If I Were to Craft an Adult Content Policy for a Major RPG Retail Site


Sarah Darkmagic - Posted on 01 September 2015

Content Note: rape

Seemingly in response to the criticisms directed at it, OneBookShelf/DriveThruRPG made the following statements:

Just to be clear, when they say title in this case, they mean the pdf as a whole, not just its title.


Obviously, there's a lot to be said here, but I want to concentrate on one part, the way this now ties to a policy and guidelines of adult content. If you have been following some of the comments made by people who work at OneBookShelf, one of the issues they were struggling with is where to draw the line for adult content, instead of say concentrating only on this product. I believe this is what Steve Wieck was discussing in these tweets.

Personally, I feel like putting most actions (beyond the obvious addition of the adult flag and removal of the Pathfinder tag) until one can create an overall adult content strategy is the wrong play here. I think it's pretty clear that this book is a few standard deviations beyond the types of evil presented in books like The Book of Vile Darkness. For instance, here's the description of the tournament.

And on how to involve the PCs

I also think using a game supplement that concentrates on rape as the launchpad to discuss adult content as a whole sends a strange message especially as adult content usually (but not always) really means nudity and sexuality, whereas rape is about control.

Rather than do an expansive policy regarding adult content, I would attempt to craft a more narrow one that covers the use of rape in content hosted on the site. For the first round, I might even limit it to the RPG portions instead of it being a companywide policy, but I'm not sure if the OneBookShelf terms allow for that.

Within that limited scope, I would put out a call for feedback, one with a definite end. I'd give at least two weeks but perhaps up to a month. I would treat this feedback much in the same way that WotC handled the playtest feedback, distanced and as a way to look for holes in ones own thinking. Also, I would acknowledge that many of the people providing feedback would not have specialized knowledge in how to fix the problem, just that many of them would be able to see where problem areas might be.

Furthermore, I'd solicit input from various groups who might have that specialized knowledge. I'd talk to sexual assault and rape survivor advocate groups. I'd talk to respected people in the various kink communities. I'd talk to people like Laci Green and Sexplanations and a whole slew of people who have 1) learned to separate their own sexual mores, preferences, and the like from discussions of sex and sexuality and 2) may have knowledge on how to present thorny topics such as rape in a way that is supportive of survivors and less likely to perpetuate rape myths while also being supportive of sexual practices that many consider to be too close to rape for their own tastes. These specialists are likely to have the training to differentiate the sort of consent that happens during a rape fantasy from the lack of consent that happens during sexual assault and rape.

This group wouldn't have veto power or anything like that. They are there to consult and provide their own unique perspectives. As such, they should be allowed to give their forthright opinion without it being interpreted as an attack.

I'd also use this time to review any applicable laws that I might be subject to regarding this type of content as well as any policies my vendors (such as PayPal) might have.

After all of that, then I would then release a policy that reflects the goals and values of the company and leave it up to the sellers and consumers to decide if it works for them. The policy might have to be refined and iterated over, but hopefully it's narrow enough to not require too many changes or to affect so many publishers that the changes lead to uncertainty or feel arbitrary.

If another area that constitutes "adult content" seems like it needs a policy, I'd repeat this exercise.

Send feedback using the contact form or through twitter, @sarahdarkmagic.

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