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Roleplaying Sensitive Topics


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What are your thoughts on RPing sensitive content?  Do these sorts of things need warning tags in all threads?

 

For example, let's say that you're playing a character who had unfortunate childhood experiences.  It doesn't come up every post, but it comes up occasionally through narrative and maybe dialogue.  But the point is that it's not like woah hey obvious content that needs a warning.  It's subtle.

 

And let's assume this is a run-of-the-mill RP.  It's not a G-rated fantasy land, but it's not an anything goes, NC-17 RP.

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We're actually talking about this in a very similar post here:

At this point I'm of the opinion that it all depends on the site and what culture that you create there. I'm not going to include TW's on my new site however I won't be upset if people use them. Basically if the person chooses to read it instead of leaving the thread when something that makes them uncomfortable comes up than they made that choice.

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I think I might need to rephrase because I saw the trigger warning topic and didn't want to make a repeat topic.  I'll illustrate it because that might be the best way to get my thoughts across.

 

Say I want to make a character with an eating disorder.  Anyone who knows someone who has had an eating disorder or who has had one themselves knows that they are dreadful monsters that can rear up at any time, and people who are in recovery can be sensitive to what is posted.  In roleplaying such a character, one likely wouldn't have a whole lot of threads revolving around meals, so those sorts of threads can be avoided, or you can give a warning, or whatever is necessary.  But there are more subtle things that go on in the minds of people with eating disorders, and sometimes their world views are distorted.  That is the sort of stuff that would come out in RP through narrative or dialogue.  The bizarre, sometimes backwards thinking.  Negative thoughts, etc.

 

How would this be handled in a standard RP?  I wouldn't mind putting warnings up on a thread or two (for example, meal time threads), but I can't go around tagging every single thread as potentially triggering because these things are so ingrained in the character that you can't always point them out and they may or may not occur in every thread.  Do these sorts of characters just not get played? 

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I think any kind of character and story should be written. There are fiction books dealing with all kind of subjects; why shouldn't be roleplays too, which are stories written by several people together, instead of only one author? The secret is in the details - not too explicit on some sites.

 

And I agree with a general warning on the site, not with individual trigger warnings. A book gets a general content advise, not each chapter receiving a separate trigger warning.

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Assuming we're talking about sites that have them: I think you should add trigger warnings for the in your face stuff, not the subtleties. 

 

But like Morrigan said, it depends on what kind of community you're catering to or want to create.

 

If you want to use kid gloves, I would argue that you could create a custom profile field (or whatever the jcink alternative is) and allow the player to whack in the kind of sensitive topics that character may commonly be. Saves the player from having to add them in every thread.

 

But personally, I would just add content warnings for in your face stuff. (Your mileage may vary as to what in your face actually means.)

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Unless you're going to write it where the character is having a relapse, or do an entire storyline where it is the main focus, I don't think that it would need a trigger warning. One of my characters has PTSD because due to surviving war, and it does effect his behaviour, but I do not do a lot of detailed scenes with it. My main issue with sensitive topics is when people try to turn it into a parody, handle a sensitive topic in an insensitive way or do it too much. You can't write characters without these issues as it would make them too perfect.

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I still feel that my message stands as it is. It really depends on the community. If you're upfront that you allow sensitive topics to be allowed to be used in characters than you need to be upfront that it's allowed on the overall community and that people should be open and communicative about discomforts to make sure that it doesn't crossover into topics with people that it makes uncomfortable because they've experienced it. You don't have to explain every action of a character in order to express a sensitive topic or express how a character is dealing with it. Mannerisms go a long way.

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If I'm playing a character that I think might be triggering, I'll usually put a disclaimer in the app. That way, if anyone wants to plot or thread with them, they know what they're getting into ahead of time. I won't put a warning on every post or thread unless it's explicitly necessary and in your face. But I think if it's in the app, where it's readily available to anyone, that's enough for subtleties.

 

That said, I think it's also important to communicate with your writing partners. If I know someone struggles with those triggers and they still want to write with me after viewing the disclaimer, I'll do my best to avoid sensitive material while still being true to my character. And I'll let my partner know that. If, however, I feel as though I might be compromising my character's convictions or perspective, then I'll probably decline to write with them and offer up another character of mine that I know won't be compromised in those ways.

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