I have seen some questions that just stand out as not belonging in WB (nor Stack Exchange, nor any other Q&A sites) and that have one characteristic in common: they seem to be coming from a (possibly young) men with low or no empathy for others, and whose world view was probably developed by watching animated pornography.

The first time around it was someone who came to WB to ask where to find prostitutes. That was the whole question, and yet instead of voting to close, I saw people recommending to the OP that he should go through the tour and edit the question to be more in line with the construction of a fictional world. That one was deleted so I cannot find it in search, but I remember it only went downhill from where it started.

Remember when we just had to discuss whether making rape more demoralizing was cool? Oh how much fun we had... Not. That was the second time I think we took too long to nuke a question. The offending question had ten downvotes but not a single vote to close when I found it. It's almost as if we were collectively saying "that's a nasty one, but I do want to see an answer to it yet".

Third time is the charm, so now we have a question about whether a humanoid can thrive on semen. It has 10 downvotes but only a single VTC.

Come on, people. Check the edit history for the first form of the question. It was about how much sperm you need to feed a person. If you really want to take a detached, scientific view you are only a couple Google searches away from finding out. If you had decent biology classes at high school you probably don't even need that.

If you want to take a worldbuilding view, though, where you have a fantasy race that feeds on whatever, you might as well ask "can elves feed on mana and how much do they need". Or "can my pixies thrive on soma", or "can unicorns survive on a diet of rainbows". It's your world, with your fictional creatures, so you tell us whether that works or not. So making the question in point more worldbuildy did not turn it into a viable question.

Can we just agree that these questions are not about building a world, so that we can properly close them when they pop around?

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    $\begingroup$ I'll say, as someone who (a) spends time almost every day worldbuilding (for RPGs) and (b) loves the Stack interface and community: WB's super-lax (IMO) standards for questions are why I almost entirely stay away. Thank you for raising your voice on this. $\endgroup$
    – nitsua60
    Commented Aug 4, 2019 at 14:13
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    $\begingroup$ im the one that make the "can a person/creature sustain from only eating/drinking male semen?" from simple google i dont found it other than from other SE, the best i can found is what you eat affect semen, but saying "if you had decent biology classes at high school you probably don't even need that ." it depend on the country each country have different teaching or knowledge, and im just a simple minded person not a scholar. all i know is semen have quite nutritious. also i think calling someone idiotic is unkind and too judgmental. $\endgroup$
    – Li Jun
    Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 11:45
  • $\begingroup$ at first i dont put fantasy race tag but since alot suggest it and alot of comment assume i was asking fantasy, because i mention semen demon or succubus as an example, i force to put it there, my question is more on human size creature anyway. it just simple wonder since there already creature that eat blood,soil and even excrement what about semen, beside there already monster that eat semen anyway just typical fantasy monster anatomy or behaviour question. $\endgroup$
    – Li Jun
    Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 11:53
  • $\begingroup$ i actually think this site is quite strict, one mistake word that implied as double question for example is enough to get closed, but so far i dont see any rule against sexual question at least and i need to agree with Alex.p. this is the first site i can ask about breast or nipple change place for evolution and many bizzare stuff like self cannibalism without fear of moral ethical accusation from other, but seems like im wrong (i can agree with the rape thing though but depend on the context i guess but im not gonna judge the person either). $\endgroup$
    – Li Jun
    Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 12:18
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with you Renan and am glad you brought this up. @LiJun you are a solid contributor to this site with a record of decent questions; you are not a troll. But that one question was just too much. It's not that it was a sexual subject, I have zero problem with that, but just the matter of factness about it. It felt like porn, like fantasy fodder, and not like a real question. Hard to describe but it just felt...icky. All the more so because you mentioned my name in the comments (which I know was innocent and would have been fine on any other question). I VTC and am glad it's deleted. $\endgroup$
    – Cyn
    Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 17:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Cyn yeah i can accept that, i kinda think maybe theres need an NSFW tag or something since there also adult (sexual) type of worldbuilding but if sexual kind of question is decided to be no in here then so be it, beside i get answer in another site al though it dont say how much precisely though, i just comment here to clear some misunderstanding. $\endgroup$
    – Li Jun
    Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 17:23
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    $\begingroup$ @LiJun Please keep in mind that all of StackExchange is meant for anyone age 13 and up. While it's okay to ask questions on sexual topics (and we even have a sex tag that is separate from a tag for reproduction), that doesn't mean that anything goes. If you write stories, make them as NSFW as you like. Write porn, draw it, film it, whatever. Your audience for them will self-select. Just be mindful of your audience here on WB. Not all adults want overtly sexual stuff in the titles of posts. Even people who like porn probably don't want to hear anyone's specific fantasies. $\endgroup$
    – Cyn
    Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 17:58
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    $\begingroup$ @LiJun The NSFW tag has been discussed before. Conclusion: No. It's a meta tag that does not sufficiently describe the content and therefore doesn't help to connect experts with querents. $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Commented Aug 6, 2019 at 7:49

6 Answers 6


We should take the same approach as with torture questions and I think I'll just copy from my answer to the discussion you linked (see the original for further links):

In general, I don't have a problem with them since most of the time, those questions are posed in a clinical voice, much like a doctor might describe injuries from a horrific automobile accident. Yes, people died or were severely injured but there's not glorification of their injuries/deaths. There's no judgement call of whether their deaths were a good, bad, glorious, inglorious thing to happen. It just happened.

I'd have considerable problems with a question that wasn't in that clinical voice and just downvote them or ignore the question. But I don't think there should be a blanket ban on violent questions. (If there were, a great many of the best questions (IMO) would be removed from the site.)

I disagree that we should ignore the questions that are not posed in a clinical voice in such a case. Having it stick on the site sends the message that we want more such questions.

The first version of the question you linked to was gratuitous. That was not a clinical voice and there was no effort shown that this person had actually tried to find an answer to their question before coming here.

Flag it as "rude / abusive".

It's abusing the site's guidelines about being in a clinical tone. Just look at the abbreviations used. It doesn't show any effort and the first version was very far from the quality we expect of questions on the main site. It's unrealistic to assume that could have been edited into acceptable shape. No, the final version was not acceptable. Even after a mod changed a few of the words and there was additional information it was still very low quality. If you are asking such questions you need to be extra careful. Such topics can be very sensitive and I expect everyone talking about this stuff to be extra careful, just like with the torture stuff.

Also, because this came up in the comments: should we add a NSFW tag? , specifically this answer:

No, no, no, no.

Not until you can, at the very least, say I am an expert in not-safe-for-work.

We don't want to have an extra corner for NSFW stuff. This means that you should expect everyone could read it or at least have it in their "new questions" feed. Personally I would use a guideline like the following to determine whether something crosses any line:

If you want to show your co-workers or friends this awesome site you found about creative work in regards to worldbuilding and you open the site and are ashamed by what your coworkers and friends now think you are doing in your free time - then it crosses the line.

We should make sure to remove stuff like that from the view of the general public. Just look at all the problems over on other sites like StackOverflow because of the gendered word "guy". Do you really want to see the problems that would arise from something like this?

This site is not a place to post your half-sentence no-effort sex fantasies for everyone to discuss.

The whole discussion is not about a blanket ban on a topic. It's about a very low quality question about a potentially sensitive topic that is displayed with complete disregard for the problems that such a question could pose for others and with complete disregard for the time and effort that other people are supposed to spend on trying to answer it.

Remove such stuff.

There is nothing lost by deleting such a question.

The querent can just ask a new question, potentially after checking out the Sandbox with a draft. Not every question is holy and we don't need to give everyone a week before acting on stuff just because there is a slim chance that someone who doesn't care enough about quality to capitalize a single word could potentially make it an awesome question if given the time. They had their chance and can simply ask a new question. It's a long way to a question ban, nothing to be afraid of.

Sure, the line may not be as clear as with the linked torture stuff, but still: there's a line to be drawn. Flag it as rude / abusive, see if the mods have the same opinion and move on. Hopefully a couple other members will do the same and make sure it at least disappears from the general view fast.

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    $\begingroup$ This is the answer I was hoping to see. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 6, 2019 at 23:35
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    $\begingroup$ Great answer. I will humbly add that crafting a world where rape is somehow more acceptable (eg culturally, or where humans are genetically modified, or a different species evolves conscience, etc) is in absolutely no way, shape, or form an acceptance of rape in our real world. Learning how to build a world can take us to dark places - but something I enjoy about worldbuilding is analyzing what it would take for a world to go down such an evil path. In other words, building a fictional world where evil is accepted is a useful tool in showing what to avoid in the real world. $\endgroup$
    – cegfault
    Commented Aug 28, 2019 at 22:43
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    $\begingroup$ If I can gather my thoughts more concisely than that, I may expand it as an answer, so if that made sense to anyone, let me know :) $\endgroup$
    – cegfault
    Commented Aug 28, 2019 at 22:45

First a minor note: Season 9 Episode 3 of Orange is the New Black actually asks the same question that one asks - I was informed of this by my wife so the:

they seem to be coming from a (possibly young) men with low or no empathy for others, and whose world view was probably developed by watching animated pornography.

May not be as accurate as you would think and also unnecessary as we can easily just look at the quality of the question (it should have been closed) without assuming anything about the askers.

Why didn't I flag it? To allow for edits:

So why didn't I flag it (not quite to close votes but I think this reasoning still applies): The question stated the asker was an English Language Learner and there were comments asking for clarification. Now, as I've had a few flags declined, I waited to see if the OP was going to listen to the advice of the commentators. Not because I thought the question could be saved or that this was a language issue as much as to avoid having the edits right after I flagged it as of my 5 declined flags - 2 had edits after.

That's it - by the time I came back it was deleted already.

Do I agree these should be "not about worldbuilding by default"

Just for completeness: I would have flagged it as too opinion based as the answer was (at the time) "magic" with no criteria for what a good answer should be. I also felt it had nothing to do with world-building but those flags seem to be disputed more.

So no, I don't agree we should make a blanket policy in this area as "not about world building"1 but I do agree that it would have applied to this question & with the need to be strict when evaluating if a question is about WB combined with applying that close reason more often in general. I think if we did this - we wouldn't need a separate policy for this category.

1: I agree with the need for sexual assault questions to just be "not allowed" there are some things that though worldbuilding are just not a good fit for this site/network.

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    $\begingroup$ Hmm... nitpicking: Orange is the new black has only 7 seasons and the 7th (i.e. last) season just aired a few days ago. Which parallel universe have continued OITNB until Season 9 Episode 3? $\endgroup$
    – polfosol
    Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 16:39
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    $\begingroup$ @polfosol I thought she said 9 (but my hard-of-hearing self probably misheard her) - I'll have to ask when I get home. It was definitely when they were in the maximum security prison and, either way, the point is more that we don't need to infer anything about the person asking lest we fall into fallacy ourselves $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 11, 2019 at 3:38

I do NOT concur that this type of questionable query inherently lacks worldbuilding context.

Remember: it wasn't so long ago that I got shot down for suggesting that straight math questions have no worldbuilding context and ought to be closed. This is a straight biology / nutrition sciences question. If we have to accept plug in the numbers math questions and "real world" questions, then we need to accept at the less less questionable of this sort. Consistency of rule application! After all, we've entertained the nutritional content of blood, so what's so wrong with semen?

I DO concur with closing &/o deleting such questions when they are poorly written, easily googleable or otherwise lack context. "Where to find a prostitute" = close. "In a society of asexual sophonts, how might visiting sexual beings be catered to" = leave open.

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    $\begingroup$ I have to agree with you there. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 23:05
  • $\begingroup$ "poorly written" and "easily googleable" are reasons to downvote, not reasons to close. There can be some overlap, for example if the poor writing causes the question to be unclear, and a few sites have "this can be answered by referring to a standard reference work" type of close reasons, but Worldbuilding doesn't. Consider the canonical question downvote reason, one part of which is "does not show research effort". $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Aug 12, 2019 at 7:17
  • $\begingroup$ They do when "poorly written" largely means lack of research and lack of context! $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Aug 13, 2019 at 14:24

For the record I think you're right with the specific examples you've described and I'll admit to being part of the problem as I'm usually highly reticent to VTC; ironically I suspect I've cast more positive delete votes than I have close votes. This semen question is definitely one I'd VTD if it came up in my queue, almost without thinking, yet I'll openly admit I didn't VTC.

This is more of an emotional constraint on my part than any other factor; I don't want to discourage new users whose only problem may be that they don't really know how to frame or articulate what turns out to be a good question. It's been my experience on this site that there are a lot of good questions out there written by people who essentially don't know how to write.

AlexP in comments raises a very good point that I think touches on the heart of my reticence in this matter insofar as there are a lot of famous and high quality works out there that skirt the boundary of what many would even call decency and whether you like them or not, whether you approve of them or not, I'm a firm proponent of the freedom to make that choice as an individual and not be punished for it.

Reading your question though I suspect I've personally let my bias against the discouragement of those who don't know how to write up a good question carry me one bridge too far from common sense and I may have to revisit my reticence. That said, I'm faced with one final emotional barrier; who am I to judge?

I also suspect I'm not alone in wondering that. In any case, for my part, I suspect it's time for me to stop thinking of myself as a newcomer (I've been here for a bit over 18 months at time of writing, Aug '19) and accept that I may have a responsibility to put that amount of experience to good use in the voting queues. Certainly in the case of these more obvious examples at least.

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    $\begingroup$ I understand your fewling towards newcomers and closing potentially good questions, and I share it. There is a lot of stuff that I don't like, but I even upvote because the questions or answers are well written and useful for someone else. I'm trying to be technical and assert that some questions are not about worldbuilding, regardless of whether we like them or not. I'll admit I am very biased towards not liking them, and I am usually more vocal than I should. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 4, 2019 at 1:37

Will there always be questions on this site that disgust/enrage/frustrate me down to my socks?

Yup. Let's talk about why....

  • Free speech is a harsh mistress.
  • Free speech is a gift from God.
  • Free speech exists because what one person finds offensive another won't, and maybe, just maybe, neither have the right to compel their opinion upon the other.
  • Free speech is a right all humanity should have.

But like all powerful aspects of our lives, free speech shouldn't be wantonly abused.

The "Real World Question" debate is (from the point of view of Main) over. This means no question is off-limits so long as its possible to construe its use in a fictional world.1

However... I believe it's entirely reasonable, even civil (*gasp!*) to expect tact, decorum, and prudence. After all, we do not permit invective. But we also have a lot of (unbelievably amazing) PhDs and similar experts who haunt these halls and who, without doubt, can emotionally and spiritually handle colorful questions.

The problem is that we also have 8-year-olds.2

Therefore, while I have a problem personally with trying to filter out questions that one person may consider offensive and another not, I have no problem at all with closing the question instantaneously if it doesn't meet an expectation for quality set so high that just being told the altitude of the bar will give people a nosebleed.

The Help Center sets expectations for asking well-formed questions and not answering badly formed questions.

And I think we should hold people's feet to the fire in both instances when it comes to questions that might disgust, enrage, and frustrate. We have a sandbox to new users ask better questions and I have no problem leaving a "this question wasn't ready to be answered" comment on answers that are trying to make quick rep rather than acting to help improve the site's quality by practicing abstinence3 when it comes to answering badly formed questions.


No, we can't unilaterally close questions for the reasons expressed. As soon as you do that, you set a precedent that allows any question to be closed if anybody feels it's in bad taste — and that's very subjective.

1Granted, it would be ever so helpful if the OP actually explained how it would be useful in their fictional world. Expecting this from new users is a bit of a stretch. People who have asked 5-6 questions, though, should have their hands slapped.

2I couldn't care less if you're trying to make World Building "office safe." If you have to even think about that, you probably shouldn't be visiting World Building at your office in the first place. My concern is children, who are not "small adults" and who are deserving of respect and consideration. Call me old fashioned. I loathe... LOATHE... LOATHE... the upcoming movie "Good Boys," but I'd pick up a gun to defend the evil idiot's Gene Stupnitsky's right to make it. And for the record, I could make fun of his name for years.... See bullet #1.

3Every possible pun involved with the use of that word intended.


Some questions are downvoted rather than closed because they do meet the criteria for a worldbuilding question, they're just not the kind of question we want to see on the site. There's a reason we say you can downvote for whatever reason you feel is appropriate.

In particular, while I think its reasonable to say there was a consensus that that's not the kind of question we want our brand name on, it was indeed about building a world, and it was at least as specific as the average question we answer here. The two issues it ran into were that it was a rather more taboo topic than we typically respond to, and it wasn't well researched. Requiring things to be well researched is a challenge on WorldBuilding, because there's so many times where it's just that you didn't know the right Google keyword. I know my personal line for VTC due to lack of research is when I cut and paste the title of the question into google and the answer is in the top 2 slots. And I've been told that's too strict in the past.

As for taboos, I do believe that is where downvotes are expected to do their job. I do believe the community was quite clear about their opinion about the question.


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