I've been wanting to make this thread for about six months, but always worried about it being seen just as a response to whatever major issue was currently happening. So straight up, in the OP, let me be very clear: I have made this thread because there are consistently issues site-wide with regard to basic boundaries and have been for years. The list I have made is non-exhaustive, but a good starting point of these. ETA: Disagreements, edits, and editions are welcome. I apologize if it came across and my tentative list being seen as a be-all and end-all guide to boundaries, that is not what I was trying to convey. All elements of this list are up for discussion. I deal with severe chronic pain issues, so I apologize if it takes me a couple of attempts to parse feedback and if I have to ask clarifying questions. I am autistic and will not pick up on subtext a lot of the time myself. I am putting this in meta because it pertains to communication site-wide and also in off-site real time chats, and is a community safety issue. I will be separating these into different aspects of socialization. Feedback is welcome as the desire is to workshop out a basic guide to boundaries that are clear for people of all neurotypes. OP will be reflected with original list spoilered and final one set out after discussion has concluded. I also want to make it crystal clear: you are not irredeemable and bad if you have accidentally crossed these boundaries. People mess up. In an environment like this, the chance of messing up gets much higher. That's why I've been workshopping this guide, to help people on both sides of an issue. Some boundaries, particularly sexual, may be somewhat flexible depending on the personal relationships users have with each other. However, it should not be assumed that just because one person is fine with something, another will be too. Communication is vital. Sexual Boundaries: On a forum full of abuse survivors and the mentally ill, and one that has a thriving nsfw sub community, it is crucially important that there be an understanding of basic boundaries with regard to consent. Consent also applies to sexual conversation, not just physical activity. - YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO SAY NO. ALWAYS. AT ALL TIMES. Consent to one interaction does not equal consent to the next. - NO MEANS NO. If someone says no, do not try to convince them their no should be a yes. (Thanks @KingStarscream for phrasing and important reminder to put thing in from other side) - Someone saying 'this person is kind of hot' or variations thereof, is not a blanket invitation to escalate and talk about sex. A passing mention of attraction is not an invitation to discuss sexual activity. If I comment on someone's selfie and say "You look really pretty today", it would be severely inappropriate for someone else to chime in with "I bet they're down to fuck," whether they are referring to the person who posted the image or myself. - Someone saying they don't want to talk about sex with you is not them inherently being sex-negative, it is asserting a boundary. This needs to be respected, the first time. If you are not in a relationship with someone - and even if you are, check to obtain consent first until it's established you're all equally comfortable with sexual non-sequiturs - it is unreasonable to expect strangers and friends to be down to talk about sexual acts, your sex life, their sex life or whether they actually totally want to have sex with the person they said is attractive or not. - If the space is not inherently marked as NSFW, spoiler your nsfw. This includes saying how much you want to fuck a certain character/person/thing, speculating on how likely they are to want to have sex, and talking about what kind of sex they might have. Otherwise, random participants are forced to witness without having their consent obtained. A spoiler warning for NSFW results in the thread results in users having to consent by clicking the button in order to engage with the content. - Having a NSFW encounter of any sort with someone in one part of the forum does not mean you can continue it, reminisce about it, or share details about it in the ostensibly SFW parts of the forum without: - Obtaining consent from the other party - Putting it under a spoiler warning In addition, do not save photos of any sort of any forum members without their explicit consent and respect any requests to delete them from the person who posted them. - Intimacy in an online environment does not automatically equal consent in a physical space. Sexting is very different from actual physical intimacy - always check to be sure your partner is okay with any activities, and if they have sexual trauma work out ahead of time a system if they are unable to directly say yes or no. - Liking some things in fiction does not mean it is okay to do them in real life. Some kinks are dangerous when they switch from fictional to things being done in reality and people engaging in them require therapeutic assistance for a harmful paraphillia. This addendum is in specific reference to the fourth quote in the following post. This is not being sex negative, it's saying that some things are actually illegal. General Boundaries - YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO SAY NO. - NO MEANS NO. If someone says "I have to tap out" and you accidentally ping them, that's an accident and an apology might be enough. But if someone says "I have to tap out" and you choose to ping them, repeatedly, and pursue them into other threads, and keep trying to drag them back to this argument-- that's not okay. If someone asks you to stop, stop. Even if you really don't want too. (Thanks @KingStarscream for phrasing and important reminder to put thing in from other side) - If someone doesn't ask you to stop but seems to be ignoring you, it is possible you might have been placed on Ignore. Consider reaching out to a mod to obtain confirmation of this and stepping away from the situation. - You have the right at any time to back out of a conversation if you are uncomfortable. It is good practice to say that you are doing so, and let someone know if you are putting them on ignore if need be so they don't continue to holler at the void, but your own safety comes first. - If you are backing out of a conversation because your behavior is being criticized, you still have the right to do so, but others also have the right to let you know that you have made them uncomfortable and it is good practice to consider what they have said. - You have the right to ask people to stop talking about you in a thread if you are not present - If people are processing hurtful actions taken toward them in their own threads, you still have the right to ask and point out it's not okay to treat insult/attack you personally if that is occurring, but the other users have the right to say no. - If people are pointing out to you that you have behaved in an abusive manner, while this can be very painful to read and process, it is not reasonable to ask them not to do that. An environment in which accidental toxic behavior is not pointed out is not healthy. If the criticism shifts into attacking and insulting, the same standard boundaries regarding that apply. - Not all interpersonal conflict on the forum will be because of abusive or toxic behavior. Sometimes mental illnesses will interact poorly. "People need to be able to point out problems, but people also need to be able to take some time and breathe and quietly process without constant new input." (@Codeless thank you for that phrasing) - Conflict is messy. There will be competing access needs - some people desperately need to process the aftermath of a conflict, especially if they feel like they were treated unfairly. Others don't want to see anything to do with it. When two valid boundaries rub up against each other and a conflict continues to occur, consider asking a third party to arrange a mutual ignore, or a TCHGB thread to examine these conflicting issues. - You are not obligated to put in time and effort assisting others with social debugging, deconstruction of abuse of any kind, or any sort of emotional labor. If you feel like you are being pressured into providing emotional support, step back from the situation and remind yourself that you are not a therapist. - You have the right to say when you feel like you are being talked down too, or insulted. You have the right to ask for an apology. - You do not have to perform intellectual labor on demand. If someone asks for information from you that is easily acquired elsewhere - such as requesting you define what sexual harassment is - you have the right to point them at google. - You do not have to like everyone on the forum - this includes the moderation team. Sometimes people do not get along, and that's okay. Social pressure should not be applied to you if you do not like a person, and if anyone attempts to pressure you into reconsidering that opinion because it makes them uncomfortable, you have the right to say no. - This one is also tricky. If a user is applying social pressure to you because you are socializing with both them and someone who has abused them and you are aware of the abuse, they have the right to ask you to stop. You still have the right to say no, but in this case the hurt user may choose to sever contact with you instead, and this is a reasonable boundary for them to assert. (Directly requesting help wording this one because it's very important) - It is okay to ask other people for help with conflict, but please bear in mind that some people have left the community for their own self-care reasons and may have trouble disengaging again if called back to assist with an argument. - It's okay to ask other people for help with conflict, but they have the right to say no. It's thoughtful and polite to bear in mind self-care reasons if you're aware of them. If they've already asserted a boundary, respect it. If you know someone has trouble disengaging, it is absolutely not cool to intentionally use that to hook them back in for your own benefit. Their boundaries are ultimately their responsibility, but it is not okay to intentionally exploit a vulnerability to make it harder for someone to assert or enforce a boundary. That's manipulation. (Thank you @Verily for the wording there) - Deliberately poking the sore/trauma spots of another forum user is extremely rude. Having disagreements isn't bad, but if someone is being poked and hurt they may lash out in response. If someone is treating you poorly, you have the right to ask them to stop and seek help. - Your distress and emotions are your own. Your motivations are your own. It is inappropriate for someone to tell you this is not the case, such as by attributing causation of your pain to a different issue in spite of protests. - It is inappropriate to debug another user's thought process, motivations, and mental state without their consent in relation to interpersonal forum conflict. If you notice a potential correlation between distress over one thing and distress over another, ask first if the user is up to deconstructing and accept if they say no. Being confused over motivations is fine - armchair diagnosing & telling someone their hurt is actually due to something else is not. If speculation on thought processes of another user is a part of processing trauma, it may be a good idea to confine this to a different thread. - Ask before using others as emotional sounding boards. Vent threads are places where people can specifically go to help with that, do not assume that someone who helps you in a vent thread will be okay with private one on one communication, especially with heavy topics. - While the urge to self-deprecate in a conflict is deeply understandable, it makes it hard for people to engage if they have a complaint with behavior without feeling like they have to soothe the emotional state of the other user first. It is not a healthy behavior and is often a tool used in deliberate manipulation. If someone is being self-deprecating in a conflict and you feel the need to perform emotional labor for them, here is a selection of potential scripts to deal with it: - "I'm sorry you feel bad about this, but I'm not going to engage with you putting yourself down." - "Please stop responding to everything with self-deprecation, it makes me feel like I'm not allowed to argue with you or your mental wellbeing is in my hands." - "I am not your therapist. I'm pointing out problems with your behavior. That doesn't mean you are irredeemable, and I'm not going to engage with self-deprecation." - It is never appropriate to respond to conflict with threats of any kind. Stalking, saving private information, blackmail, suicide baiting and coercion via sensitive information are not okay behaviors in any way and you have the right to ask for help and be taken seriously, and to be listened too. - If you are prone to this sort of behavior in meltdown states, understand that the users hurt might not ever feel comfortable engaging with you again. While this may feel unpleasant, nobody should be forced to interact with someone they are afraid of. If you are prone to lashing out when hurt, please ask for resources that might help manage the behaviors and make use of them where possible. The forum software has a variety of options that can quarantine explosive meltdowns. - The staff are people too. It is extremely inappropriate to threaten, harass and make a staff member feel unsafe via posting abusive things at them which will not get through post moderation.- You have no obligation to continue to interact with a user that makes you feel unsafe, and blocking people can be a valuable self-care tool after a traumatic experience. If someone tells you that doing this is unfair, this is inappropriate and you have the right to tell them to stop. If you feel your safety has been compromised irl, contact the authorities with the relevant information. - You are not less important than another user with a higher post/rating count. You are just as much of a person, and your views and experiences are important. If you feel like you are not being taken as seriously as a more visibly influential user, you have the right to make this clear. - While posting in emergencies asking for financial support is absolutely acceptable, it should also be understood that many people on the forum are living in poverty or desperate financial situations themselves. If someone is insinuating that you don't like/care about them due to not providing financial help, you have the right to tell them to stop. - You have the right to end a relationship if you feel uncomfortable or like you are being taken advantage of, regardless of the perceived social status of the other party. - You do not have to justify your emotional reactions to a thing once you've made it known what your issue is. It is enough to say "I feel this way because of [X]". Trying to articulate as much of what bothers you as possible is useful for communication debugging, but you do not need to go in depth about how you think and why you feel that way in response to prodding. An example: "I feel uncomfortable and like my contributions to the discussion have been dismissed, because [reasons]." "Okay, but, why do you feel that way in the first place?" "I do not need to go into detail about why I feel that way, please focus on what my problem is as stated." - From @Codeless: if you are speaking on behalf of someone else [With regard to discomfort and boundaries]: 1) Ask permission first, Especially of people who have a hard time enforcing their boundaries already and: 2) Say that you have been asked or given permission so other people know you are not stepping on someones boundaries while trying to enforce them. - From @Codeless: Please try to assume good faith on apologies unless you have reason to believe otherwise. Be aware that peoples tone can differ and is not necessarily and indicator of sincerity. - If this is difficult to do due to paranoia or other mental illness, it can be helpful to consider how unpleasant it feels to make an apology and have it read in bad faith. - Beyond any moral standards, people under 18 entering 18+ spaces is dangerous for more than the minor. With the current forum setup, I don't believe there is any way to enforce it, but the standard of 'don't participate and don't tell people if you go in and read the stuff' should apply. - If you are under 18, please don't use a subaccount in order to enter and participate in 18+ spaces. - Adding onto this: please specifically mark your vent threads as 18+ if you want them to be 18+ (Thanks @furrylatula for the wording there) Scripts for enforcing basic boundaries: - "I don't like how this is making me feel, can we please stop for a while?" - "I feel like you are dismissing my experiences and emotions. Please listen to me and consider my point of view." - "This is hurting me, stop it." - "I can't do that, it's beyond my abilities. Please seek professional help." - "I might not have formal qualifications, that doesn't mean that I am stupid. It feels like you are dismissing my intelligence and this really hurts me, please stop it." [EDIT LOG] - September 25, I added a point I forgot about in my original list and cleared up some typos - Added additional point from Codeless in general boundaries - Edited at several points to reflect tonal feedback on OP from Codeless - Added an additional point in sexual boundaries that it deeply fucking pains me that I had to add. - September 26, added important inversion of the 'you have the right to say no' boundary with feedback from KingStarscream - Added additional point from Codeless in general boundaries and a tip on doing so - Cycled in drafts from page 2 & 3 - October 24, added several important points from page 4, please let me know if I missed anything.