You recently had a discussion about which prompted our own discussion internally - and while we believe there are legitimate cases for discussing torture, there is currently some content within that tag that we simply cannot host.

Our sites accept people from 13 and up, and we have to keep content appropriate for that age - think PG-13 for US film rating system. For what I'm more familiar with (The Brazilian Rating System), it would place torture at least at 16 and up.

We cannot host gruesome depictions of violence. You can still discuss torture or how to apply it to worldbuilding, but when you have to go in detail of what is happening, that's probably going too far. This is the same rule we apply to sexual and gambling content.

What this means for the tag is TBD, there are a couple of options:

There's a pretty good idea in place of what we can and can't allow, but I welcome thoughts on how strictly to apply them here (which will likely affect other sites and demand a more network-wide discussion too). A non-goal however is to create a bulleted list of everything that's allowed or not allowed, these simply don't work: when it's going too far, we'll all likely be able to tell it's going too far.

Please give your thoughts below!

  • 16
    $\begingroup$ Most of us are not Americans, and have only a vague idea of what PG-13 means. As far as I know, PG-13 allows torture, murder, assassination, gruesome images, fraud, etc. but disallows mild expletives and female nipples... The point being that a "bulleted list of everything that's [...] not allowed" is mandatory. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Aug 19 '20 at 20:25
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ We have no rating system for written material We have one for movies and video games because of moral panics everyone should have known have been happening ever since (I kid you not) the novel was invented (and probably before!). $\endgroup$ – Ton Day Aug 20 '20 at 0:36
  • $\begingroup$ @alephzero I do. Not all of us Americans have lost our irony. $\endgroup$ – The Daleks Sep 17 '20 at 15:35
  • $\begingroup$ Could you please explain how you (= Stack Exchange) believe that motion picture rating systems are relevant for written prose? Because legally they are not. I’m not saying the idea of placing restrictions is unreasonable. But misapplying the wrong legal framework is. — And just to be clear, books intended for a teenage audience and younger do feature graphic torture; not often, but it happens. Anyway, what’s the intention here? Legal peace of mind? Or a kind of ethical/moral stance? $\endgroup$ – Konrad Rudolph Sep 18 '20 at 16:36

American PG-13? Torture is allowed, nipples are not

For those of us humble foreigners, could some Most Charitable American please made a short summary of what PG-13 means? Because...

As far as this humble foreigner knows, PG-13 films and television shows allow the depiction of torture, gruesome murder, genocide, fraud, poisoning, assassination and the like. What they don't allow is showing female nipples, because boys will be scarred for life if they see one, let alone two.

  • Avengers: Infinity War (2018) was rated PG-13. You cannot get more genocidal than that.

  • The Pirates of the Caribbean (2003-2017) films were rated PG-13. They show violence aplenty, women in chains, gruesome images every five minutes, executions, and so on.

  • Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015) was rated PG-13. It shows outright torture, in addition to gruesome violence and large scale murder.

Moreover, unless the U.S.A. is very very different from what they want the rest of us to think, there is no rating system in place for written material. As far as I know, not even in America are children forbidden from entering a bookshop.

So let's get serious

A bulleted list of what is not allowed is absolutely necessary. Most of us are not Americans, and have very little (and probably incorrect) understanding of what Americans find allowable for 13 year olds, and what they find forbidden.

  • Are murder, assassination, the use of weapons, poisons and so on acceptable? Why are they more acceptable than "sexual content"? Please note that many questions revolve around, well, large scale violence.

  • What exactly is the "sexual content" which is not allowed? (This is important. I may be guilty of posting answers which included ancient Greek pictures of anatomically correct naked men, Renaissance paintings showing men abducting women, and so on. My guideline was that if the image would have been OK in my 5th grade ancient history book, it was probably safe enough. But I hadn't thought about American prudishness.)

  • "Gambling"? I have not even the beginning of an idea of how a written discussion of gambling could be considered inappropriate for children.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ PG-13 is merely an example, don't focus too hard on it. As you said, it doesn't apply to written content - and I am not a US citizen either. However, the kind of graphical and gruesome descriptions of violence are inappropriate for a site that allows children from 13+ to participate, and we really cannot host it. It's less about PG-13 and more about the content on the site. $\endgroup$ – Cesar M ModStaff Aug 19 '20 at 20:42
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ @CesarM: You seem to be pretty certain that "descriptions of violence are inappropriate for a site that allows children from 13+ to participate". Could you please cite a reference on which you base your certitude? Because the question does not indicate any such basis. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Aug 19 '20 at 20:46
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ The "basis" is that the company that owns this site has had a discussion about it, and they have decided that this sort of thing is inappropriate. It's their site, they get to decide what is and isn't appropriate for it. If (to pick a silly example) they decided to forbid all mention of squirrels, then they would have every right to do that. (but I admit I'd be kind of curious as to why they wanted to) $\endgroup$ – plasticinsect Aug 19 '20 at 22:54
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ @plasticinsect: I am not contesting that. The point is that we actually need to read the actual decision, not fuzzy statements to the lines that "there's a pretty good idea in place of what we can and can't allow". We need to know what is actually not allowed, or else we run the risk of breaking rules which we didn't know where there in the first place. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Aug 19 '20 at 23:11
  • 13
    $\begingroup$ Not only do I agree with @AlexP that this needs to be spelled out, I think everyone here will know what I mean when I bring up the last time site management felt like dispensing with such things and simply unilaterally fired a moderator, written rules be damned. You need to explicitly spell out 'the following are off topic, cannot be answered here, and any material posted in contravention of this rule will be deleted'. $\endgroup$ – Ton Day Aug 20 '20 at 0:40
  • 12
    $\begingroup$ I absolutely agree with AlexP that we need a solid list of what is/isn't permitted, especially because of that "will affect other sites" issue raised in the question. How could History SE function? If users are arbitrarily forbidden from accurately describing the execution of William Wallace, the methods used to gain confessions in the North Berwick Witch Trials or Nazi Gestapo interrogations then critical historical context is absent. Also see the accepted answer (on Skeptics) to skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/4498/… $\endgroup$ – KerrAvon2055 Aug 20 '20 at 10:15
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ You have been given a list and it contains exactly one entry: “gruesome depictions of violence [sic torture]”. Are the three words, gruesome, depiction, and torture too ambiguous? $\endgroup$ – cms Aug 20 '20 at 14:44
  • $\begingroup$ @cms: I have never commented on, or answered to questions related to torture on the main site. I don't find the subject palatable. My main concern is with this part of the question: "There's a pretty good idea in place of what we can and can't allow. [...] A non-goal however is to create a bulleted list of everything that's allowed or not allowed." And of course with the cursory mention of the American PG-13 film rating system, which is (1) not well known outside America, and (2) AFAIK not aligned with the prohibition of depictions of torture. Ambiguity in official regulations is unhelpful. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Aug 20 '20 at 14:54
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ @AlexP The original posting is not the rule as it'll be written, and I have the feeling you're interpreting it as such. The end result will probably end up looking more like this meta post which probably can clarify your questions around sexual content too. And again, the PG-13 is not the end result of what we're abiding by, it's merely an example - don't focus too hard on it. $\endgroup$ – Cesar M ModStaff Aug 20 '20 at 18:09
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ As for a "bulleted list", what I mean is that we can't possibly create a list of words and examples that are and are not allowed - any definition will be subjective. It's simply too broad of a category to cover every possible example objectively. The same could be said to "pornography", we don't allow pornography and sexually explicit per site policy, and we don't have a list of everything that is "pornographic". In that vein, @cms is right that the end definition will be around "gruesome depictions of violence and torture". (not final). $\endgroup$ – Cesar M ModStaff Aug 20 '20 at 18:18
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ What "we have a pretty good idea in place" is supposed (maybe badly) to be doing is setting expectations: going into gore and detailed written depictions will not be okay, and there isn't much leeway there to argue for it to be okay. However, how we implement and treat that specifically for worldbuilding is exactly the point of hosting the discussion. $\endgroup$ – Cesar M ModStaff Aug 20 '20 at 18:20
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I agree with much of what @CesarM said. Another issue with having a bulleted list - and this is something that has historically been a huge problem for mods dealing with problem users on other issues - is that folks are always going to rules lawyer if we come up with such an explicit list. I think it's certainly possible to write the guideline in such a way that prevents rules lawyering while still being comprehensive enough in scope. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Mod Aug 21 '20 at 0:19
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ @CesarM So in other words SE is using the tacit standard of the late Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart: "I know it when I see it" $\endgroup$ – SurpriseDog Aug 21 '20 at 15:34
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The same standard that determines that the neoprounouns "Grimble/Gromble" is trolling, while Xi/Xir is not: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/336005/neopronouns-or-trolling $\endgroup$ – SurpriseDog Aug 21 '20 at 15:39
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The problem with a standard like this is, to quote Shog9, "I've realized over time that "common sense" is a term we use for things that are obvious to us but not others", which is why the late Justice Potter ended up regretting that famous quote. A standard based on the personal subjective intuition of one mod is no way to write rules that must be shared by all. $\endgroup$ – SurpriseDog Aug 21 '20 at 15:49

[EDIT: The first paragraph here refers to my understanding based on claims in other comments that "The "basis" is that the company that owns this site has had a discussion about it, and they have decided that this sort of thing is inappropriate." - if this is false, then I do not support this new arbitrary rule AT ALL.]

I do kinda like the idea of having an edits-needed message for questions saying something like "edit to remove explicit sex or violence". I'm confident that most or even all the listed example questions could be phrased in a way that everyone would agree is appropriate both for any child old enough to have fairy tales read to them at night, let alone to read Lord of the Flies. For example, you could ask how someone could survive a full-body degloving, how someone could train themselves (or their soldiers) to be accustomed to sleep deprivation by subjecting themselves to it, etc.

For most questions this can be done simply by removing one or more of: the torture tag, the explicit description, or the context implying lack of consent.

However... OP makes some claims which seem potentially contentious:

  • "We cannot host gruesome depictions of violence." This claim is made multiple times in the OP, but there is currently no link provided to the rule that prohibits it, so we have to comment without context. We cannot reasonably rule on this without that context. A rule which is not available to view, does not exist.

  • "there's a pretty good idea in place of what we can and can't allow." This seems clearly false from comments here. My idea of "gruesome" is likely radically different from your "gory", and we both are likely different from, say, a Japanese person's idea of "guro". To my mind, none of the linked questions are over my personal meter for "too gruesome for kids" (have you ever even met a kid? I certainly was reading far worse before I was ten, let alone 13). I agree that some do invite more-gruesome answers, but the worst offenders there aren't even on-topic ("invent a torture machine!").

  • Sleep deprivation is considered "gruesome" even in the explicit absence of other pain or harm. That's just stretching the requirement of "no gruesome content" to a truly farcical extent. That this claim was made is a great illustration of the above point, and was sufficient for me to downvote this suggestion: if someone can feel this way, then there can exist no discussion of adversarial circumstance that would be guaranteed safe from a "too gruesome" claim, which would effectively kneecap this site as a writer's resource, since most worlds built for a narrative have adversarial elements.

If discussion of torture is to be permitted for worldbuilding, except in some cases... what cases are they?

Beware that we need to be careful as this can go very badly wrong. For example, if we were to flatly forbid any discussion of even accidental/consensual maiming or dismemberment, I'd fight that very hard: we really do not want to turn the disabled community into a taboo topic.

Are medical discussions permitted or forbidden? Degloving is gross, but is it gruesome and is it violent?

So I propose:

It seems to me that the only possible exclusion that we can rationally imply, from the term "gruesome violence", is one which all of the following terms are met:

  • An explicit description (prereq for "gruesome");
  • of maiming or dismembering (prereq for "gruesome");
  • as a deliberate act (prereq for "violence");
  • on a creature (prereq for "violence");
  • which does not consent (prereq for "violence").

[deliberateness and consent are, I think, the most debatable items here: the other three should hopefully be pretty solid.]

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Largely I think that's a good direction - there isn't a rule to quote from as of now because that hasn't been created, this is the first discussion to do so - perhaps the initial post wasn't clear on that: but this is not meant to be the actual rule. In general principle, we usually allow scientific approaches to discussing something, and thus medically discussing it could be appropriate - however, we would still ask people not to include more detail than it's needed. $\endgroup$ – Cesar M ModStaff Aug 20 '20 at 18:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ On the editing side of things, I do agree that the sleep deprivation question could be edited to remove it's more descriptive parts and still keep the question, it has been closed as off-topic though, so probably not the best effort to go and edit that specific one. But in general, if salvageable, editing before deting is always preferred. $\endgroup$ – Cesar M ModStaff Aug 20 '20 at 18:15
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ If there is no externally-imposed rule saying "We cannot host gruesome depictions of violence" then we clearly CAN do so: you just don't like it. plasticinsect writes "The "basis" is that the company that owns this site has had a discussion about it, and they have decided that this sort of thing is inappropriate." - if this is the case and why you posted the OP, then link to the information you have on that decision. But if it's false, call it out as such, and edit your OP to clarify that this is not an externally imposed requirement. $\endgroup$ – Dewi Morgan Aug 22 '20 at 22:00
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Seconding @Dewi Morgan. As a rule, I think we should fall on the side of less censorship... $\endgroup$ – neph Aug 23 '20 at 2:39
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @CesarM No edits should be required on the sleep deprivation question. The claim that this question, exactly as it is, is unacceptable, makes me extremely uncomfortable with the suggestion in the OP. What line in particular do you find to be the most "gruesomely violent" in that question? $\endgroup$ – Dewi Morgan Aug 24 '20 at 16:44
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @DewiMorgan I've re-read the post and I'm not sure why it gives the idea that we're being externally forced by a law or anything of the sort, please do feel free to edit it if so - that's a company decision to not host these. While communities are generally left very free to decide what's on-topic/allowed and what's not, we do step in for some very rare occasions (such as pornographic content, that isn't allowed even if a community wants it to be). $\endgroup$ – Cesar M ModStaff Aug 26 '20 at 16:45
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @CesarM I'm not talking about laws. You say "that's a company decision". The company is an external actor on the WB SE. If the company had made this decision, please link to where they describe making this decision. If the company has NOT made this decision, then please confirm that clearly and explicitly. $\endgroup$ – Dewi Morgan Aug 27 '20 at 14:19

Thank you for bringing this back ito discussion and shedding this new light - last time we ignored the fact that the minimum age in SE is 13.

Under the most commonly used content rating systems in North America (specially the US, where SE is based), torture content would make SE fall into the following categories were it some other kind of media:

SE does not fall under such content rating systems, but regardless - They provide good guidance. I think that since we do accept children of ages 13+ in the network, then each and every one of us has the obligation to make SE sites a safe place for them.

On top of that I still maintain that torture is a plot element of mature novels, not of world building. I would have the tag burninated.

After that, we should check the de-tagged questions for their content and delete as necessary.

  • 8
    $\begingroup$ I actually can see discussions of torture as being PG13 (those that focus on the psychological aspects, ethics, or morality specifically) even if I have not seen this within the questions asked (and you could use ethics, morality, or psychology/strategy tags for those anyway). However, upvote and completely agree that its nearly always a plot element and thereby not acceptable for worldbuilding. $\endgroup$ – LinkBerest Aug 19 '20 at 0:42
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I really think that world-building even if it is valid shouldn't be promoting new and interesting methods of torture. The real world documented ones are enough for my taste. $\endgroup$ – IT Alex Aug 19 '20 at 18:59
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens is rated PG-13 and shows outright torture, plus of course the staples of American fiction for children -- large scale violence, mass murder, etc. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Aug 19 '20 at 21:36
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @AlexP You have mentioned this in a very misleading way. The majority of what would be considered large-scale violence and mass murder is implied and occurs offscreen or from so far away that it is no longer gruesome. I just disagree. $\endgroup$ – IT Alex Aug 20 '20 at 12:25
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @ITAlex: Have you actually seen the film? $\endgroup$ – AlexP Aug 20 '20 at 12:30
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ @AlexP Once again for those in the back, not gruesome. There is no guts, no blasted limbs. While it is violent, it is not gruesome. All the mass deaths occurred offscreen clearly in the first link, as you are too far away to watch the beam melt flesh off bone. My last sentence? somewhat gruesome. The film? not so much. $\endgroup$ – IT Alex Aug 20 '20 at 12:38
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ "Safe" of course, does NOT mean "free from everything but the least offensive material". A 13 year old can read far more "gruesome" content in an average YA fantasy novel than they would in the OP's cited queries. As far as torture = plot; I'd tend to agree in most instances. However, it is quite possible to discuss questions where it is a matter of worldbuilding; and we require the liberty to do so here in this community. So, sure, close questions that are off topic for being story based! $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Aug 21 '20 at 1:29
  • $\begingroup$ @ITAlex -- No, those are actually right in the front. Almost any modern movie, whether Star Wars or Harry Potter, shows all sorts of (fictional) death, torture, violence, mayhem, and evil. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Aug 21 '20 at 1:40
  • $\begingroup$ if it the case, just make NSFW tag....... $\endgroup$ – Li Jun Aug 22 '20 at 8:15
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @LiJun That would be a meta-tag, and meta-tags aren't allowed. See here. $\endgroup$ – F1Krazy Aug 22 '20 at 9:31
  • $\begingroup$ @F1Krazy should be more clearer to link it to the meta-tag information itself, i finally understood after see the meta-tag information, as the reasoning. i never get the answer here (WB SE) refusing NSFW tag, until i get what meta-tag is, and honetly the answer in that link make no sense to me either, but i guess thats due to they use hard english word for me to get, and i dont lurk in the meta SE. $\endgroup$ – Li Jun Aug 22 '20 at 18:09
  • $\begingroup$ @ITAlex If we want a pretty gruesome and unambiguous torture scene, how about Casino Royale, PG-13? A man is stripped naked, tied to a chair, and his genitals are violently beaten. He is screaming with agony, and the fact that his genitals specifically are the target is discussed in-scene. youtube.com/watch?v=WEPmn8FHtDA Viewer discretion advised for, hm, gruesome depictions of violence. $\endgroup$ – Daniel B Sep 2 '20 at 5:50
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @DanielB I never was arguing about the rating system of PG-13. James Bond has never really been considered "Kid-Friendly" I hope and there are certain.... thresholds that can be bargained into being let in based on amount. see Precision F-Strike (Warning tvtropes). Still gruesome depictions of torture have enough real world examples and to quote myself "world-building even if it is valid shouldn't be promoting new and interesting methods of torture." $\endgroup$ – IT Alex Sep 2 '20 at 17:20

I'm not saying anything here that I didn't say in my response to the cited discussion question.

Long and short of it: this community focuses on helping people -- authors, game developers, worldbuilders, game masters, and so forth -- build their fictional worlds. As such, this community MUST be free to discuss all aspects of worldbuilding, which includes culture, cultural practices, implementations of justice, and a whole host of other activities not all of which are wholesome and pure. We also recognise the need to "reign in" salacious, explicit, gruesome, and violent depictions. Both in queries as well as responses.

As for the five queries you cited:

Nos. 1 through 4. NONE of the questions you cite are worded in anything like a "gruesome" fashion. Every one of them, questions as well as answers, is worded in a reasonably clinical & non-inflammatory fashion.

No. 5 This query is actually based on a YA (young adult) novel. The novel is appropriate for 11 or 12 years and up, as that is its target audience. What's age appropriate for a novel can hardly be rationally considered inappropriate for a query here in this community.

They all focus on aspects of fictional cultures, generally the application of justice and the results (physiological & psychological) of such application.

I'm sorry, but I really do not see what your point is. There is nothing in any of these questions and answers that an 11 year old -- to say nothing of a 13 year old -- can't see in a video game, can't see on Youtube, can't read about in a YA novel, or can't learn about on Wikipedia.

Where to go from here...
Option 1 -- removing the tag "torture". Took a while to discover what "burninate" involves. This seems to be the better of the two proposals. Though I'd prefer it be done through usual channels of community discussion & concensus.

Option 2 -- deleting the questions. This is unacceptable for our community. We must be at liberty to discuss even the darker aspects of a fictional culture. Our mandate is to help anyone who is creating a fictional world with the workings of that world, the evil as well as the good.

As the linked questions demonstrate, you can clearly see that we prefer not to engage in sensationalism. None of these questions go anywhere close to gruesome or sensationalised content. Deletion is not warranted.

We have the right and indeed the mandate to discuss all aspects of worldbuilding, including practices such as torture. We're capable of policing ourselves and have done well when it comes to "gruesome" content, as evidenced by the clinical & dispassionate nature of the questions and answers you cite.

As far as strict or loose application is concerned: it is immediately apparent that this community is unique among the other forums within SE. We regularly deal in content matters that don't often fit the strict guidelines that one finds throughout the other communities. Opinions and broad based questions are vorboten elsewhere. But in our community, this is bread and butter! As a creative and artistic Q&A community, we strive to abide by the quality standards set by SE's other communities as much as possible, but we also recognise the need for leniency and a laxer approach to rules & guidelines.

As such, we appreciate that determining from outside the community what is allowed and what is not allowed is not your goal. Such an action would be devastating to the liberty we require to do our work here and would also further tarnish SE the company. Indeed, when things go to far, we have a strong sense of community and good moderators that are quite capable of handling such situations.

  • $\begingroup$ P2 should be "rein in" unless there's a very clever joke I'm missing out on. $\endgroup$ – Michael Aug 30 '20 at 19:09

What brought this post about?

Are we moving too slowly? Do we need micromanagement? My own participation in the and discussions favored the need to manage gratuitous questions that would not be suitable for the younger users of this site. Frankly, I think your 13-and-up belief is deplorably naive. SE Terms of Service might legally only allow 13-year-olds on its sites, but nothing in the entire world stops children much younger from showing up. (And they do....)

Having said that, I note that the vast majority of users at Worldbuilding keep their language clean and ask questions in a non-gratuitous manner. The small handful of people who whine about not being allowed to cuss like sailors or express their darkest fantasies get educated or pushed out fairly quickly. However, in a world where how much violence, sex, etc. is suitable for children is anything but consistent, the idea that one nation's, one culture's, or one corporate overlord's idea of what is a legitimate question (and what is not) should be imposed over the Stack's community opinion is infuriating. I've been more offended on Stack Overflow than here.

Which is a lengthy way of suggesting that we be allowed to complete the process of modifying and enhancing the site's culture and rules without SE's interference. We were already on the way to solving the problem. A problem that was brought to light due to a single user's obsession with torture and execution who regularly asked questions outside the scope of either tag (he's probably 15... most U.S. 15 year old boys are obsessed with death, torture, and execution).

But, to be clear.

  1. Do I believe SE should be in the business of deleting questions on our site? No. You folks already have a bad reputation for restricting free speech and punitive action.

  2. The U.S. PG-13 rating is anything but a viable standard. PG-13 movies like Drag me to Hell, Spawn, and Sucker Punch exceed most (if not all) of the examples you're looking to delete.

  3. Any explicit limitation you try to impose will be circumvented. If anything, you'll make the situation worse by drawing attention to something that needs less attention. (I remember reading an article written by an online game developer trying to control inappropriate content from appearing by using a restricted game vocabulary. He sat a teenager at the game and within ten minutes the teen used the restricted vocabulary to create an obviously suggestive statement.)

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I want to stick my long-necked Giraffe up your fluffy white bunny. $\endgroup$ – Reinstate Monica Aug 27 '20 at 11:19
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @ReinstateMonica That's the phrase! Can you remember the article it came from? You'd be surprised how often I could have used that citation working with concept developers over the years. $\endgroup$ – JBH Aug 28 '20 at 3:00
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I don't remember if it's the same article, but there was another discussion I read once about an online game (I think it was Toontown) where chat was restricted to preset phrases. People got around it by inviting the person they wanted to DM to their house, and then rearranging their furniture to spell out their IM username, one letter at a time. Never underestimate the human propensity for creative loophole abuse. $\endgroup$ – F1Krazy Aug 28 '20 at 14:29

Do I agree that needs cleaning up?


I took a cursory look through , and it seems to me that all the non-clinical questions have already been closed. With that in mine, my word of advice to you is this: be careful about how you clean it up; it's important that we hold to our moral principles, but Orwellian Editing is almost never a good solution to these problems.

My suggestion is to go through and delete the questions in which meet these criteria:

  1. They are currently closed. This shows that we, the WB.SE community, consider them inappropriate.

  2. They are more than three months old, and/or have an accepted answer. Generally this means that their querents either can't fix them, or (more often) don't want to fix them.

It is my opinion that as long as we stick to these criteria we should be able to safely delete questions.

Do I agree that we shouldn't host gruesome content?

Absolutely. However, as other people have pointed out, we should be careful to rigidly define what "gruesome content" means. While doing so may open the door to loopholes, some people just want to see the world burn; if they're going to post content that's not "technically" against the rules, they are; that's what downvotes and VTC-ing for.

Should we burnitate the tag?

NO. Like it or not, there are valid questions that go under this tag, and it is our duty as Worldbuilders to answer them. Plus, you already know my opinion of Orwellian Editing.

"A non-goal is creating a bulleted list of everything that's allowed or not allowed"

While I agree that we shouldn't make a bulleted list of everything that is or isn't allowed (as a pastor I know once said, "the purpose of the Law was not to save us from sin, but to point out our sin"), we do at least need general guidelines in place to delimit what is and isn't allowed.

In order to ensure that we don't end up with a "Congress makes the law, but the Supreme Court interprets it" situation, it must be the Community that originates, determines, and enforces these general guidelines. (thanks, @elemtilas). Please note that I am not saying that the Moderators can't enforce them - just that these policies, as a representation of the Community's moral and ethical beliefs, should primarily be enforced by the Community.

  • $\begingroup$ ...and it must be the community that originates, determines, and enforces those general guidelines. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Aug 29 '20 at 1:06
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @elemtilas Thanks, I'll add that in. $\endgroup$ – The Daleks Aug 29 '20 at 12:37
  • $\begingroup$ do you mean burninate tag as deleting tag? execution tag already get deleted though, and in my opinion its more salvageable as genuine worldbuilding than torture tag. $\endgroup$ – Li Jun Aug 31 '20 at 6:27
  • $\begingroup$ @LiJun "Burninate" is a synonym of Retgone and Damnatio Memoriae. As such, I am highly against it. Personally, I think that torture and execution are roughly equivalent in salvageableness. $\endgroup$ – The Daleks Sep 1 '20 at 0:11
  • $\begingroup$ i think thats pretty much what happen to execution tag though, since JBH not even mention that its already get deleted in previous topic of that. hence not many people mention execution tag only torture tag, which likely because they dont know it even exist before, renan topic about torture one is more popular after all, and both tag been painted bad. at least i can think torture tag can be use for alien type that far off from human or earth lifeform i guess which can fit for worldbuilding. $\endgroup$ – Li Jun Sep 1 '20 at 3:21
  • $\begingroup$ or you mean the burninate in here refer to the question and not the tag? because seems like thats what you try to imply. $\endgroup$ – Li Jun Sep 1 '20 at 3:34
  • $\begingroup$ Did you accidentally leave off the "don't" in your point 2? Based on the other points I think you meant to write "...old, and/or don't have an accepted answer...". $\endgroup$ – AJMansfield Sep 17 '20 at 13:59
  • $\begingroup$ @AJMansfield No, that's correct. If there's already an accepted answer then the OP already has what they want, and thus isn't likely to fix the question. $\endgroup$ – The Daleks Sep 17 '20 at 15:32
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, OK, guess I misunderstood the purpose of that condition then, I thought it was meant as a gauge of the value the question to future readers, where a question with no answers is useful to nobody, while even a lower-quality question with a useful answer attached might be worth keeping. $\endgroup$ – AJMansfield Sep 17 '20 at 18:48

Like it or not, as a society, we love our torture, and it's integrated with our society:

  • 2.4 billion people believe that the torture, and slow, painful, public execution of a then political agitator forgave their sins and gave them the chance of eternal life.
  • 33% of Americans believe torture is "part of war". 46% say that the enemy could be tortured for important military information.
  • 59% of Americans think that the harsh interrogation techniques used on terrorism suspects after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were justified. 58% say the torture of suspected terrorists can be justified “often” or “sometimes.”

I was told the Easter story so young that I can't remember when I first heard it. I remember a religious colouring book I had as a child where there was spot to colour in the blood dripping down from the NAILS THROUGH HIS LIMBS. Every Good Friday, I had to witness a live reenactment of that on the alter at my local church. Whip and all.

There are stained glass windows around my church depicting the torture and execution of a man. Every Sunday as a child I saw them.

People get married in front of a life size recreation of someone dying by torture. It's front and centre at funerals too.

enter image description here Colour in the torture! For ages 6 months and up.

The CIA torturing Iraqis made the news in prime time here. I saw those photos as a 14 year old on the evening news. It wasn't the first description of torture I'd heard out of the middle east either.

Plus, as one other answer has pointed out, violence is glorified in PG-13 movies all the time, so long as the nipples are hidden and sex is one of the 3 government approved positions and on screen for no more than 5 thrusts are implied, you can torture someone to death and still be family friendly. Torture is just a plot point and opportunity for character building.

(Personally, I'd much rather a sex positive culture than a torture positive culture - but this is the world we have now).

The cat's out of the bag on torture - children have seen it in PG-13 films, they've seen it in church, they've seen it on the news, maybe even games. Censoring it here is a cap on creativity for no real gain.

Unless we feel like correcting Christians, the CIA, the MPAA, etc...

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ While that's true, and I certainly agree with you in this, it is worth noting that in the case of Jesus the Bible keeps the gore down to a minimum - for example, it says that He was scourged (short for "whipped with a 9-ended whip which had sharp glass/nails embedded in it), but it does not describe the wounds incurred thereby. $\endgroup$ – The Daleks Aug 28 '20 at 23:29
  • $\begingroup$ @TheDaleks iam not christian, but isnt jesus did ask or dare their student to put their finger into his hollowed hand from the nail wounds? honestly when i read that, it give me cringe like how i see broken nail is give me cringe, than common execution, and definitely result in gruesome outcome outside of psychology torture which is depend, honestly in my opinion execution is the one that still be salvageable rather than torture though which already get deleted, since torture usually is mostly too related with the plot or character mindset itself. $\endgroup$ – Li Jun Aug 30 '20 at 8:45
  • $\begingroup$ i mean regarding torture, it definitely result in gruesome outcome even if it minimal, compare to execution which can related to worldbuilding more, since it usually related with law, culture or religion of such civilization. like the roman execution using crucifixion as part of their cultural execution while some prefer poison as execution method which i believe less gruesome or gore, most crucifixion dont use nail anyway. $\endgroup$ – Li Jun Aug 30 '20 at 9:35
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @LiJun "Jesus did ask or dare their student to put their finger into his hollowed hand from the nail wounds" That was because one of the disciples didn't believe that Jesus had returned to life when the other disciples told him about it, and said that was what was needed for him to actually believe them. When Jesus actually showed up and offered to let him do it, he seems to have been immediately humbled. christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/7269/… $\endgroup$ – nick012000 Aug 30 '20 at 13:01
  • $\begingroup$ @nick012000 yeah i know, but honestly that description is pretty cringe to me. and that hollow hand definitely result of a gore wounds incurred from the punishment. though in my opinion children should not be involve with religious text yet, since its quite common in religious text that involve hell torture anyway. $\endgroup$ – Li Jun Aug 30 '20 at 13:33
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @LiJun Yes, that happens. My point is that even in points like this, it isn't gratuitous in nature. In the passage you are referencing (The Epistle of St. John, chapter 20, verses 26-29) Jesus is not making this offer for the purpose of gore - He's doing it to prove his identity to Thomas. Again, it's worth noting that even here the Bible is largely clinical in nature - the exact words are "Then he said to Thomas, "Reach forth, and behold my hands; and touch my side, and be not faithless, but believing." Even here, where some detail is necessary, it doesn't go in depth. $\endgroup$ – The Daleks Aug 30 '20 at 15:39
  • $\begingroup$ @TheDaleks huh...i guess its different in translation then in my local one its pretty descriptive of it. though the purpose is not gore is irrelevant in my opinion its still a depiction of gore or try to, for example most torture was aim to either to gain information or as punishment its not aim for the sake of it either, unless BDSM kind i guess. $\endgroup$ – Li Jun Aug 31 '20 at 6:00

No One Has Ever Successfully Done This Empirically - We Can Only Provide Guidelines, not Rules

To the best of my knowledge, no-one has ever been able to police what is "torture" or "depictions of violence" properly. It runs into the same thing as the issue that attempting to define Pornography versus Art does; lines are blurry and mean different things to different people.

This isn't a new topic either; consider the Platonic Ideal of a chair as proof that even thousands of years ago it was recognized that we couldn't define something as simple as a chair consistently... let alone something as fluid as torture.

To bring a concrete example in on torture, I have met people who consider any raising of livestock to be torturous to the animals... and I have met plenty of people who also eat meat. One argument begins by asserting that a being is being raised solely for the purpose of being killed, flayed and eaten at a relatively young age -- and while they're not wrong, I think we have to also agree the full picture requires a more detailed and nuanced discussion before we can conclude it is torture and, therefore, abhorrent and prohibited. And unless we're going to have that detailed and nuanced discussion over every possible iteration now and draw each to their logical conclusion (as defined by a universal ethical system which itself requires definition), this simply isn't going to be possible.

Now, for Guidelines...

I think the U.S. Supreme Court actually did a gangbusters job on this back in the day when discussing the topic of what is and what is not Obscenity, and we could apply the same logic. In short, they recognized that they could not pass a set of strict laws that cover the gamut - and that it would be dangerous to attempt to do so. Their solution was to implement three guidelines that should be used:

  1. The average person, applying local community standards, looking at the work in its entirety, must find that it appeals to the prurient interest.
  2. The work must describe or depict, in an obviously offensive way, sexual conduct, or excretory functions.
  3. The work as a whole must lack "serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific values".

I would propose a modification of the above, leveraging the community moderation system that we have to identify - by consensus rather that individual interpretation - whether works are acceptable purely on a case-by-case basis. The guidelines I propose are that to be valid for removal as torturous/gruesome a work must meet these three criteria:

  1. The average person, applying SE community standards, looking at the work in its entirety, must find that it appeals to the prurient interest ("marked by, arousing, or appealing to an immoderate torturous/gruesome desire", in this case)
  2. The work must describe or depict, in an obviously offensive way, torturous or gruesome content
  3. The work as a whole must lack "serious literary, artistic, or worldbuilding values"

TL;DR - "I can't define it, but I know it when I see it"... as long as others agree.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .