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I'm going to edit this some as per Shog's suggestion. But not much.

This is a question on how to handle a troll, not NSFW language.

Please forgive the metaphor and the literary analysis, but we have something of a problem at this site which does remind me of a popular book. In Austin's Sense & Sensibility, the two Dashwood sisters represent opposite positions: Marianne is a romantic, an impulsive optimist willing to risk all and lose all, while Elinor is a realist, willing to face facts, limitations, adhere to traditional values and live with the joy that does come her way.

Clearly, both sisters are represented in spades on this site, as seen most recently in reactions to trolls.

Once again, we got a question with TMI that I perceived as a troll (I am the boring realist Elinor).

On bringing it to chat, there were the trusting Mariannes, the kind, optimistic people who wanted to think that the troll really wasn't a troll, but someone genuinely asking for help and meriting it. Some comments:

@anon let's just wait for a bit
My first goal is always to help the OP first.
@anongoodnurse Some people believe very strongly that this is a legitimate question that needs some work (how much work seems needed varies on the part of the reviewer), and some people believe very strongly that it's a troll post, and I think the consensus was that we need a meta post about it.
man my answer better get credit on that question if proven to be legit!

I'm not an expert in trolls. But c'mon! When someone flaunts a sexual act in your face, and bolds it, I vote, "let's operate under the reasonable assumption that this person is a troll.

The question was about how to refuse to do a particular thing during a sex act.

OK, fair enough. Sex is about as interpersonal as it gets. But let me phrase the entire question in a non-trollish way:

I love my boyfriend, and I like to please him, but he has this thing that he likes and I don't. How do I tell him I don't want to do what turns him on but turns me off?

This is broad, but it covers it without trolling. Help this person. They obviously need a little encouragement about boundaries and "No means no."

But a troll will write things that make people uncomfortable, often about something taboo or that "polite" people don't often discuss in public. They like to cause discomfort and strife. In my experience, they like to demean people as well. But I won't go there.

This troll was persistent. They had had the same question deleted a bit earlier. They returned with a bit more vitriol.

A nicer person might take it to meta and ask why their question had been deleted.

I myself don't understand why some people don't recognize trollish behavior when it slaps them in the face. If your stance is

You can't go wrong by assuming the best and trying to help.

Then please allow me to repeat Shog's admonishment from yesterday:

if you refrain from editing, closing, correcting out of fear of scaring off new users, you set the site on the path to ruin even without the aid of overt trolling! The goal here - as everywhere - is fairness to all, to be nice but unwavering. (emphasis mine)

In other words, don't be a Marianne. It doesn't end well.

Question 1 is not a question I asked, but which was assumed in answers, therefore deserves a question of its own (not this one, and someone else can post it.) Pertaining to uncomfortably explicit material: can we agree that content on this site should be polite? Polite isn't unkind; it's professional, like the "Be Nice" policy. Content which makes most users uncomfortable should not be viewed as acceptable but possibly naïve, and should be promptly edited to fit more conventional norms. If that is met with outrage on the part of the OP, that outrage should not be tolerated; tell them to take it to meta like everything else affecting this site.

Again, that is a separate question. The fact that trolls use sexually specific language is an aside, a means to identify some of them.

Question two: What to do with a person who is highly likely to be a troll? If we don't DV and delete, their content stays up. What is gained by assuming someone outrageously flaunting "normal"* values is not a troll? Does it give this site reputability? Or does it invite more of the same?

*Normal in this context is normal for the USA, the host site of the network. If you believe it's fine to walk around in your Japanese friend's house with muddy galoshes, then I admit "normal" does not apply.

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    Another Elinor here! – Anne Daunted Dec 14 '17 at 17:11
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    I was arguing against R/A deleting this outright, but I'm not sure it can stay. Either way good to have the meta discussion. – Magisch Dec 14 '17 at 17:14
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    It was an obvious troll, and I am an expert at trolling. – The Wraith Dec 14 '17 at 17:20
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    Not entirely sure what you're looking to discuss here; both of these questions were deleted fairly quickly. Putting aside the question of whether this was a sincere question in the first place, was it a good question for this site? Is the topic (sex act etiquette?) something y'all want here, when asked sincerely? – Shog9 Dec 14 '17 at 17:26
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    @Shog9 - When I took my concern to chat, there was resistance to deleting. That's what I'm addressing. Also addressing whether we want explicit sex acts to be discussed in that manner, or whether we want to maintain a measure of decorum. – anongoodnurse Dec 14 '17 at 17:28
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    @Shog9 those of us who were told that we shouldn't have deleted/vtc/flagged those posts were told to bring it into Meta, which we are doing. There was some rather heated criticism directed towards us for having done so. – The Wraith Dec 14 '17 at 17:30
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    Well, fortunately chat is not the sole arbiter of what's allowed here. And as such, I think it would help to focus this question a bit for the benefit of the folks who aren't in chat: lay out the argument(s) for keeping these questions and then explain why you feel they're invalid. – Shog9 Dec 14 '17 at 17:35
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    FWIW: I was fast on flag-n-VTC on both. As mentioned by OP, this could have been nicely crafted with no offensive words. And I believe many of us wouldn't have been the FGITW – OldPadawan Dec 14 '17 at 17:44
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    Hey @OldPadawan - saw your edit to the 2nd question. Please avoid using meta-tags-in-titles as a substitute for clarity; a title that reflects the question will warn off folks who wish to avoid NSFW content much more readily than a "NSFW" prefix. See Robert's guidelines here: interpersonal.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/2216/… – Shog9 Dec 14 '17 at 17:54
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    So just to clarify, we're talking about potential trolls here, not what to do about explicit NSFW content? I think they're both important discussions to be had, but they are two distinct issues to iron out. (e.g. it would be good to have one meta post which clearly shows the community consensus on NSFW content so we can point to it if we decide to close such questions.) – Em C Dec 15 '17 at 0:14
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    You're missing the point... Part of what's possible on Stack Exchange is the ability to be anonymous. Half of the questions here are things that people wouldn't want to ask their friends or coworkers... if they did, they'd be asking them instead of asking them here... People don't generally like to be open with the people they know... at least... not the people I know. We shouldn't assume that every question here has to be something that a person would actually ask a friend about. Uncomfortable questions abound. Why should we censor them because we're uncomfortable? – Catija Dec 15 '17 at 15:54
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    @Catija - I'm not missing the point. There's a difference between disagreement and misunderstanding, something many people don't understand. They think if they explain themselves enough, the other person will agree. I do understand. I disagree. I think this site should have some standard of decency. Please note, we are disagreeing though I presented my case. It has happened before, and you accused me of not presenting enough of a case. Is this enough of a case?... – anongoodnurse Dec 15 '17 at 16:00
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    I suspect you may be seeing a skewed level of support here... It's really easy to get people on the anti-troll bandwagon... and drag another issue along with it. – apaul Dec 15 '17 at 16:03
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    Ya... I'll definitely be framing the conversation your way... How about asking a specific question about whether sex should be on topic, or what language is acceptable when talking about it, without tacking it onto a question about trolls. – apaul Dec 15 '17 at 16:08
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    So, a specific post about what sort of language should be used when talking about sex, without tacking it onto a question about trolls. – apaul Dec 15 '17 at 16:15
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We had an issue on Travel with ridiculous questions. Can I take a bazooka on a plane? Can I wear a bullet proof vest on a plane? Is it ok to carry a solid gold bar on a plane? And so on. They got a lot of attention and traffic, a LOT of comments, and after a while they started getting downvotes because "this is just another ridiculous question from that guy who won't stop trolling." There were meta threads, comments, answers that were just reprimands about "stop asking stupid questions" and lots of work for everyone with VtC and delete privileges.

What made it stop was to just either answer the question, or close it if it couldn't be answered. Clear away all meta comments about whether it's trolling or not and stop talking about it on meta. Remove emotion of all kinds (quit cluttering up our serious site with your jokey garbage! they poor guy just wants some help!) from sight. Just the facts, ma'am.

I suggest a similar approach here. Answer the question. Anything that doesn't answer the question (especially if it's about the legitimacy of the question) gets removed. If the question cannot be answered, close it. Don't get drawn in. If the person is truly trolling, this removes the fun. If they aren't, well, they get answers where answers are possible, which is the best we can do.

(The possibly-troll on travel has gone on to ask quite a few more questions, which are on topic and reasonable, btw.)

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    A very nice approach, indeed. +10 – NVZ Dec 21 '17 at 14:44
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    "Don't get drawn in. If the person is truly trolling, this removes the fun. If they aren't, well, they get answers where answers are possible, which is the best we can do." __ absolutely right @Kate Gregory! The popular expression (as I am sure you know very well) is "don't feed the trolls." – English Student Dec 21 '17 at 16:26
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Preface: I pretty much agree with everything Tinkeringbell said, and thank you for making a meta about this :)

I guess I'm a "Marianne" or my troll radar is broken. The situation described in the post seems entirely plausible to me.

This troll was persistent. They had had the same question deleted a bit earlier. They returned with a bit more vitriol.

A nicer person might take it to meta and ask why their question had been deleted.

I don't see this behavior as particularly unusual. New users often can't find the "edit" button, let alone meta! And I'm sure we've all seen new users get annoyed and confused when their questions are downvoted or closed, simply because the SE model is different from forums people are more used to. That doesn't make them all trolls.

When someone flaunts a sexual act in your face

I wouldn't call this "flaunting" either, the post was straightforwardly describing a problematic situation which happened to be about a sexual act. Would it have been answerable if it was less specific? Sure. Does that make them a troll for naming the particular act? Ehhh. Maybe it didn't occur to them to generalize, maybe they thought it was relevant that the problem was only with a specific act.

And I don't think presence of explicit material automatically = troll. If OP was familiar with other NSFW advice forums, this sort of post would not be out of place (whereas the "my boss and I hooked up" story would still stick out due to the fanfic-style prose - and even then, that post got several comments aimed at improvement before getting deleted!).

(FWIW, I am uncomfortable with allowing that level of explicit material in posts here - but I see that as a separate issue from this meta post, so I'm just focusing on the potential-troll-response aspect here.)

if you refrain from editing, closing, correcting out of fear of scaring off new users, you set the site on the path to ruin even without the aid of overt trolling! The goal here - as everywhere - is fairness to all, to be nice but unwavering.

Well, people certainly weren't afraid to close it :P Why was that the first instinct, though? You give a great example here of how it could have been edited to be less explicit and answerable. So... why not make the edit, or encourage the user to do so themselves? Why the need to delete this one immediately rather than just DV / VTC like any other bad question?

Now to what I raised in chat: my problem was that it seemed like users were reacting to the question with "eww, let's pick a close reason and get rid of it ASAP". That's not how we should be behaving here. Questions should be closed because they are too broad, unclear, or off-topic. So far, I haven't seen a community consensus on making explicit NSFW questions off-topic, so that's not a valid reason to short-circuit the usual on-hold / close / delete procedure. You're always free to downvote material you don't want to see on the site, but it's not fair to pretend a question is [insert close reason here] because of that.

If someone thinks we shouldn't have certain types of questions on the site, then they need to bring it up on meta so we can decide on it as a community - not just a few users in chat deciding they don't like that sort of thing and deleting it vigilante-style.

  • Is this answer, to clarify, not what to do about trolls, but rather what is a troll? How do we tell if someone is a troll? Was this person a troll? Of course the incident is plausible. That's not what I'm questioning. I'm questioning the motive of the poster. Trolls try to make us uncomfortable in our own site/community, and try to cause strife. (See Snark Knight's post.) That is exactly what was accomplished. I have no doubt it was a troll. Maybe we need two (or three) separate posts to iron this stuff out. – anongoodnurse Dec 15 '17 at 3:13
  • Another plausible (probably common) situation is walking in on someone having sex. It's embarrassing for many people, and if someone wanted to ask a question about how to handle, say, seeing the people again when they reappeared in public, I'm fine. But if they describe the sex act they saw being performed in vivid detail, and it takes up more space than their reaction/question... you have to ask yourself why. – anongoodnurse Dec 15 '17 at 3:18
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    I think it's only a problem because we don't have a policy on how to handle explicit questions. Once we have a policy, questions like these are a non-issue: either the post follows policy or it doesn't. I guess I don't see why it matters if it was a troll or not, given that the incident itself was plausible, and I really don't think that there was suspiciously excessive detail in this particular question. If there is, why can't we just edit it out? We already do that with irrelevant details in other posts. – Em C Dec 15 '17 at 3:31
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    If this was you, would you ask your coworker that exact question? A stranger on the street? Or would you be more discrete? I can empathize with your desire to help. I think you give really helpful answers. I think you probably are a modern Marianne (She was by far the more interesting character.) At my age, with all I've seen, I am definitely an Elinor. And because we live in cynical times, I'm a cynical Elinor. :-/ – anongoodnurse Dec 15 '17 at 3:37
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    No way, I would only ask a very good friend in private.. or anonymously on the internet :) I use reddit and see people post things like that on there - personally I am not comfortable sharing things like that with others, but if I wanted to that's where I would go first. Thank you, by the way! I really appreciate your answers as well, and I'm glad that there is a mix of personalities guiding the site :) – Em C Dec 15 '17 at 3:45
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I want to chime in as well, because I casted the first close vote on the first question AND raised the issue in chat.

I don't know for sure, but I think that at that time, there were some discussions all mingling together.


The first thread that I picked out is the use of rude/abusive flags.

The first post was reported to chat automatically by SmokeDetector, got closed, got some flags, but was deleted manually by 3 users.
The second post was reported manually to SmokeDetector, got closed and got deleted by Community, which means it must have had 6 flags.

Now, don't get me wrong, but I was convinced this was a troll post. The first one was different from the second, but already matched all the points described by @Shog9 here. I voted to close the question, left a not so handy message in chat asking other users if they agreed, and when it got closed reminded people it could be deleted. We used delete votes to clear that one up.

The second one got deleted as rude/abusive after getting enough R/A flags. Now, by that time, there hadn't really been any discussion about the question in chat. It just popped up in the feed for a second time, I pointed out that it was a repost of an earlier question.

There was a lot of discussion in chat about r/a flags not being the right way to delete troll posts though. I heard TWP has some experience with trolls, and asked what the policy was there. Apparently, things over there are flagged AND delete voted. If it's clearly rude/abusive, they flag it as such, otherwise they just mod flag things when there's a suspicion of trolling.

Yes, this question should have been closed ASAP, and the deletion wasn't wrong either. I agree with you anongoodnurse, this was likely a troll question. However, it wasn't outright rude/abusive, so there was no need to flag it as such. Instead, we should have raised moderator flags.


Now, as for what we allow on this site, I fully agree with AnneDaunted. We don't need questions here describing every conceivable sex act and asking about it's etiquette.

I also agree with anongoodnurse. If I were to write a question asking about discussing sexual preferences or setting boundaries that are to be respected, I could have just asked a more generic question, either about setting the boundary, discussing preferences or enforcing the boundary after it was set.

I certainly wouldn't have asked 'how to say no during the middle of sex' (2nd edition, first one just read 'during sex') I would have liked to have gotten it out of the way before next time, especially if it was never discussed!

I think these differ from the 'furry pornography' one, in that the furry question wasn't describing what was happening in that pornographic material.


Now, to add a little Sense and Sensibility into the discussion:

Although I personally think that questions written like this, describing sexual acts, are not a good fit for this site, we could (and should) have been a bit more 'helpful' here.

As Catija pointed out here:

Yes, I'm glad to have the warnings to be wary of unwanted questions asked in bad faith and I will endeavor to be on guard for them but at this point, lacking that evidence (and with the support of the Team), I'm willing to let pointing out that the question was of low quality be the reason it's closed (and maybe eventually deleted) rather than playing into a troll's need for attention.

I'm also going to put that comment she linked to here:

FWIW, I think the mods were right insofar as they shouldn't normally handle posts differently on the mere suspicion that they may not be asked in good faith; that's a dangerous road to go down. But, the opposite is just as poisonous: if you refrain from editing, closing, correcting out of fear of scaring off new users, you set the site on the path to ruin even without the aid of overt trolling! The goal here - as everywhere - is fairness to all, to be nice but unwavering. – Shog9♦ yesterday


Based on that, I think I (we) overreacted.

After re-reading the question, I think this one could have handled just like the one that got us the warning to look out for trolls.

We could have closed it as 'unclear what you're asking', and left comments like:

Since you're mentioning you never discussed this boundary before, maybe it's better to focus on discussing your preferences and boundaries first, before the next time, instead of setting that boundary while in the middle of something? I also appreciate your willingness to share but the degree of specificity of your sexual encounter may be unnecessary. There's nothing in general wrong with the subject but I wonder if "consensual sex between two people and he likes to do things I don't like" or "discussing sexual preferences" would be enough?

This also fits in with the answer from TheTinyMan. They have a very good point: there may be special circumstances/connotations to certain behaviour. But if the reason for the detail isn't in the question, please just close it and leave a comment asking whether it is really necessary.

Because we have to keep this in mind:

if you refrain from editing, closing, correcting out of fear of scaring off new users, you set the site on the path to ruin even without the aid of overt trolling!

So, whether or not this question was trolling or not, it should at least have been closed, commented and maybe corrected.


As for the deleting part, as I've said, there was no need to flag rude/abusive.

One of the downsides to deleting things so fast as we did is that if the question was genuine, the OP doesn't really have any means of communicating with us anymore, since comments get locked. Also, there weren't any comments pointing out the content issues here.

Catija made a good point in chat:

The question from two days ago was on the site, closed and downvoted for over 24 hours. Did it hurt anything in that state? Being below -4 kept it off the front page and being closed kept it from being answered. It had comments asking for clarification and pointing out the content issues.

There were apparently only 3 deleted comments.

So, as much as I'd like to say that I'm glad it got deleted, it also is a knee-jerk reaction.
Flag such posts for moderator attention, feel free to mention a suspicion of trolling
Downvote them to keep them below -4.
If there's a problem with users massively upvoting such a post, flag a mod to delete it.
If there's a lot of things going on in the comments, we can flag those comments.

I don't think that at this time, there's enough evidence that this site has a structural problem of being regularly trolled, and so the really strict approach of deleting things right as they come up probably wasn't necessary.


ONE LAST, AND VERY IMPORTANT POINT:

If the question cannot be edited into shape and/or the asker doesn't cooperate, close and delete and move on.

I didn't even give the user that chance.

I didn't leave comments on a closed question.
I didn't wait for the OP to provide feedback.
I didn't give the OP a chance to accept our guidance.

I assumed bad intentions where I should have assumed good ones.

So, mea culpa, I did overreact. The closing of the post was okay. The immediate deleting without commenting wasn't, and neither was the use of rude/abusive flags in this case.

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    I don't think the closings were handled at all inappropriately. Quick and relatively painless(ly) is how a troll should be dispensed with. The issue you seem to be raising is "Give trolls a chance." Why? What is the troll doing for you or the site that is good? Closing but not deleting is still leaving the trollish content to put off and insult the site's more sincere users. – anongoodnurse Dec 14 '17 at 23:18
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    @anongoodnurse content is content regardless of who posts it or whether they're sincere. – user8960 Dec 16 '17 at 18:06
  • Closing but not deleting is still leaving the trollish content to put off and insult the site's more sincere users. Just saying: Shog stated a sight of trolling is: either by a complete lack of follow-up from the author, or mock confusion (edits that intensify rather than reduce problematic areas of the post, angry or baiting comments, etc)... I think we can leave a comment, and start the deleting after 24 hours if there's no reaction, or right away if the comments are following the described pattern – Tinkeringbell Dec 16 '17 at 18:07
  • Like we did with this one for example because the comments went nuts (interpersonal.stackexchange.com/q/8177/1599). And there's the checkout lane, you might want to check that and see if there's things worth deleting ;) Í'm one of the 'sincere users' I hope, and I'm not 'insulted' by trolling. It just pisses me off :P – Tinkeringbell Dec 16 '17 at 18:08
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So I'd like to preface this by mentioning my own cultural biases, as I'm part of multiple (non-SE of course) communities that discuss sexual acts in graphic detail, sometimes with a clinical approach and sometimes with an approach of titillation for its own sake. I furthermore believe that many of society's sex-related ills stem from an unwillingness to treat the subject with the directness and candor with which we treat many subjects, and the consistently-unhealthy approach presented in almost all of the media, even in 'good' examples of media, desperately needs a social counterweight. That being said, I recognize that this is part of the SE network, and there are very valid policing requirements for staying on an SFW network, so while I have strong feelings about these topics, I'm trying hard not to be pushy here.

I would argue that for every level of abstraction we add to the conversation, we potentially lose meaning. In this case, there are cultural connotations to the act in that question, common attitudes toward it from various subcultures, and it may be that the question can be answered completely if the detail were removed, but that also may not be the case. As such, I don't see detail as an inherent sign of trolling. Especially on the part of a new user, who might not understand the culture and norms of question-building we see here, and in the absence of community members adding comments to provide guidance. I would also point out that in this particular case, there was no excessive language or gratuitous detail present beyond framing the question.

I would also argue that one of SE's tenets is to assume good faith. Even if the OP didn't really need the question answered, someone in the future might. Even if it's very specific, someone with a different from related problem might find the question later and gain wisdom from it.

It was argued in chat that one method of trolling is to find the line and push it, ever so gently, ever so slowly. It's also been mentioned over and over that this is a new stack that's still trying to learn what its own rules are, and I would argue that even if this is an actual troll, that action will serve to help us find ourselves - if we regard it with good faith and don't dismiss it out of hand.

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If I may (I know I haven't been on much recently), I don't think this question should have been deleted. Yes, it should have been put on hold as unclear, because in my opinion the OP could have clarified what she meant by "which he always wants" and if she had ever hinted or shown that she didn't like that.

I agree that this question might make some people uncomfortable but one could argue that these people don't need to answer. I don't think the OP was disrespectful or impolite but perhaps tactless or just naively assumed everyone has the same boundaries as she does. She could have been a bit more aware of that but we neither know her age nor her cultural background.

Now, if she was a troll then she probably got what she wanted when her question was closed and deleted so fast after causing such a controversy.

It might be a little suspicious that she didn't "defend" her question by answering Anongoodnurse's question or commenting on the answers here, though she could have been upset. We can't really know.

So again I'll agree that there was overreaction and that sometimes it's hard to know whether someone is trolling (I'm no expert) but if people had attempted to answer by not paying attention to the explicit nature of the question, some people could have benefited. And here is where I agree with TheTinyMan's answer. I, for instance, would have asked her to clarify some things and attempted to answer because of a similar experience when I was younger. I don't know how old the OP was (another point for clarification) but had this happened to me at a younger age, I would have felt reluctant asking here so I do give her some credit.

Unless there is direct voting from the IPS community on the specific question we can't possibly know what percentage felt uncomfortable and what didn't to assume that most people did. How many felt that way out of how many?

Also deleting this question might discourage others from asking sex-related questions in the future. There could be guidelines or suggestions about how to ask more explicit questions when it comes to the language used if this is a concern.

If the OP instead of saying "giving him head" had said "performing oral sex", would that have been more acceptable? I'm just trying to understand what exactly made some people uncomfortable, the language, the topic, that they didn't expect such a question? What exactly?

To me Em C answered perfectly,

If someone thinks we shouldn't have certain types of questions on the site, then they need to bring it up on meta so we can decide on it as a community - not just a few users in chat deciding they don't like that sort of thing and deleting it vigilante-style.

And if some people have reconsidered or disagreed with the question being deleted why has nobody undeleted it since?

  • "Also deleting this question might discourage others from asking sex-related questions in the future." __ that is the most crucial point raised by your this brave and very relevant answer @Tycho's Nose. "And if some people have reconsidered or disagreed with the question being deleted why has nobody undeleted it since?" __ based on your valid arguments here I shall vote to undelete and you can do the same. Update: my undelete vote was not registered. It looks like only a moderator can undelete that question because one of the 3 delete votes was cast by a moderator. – English Student Dec 24 '17 at 11:35
  • @EnglishStudent That's unfortunate. Anyway, good to know and thank you for the comment :) – Tycho's Nose Dec 24 '17 at 12:46
  • You are most welcome @Tycho's Nose! – English Student Dec 24 '17 at 14:40
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This is usually a pretty unpopular opinion, but here goes:

One of the core tenants of the SE network is and always has been "assume good intent".

That means that we don't try to figure out if someone is "trolling"; we either answer the question or edit/vtc/etc.

Even if everyone on the site would agree that a user is a troll, it really doesn't matter. The question is either useful or it isn't.

  • Is that why Shog9 recommends down voting and deleting? – anongoodnurse Dec 31 '17 at 1:27
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    @anongoodnurse look, I get that ol’ shog9 is (at the very least) a respected and prestigious user, but nobody is infallible nor are they above the company mission statement and core values :-) – user10743 Dec 31 '17 at 1:29
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    In any case, this is actually the EASIER & MORE EFFECTIVE strategy for dealing with borderline annoying user habits. Don’t feed them, close useless questions that add no value to the site, report actual rule violations. – user10743 Dec 31 '17 at 1:30
  • I'm not really very concerned about users with borderline annoying habits. Actually, I'm not concerned about them at all. The question is about trolls, not the average annoying user. – anongoodnurse Jan 1 '18 at 5:10
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    @anongoodnurse you’ve missed the point, and not for the first time in this thread. I think we have all the answers we need. – user10743 Jan 1 '18 at 5:13
  • Just because I don't agree with you does not mean that I missed any point. That's a fallacious and kinda arrogant assumption. – anongoodnurse Jan 1 '18 at 7:06
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I have trolled sites and I am very good at it. I don't troll SE, I have not trolled SE, and I never will troll SE.

One thing that trolls count on is the help of the "Marianne" type. A good troll can have no end of fun by setting the two types against each other, then sit back and laugh. I know this works because I've done it. I would post something that crosses the line, but just barely, then defend myself until I got the Marianne type to come to my defense, then you'd get people arguing with each other and the site degenerate into bickering: Trolling accomplished.

Once the site finds it's stride, it's fine to back off a bit, but at this point it is better to err on the side of caution. Not everyone coming here is doing so with the best of intentions. Some people like to stir the pot and sit back. If this weren't true, 4Chan would not exist.

The particular post was so far over the line it should have no defenders.

  • It wasn't advice for any interpersonal skill, it was complaining about the details of sex act
  • The act was described in detail, to completion
  • The OP reposted after deletion.

Now, if we're going to discuss things of a sensitive nature, they should at least be phrased in a way that wouldn't earn this site a "mature audiences" rating. Remember, we have MODS who are 15!

The line, IMO, should be anything graphic and along with that, unnecessary detail that may be NSFW. I really don't think that is too much to ask for.

As Shog9 ♦ posted in this thread Good signs of trolling are:

  • Unnecessarily prurient or salacious content. If it looks like the summary for a cheesy TV drama (or comedy...) it was probably written the same way.

  • First question from a brand-new account or new question from an author with a history of such questions. This is an especially strong heuristic if the question lacks obvious new-user mistakes: chances are, the author has been watching the site for a while, honing their approach.

  • Exaggerated or stereotypical mistakes. This can include attempts to imitate emotional or immature language, incongruous typos or misspellings and sentence structure that mixes common ESL patterns from multiple cultures.

  • Refusal to clarify or correct mistakes - either by a complete lack of follow-up from the author, or mock confusion (edits that intensify rather than reduce problematic areas of the post, angry or baiting comments, etc).

That post met most of the criteria.

So, do we ignore Shog's warning, or actually try to listen to someone who knows what he's doing?

Clamp down HARD on the trolling now, set up strict guidelines as to what is on topic, and set the tone.

You can always relax guidelines later, but it is far harder to create and enforce guidelines once it's been established through practice that rules, guidelines and standards are lax or non-existent.

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    Marianne's are troll's and help-vampire's favourite candy :) – OldPadawan Dec 14 '17 at 17:42
  • @OldPadawan back in the good (bad?) old days, I would rely on them heavily, then say "I'm glad at least SOME people are listening to reason". I don't do that anymore, but I still remember how, and can see it from a mile away. – The Wraith Dec 14 '17 at 18:33
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I have some trouble with this issue...

Generally I don't like censorship. I tend to think that people shouldn't shy away from using plain/clinical language to talk about things, when it's a core part of their question.

On the other hand I strongly suspect that trolls may be pushing those buttons to cause trouble.

I guess I worry that there's a slippery slope to be considered. While we probably should be aware that there are trolls out there that will use a more permissive policy to make a scene, we need to leave the door open wide enough to allow good faith users to ask about sensitive subjects.

Sanitizing language is a dangerous thing sometimes, because it's hard to draw those lines in a way that makes everyone comfortable. For instance many people are uncomfortable about any mention of race, religion, politics, sex, sexuality, gender, and the list goes on and on... Allowing the majority to pick and choose what topics are ok to mention or what language must be used when those topics are talked about creates a situation where the majority is not only free to oppress the minority, but encouraged to do so.

Yes in the specific instance, asking a more broad question about setting sexual boundaries would probably be a good work around. But, I still fear that generalizing questions to more broad questions may force future querents to word their questions in such a way that they can't get answers that work for their specific situations.

Also there's a danger in false positives... I've been accused of baiting/trolling, more than once, simply because I asked questions that included LGBT+ elements and touched on those issues. Some people really feel that any mention of those things is out of the bounds of "polite" conversation, and that one would only ever mention them publicly to incite others. It's not just queer issues either, I've seen similar reactions to mentions of politics, feminism, veganism, and so on...

There's always a danger that the majority of users here won't feel comfortable talking about certain things or seeing certain language. If the recent political situation in my country has taught me anything it's to fear people with certain worldviews gaining critical mass and taking over.

I'm not saying that it should be a free for all, anything goes site, I'm saying that if we start down this road we should be really very careful about how we do it, because it's very very slippery.


what is gained by assuming someone outrageously flaunting normal values is not a troll? Does it give this site reputability? or doe it invite more of the same?

I really didn't want to have to go there, but you did, so now I feel obligated...

What gives you, or anyone, the right to define "normal values" ?

What's comfortably safe and "normal" for you is simply your opinion. Let me repeat that, it's your opinion. It may be the view of "normal" that you happen to be comfortable with, and many people, perhaps even a majority of people may share that opinion, but it's still nothing more than an opinion.

I could give you a little grace about the troll issue, I was even willing to use silly euphemisms to be a little more "polite", but if you really want to make this about "normal values" you need to take a step back and take a really long hard look at what you're really doing here...

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    "For instance many people are uncomfortable about any mention of race, religion, politics, sex, sexuality, gender, and the list goes on and on... Allowing the majority to pick and choose what topics are ok to mention or what language must be used when those topics are talked about creates a situation where the majority is not only free to oppress the minority, but encouraged to do so." I'm not sure, but I think this is a red herring. I'm not advocating doing away with talking about sex or any other topic. This statement implies a false equivalency of appropriate language with racism, etc. – anongoodnurse Dec 14 '17 at 17:59
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    Pulling down straw men (or burning them) strengthens no one. Let's discuss this issue and this issue alone for the time being. Would that be ok? – anongoodnurse Dec 14 '17 at 18:01
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    @anongoodnurse I wasn't intending to make an equivalency, I'm saying that we may inadvertently open a Pandora's box and we should be careful with that. – apaul Dec 14 '17 at 18:01
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    Well, the op isn't Pandora. Can we deal with the issue presented instead of a horrific scenario where all the world's ills are released by an overly curious girl? Words like "slippery slope" and "Pandora's box" are red herrings when used the way they're being used here. If you "strongly suspect that trolls may be pushing those buttons to cause trouble", then lets deal with that. – anongoodnurse Dec 14 '17 at 18:03
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    @anongoodnurse Nah. Disagree. Just cautionary notes. – apaul Dec 14 '17 at 18:04
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    Censorship is a fundamental part of these sites; it's best to just be honest about that. Every site has a scope and an infinite number of things that aren't in that scope; as Jeff once said, don't get talked into building a truck unless you really want to build a truck. Once we're comfortable with the notion that censorship isn't just a necessary evil but a core part of what we do here, we can start having productive discussions as to what, specifically, needs to be censored… And what doesn't. – Shog9 Dec 14 '17 at 18:25
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    "Sanitizing language is a dangerous thing sometimes, because it's hard to draw those lines in a way that makes everyone comfortable." I agree that that's oftentimes the case, but not always. Or do we need separate questions for how to refuse participation in every conceivable sex act? That's why anongoodnurse's cleaned up phrasing is spot on. – Anne Daunted Dec 14 '17 at 18:31
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    @Shog9 I totally agree that addressing what is and isn't on topic is an important discussion to have, just wanted people to be cautious about how we do that. "This makes me feel uncomfortable" or "this is worded too explicitly" aren't great measuring sticks, because everyone draws those lines differently. If we aren't conscious of the pitfalls we may end up with policy that bites people we didn't intend to. – apaul Dec 14 '17 at 19:36
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    You're quite correct in that "this makes me feel uncomfortable" cannot be a rule in and of itself... It's the smoke, not the fire. But it's a good indicator that something may be amiss, particularly if multiple people feel that way - so try not to be dismissive when someone is brave enough to speak up. Frank discussion of why someone finds a post off-putting is a good way to get past knee-jerk reactions and arrive at a shared understanding; as always, the goal here is to be welcoming, patient, and work together to learn from one another – Shog9 Dec 14 '17 at 21:16
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    Yes, there are hard cases; it doesn't sound like this was one of them. Too often I hear folks say "it's a gray area" or "it's a slippery slope" or "these distinctions are hard to make" in lieu of dealing with the very black-and-white cases that are on firm ground where the distinctions aren't hard to make. One way to help find a line is to start with the cases that are clearly on one side or the other and narrow in from there. Deciding that this case was definitely on the wrong side is ultimately going to help distinguish the ones that are on the right side of, but much closer to, that line. – 1006a Dec 14 '17 at 21:18
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    @1006a gray areas aren't usually all that gray. They just appear gray at a distance. When everyone draws their line a little different, the resulting crosshatch just appears gray... – apaul Dec 14 '17 at 21:29
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    @Shog9 it wasn't my intention to come across as dismissive... I'm just aware that some users would want to make an awful lot of things off-topic or unmentionable, so placing a warning sign seemed worthwhile. – apaul Dec 14 '17 at 21:50
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    Well, an awful lot of things are off-topic; presumably we don't want folks asking about football scores, programming problems or posting recipe requests here. More importantly, various forms of speech are disallowed even for topics that are; that Be Nice page (and a few other such pages) exists to be a conspicuous declaration that there are things we will censor here. Now... Y'all don't need any rules more constrained than those which already exist, and are wise to be cautious about adding any - but do this because the existing rules are sufficient not out of an aversion to censorship. – Shog9 Dec 14 '17 at 21:56
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    Because we both know it isn't true; there are plenty of things that folks have said here that we're both very glad were censored and recognize that the site is better off having them gone. – Shog9 Dec 14 '17 at 22:01
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    Eh, I guess you have a point there... Just like to think of it as the difference between "Don't be rude/hateful" and "Don't talk about X" where X is generally on-topic. Sort of the difference between making a subject taboo vs agreeing to talk about it respectfully, if that makes sense? @Shog9 – apaul Dec 14 '17 at 22:25
2

Your question is based on the premise that anybody who posts a question about sex without self-censoring (to some unpublished standard) using somewhat absurd enthusiasms and bowlderisms is automatically a troll.

Assuming that anybody who writes something that makes you uncomfortable is trolling is the completely wrong criterion and attitude.

This may come as shock, but you don't get to define what 'normal' is. Some people do indeed talk openly about sex IRL (especially in a circle of friends). Some people may feel able to speak openly about sex in the pseudo-anonymous environment that a website provides.

A certain other user-content website has the guidelines of (amongst others):

  • Assume good faith
  • Don't censor

Now, there will be some people who will attempt trolling. There may also be immature adolescents posting questions. However, if there are grown-up answers (assuming a question is formulated), it is still a valid resource.

If you're easily offended, why on earth are you looking at questions with sex in the title? (e.g. the sample question you refer to)

If you're really really easily offended, why hang around on interpersonal ? There's plenty of other stackexchanges where sex never comes in to it.

Hiding prudishness behind a facade of realism is a pretty poor show.

Normal in this context is normal for the USA, the host site of the network.

The US, being a large country, isn't homogeneous. The attitudes in San Francisco and New York are going to be, on average, different to Hicksville in goddammed Mississippi. Even then, other factors such as class, generation, and ethnicity play a role too.

Secondly, although Stackexchange is US-based, the are several other countries that have English as a first language, with different cultural norms. Also, a shock to many monoglots, many people in the world speak English as a second language.

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    The premise to your answer, that "that anybody who posts a question about sex without self-censoring (to some unpublished standard) using somewhat absurd enthusiasms and bowlderisms is automatically a troll" is incorrect. The person with the most experience on the entire network agreed with me that the person is/was a troll. This is a question on how we deal with trolls, not what my criteria are, which you do not seem to understand properly. – anongoodnurse Dec 26 '17 at 23:49
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    "They're a troll because I say they are, how do we deal with them". My point is that you're making assumptions about whom is trolling. Criteria that are subject to disagreement. That needs to be clarified before deciding on appropriate strategies for dealing with actual trolls. Something which you don't seem to understand properly. – Pete Dec 27 '17 at 0:02
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    There has already been a post on this issue wherein the user was identified as a troll. I never said, ""They're a troll because I say they are, how do we deal with them" – anongoodnurse Dec 27 '17 at 0:06
  • "There has already been a post on this issue wherein the user was identified as a troll" Which may or may not have been the correct conclusion. Look at Em C's answer above for example. For the specific example you gave, I've managed to reconstitute the 'offending' sentence from other meta-posts. However, I'm unable to read the full question (gaining valuable context) or view the poster's profile for potential other activity as the question is not just closed, it's been completely deleted. – Pete Dec 27 '17 at 0:17
  • In the general case, a large part of your question defines trolling using criteria I disagree with as outlined in my answer. You seem to complain that others don't see the content as obvious trolling as you yourself do. Again, my answer attempts to explain possible why. – Pete Dec 27 '17 at 0:20
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    As I have said, you should read the question wherein Shog9 tells us we've been trolled. If the person with the most experience on this network says it was a troll, and outlines why, it's not just my discomfort that makes it trollish. I'm done here. You obviously don't understand what I'm saying, and I disagree with you. – anongoodnurse Dec 27 '17 at 5:14

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