The Content Warning System

These days, content warnings are standard on all major fan fiction sites. When AoVD was just starting out, though, this was entirely new territory and we had to feel our way through several nasty flame-wars to find a good balance. AoVD ended up employing a system that used 23 different content warnings; my stories use 18 of them, and I added one custom warning of my own. We also designed explanations for what each warning entails, which I have used below. Some of the verbiage is straight from what we’ll be using on AoVD when it relaunches, but I have customized some of it for my own archive as well. The list below is arranged from the least disturbing/offensive material to that which is potentially most disturbing of all:

Adult Situations (21)

This warning indicates the presence of references to anything you would not discuss around a child, as long as it is not controversial. (See also:Controversial Subject Matter.)

Innuendo (4)

This is conversation with a sexual undertone or subtext, including the use of double-entendres and euphemisms.

Mild Language (8)

This involves minimal use of curse words and only a few, if any, uses of the “f” word.

Controversial Subject Matter (13)

This describes references to anything that isn’t socially acceptable or which some segment of society finds extremely offensive, such as child abuse, adultery, illegal activity, underage sex (which can be mentioned in a character’s past but not described in any detail), self-harm, suicide, abortion, racial conflict, etc. Some of these topics may be potential triggers for readers. I have included specific explanations of the subject matter in question with my story warnings.

Alcohol / Drug Use (6)

This is the use of either alcohol, or drugs, or both substances for recreational purposes. It may include depictions of consequence-free use, or depictions of mild to severe consequences resulting from the use or abuse of these substances.

Sexual Situations (6)

This describes kissing and mild petting, any implied sexual activity that may take place “off screen,” or marked sexual tension between people. It may also include non-graphic depictions of the sexual act itself.

Mild Violence (7)

This is pushing, shoving, and fighting that may lead to minor bruising but does not involve bloodletting or serious injury.

Harsh Language (21)

This involves either liberal use of curse words and/or more than a few uses of the “f” word.

Angst (1)

This indicates a story in which the characters suffer in a way that, in our experience at AoVD, creates sympathetic emotions in readers. Some readers have reported enough emotional distress that I feel compelled to warn for it.

Strong Sexual Content (1)

This is any sexual activity that is described in detail, but just skirting the maximum of graphic detail that would make it ineligible for posting on It may use substitutive language to describe body parts, acts, and sensations without necessarily naming them directly.

Explicit Sexual Content (8)

This is any sexual activity that is described in graphic detail, especially if the description involves the sex organs.

F/F Slash (1)

This is romantic and/or sexual activities between two women. On my site, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be a minor pairing occurring in a story that is otherwise classified as “Gen” or “Het”.

BDSM (4)

This is the practice of domination and submission, in which each sexual partner willingly plays one or the other of those roles. It can include bondage, as well as the giving and receiving of painful stimulation for sexual gratification. The key here is that the behavior is consensual.

Semi-Non-Consensual Sex (1)

This is the depiction of sex in which one of the partners is initially reluctant or initially resists, but does eventually consent. Generally this is an eroticized scenario, but not always, and can represent a potential trigger for some readers.

Non-Consensual Sex (1)

This is an eroticized depiction of sexual acts in which one of the partners is a reluctant or unwilling participant. Again, this represents a potential trigger for some readers, and I encourage survivors of sexual assault to approach Chapter 29 of Apprentice with caution.

Graphic Violence/Gore (7)

This is any violence that causes bleeding or injury, especially if it involves the use of a weapon, and is described in detail that may disturb readers.

Torture/Abuse (1)

This involves the deliberate, unwanted infliction of physical or emotional pain on a person by one or more others. Abuse survivors should treat stories with this warning as potential triggers and approach Chapter 21 of Apprentice with caution.

Death (10)

This is the end of a person’s or animal’s life by natural or accidental causes. In some cases, the story may specify “Main Character Death” to further warn that a character readers especially care about dies, but this is not required and may be absent if surprising readers is integral to the plot.

Murder (6)

This is the willful killing of a person by one or more others. In some cases, the story may specify “Main Character Murder” for further warn that a character readers especially care about will be murdered, but this is not required and may be absent if surprising readers is integral to the plot.

If you should happen to notice that a story needs a particular content warning but is missing it, please contact me and I will get that corrected.

Ardath Rekha • Fanworks