While we have a long-standing policy that it's OK to ask about adult topics here - everything from sex to rape to bestiality - there have also been quite a number of questions in recent years which have stirred up controversy and disagreement within the community as to how they should be handled. Even mods exercising their discretion to close or delete such questions has often been met with resistance. For example:

Mod-deletion of such questions isn't a new thing: e.g. see What's the stamina of Wolverine on bed? from 2015, although in that case the community seemed fairly unanimous against the question and it didn't cause much controversy. On the other hand, we've also had many questions about sex and even rape and bestiality in children's books which have been well-received. Even recently, we have a clear policy that being about erotica shouldn't be a reason to consider story-ID questions off-topic.

Many of these questions have attracted custom moderator flags going both ways: some people flag to say "this question is inappropriate and should be deleted" and others flag to say "this question is bad but on-topic and should be reopened/undeleted". With so much disagreement among the community on each individual case (as evidenced by the close/reopen and delete/undelete wars on many of these questions), it's hard for moderators to know how to handle such flags. Obviously we won't be able to keep everyone happy no matter what, but ideally it would be nice to have a clear meta policy on questions of this type, which we can point to when taking action on them or handling people's flags.

Ideas I've seen proposed in comments include:

  • that there should be some form of notability (e.g. "was Umbridge raped by centaurs" is OK because this is a widely-known fan theory, but "did Sirius Black have sex with female dogs" isn't because it's not a notable claim that he did) - but we don't have any such requirement for any other types of question, so this unprecedented criterion would require a clear meta consensus;
  • that the question should be asked in good faith (e.g. questions which appear to be posted just for shock or titillation value aren't OK, but questions springing from genuine curiosity about a work of SFF are) - but judging an OP's motivation is always difficult, and even mods, who are more used to making such judgement calls, have often been called out on meta for exercising their discretion on such questions.

What should our policy be on how to treat questions on 'adult topics' like this? When should they be closed or deleted as opposed to simply downvoted?

Please propose and vote on possible policies below!


EDIT to summarise the conclusion

After much debate, the voting has settled in favour of this answer (now +24/-3; the second answer is +19/-10 and says something similar, and the third answer is +15/-8). Executive summary:

  • adult topics should never be a reason to close or delete an otherwise on-topic question;
  • as always, downvotes are yours to use as you choose;
  • any unnecessary prurience can be edited out if it doesn't affect the thrust of the question.

Following this policy, I've reopened the two Harry Potter questions from the bullet points above. In future, if you see questions of this type getting closed incorrectly, feel free to flag them (perhaps with a link to this meta) for mod reopening and locking if necessary.

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    With many of these questions, especially the examples you gave which made it to big meta fame, the problem doesn't seem to be the "adult content" per se, but the way in which they approached it. This also seems to be at the base of their controversy. The people who looked beyond simple yes/no on-topic rules realized that those specific questions were highly problematic, while others felt a rather general on-topic policy for mature content violated and protested accordingly. So, while a noble goal, I doubt a general rule for "adult content" would prevent similar controversies in the future. – TARS Feb 19 at 20:06
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    @TARS Well, this is why I've tried to link to as many specific examples as possible. Maybe the problem with a simple "adult content is OK, but troll questions aren't" policy is that there are too many grey-area cases which weren't covered clearly enough. Maybe we can come up with a new policy which, even if it doesn't eliminate controversy over specific questions, will at least reduce it. – Rand al'Thor Feb 19 at 20:14
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    I think its interesting how the examples cited were received. Only one question has a positive score (and a high score, at that). The question also arguably doesn't have the explicit content as the focus; rather, the focus is "what happened to Umbridge", while acknowledging that rape or assault was a possibility raised elsewhere. The questions that are clearly focused on the sexuality, rather than details of plot or story, were heavily down voted. – Beofett Feb 19 at 20:15
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    Perhaps what you meant was "Should we have a policy on questions about f***ed up adult topics in SFF?" – Möoz Feb 19 at 21:54
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    We have a policy. It's "Questions about it's sex and sexuality are fine, but don't use the site to satisfy your weird urges". – Valorum Feb 19 at 22:14
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    @Valorum Questions about it's sex and sexuality are fine, but don't use the site to satisfy your weird urges -i am actually afraid that we were too quick to label the OP of the animagi question of being werid/ some kind of sexual deviant when he asked an unfortunately formulated question about animagi. As far as i remember his other questions were PG with no signs of trolling. – witchy Feb 19 at 22:22
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    @Morrigan - The way that it was originally worded was much less appropriate. It's not actually that much better now after have had most of the offending content removed – Valorum Feb 19 at 22:25
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    @Morrigan - The question is dire and the response, I felt was proportionate. – Valorum Feb 19 at 22:32
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    @Valorum Given the amount of controversy over the linked example questions, you can't possibly say we have a clear policy already :-) Who judges whether a question is "us[ing] the site to satisfy [the OP's] weird urges", as opposed to a genuine question? If even moderators are going to get called out on meta each time they make that judgement, then it seems we need a clearer policy. – Rand al'Thor Feb 20 at 1:00
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    "Questions about it's sex and sexuality are fine, but don't use the site to satisfy your weird urges". Link please, @Valorum, I've never seen this policy. And a quick search doesn't find anything either. – Edlothiad Feb 20 at 6:33
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    From what I've seen the controversy isn't that people like/dislike the questions (as most appear to dislike them) but that they have a problem with using close/delete votes as super downvotes. – TheLethalCarrot Feb 20 at 9:04
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    Fun fact: it's not unprecedented for an SE site to have special requirements for questions on one particular topic which aren't reflected in general for all questions. I learned today that History SE has a policy that it's OK to judge questions about Nazis or the Holocaust more harshly than other questions, and for the community to use all the tools at their disposal (including VTCs/flags) on such questions if they suspect them. We could in principle have different requirements for questions about adult topics than for anything else. – Rand al'Thor Feb 20 at 19:17
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    As a fan of at least one author known for adult material, "weird urges" included (I really wish I could come up with good questions), I would very much like to find a balance point. I have zero interest in supporting questions about fictional crotches, or enabling someones wank slashfic theory. I have every interest in supporting questions about sex, or sexual content. I think it's fair that these questions should have extra scrutiny to pass muster, or possibly wider editing to bring them within a standard. – Radhil Feb 21 at 12:31
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    @TheLethalCarrot Sometimes the wording of a question moves it from "genuine question" into the territory of "trolling". Consider the following ACTUAL example from the site: title "Does green kryptonite also affect non-living kryptonian objects?", question body "I was planning to rape Supergirl with my friends [...] very easy after putting her under green kryptonite radiation [...] some of us have doubts that we'd be unable to [tear] her clothes apart." Should a question like that be edited, or simply nuked? – Rand al'Thor Feb 22 at 0:06
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    You say that, @mooz - but I don't see the "dog father" question as being "clearly prurient" or "extreme content". – phantom42 Feb 22 at 3:39

The rules are fine as-is.

Reference:

But phantom, there are so many arguments!

Hey, I didn't say that the whole situation is good - just that the rules are fine. Let's back up.

Based on the existing guidelines, adult content and topics are OK.

My answer on one of the previous questions mentioned that I was OK with the questions

[so] long as the question is written with a reasonable level of maturity and lack of vulgarity.

This answer was a net +25 score, with only one dissenter (likely the OP). The net +33 score did not establish any qualifications for questions, just saying that the content was OK.

But clearly the existing rules aren't working! So many arguments!

Some of these questions are kind of tasteless. Others are not. Some questions about sex and sexuality have high question scores and good responses.

So what's the difference between them? My very scientific research of looking at comments that are still available, and my ultra-reliable memory of comments that are gone shows us a few themes that keep popping up.

  • terrible, borderline-offensive questions

  • I'm voting to delete. Given the lack of notability in the claim, these sorts of questions could be asked endlessly.

  • Prurient questions about bestiality are not suitable for a site aimed at a 13+ fanbase.

  • It's got nothing to do with the subject matter, it's just a lousy question that deserved to be closed and deleted.

  • Since it was a sexual question, failed any notability standards (link to plot, link to characters, link to SFF elements, etc)

So, based on negative comments, it seems that there is no question about them being "on-topic" - it's a matter of content. Primarily, either the content is poor, or the notability is low.

Low-Quality

Historically, we don't close questions just for being low quality. If the question is on-topic, it remains open and we downvote them as we see fit.

Notability

We are not [skeptics.se], and we've never had a "notability" requirement before, so I'm not really sure where all this is coming from. A bad, or poorly researched question is bad, or poorly researched question - and users are free to downvote them as they see fit, but they are on-topic. In our previous discussion How do we handle questions based on incorrect premise?, we decided that no special handling was needed. Either downvote, or attempt to correct OP either via comments or through an answer.

Prurient Questions (Intent)

As LethalCarrot points out in comments, the same question can seem more/less prurient just by changing the wording and provided background of the question.

  1. "Young Griff is described as muscular and handsome and really get's my juices flowing, do we know if his pubes are described?"
  2. "Young Griff has died purple hair and is claiming to be Aegon son of Rhaegar. The baby Aegon allegedly had the Targaryen traits (silver blonde hair) and Dany is described as having silver pubes. Do we know if Aegon's pubes are described as they could solve the mystery?"

Both Q's being what colour are Aegon's pubes? but different intent.

We've had discussions before (I can't find it on meta right now, it may have just been in chat) about removing "extra fluff" from questions - stuff like, "I was watching this movie and it made me think about..." because it's extraneous and has no bearing on the question. Also because it often clouds the intent of the question. But based on our discussion How do we feel about homework questions?, intent and reasoning behind asking a question is irrelevant.

Whether I'm asking about Wolverine's love life out of pure curiosity or seeking an answer for a paper has zero relevance on whether or not it is either a good question or if it is off-topic.


So they're not off-topic by policy, but clearly people don't want these questions.

And yet, no one has articulated why or exactly what it is that they don't want. Instead, people are using the close/delete flags as super-downvotes.


So, what do we do?

People are always going to use close/delete flags as super-downvotes. Even if we have a meta-established policy, it's just going to happen. Either people will disagree with the policy and continue, or people won't be aware of the policy. Policy should not change here. The policy itself is fine.

OK, so what do the mods do?

Follow existing policy. So long as the questions aren't vulgar or intentionally offensive, ask yourself "is the question itself on topic?" and act accordingly.

So don't do anything?

I'm not sure I'd actively support a movement to remove all extra fluff from questions, but I think trimming down controversial elements that don't make a huge impact on the crux of the question would be justifiable in situations like these.

  • I think there is plenty of articulating what and why we don't it! ;-) – Skooba Feb 21 at 14:59
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    I agree 100%. The topic of the question should not be an issue. The wording of the question does not need to be vulgar or egregiously offensive just because it's asking about adult content. Banning adult content outright would eliminate a lot of genuinely serious discussions about sf/f material (see, for example, the Thomas Covenant series). – KutuluMike Feb 21 at 14:59
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    I think you've hit the nail on the head here +1 – TheLethalCarrot Feb 21 at 15:05
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    The case of editing is a curious one, too, though. I remember the crisis around the infamous Captain America question (linked here somewhere, too), when people actually tried to salvage the question with edits (becuase it couldn't be closed, of course), only to have their edits rolled back by other users who saw them violating the OP's intent (of...asking a bad question, I guess). There seems to be a general hesitation on both sides to make any kind of compromise in controversial cases for fear of violating the hypothetical general case. – TARS Feb 21 at 15:36
  • I think that was the drama over the bifrost question, but yeah, it definitely has the potential to cause its own issues. – phantom42 Feb 21 at 15:39
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    @phantom42 Nah, it was the gay thing, and it was not the OP, but the other equally offended (by the question) users who rolled back the edits since it seemed to be some all-or-nothing scenario where you can either keep the question in all its awfulness or have it be cleansed from the face of the site entirely. – TARS Feb 21 at 15:41
  • Ah, I must have missed that bit. No great loss. – phantom42 Feb 21 at 15:48
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    We do have a notability requirement, it's just not referenced a lot. - "You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face" – Valorum Feb 21 at 16:40
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    From a practical point of view, if this answer becomes policy, what would we (either community or mods) actually be doing? Reopening/undeleting such questions if they get closed/deleted, locking them if necessary (since the same users can VTD as many times as they want), and editing them to improve wording/intent if possible? Would the usual rules about preserving OP's intent apply to such edits, or would we be able to make more drastic edits than usual for the cause of removing salaciousness? – Rand al'Thor Feb 22 at 0:12
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    Reopening/undeleting/locking as necessary - yes. I'm a little torn, myself, on the whole editing thing - I know that can get dicey. My thought is just to excise bits that don't actually make up the question - we often don't need to know background as to why the user is asking the question, or what made them think of the question. The goal is to preserve or distill the question without upsetting everyone. I know this isn't always going to be possible - some users are going to resist. There is never going to be a magic cure-all answer. – phantom42 Feb 22 at 3:37
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    "Can users keep re-voting to delete?" For some effing reason, yes. See for example this revision history. That's why these questions so often need to be locked, because otherwise the same people could keep on deleting/undeleting indefinitely :-/ Relevant main meta post. – Rand al'Thor Feb 22 at 11:55
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    @phantom42 - for extra irony, some of the hated-on questions are actually one of the very few ones on here that solve actual problem (someone's writing a fanfic and needs help). Mind you, that doesn't necessarily improve their quality, just meta irony quotent. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Feb 23 at 18:48
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    TLDR: yes, they're on-topic, nobody has ever said otherwise, but the problem is that they're crap questions and Stack Exchange keeps higher standards on its content quality. Sport is having the same discussion about one of our topics (of course nowhere near as ire-raising as this one) and the apparent direction is the same: on-topic is necessary but not sufficient to allow some questions to stay. They have to be good questions too. – Nij Feb 24 at 5:59
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    @Randal'Thor: Yes, please do that. Just because people who ought to know better start breaking the rules, does not mean you stop enforcing them. (Also, if the same users repeatedly break the rules, maybe have a private word with those users?) – Kevin Feb 25 at 1:21

We already have such a policy:

  • If a question is on an adult topic, it's on-topic. No ifs, ends or buts.

    Also, "weird" "urges" is entirely in the eye of the beerholder. Some people like Carey and slashfics. Some people like My Little Pony. Some people like fiction that praises genocydal tyrants. Some people like Pokemon. Let's be a wee bit more tolerant here and not marginalize people based on our own subjective morality sense[1].

  • If a question is bad, you downvote it. VTC and delete are not super-downvotes.

  • If a question violates the "be nice policy", it needs to be either edited to fix that, or in worst case scenario, deleted. According to general moderation principles, the former is preferred.

    Please note that this addresses the concerns over "tone", expressed in another answer. If the question has a poor tone, editing that tone out is usually not that hard.

  • Unless someone invents real world mind reading machine, there is almost[2] no legitimate way to generically determine the intent of the poster. So "it was a troll" or "it was to satisfy weird urges" (thank you very much for marginalizing people with unusual sexuality) is a personal subjective opinion of individual users, NOT a statement of objective fact that can be used to base a moderation decision on.

    This "no guessing intentions" is a policy on Skeptics, both regarding content itself (no questions asking about intentions) AND, more importantly, as I was repeatedly told by Skeptics moderators, regarding Meta issues (shouldn't assume site users' intentions). Over time, I have learned the wisdom of such an approach.

[1] - OK, let's marginalize people who like Twilight. I'm down for that.

[2] - there are some very rare exceptional cases where the poster openly confirms their intentions - e.g. via a comment. In that case, it's quite OK to apply anti-troll policies

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    Could you elaborate on this "no guessing intentions" idea? Either by explaining why it's a good idea, or linking to other posts (maybe on Skeptics meta?) which explain it. Just the fact that it's a policy on Skeptics will cut no ice here, I suspect :-) – Rand al'Thor Feb 20 at 1:47
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    According to this answer, any question in the form of "has this character engaged in this sexual act" can be made on topic by adding "is there any evidence in canon". There has to be some way to draw a line between reasonable content and blatantly trolling fetish material. – Beofett Feb 20 at 3:33
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    What exactly are you defending here? – Möoz Feb 20 at 3:48
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    there are some very rare exceptional cases where the poster openly confirms their intentions We haven't seen, and I'd doubt we'd ever see anyone come along and say "Hey guys, Troll, here, has Sirius ever..." So yeah, our best option is to try and determine their motives by the very little we have to go by, which is the content of their post. – Möoz Feb 20 at 3:51
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    If a question is on an adult topic, it's ontopic. No ifs ends or buts. Yes there are; don't forget, we have a possibility of 13 year olds using this site. Besides, the particular Harry Potter question is asking about a work aimed at children. – Möoz Feb 20 at 3:53
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    VTC and dedlete are not super-downvotes. In these extreme cases, no one uses the VTC button as a super-dv, rather as it's intended: to close bad questions. – Möoz Feb 20 at 3:54
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    This "no guessing intentions" is a policy on Skeptics Huh? How often does someone ask about female characrers' pubes, or whether Animagi have sexual relations leading to offspring, on Skeptics? We are not them, besides. – Möoz Feb 20 at 3:58
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    I feel like we're arguing the merits of the way these extreme questions get closed/down-voted/deleted, and we're forgetting that those types of questions enter the realm of "It's a f***ed up question, who cares how/why it gets closed, just nuke it to oblivion"... – Möoz Feb 20 at 4:00
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    Lastly, I'm sorry if what Valorum commented on offended you (I agree, he can be harsh and terse, and he should just quit and donate his rep to me), but please don't write a drawn-out rant disguised as an answer instead of using the comment button. – Möoz Feb 20 at 4:03
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    +1, while not perfect, this answer sums up the questions and how they should be handled. @Möoz ` rather as it's intended: to close bad questions.` That's not what it's for. It's for closing questions which are off-topic, duplicates, opinion-based or too broad. In cases where no off-topic reasons fit but the question is off-topic (as stated via a policy) the other button may be used. This is the opportunity to actually make these questions off-topic, write an answer out-lining a policy, rather than "I don't like them and neither do these people so NUKE!" – Edlothiad Feb 20 at 6:32
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    @Möoz unfortunately, though, the way things get closed/deleted is what ticks people off and calls them to defend those posts out of principle, which is why this meta exists afterall. – TARS Feb 20 at 6:37
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    I am delighted to marginalise people who're interested in asking questions about bestiality (in the context of children's book, no less) on a site aimed at users that are 13+ – Valorum Feb 20 at 7:15
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    @TARS - THAT. Thank you. I'm deeply unhappy and uncomfortable with "the ends justify the means" approach. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Feb 20 at 12:19
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    In my experience and observation, trying to salvage troublesome posts with edits usually leads to more issues, not less. Rollbacks or defensiveness from the OP, other users arguing about what to edit, or arguments about whether the edits are enough. Users even get pissed off when you suggest they edit the question themselves. It's much easier, and much less of a hassle, to cast a close vote for whichever reason best fits and hope that 4 other like-minded individuals do the same, instead of becoming embroiled in user moderation drama. Until we can fix that, there's going to be problems. – Web Head Feb 21 at 16:22
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    @Valorum - If the supposed bestiality had occurred in the work, I don't think you'd be advocating for getting rid of questions about it. (It is a pointless, prurient, and unmotivated question as it is, though). It's not our job to conceal sexuality (including its harmful aspects) from teenagers, and I think attempts to do so are counterproductive anyway. IPS doesn't try to hide questions about things like sexual assault and suicide, for example. And of course, practically speaking any site on the Internet is accessible to people of any age, pretensions of age limits aside. – Adamant Feb 21 at 20:05

Adult content is on-topic, but does need to treated with more scrutiny.

I think the question body here hits on the two points I agree with most... Notability and Good Faith.

To see what I think the policy should be, skip to the bottom

The two ideas really go hand in hand. If you can show even a small amount of research as to why you are asking the question it usually demonstrate the same level of good faith. If you throw a two sentence question about two characters that don't interact much, and there is not even a slight implication from the source to confirm it, it makes me question why you asking the question.

Question on these topics tend to fall into the latter. What I notice is that people like to play Jump-to-Conclusions; they take antecedal evidence and use to it to make claims that almost, almost make sense but crumble under any type of scrutiny.


Example 1:

Is Captain America gay? : The lowest voted question that remains not deleted (due to a moderator lock). It takes random evidence and forces a conclusion for the answers to confirm or deny. No notability and no good faith.

Counter Example 1:

In the films, was the portrayal of Captain America supposed to come across as gay? : While a controversial question itself, it maintained a positive score. It provides credible evidence from primary sources to reach a conclusion for the answers to expand and provide further evidence. Notability and good faith.


Example 2:

https://scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/181283/godfather-sirius-black-dogfather-as-well : I think that the question that sparked this meta also provides the best example of this plays out. The question provided not a stitch of evidence that this had happened nor why even why they might think it did. No notability and no good faith.

Counter Example 2:

What exactly did Aberforth Dumbledore do to the goats? - This question is also about the same touchy subject, but since it provides a reference from the work that gives evidence to the situation it was very well received. Notability and good faith.


There many, many other examples like the ones shown. A question asked in good faith and that shows notability to the claim are well received. A question that does neither is not well received.

Posts should be required to show a minimal level of effort. This applies to all questions, but should particularly apply to questions that deal with adult topics.

Questions that do not meet quality standards can an should be removed. Again, this applies to all questions, but should particularly apply to questions that deal with adult topics.

This will not solve all problems. We regularly have meta discussion on just the closing of questions as duplicates, too broad, or primarily opinion based. I don't think any "policy" is going to change that. These discussion about closing and deleting are still going to happen. However, in the end this may give a starting point as to why...

Users with moderator tool privileges should close and delete these questions.

**To be clear I am not advocating adult content be off-topic, only that it meet the same standards as any other post. The only difference is that since it is questionable content, it needs to be removed instead of just "downvoted-to-heck".

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    I think this is an excellent approach. Removing posts that do not meet our quality standards should be an ongoing effort. Preserving them under misguided aversion to "super-downvotes" is harmful to our site. – Beofett Feb 21 at 14:34
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    I think again a problem that this "policy" has is that fundamentally both questions are the same, if one is off topic the other should be too. If you don't agree with the intent DV do not use a super DV. You can always edit the question to be in better shape but don't close it just because you don't like what you believe the OPs intentions are. – TheLethalCarrot Feb 21 at 14:38
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    The problem here is that you arbitrarely assume good and bad faith, in a subjective manner (mostly - whether consciously or not - based on whether you like the poster, from my experience). I was accused of bad faith posting (as in, called a troll) on SFF before. This sort of attitude is one of the reasons I chose to disengage from the site. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Feb 21 at 14:41
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    @TheLethalCarrot Why is it up to the community to make questions acceptable? It is one thing to make minor edits that remove ambiguity or certain phrases that make a question seem off-topic, and completely another to try do the OPs research for them. – Skooba Feb 21 at 14:41
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    @Skooba I'm not suggesting doing the OP's research for them, that's for answers. I'm saying that assuming good and bad faith and using that to close a question is wrong. – TheLethalCarrot Feb 21 at 14:43
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    @DVK-on-Ahch-To What is subjective about a site's quality standards? Are we just supposed to allow any post survive just because it is "on-topic"? – Skooba Feb 21 at 14:43
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    @Skooba Yes because close votes are not super downvotes. If you don't agree with the question downvote it, that is what they are for. – TheLethalCarrot Feb 21 at 14:44
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    @TheLethalCarrot I am using basic measures of quality and effort to close questions. – Skooba Feb 21 at 14:44
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    @Skooba Yes but quality is subjective and close voting is meant to be objective. What may be low quality to you may be high quality to someone else. What may be bad faith for you could be good faith for someone else. – TheLethalCarrot Feb 21 at 14:45
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    @Skooba - yes. We do exactly that for all OTHER posts that don't offend you based on subject matter. They may get downvoted for lack of research but don't get VTCd/deleted. ever. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Feb 21 at 14:51
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    Offensive and adult content are two different matters. Offensive usually violates the Be Nice policy and is eligible to be flagged. – TheLethalCarrot Feb 21 at 14:59
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    The question provided not a stitch of evidence that this had happened nor why even why they might think it did. The original version of the question provided some of that. The OP edited it out to focus on his actual question when people vtc'ing it as unclear. – ibid Feb 21 at 16:04
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    @ibid "Dumbldedore read Sirius' will, so of course he must like bestiality in Animagus form!" That falls in the same category as "Captain American didn't rape Black Widow, he must be gay!". – Skooba Feb 21 at 16:14
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    @Skooba - Not saying they were good reasons, but to say the OP didn't "even [explain] why they might think [so ]" is a bit misleading. – ibid Feb 21 at 16:28
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    How can "good faith" be defined? Usually mods are entrusted to judge such things, but even we've been called out for closing/deleting overly sexual questions. Taking your Counter Example 1: I don't remember who the OP was (the post is now anonymised), but I'm reasonably sure it's someone who was well aware of the previous "Captain America gay" question, and potentially the motive for posting it might have been to stir more controversy by rekindling a previously controversial discussion/post. I do recall at least one mod flag on that question saying it was basically a troll post. – Rand al'Thor Feb 22 at 0:20

Questions should be more than just the poster's speculation

I think we can all agree this deleted question is terrible

I've been lead to believe that their is a scene in either the book or the movie were Hermione is raped/sexually assaulted by Malfoy, did this actually happen?

Questions that simply speculate without any other references should be closed. The problem here isn't the adult nature, or even the speculation, it's the fact that there's nothing but the OP speculating. I don't think anyone wants a site full of questions like this.

This tends to be more prevalent in the adult realm, in that a lot of subject material (Harry Potter, LOTR, Star Wars, etc) never crosses that line into porn. For instance, we see Wolverine romancing women (and even bedding them), but we're never shown what happens in the NSFW realm (and it's highly unlikely Marvel would ever cross that line). Thus, asking us to estimate Wolverine's stamina in said situations leaves us with little but the speculation of the answerers. I would say we need to be just a bit more strict on adult questions for this reason. Promoting pure speculation on adult situations can go downhill really quick.

NSFW links should only answer questions

Generally speaking NSFW links are not acceptable on SO/SE. Since we're crafting policy for a site that discusses it, links to potentially NSFW material should warn people so they know what they're getting into up front (and ONLY to answer the question). SO really doesn't like exposing people to that stuff unintentionally

Treat sensitive issues sensitively

I don't think CMs would take kindly to anyone being cavalier about things like rape, incest, etc. But, increasingly, stories are going to such places. Don't be crass or crude about it. Discuss it like an adult. If it devolves, expect less tolerance for it (closure/deletion)

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    I suggest you look at this comment re: speculative questions, they’re everywhere. We already have numerous metas on NSFW content, and when it’s applicable. – Edlothiad Feb 20 at 16:36
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    Since we don't require users to have read/seen a work, how do we draw the line between questions where the OP just legitimately doesn't know if something happened or believes may have happened for some reason? A person largely unfamiliar with the work may not know where to look for such references. – phantom42 Feb 20 at 16:43
  • @phantom42 That's a bit harder, but I'd say that questions asking a speculative adult question, without anything else to back it up, should be closed (not to be confused with downvoted). Because it's quite possible to craft an answerable question based on speculation – Machavity Feb 20 at 16:49
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    I think a problem you, and some of the other users here, have made is that you're trying to treat "adult topic" questions differently to normal questions because you don't appear agree with them. If you're going to close them because they're speculative you then have to apply that guideline to every question on SFF and that leads for very few questions. Remember don't treat close/delete votes as super downvotes. – TheLethalCarrot Feb 20 at 16:57
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    Also remember that speculation is appropriate in questions because that speculation is the question itself. Speculation in answers, however, is not appropriate and leads to a poor answer. – TheLethalCarrot Feb 20 at 17:18
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    @TheLethalCarrot I'm not arguing that at all. Most SFF questions are on-topic and the standards here are pretty permissive (this site has less closures than any other site I'm on). My point is that we recognize that there's a lot of stories out there that never provide any material on the subject, which naturally reduces the ability to answer the question. And, yes, there is a special sensitivity here (more SO than anything). Or are you saying that I could ask a question speculating about Frodo's sexual habits just because it's fantasy? – Machavity Feb 20 at 17:21
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    @Machavity Just because something isn't answerable doesn't mean it's off topic, unless it's future works obviously. About Frodo's sexual habits, under the current policy you could and I see no reason why it should be off topic. Is it a good question though? No. On topic and quality are two separate entities. – TheLethalCarrot Feb 20 at 17:24
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    @TheLethalCarrot I think the problem is actually that some people feel adult content of any type is fine, so long as it is scifi.stackexchange.com related, and some don't, but rather than try to compromise on a middleground that satisfies both, some people are more focused on fighting perceived censorship. – Beofett Feb 20 at 17:30
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    Speculative answers can, and do often go off the rails, but logical speculation in answers is allowed. – phantom42 Feb 20 at 17:33
  • @Beofett I agree but the old linked policy states they are on topic so until a new consensus is reached here they are on topic. – TheLethalCarrot Feb 20 at 18:04
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    @TheLethalCarrot The whole point of this meta post is to create new policy - should these questions be on-topic or shouldn't they, or which of them should? So stating they're on-topic according to an old policy is a bit of a red herring. Let's try to create policy here using reasons stronger than "this is what the old policy says" (in any case, the old policy can't be that clear since there's been so much disagreement over it), and without recriminations for any past actions on questions. – Rand al'Thor Feb 20 at 18:36
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    @TheLethalCarrot Re this comment in particular: experience has shown that "adult content" questions DO get treated differently to other questions; we're trying to work out how to deal with that. It's not necessarily true that any guideline agreed upon for these questions has to be applied to all others: we could in principle have special rules for "adult content" questions just as we do for (e.g.) "future works" questions or "story ID" questions. – Rand al'Thor Feb 20 at 18:39
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    Many of the "weird" questions are likely driven by fanfiction. That's not "author's speculation" – DVK-on-Ahch-To Feb 21 at 1:56
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    @Randal'Thor Y'know funnily enough I'd worked that out... Also my whole comment is under the current policy you could and I see no reason why it should be off topic so I've answered my opinion for, for it being on topic now and in the future. The disagreement comes from people trying to use super downvotes not on whether they are on topic or not, at least that's been my take on it. – TheLethalCarrot Feb 21 at 8:52
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    @Randal'Thor Yes they do get treated differently but that's users using super downvotes and nothing else, again my take on it. Special rules for adult content questions though is something I'd personally try and avoid. As soon as you give special rules for a subset of questions you open up room for those rules to be applied broadly and then the site is worse as a whole. As for future works being treated differently that's a different case to this so I don't see how the analogy fits. – TheLethalCarrot Feb 21 at 8:54

One consideration that appears to be missing from all the discussion here is Hot Network Questions. (This is based on my Ctrl+F of this question's page, so I may have missed some comments that mention it.) Since there are many users who access Stack Overflow, SuperUser, Server Fault, and other professionally oriented sties from work, keeping these questions from loading on their work terminals is desirable and prudent. But if one of them hits the Hot Network Questions, there is no way to control what pages the title loads on across the entire Stack Exchange network (as far as I'm aware). How can this be addressed/controlled?

In the same vein, is there any way for users who wish to avoid these questions to filter them out? Or do participants of this site have to accept the possibility they might be exposed to this type of content?

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    Re HNQ: maybe sexual issues could be one of those things like spoilers which are fine to mention in the post body but shouldn't appear in the title? Re filtering: another answer on this meta (now deleted) suggested using sexuality and/or nsfw tags on all such questions. My feeling is that nsfw would be a meta tag, but it'd be reasonable to include the existing sexuality tag on questions about sexuality (and people can then ignore the tag if they choose). – Rand al'Thor Mar 7 at 20:14
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    To actually respond to your point (I know, that's not what we do here but...) I would treat adult content and the HNQ in the same vein as we treat spoilers. The wording of the titles (which go in the HNQ, among other places) should be handled more strictly than the rest of the post -- nothing overtly NSFW in it, for example. Beyond that, if you're at work and you choose to click on a SF/F link, you take the risk. – KutuluMike Mar 7 at 21:47
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    (Discussion about whether or not this counts as an answer has been moved to main meta; everyone can feel free to have their say there. I've deleted the long back-and-forth in comments here about it.) – Rand al'Thor Mar 7 at 22:08

Why not take the Reddit approach and just expect people to use a [nsfw] tag?

Personally, I think it's silly, but it would allow sensitive members to filter out content that has any chance of seeming offensive.

  • Because I can then use the NSFW tag to hide any questions I personally deem unsuitable. – Valorum Mar 8 at 16:42
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    @Valorum: That is true, but it should be used liberally and if someone is sensitive enough they don't want to see certain content, then they take the penalty of perhaps not seeing other content they wouldn't find offensive. Too bad. – ThePopMachine Mar 8 at 16:45
  • Because I can use the NSFW tag to remove anything with LGBT content. – Valorum Mar 8 at 17:02
  • @Valorum: What do you mean? Anyone can add or remove tags. And while I agree it shouldn't be used that way, this is not the site to argue about what some people might find offensive. You err on the side of filtering. But either way, presumably a policy would be developed on meta if there's no obvious consensus. – ThePopMachine Mar 8 at 17:13
  • The very nature of the tag is subjective. Also, and I'm assuming you're aware of this, not everyone feels comfortable (or is even aware that they can) reverting an edit, especially from a higher reputation user. – Valorum Mar 8 at 17:15
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    @Valorum: Yes, I acknowledge that. But that's why we agree it is overly conservative. Why would we actively refuse to give someone sensitive the tool to hide content that offends them. That seems like imposing your sensibilities of everyone else. – ThePopMachine Mar 8 at 18:26
  • Also, you're right that having your edit as the final word on everything would be truly awful. :) – ThePopMachine Mar 8 at 18:26
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    The issue isn't that you don't have the tools to hide content that offends you from yourself (top tip, don't look at a site with potentially NSFW content at work) but that you can use the proposed tool for censorship. – Valorum Mar 8 at 18:38
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    @Valorum, it doesn't enable censorship if 98% of users don't filter. – ThePopMachine Mar 8 at 18:59
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    @Valorum Why would it be "censorship" to use this tag, more than any other tag which some people might have on ignore? Lots of people ignore story-identification, but we still want to have that tag. Anyway, anyone abusing a nsfw (or any other) tag can easily be flagged/scolded by other users or scolded/suspended by mods. The fact that a feature could be abused by malicious users isn't necessarily a reason not to have it, when we have tools to handle malicious users. – Rand al'Thor Mar 9 at 11:44
  • @Valorum: Also "top tip, don't look at a site with potentially NSFW content at work". (1)why should this site be one that must be excluded when it's not the primary purpose or central to the site? (2)"NSFW" is not a literal expression; it's a shorthand to describe a high bar of things you might not want to have to explain if someone saw your screen in a professional environment, but also things that some non-trivially small segment of the population might not want to see at all. Saying "Don't look at it at work if it's 'NSFW' " kind of misses the point of what NSFW represents – ThePopMachine Mar 9 at 16:35
  • Having an NSFW tag is the thin end of the wedge. Next comes having it ignored by default. – Valorum Mar 9 at 16:44

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