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Least Expected: A Journey of Reconstruction

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Thoughts on ratings [Apr. 4th, 2005|10:08 pm]
Least Expected: A Journey of Reconstruction


One of the first things that needs to be worked out when setting up the archive again is how to rate the stories. With recent kerfluffles over how stories should be rated, and cease-and-desist letters sent (was that genuine, does anyone know?) from the MPAA, I'm /pondering/ scrapping the MPAA ratings system in favor of...something else.


It does add more work, as any stories would have to be recategorized as well as resubmitted to the archive, and I do know that many many people just want to slap one rating on their finished story and not have to worry about differing ratings systems for different archives.

So. Thoughts? Would you prefer to keep the MPAA ratings system? It's legally unenforceable, if that letter was real, and it's quite simple, and it's what people are used to.

On the other hand, it's not really terribly specific, and stories are mis-rated all the time because people don't know what they're doing. (Rating a story NC-17 just because it has slash in it is one of my pet peeves.) It doesn't make any distinction between a rating for explicit sex and a rating for explicit violence.

So, I don't know. Ideas?

[User Picture]From: slipperieslope
2005-04-04 09:25 pm (UTC)
Back during the MPAA hoax aina_baggins was working on a new system that I actually thought was better for the written word. The link is here:

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[User Picture]From: starbrow
2005-04-08 07:33 pm (UTC)
I like this, a lot.
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[User Picture]From: wibbble
2005-04-04 10:55 pm (UTC)
It's worth noting that the way the code is designed at the moment the rating would be supplemented with a 'reason' - so you could have 'NC17 for scenes of violence' or whatever.

Personally, I think we should use the BBFC ratings, but then, I would.
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[User Picture]From: lilithlotr
2005-04-05 01:52 am (UTC)
It would be more work to change, but I really hate the MPAA system and all it stands for, and it never applied to fiction anyway.

Why not do away with arbitrary ratings and use specific warnings?
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[User Picture]From: wibbble
2005-04-05 04:17 am (UTC)
> Why not do away with arbitrary ratings and use specific warnings?

Because it's much, much harder to get a simple list of stories at the level you want to read, that way.

If you don't want to read stories where it all gets a bit nasty, then it's much easier to pick 'PG' - or whatever general rating - than it is to tick/untick fifty different boxes for rape, murder, scat, anal sex without lube, incest, using swords as dildos, whatever.

Specific warnings are good in the context of a mailing list, where you come across each story sequentially as they're posted, but less good (by themselves, anyway) in the context of an archive, where people are searching to find something.
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[User Picture]From: heartofslash
2005-04-05 03:07 am (UTC)
I tend to have a better safe than sorry approach to ratings - mostly I think "would i let my 12-year old read this?" and "Would I want my 15 year old read this?" This is remarkably easy for me to do, since I happen to have 12 and 15 year olds...

Don't know how much help this is, but I went into a fair bit of detail explaining the ratings on my site.this is my long ratings guide. Believe it or not, this is the short version, using the movie analogy (replace 'see' with 'read':

If it’s rated G you can take the kids to see it.

If it’s rated PG you can take the kids but you’ll probably have to answer a few questions after the credits roll.

If it’s rated PG-13 it’s not for squeamish youngsters, so don’t take them to see it if it’s likely to be too sexy or violent or disturbing or vulgar or plain grown-up.

If it’s rated PG-15, leave the younger kids at home.
If it’s rated R there’s going to be sex happening, but not under bright lights, and there will be swearing of all kinds,
and there could be violence, but no overly-spurting blood or entrails.

And if it’s rated NC-17, not only will sex occur, but you will see the actual cock penetrating the actual arsehole, and there will be loads of sound effects to boot, and there may be things you’ve never done - or even thought of doing - going on, involving body parts or props you might not find erotic under ordinary circumstances, or people in situations that, in the very least, are highly charged, and at the extremes make your head explode from the overwhelming sex-ness of it all. Or something to that effect.
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[User Picture]From: wibbble
2005-04-05 04:20 am (UTC)
Well, the question was never if ratings are going to be used or not - it's if we should use the MPAA system or not.

Personally, I think it's very unwise to overload additional meaning onto an existing system. We can't redefine what the MPAA ratings mean - if we're going to use them, we have to use the existing meanings, since people will assume those meanings anyway.

If we want to define a new and writing- (or even slash-) specific system, it should use new terminology, much like the system that slipperieslope linked to above.
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[User Picture]From: heartofslash
2005-04-15 12:16 am (UTC)
I never suggested that there not be a system. I think you have me confused with another poster. And no one is being told to use the system I mentioned, or to use the terminology I mentioned. Members were asked for options, I offered one. My rating system uses the MPAA names for the categories because they are familiar to most people, and because a lot of the stories on my site come pre-rated, by the authors usually, in accordance to the ratings systems used at a plethora of Yahoo groups, web sites, fanfiction archives etc etc.

My system is, actually, slash-specific, because it does not distinguish between slash and het at all. A kiss between two men is rated the same as a kiss between a man and a woman. It has very little to do with the actual MPAA system. It is an interpretation that places emphasis on explicitness of the events rather than the acts themselves.
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[User Picture]From: wibbble
2005-04-15 12:31 am (UTC)
Yeah, sorry, I'm not sure where I got that from your original comment. I must not have been paying attention. :o)

My main problem with the system that you're describing is that it's using existing terminology. Even with new definitions that, as you correctly point out, mean it has little to do with the MPAA system, everyone seeing it will assume that it /is/ the MPAA system, and won't bother to read the explanation since they think they already know it.

If the terminology from the MPAA system is going to be used, it should be used according to the MPAA definitions, otherwise other terminology is a better choice. In this case the terms being familiar is actually a /bad/ reason for picking them. :o)
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[User Picture]From: heartofslash
2005-04-16 02:20 am (UTC)
Yeah, I'm not big on using the MPAA terms either, but when stories come to me already rated, it is easier to leave them like that. With this whole issue in mind, I've come up with a new rating system for the sites I'm rebuilding right now. It has a numerical component - you could use whatever you wanted for the numbers. For my Pirate Way site I'm using skulls, for Heart of Slash I'll use little hearts.

- Nothing that wouldn’t happen out in the open in everyday life
- Holding hands, kissing, being physically friendly
- No violence, no one gets badly injured, no death
- Things you might not do right in front of the kids
- Heavy smooching and petting
- Masturbation without reference to more explicit acts
- Minor violence or accidental injuries
- Profane, vulgar or insulting language
- Death by natural causes or unnatural death but not described in detail
- Things you wouldn’t do in front of someone unless you were doing them together, or being paid (and paid well)
- Sex - manual, oral, penetration with a penis or suitable penis substitute
- Masturbation while thinking of explicit acts
- Lots of talking about the above sorts of things
- Violence resulting in serious injury, lots of blood etc
- Mention of rape or non-consensual actions
- Nothing so detailed it makes you go “eek” or “I can’t believe she actually wrote that!”
- Close up view of the above acts, in anatomical detail
- Absolutely nothing left to the imagination
- Exchange of body fluids (described in detail)
- Explicit descriptions of violence
- Violence resulting in death
- Death of a main character

And I have four skulls with two of them coloured in red for
- Kink. This isn’t any more explicit or extreme than anything in the four-skull category, but it includes some element of kink or unusual sexual behaviour that could squick some, although I like to hope my readers are open-minded.
- Threesomes, foursomes and moresomes
- Bondage, spanking, power-play, sub/dom, humiliation, rough stuff
- Foot-sex, peeing for sexual pleasure and fetishes
- Body modification (sexual or not, as this one tends to squick some people in even the most innocuous circumstances)
- Fun, happy, consensual kinkiness for the mutual gratification of all involved
- All kink!fic is accompanied by a more specific warning

This isn't the final draft - I'm sure I'll be tweaking it as I load up the 100 plus chapters of The Pirate Way - but it's a reasonably detailed system that rates things according to the privateness of sexual activity and the upsettingness of violence.

This system is completely slash - there is no distinction between m/m, f/f and m/f.

(You'll notice I don't include a rating for nonconsensual acts/rape. That's because I don't write those as I don't consider them entertaining, and I don't accept stories containing them on my site - I would be totally opposed to putting rape in with the kink, as it's not a legit sexual practice in my book, and it's addition would imply there is something wrong with kink - I might even suggest a separate rating for noncon.)
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[User Picture]From: vulgarweed
2005-04-05 08:18 am (UTC)
Using movie ratings to apply to text has always been a pet peeve of mine: after all, books don't come with ratings of any kind so you don't get any nifty forewarnings at all of graphic sex or violence (much less spoileriffic notices in advance of which couples get together). And I've never seen anybody carded for anything at Borders or Barnes & Noble, including outright porn (in local big chain shops, they're right next to Sexuality in the Psychology section).

But there are lots of good practical reasons why it makes sense to do so for fanfic on the Internet, and it's a nice convenience for readers looking for a particular thing.

I don't find the MPAA ratings all that useful, especially where the R/NC-17 divide is drawn; I frankly have no clue, and I don't think I'm the only writer who has no clue, much less reader. (And the political/commercial reasons for the NC-17 rating in the movie biz are no less arbitrary). I would prefer something more maybe more like video games are rated: E for everybody (no disturbing violence, only kissing for sexuality, etc.), T for Teen, M for Mature, or something to that effect.

Some people actually rate anything with any slash in it NC-17? Gyaah, ick, bigoted much? (And how disappointing for readers looking for teh pr0n and finding only a sweet kiss and declaration of love!) I rate slash and het by the same blurry standard, depending on level of prurient detail.
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[User Picture]From: starbrow
2005-04-08 07:35 pm (UTC)
I'm strongly considering aina_baggins' system, above, which comes with very nice examples, and is simple to follow.
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[User Picture]From: blackbird_song
2005-06-04 11:48 pm (UTC)
Just stumbled onto this, and would like to toss in another vote for aina_baggins's system, if it's not too late. I've switched my fics to it, and would be happy to help with that task in this community, if it still needs doing. (I've been living under a bit of a large rock, lately...)

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