppression will not help you and will probably harm you emotionally. So if you cannot deal with people with compassion and respect - including me! - then you get yourself out of the situation. Just go away. But don't harm yourself any further. [28]

Her anti-warning comments really angered some people as aukestrel "is adamant on warnings for pairings she dislikes. She thinks these are of vital importance." [29][30]

As a result of the discussion, between June 28, 2009 and July 1, 2009, aukestrel friendslocked or deleted everything on her LiveJournal. [31][32]


Impertinence condemned those who did not want to warn because their lack of warnings for rape could cause rape victims like herself to be triggered.

On a post by mara-snh, people dismissed Impertinence's comments because of her relative youth. [33]


Oulangi made a post on her LiveJournal which implied that people should not take this seriously because it is over a work of fiction, and "that sharing personal stories of sexual assault was just playing victim olympics, that compiling a resource for people with triggers was blacklisting" [34] She also implied "that people who are angry at attacks and attempts to silence are rape victims are just pretending to believe those things are happening to score points." [35] In the wake of Race Fail 2009, these comments really irked some people because they sound almost exactly like people had been trying to teach people not to do: Fiction is serious and issues like race and gender should not be dismissed just because something is a work of fiction.


Raric was put on a list of authors who are known not to warn for triggers. In response to this, she called out people for violating her privacy and threatened to report the account that did that:

And furthermore, if I find that my name is still on that list when I check back in 24 hours, I'll be reporting it to whoever I can find at LiveJournal as a violation of my rights and privacy.
I'm glad I continued to read out of interest and support or I would not have seen this absolute violation. You want people to care and support victims of abuse, but you don't see that you have just seriously abused and hurt a person who was mostly on your own side.
::shakes head in absolute and utterly profound shock and disgust. I don't even know how to convey how furious and hurt I am. [36]


Telesilla was criticized for this post about how not all rape victims have the same triggers and one person's experiences should be not treated as universal. Some people felt that telesilla was blaming the victim and engaging in the exact same type of behavior that she had criticized others for during Race Fail 2009. [37]

zvi likes tv

Zvi was one of the major players in privilege wank that happened during the wank over warnings. She eventually closed off commenting on her post about warnings and then posted further warnings. An extract of those comments says:

The use of the word "privilege" with the categories "reader" and "writer" doesn't make sense. Privilege is talking about systemic advantages accorded to one group of people over another group of people, where membership in either group is either involuntary, a source of a stable sense of identity, e.g. race, religion, gender, health status, age, class. [38]

This further inflamed people who were mad at her over her remarks about privilege because zvi appeared to be implying that being a rape victim equated to being part of "a group where membership is, by elimination, now "voluntary". " [39]

zvi later locked down threads on her Dreamwidth Studios account to prevent people from commenting. In regards to this, she said: "Please do not talk to me about this issue right now. I can't handle the conversation, and that's why I closed comments on both entries where the statement you quoted was made."

Prior to this, zvi had criticized Elizabeth Bear for taking similar actions in regards to Race Fail 2009. People on unfunnybusiness called zvi out on her hypocrisy. [40]

On July 1, 2009, zvi apologized for her part in the situation. [41][42]

Quotes condemning warnings

The following list was originally compiled by lcsbanana and originally posted here. These are a list of quotes of that condemn warnings and or related to privilege that people were identified as offensive:


  1. One could argue, however, in this discussion of victim "privilege," that the hurt might in fact be the result of dismantling of that privilege. I'm not saying I am arguing that. But in our current culture - in which apparently this victim, and her emotional well-being, is placed above and beyond courtesy, respect, and even common sense - and to abuse other women in fandom because they do not elevate the victim or place her rights above their own - it could be argued that cyatnite is, in fact, dismantling a privilege. [43]
  2. At what point do you not bother to read the story because the warnings and/or summary is taking up more space on the page than the actual story? [44]
  3. The way *women* are reacting to cyatnite for having a different opinion - and expressing it respectfully, unlike 95% of her respondents - is quite unsettling and, frankly, disheartening. Would it be wrong to say I hope that if impertinence has a different opinion from you all next week or next month you'll display the same compassion and empathy toward her that you have toward cyatnite during this discussion? [45]
  4. I suspect that's because you have difficulty recognising respectful disagreement. I also read your correspondence with mara_snh. You seemed determined in that very respectful and reasonable correspondence to wilfully misinterpret and to go out of your way to impute negative motivation to mara_snh. [46]
  5. I don't think they want to think of those who disagree with them as "women." They want to dehumanise and abuse them; they want to take away their "humanity" so that they can feel justified in saying things to them that they would never say to another woman in real life. (At least I hope not.) They want to abuse people for holding the "wrong" opinion, even though they can't really articulate what the "right" opinion is, just that it's compassionate, displays empathy and consideration, and is a recognition that we belong to something larger than ourselves. I have seldom been so dismayed at the actions of fans as I have been in this post, and I've been in fandom for 10 years. I do not know cyatnite (had never run across her before tonight) but I am honestly appalled and even disgusted at the personal attacks she was subjected to for simply having a differing opinion on this subject. One hopes that, should impertinence display a differing opinion with her followers in the next few weeks or months, a similar "compassionate" and "correct" response is not the outcome. [47]
  6. I am saying that, having suffered trauma, the victim is elevated to a privileged rank because of that trauma - the privilege would not exist without the trauma. [48]
  7. Well, I don't quite know how to say this, but you weren't actually called a liar. According to what I read, two of those times you called yourself a liar because you were put in the unworkable position of having to figure out that pleasing your mother was what your survival depended on. You weren't called a liar when it first came up; you made a choice to survive and retracted your original statement. You went to your mom, she asked you in front of your abuser if you were lying, and then you *understandably* said you were. But she didn't call you a liar until (I assume) *after* the fact according to the timeline you supplied. Do you see why I am questioning this? You seem to look for the negative in any situation and to paint yourself as more of a victim (if you could be) than you already are. I found mara_snh's insights very helpful on that front. [49]


  1. I have no real issue with any of these expectations; I think they are all very fine things to attempt to achieve. Still, it's a pretty formidable list of aspirations to lay on hobbyist writers whose reward for all this work is that maybe 1 in 15 of their readers will bother to leave a comment to let them know that their efforts are appreciated.
I guess what I'm saying is, people get het up when writers don't do these things; but how often do people give positive feedback and kudos to the writers who do? Conversely, how many times do readers lavish feedback on a story that fails at the above criteria, because it's rilly hot porn or soooo sweet and cuddly!
If warnings are important enough to complain about, they're important enough to encourage. Want warnings? Then when you see fic with warnings, give some feedback. "I appreciate that you took time to warn for aspects of your story." As we keep hearing from everyone insisting how easy it is to warn for every potential trigger: it only takes five seconds. [50]


  1. You believe I have a moral obligation to put warnings of rape or other trauma on my stories in order to protect a reader's mental state. I say bullshit because I am not responsible for your mental upkeep. [51]
  2. I get resentful with the use of emotional blackmail in order to get me to do what they want even though it goes against my beliefs.[52]
  3. They chose to stop at my story. They chose to begin reading. They chose not to stop reading once it became obvious that a rape was about to happen. Hell, there was enough indication ahead of time it was going to happen. [53]
  4. The reader needs to say to herself "I shouldn't have read that" and then stop reading. It's called taking responsibility for one's actions and acting accordingly.
  5. I view warnings as spoilers. Noncon, rape, or whatever is content and spoiling the story. [54]
  6. Some folks just take fanfiction way too seriously. [55]
  7. "triggery" Sorry, I have a hard time taking that as a warning very seriously. [56]
  8. If reading a story provokes such a response I'm of the opinion that they might need help and all the warnings in the world isn't doing them any favors. You went into painful details about your experience. Your responses to fic that brings that back isn't because of the fic or because of the writer...It's because of you and your trauma. [57]
  9. It's only to the degree that if I went out of my way to intentionally hurt someone with my words then I am responsible. [58]
  10. The names I've been called during this less-than-reasonable discussion reinforces my personal belief that fandom should not be taken seriously at all. That's why it's a hobby I enjoy and this experience won't change that. [59]
  11. So, do you think that NC-17 isn't enough of an indication that there is some material many might find objection? By all rights it should cover subjects like rape or incest. You are saying this is what writers "should" do which is pretty much telling them how to present their work and what content they are obligated to present in order to protect the reader. The reader doesn't need protecting. If reading about a rape is going to provoke such an intense reaction...the reader obviously has problems and needs help beyond warning them of content in a story. I see no one willing to address this. [60]
  12. We know a few war vets who suffer PTSD. They're in treatment and they've been taught how to know when an episode is coming about. They know how to deal with it before it gets away from them. There are methods to this. [61]
  13. That's called life. Life blindsides us all the time no matter the traumas. [62]
  14. It seems like majority of folks here have not a clue on PTSD or the affects of it. I wrote a story based on a graphic rape and the aftermath. PTSD was a big portion of it. The character wasn't protected from bad things that might provoke him. He was given tools to deal with it when it does happen so that he can live as close to a normal of a life as possible. [63]
  15. Don't forget you are the one who opened your soul up for the world to see. [64]
  16. NC-17 covers extremely graphic violence and more...not just explicit sex. It's a rating and the highest one as far as I'm aware of. What's the rating for graphic rape and incest? [65]
  17. I'm just stunned that so many people here have so little understanding of PTSD and all that comes with it. [66]

disarm d

  1. How is BDSM a common trigger as opposed to a squick? [67]


  1. How many people here arguing for the absolute, on-pain-of-DEATH necessity of warnings buy books from the grownup sections of your local bookstore? If you do and you're not picketing outside a publication company demanding a comprehensive system of warning codes to be required printing on the copyright information page of every book in existence, you basically have absolutely no right to throw tantrums about fanfiction authors failing to warn for anything except generic content not suitable for minors. Taking steps against distributing adult material to minors is the law. Anything beyond that is something you, as an adult, need to take personal responsibility for. If you can buy a book from the grownup section of the bookstore and decide to close it and set it aside without suffering deep trauma, you can open a fanfic in the grownup section of the internet and decide to close the window if it bothers you. [68]


  1. If you're that mentally and emotionally fragile, you probably shouldn't be reading fic at all. Or watching television. Or reading regular novels. And for god's sake, you'd better get off the internet right now. [69]
  2. So let me get this straight. The "pro warning" faction wishes to set standards of conduct for all of fandom. I wish to set standards for my personal journal. The "pro warning" faction wants consideration and accommodation for the feelings and emotional needs of abuse survivors. You feel entitled to abuse me in my personal journal because I'm "presumably not easily triggered by things". Do you realize that you're saying it's okay to abuse people if you presume -- in your opinion -- they are strong enough to take it? This is a classic abuser's rationalization. Well done. [70]


  1. In my experience, whatever you do, it is *literally never good enough*. So seriously, unless I can have some strict guidelines, I'm not playing the game. [71]
  2. I really don't understand people who say "seriously, my mental functioning could be affected in a serious and traumatic manner" but then also say "but I should be able to just click on any random fic and *assume* that the author has warned correctly and effectively." I seriously don't mean to be insensitive, but I just don't get it. If there were something in fandom that could make me weep uncontrollably for hours, I wouldn't just go around "assuming" that everyplace on the internet was going to give warnings, especially since I know that quite a lot of people don't. [72]
  3. I'm serious, though: if something hurt me the way most people describe being hurt by their triggers, I would go to any effort to protect myself. Would I resent having to do so? Yes. Would I wish people would make it easier for me? Yes. But would I *understand* that most people are not me and maybe have different priorities and viewpoints (and yes, some people are just careless, or even bastards) and take that extra step to keep myself from being triggered? Again, maybe I just don't get it, it's entirely possible, but that to me is the "realistic" reaction, not "I go around assuming everyone agrees with me even though I know they don't." [73]
  4. If it's common courtesy to warn for non-con, why not adultery? Why not anything? [74]
  5. And yes, you can say "But wouldn't you challenge racism in a private space," but I don't think me killing off a fictional character is the same as going on a racist screed. [75]
  6. If you don't mind being called selfish, thoughtless, lazy, whiny and rude, then you're a better person than I am. I feel like I should inform you, though, that a lot of people *do* mind being called selfish, thoughtless, lazy, whiny and rude, and if you're trying to convince them that they need to go out of their way to be concerned about your personal desires, then you might want to try an argument that's not based on ad hominem attacks to the character of people who aren't behaving exactly as you want them to. [76]
  7. It comes down to what both zvi and I asked amadi: is there, actually, a concrete, actual list of what needs to be warned for because it can be psychologically damaging, and what is just a mild dislike that the person can easily get over? (Including a solid, concrete definition of 'non-con,' 'dub-con', 'issues of consent' and 'rape' so that I'll know exactly how to label, so that no one is surprised by what happens in a story labeled that way?) And who decides? [77]
  8. "In the event of someone saying "you didn't warn for beach balls! how dare you?" to me, I'd say, "I'm very sorry; if it triggered you I would be happy to put up a warning." That way they have an option to say yes." And if they say yes, then everyone in fandom has to warn for beach balls forever, is what you're saying. [78]
  9. Okay, first it was non-con and dub-con, now it's suicide, self-injury, child abuse-- I assume you just mean sexual abuse, but physical and emotional abuse as well? Torture. Character death. Adultery. Partner betrayal. Drug use. People being mean to each other. Sad endings. You don't believe the slippery slope exists. I do. [79]
  10. What Jane Fan expects is not for authors to warn her that a story contains a common trigger and therefore may be potentially dangerous. She expects authors to be able to pre-emptively anticipate her exact trigger, and to say "don't worry, you can still read this fic, it's perfectly safe." I'm comfortable enough with the first expectation, which is why I do use warnings when necessary, and always have. But I'm not sure the second expectation is either fair or realistic. [80]
  11. If none of these options are ever acceptable in the case of an example like the one you chose to describe, where the reader *is already aware* that it might be potentially triggery-- whether that information comes from the author or context or a rec-- then it seems to me like my concern about what people are *actually* expecting from authors, as opposed to what they say they're expecting from authors, is still valid. If it is never a reader's job to seek out more information, then it's logically always the author's job to pre-emptively provide such detailed and complete information that there would never be a fan who would ever have to ask. And if you accept that, then "read at your own risk" warnings or general "dark, angsty / could be disturbing" type warnings (or even "warnings: none," absent a clear and detailed warnings policy) would all be just as unacceptable as entirely refusing to warn, because they still present the reader with those five choices, instead of an absolute promise that the author has anticipated exactly what the reader wants to know. [81]


  1. I keep waiting to get sued over not using warnings on my stories. Because, of course, if someone reads my unwarned story after I put the gun to their head and force them to, it is my fault if they cry, or soil the sofa, or their left knee hurts, or whatever. [82]


  1. Perhaps it's best to note that the lack of a specific warning of the sort you and others advocate might be a good enough reason to just not read that story. How much of a hardship would that be? It would also show sensitivity to the writer who worked hard to write a story filled with surprises, and to readers who enjoy being surprised. Works both ways, you know. [83]
  2. I need to say here that what impertinence is describing in her essay is called hyper-vigilance. It's a defining symptom of PTSD. You can go through life dodging triggers as if they were land mines, or you can use the awareness of this life-altering problem as another, positive kind of trigger: to get a good therapist, or a better one than you've already got (I got lucky on my fifth try), to work on the sources of the problem and to pick up some effective coping strategies in the meantime that don't exacerbate the problem by requiring avoidance. Avoidance is not therapeutic. Asking writers to facilitate it may not be a wise choice. [84]
  3. I also understand that what I'm dealing with here is the siege mentality (not a bad thing, just a thing) of someone in transition from victimization to self-empowerment. I know enough about the dynamics of this phase to know that injecting my opinions about what is or is not therapeutic is of no value. That awareness has to come from within you or you will never trust it, and trust is vital. [85]
  4. There are equally compelling life experiences behind both our arguments. Let's respect that. [86]
  5. Discussions about warnings seem to arise perennially in many fandoms and they can become very heated, based on individual fans' experiences. I related mine very briefly. Beyond wrecking the thrill of presenting my first-ever story to a community of what I considered to be friends, it caused me to view the whole matter of warnings as a ticking time bomb. [87]
  6. If you bother to look for those posts (they're around here somewhere, really!), you'll see that I am your advocate, not your adversary. Haven't women made ugly assumptions about each other for too long? Abusers take advantage of that to pit us against each other so we can't bond for our common well-being. I'm not playing that game, sister. [88]
  7. I'm wondering if what we're seeing here is a form of free-floating rage. It's not uncommon for survivors of trauma to manifest this. They've never been able to confront their abuser and direct their anger toward him or her. They may also experience self-hatred; it may not be appropriate, but many victims of rape, especially, have been socially conditioned to accept some level of responsibility for the horrible thing that happened to them, and women carrying that awful baggage around with them might well hate themselves for it on some level. All this externalization of blame seems to me a warping of the otherwise healthy process of letting go of any sense that they brought the abuse on themselves. There's some pretty serious pathology going on here on a community-wide scale. I wish I understood more about it, or that I had access to the therapist I can no longer afford, to get a better handle on it. [89]
  8. ps: Does it strike anyone but me as kind of odd that rape survivors would get off on RPS, which is, like, one of the most invasive and disrespectful things you can do to a celebrity without actually stalking them in person? [90]
  9. It's just a dialog between two sides of the 'must stories have warnings' dialog. This time the sides were taken, respectively, by professional victims and irritated writers [91]
  10. I swear, there is nothing more vicious than professional victims [92]


  1. Like one of my friends says: "I've had cancer, but I know very little about the actual disease. Also, omg! Nobody should ever write a cancer fic without warning for cancer because what if it TRIGGERS ME???? Or, like, a fic with strokes!!! I MIGHT STROKE AGAIN. IT WOULD BE TRAGIC." Yeah, it may be harsh, but it's the truth. [93]
  2. People have squicks. But if there was a warning for everything or if people jumped all over writers for every thing they write, nothing would ever get written, for fear of the "readers" wrath. If you have a trigger and it wasn't warned for, again, either x-out, back-out or PM the author with your concerns. There is no need to go on a fucking warpath, okay? And just because you have a trigger, doesn't make you an expert on how an issue should or should not be addressed. [94]


  1. My/yours/hers personal history with rape/abuse (or lack there of) are no one's fucking business and are not an ante chip. And seriously, a giant fuck you to everyone engaging in victim olympics and or conflating disagreeing with aspects of an argument with blaming the victim. [95]
  2. Possibly because some of the arguments made do sound naive. Some of us, myself included, have been around the block more times than you. God knows, I get the fannish equivilent of "Gerroffa my Lawn" from fannish Grannies from time to time. I deal. Is it relevant here? Well, yes, because a lot of the aspects of this conversation have come up before. Which isn't dismissing you because we're cynical and blasé, it's wariness of where this could go and frustration that we have to do this again. [96]


  1. I don't warn of potential triggers because there are so many triggers that I can't cover all of them, and I could easily miss one. [97]
  2. Why do I have to blow the whole effect to protect a few readers? What about protecting my right as the writer? [98]
  3. And furthermore, if I find that my name is still on that list when I check back in 24 hours, I'll be reporting it to whoever I can find at LiveJournal as a violation of my rights and privacy.
I'm glad I continued to read out of interest and support or I would not have seen this absolute violation. You want people to care and support victims of abuse, but you don't see that you have just seriously abused and hurt a person who was mostly on your own side.
::shakes head in absolute and utterly profound shock and disgust. I don't even know how to convey how furious and hurt I am. [99]


  1. Well, we're only just now getting around to admitting that maybe there might be some stuff in fannish source that makes it hard on fans of color; how in the world could we be expected to take an interest in another group that is not some subset of middle-class white women at the same time? [100]


  1. The curious thing is that, for a long time, I did have a trigger thing. Specifically, one where I couldn't look at a particular shade of reddish orange without feeling nauseous and ready to heave (it's... complicated. I'll explain it to you sometime if you're really interested). Should people warn in communities if a link back their journal goes to a layout that features colors that may cause me to lose my lunch? [101]


  1. I have my own triggers, although they mostly center around bad writing, horrible cliches, and the phrase "plump ass." I also have control of the back button. Back in the day I tended to warn or at least provide a ratings code, because I sometimes read fic over lunch at work, and do not want anything NSFW. Some authors who do not warn, I do not read at work, simple as that. [102]
  2. As I write this, I realize that someone could make the analogy to physical access, such as ADA requirements. I reject that argument. The person has access to the fic, just like a church building has to be wheel-chair accessible, but no one is forcing me to go to church, and it would be my own damn fault if I went and was offended at the homophobia. [103]
  3. True, but in the words of Spider Jerusalem, "So what?" I am not callous to the point, but I am a believer in taking some level of responsibility for yourself. As others have mentioned, no one has to read anything, and if someone is worried, they should ask. In my own case, I refuse victimhood. I find it a much healthier road, long term, than the easy route of asking to be catered to. [104]


  1. 2) What are we supposed to warn for, anyway? No one seems to be able to agree, although some people go so far as to say "anything people say they're triggered by." Sure, rape, graphic violence, and child abuse seem pretty much universal... but there's still a lot of room for what those mean to different audiences. Do I have to warn for violence if I have Clone-Jack beat Ba'al's head in with a zat and mention his arms are bloody afterwards, or do I have to melt poor Spencer's eyes to be worthy of a warning? Which leads to.... [105]


  1. *You* feel. They don't. The proper course is not to stomp around demanding that they feel the same as you and behave as you want, but to *not read their stuff*. It may come as a shock to you, but not all fanfiction writers write to be read by as many people as possible; some write because thy have a story that they want to write, and people can read it or not. Not all writers *want* you as an audience; some may want people who are willing to go in unspoiled and cope with anything they find. And that's their right. [106]
  2. I am not rude or cruel or discourteous if I don't shape my life and work to your liking. [107]
  3. "Silence" you? It's my journal. My space. I can "silence" whoever I like; you have no right to occupy *my* space. You have your own journal, where you can shout to the rooftops. I silence you no more than you would silence me by requiring me not to post anything triggery in your journal. [108]
  4. Except *you* don't get to define what is "perpetrating a rape culture" in *my* journal. I decide it. In my case, it's not cringing in fear and requiring warning less my soul be damage. In fact, that pisses me off. [109]


  1. The very use of the word waring feels like a judgment to those of us in the lifestyle. Why can't people understand that asking us to participate in pathologizing our own sexuality is wrong? Would you warn for gay sex if someone told you it was a trigger? If a person lists BDSM or kinks in their header under a word other than "warning" that should be sufficient. [110]


  1. Somewhere along the line in the last few years some parts of fandom seem to have lost sight of the First Amendment right to freedom of speech -- which does not only guard your right to free expression but the right to free expression of every other person whose views disagree with you, including those who radically disagree with you. This is why, for example, the Nazi-sympathizer march through Skokie, IL, was protected by the First Amendment from the Holocaust survivors who wanted it not to happen. Everyone's rights are protected, or nobody's are. And that includes my absolute right to write and post whatever fanfic I wish, and your absolute right not to read it. [111]
  2. The author's job is to write the story, not to cater to the reader's desires, whims, allergies, nightmares, phobias and difficulties. The author's job is to write the story in the best way she can, to do the best that is possible by the characters and the plot and the setting. The fanfic author's job is to do all of this, post the story and provide basic information on it: fandom, characters/pairing, length of story, nsfw or not, brief description of slash/het/darkfic/kinks. [112]
  3. It's not required of fanfic authors that they must cater to readers' preferences. It is up to readers to decide whether or not to read a particular author's stories. Readers are free to browse rec lists before reading, in the same way that offline readers track down the NY Times' book reviews for new publications, or talk with friends who read more widely online. It still comes down to making a personal choice and accepting that some choices are wise and some are not. If you don't think you have enough information, go read something else. Your not reading my writing will not bother me; millions of people haven't read what I've written for decades, online and off, and I'm still here. [113]


  1. I don't quite see how this is different than if one is, say, allergic to citrus. [114]
  2. Why are you acting as if everyone has already agreed with your position, when acting in that way puts you in danger? [115]
  3. But, I think most worrying of all is the et cetera they slip on the end there. What the heck is contained in that et cetera? How does anyone learn what's contained in the et cetera? Who controls the et cetera list? [116]
  4. And even when people say, "Well, just warn for the major triggers," there's disagreement on what the major triggers are. I'm fine with complying with a community's specific rules, but I don't want to use warnings but not include this other thing that everyone knows should be warned for, and then get attacked for not including that, since I gave the false assurance that I do warnings. [117]
  5. "Do you disagree that if someone tells you they have been triggered, you should apologize and then add a warning?" If it is a story that I have posted to my own journal or webspace, yes, I disagree. If it is one that I have posted to a community or archive where warnings are required, then, no, I should apologize and add a warning. [118]

Quotes supporting warnings


  1. And no, it does not have anything to do with mental strength. As previously stated, triggers are unpredictable. [...] Trying to pin it down to strength is, to me, insulting and shaming. It implies that survivors are expected, even required, to be strong in a way that requires completely getting over a horrible event: it minimizes it to something that can easily be gotten over. [119]


  1. I've noticed how people like Impertinence, and others asking for basic trigger warnings, tend to have no objection to letting anonymice comment, and have even let the vilest of insinuations remain in their journal. And that was on a post about her long term physical and sexual assault, where people were telling her to her face that she hadn't gone through what she had. And here you are, (presumably) not easily triggered by things and disabling anonymous comments because they disagreed with you? I don't think it's Impertinence and co. who are 'too sensitive' for this. In fact, I recommend banning yourself from the internet permanently for being an unredeemed arsehole. [120]

Archive responses

An Archive of Our Own

In response to privilege wank in June 2009, where several of the Organization for Transformative Works supporters were getting mobbed for implying that being raped made you part of a privileged class and readers were unduly making excessive demands of writers to warn for rape, the archive announced on metafandom that An Archive of Our Own created a system by which stories archived there must have warnings or a warning that the author won't be providing warnings. [121] This was viewed by some corners of fandom as trivializing the situation and using privilege wank for traffic and attention.

Race Fail 2009 vs. Privilege wank

There have been many comparisons between people's actions and positions during Race Fail 2009 and privilege wank. misswindy offers an explanation as to how why there appears to be cognitive dissonance in terms of their behavior:

... it belies bad personal boundaries to demand that people talk and think about deeply personal things in impersonal, analytic ways. This is why the same rhetoric that was so meticulously constructed [by these people] in RaceFail has failed its creators in warning:wank. They put the academia first (slippery slope! my journal! internet psychoanalysis!), and the people with actual human feelings a distant second.
This sorta kinda flew during RaceFail because a) it was perceived to lend credibility and strength to POC positivity because it Sounded Rilly Smart (lots of unexamined -isms going on there IMHO) and b) honestly, academia is sometimes helpful when parsing information about whole societies and its various group dynamics. But it fails like a failed failing thing when someone is telling you about something that's horribly painful to them and needing you to listen and understand. In that context, an academic approach is a [personal] rejection. [122]


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