Recently, I completed a story, and I asked my beta how she thought I should rate it. To my surprise, she said NC-17. Her stated rule of thumb was, as soon as a cock made an appearance, especially
if it was inserted into an orifice, it was automatically NC-17. Which means that I've written a helluva lot more porn than I thought!
It's my understanding that the motion picture has specific criteria for ratings, but fiction is a lot more flexible. For instance, I heard in a director's commentary that saying "fuck" will knock a picture from the PG-13 category up to R...that word is completely absent from the story in question. "Cock" and "prick" both appear as nouns, and there are no roosters present. Fucking happens; penetration occurs...does that automatically upgrade it past R to NC-17?
So I'd like to ask the readers and writers of fan-fic on my f'list, what do you think the cut-offs are? At what point does a story go from suitable for a "young adult/teen" audience, to being off-limits to over 21? Because---and I know this probably makes me sound like a relic of the days when woolly mammoths walked the earth, but kids these days
know a helluva lot more than they used to. When I was an adolescent, "Charlie's Angels" was scandalous 'jiggle' TV---today there's "Gossip Girl" teasing us about high-school threesomes and we saw more skin in "Baywatch" than the Angels ever showed. Apples and oranges? Oh hell no: Apples and starfruit.
How about the percentage of sex in a story---say, if the fornication in question is 1,500 words of a 15,000 word saga? Three paragraphs out of three pages? If it's clear they're having sex but none of the major trigger words are being used, IE, if it's soft-focus with two writhing bodies and a keening cry of ecstacy?
Is it descriptiveness of body part and/or actions that disqualifies a story from a friendly rating? Namely, if your hero climaxes, it's PG-13, but if "He blasted hot guysers of foaming man-milk" the story is NC-17 and you're shot at dawn for really bad purple prose.
Maybe it's the vocabulary, and how do we quantify that? Number and severity of cuss words? If your hero says "Shit!", it's PG-13, and he can say hell or damn all he wants---but if he busts out a "Motherfucker!", it's an R and if he says it twice, it's NC-17? (And on a side note, why it is that A&E bleeps words that aired without a problem on network TV?! Lighten up!) Or does fan-fiction adopt George Carlin's seven words you can't say on TV? (As he pointed out, even Disney movies can get away with saying, "I'm gonna snatch that pussy and put it in a box!")
What if it's kink? No cocks come out, but the protagonist winds up in handcuffs and enjoys it. Or admits he enjoyed wearing his girlfriend's satiny panties. There are (IMO) repressed people who consider slash a kink even when the participants aren't doing anything beyond vanilla sucking and fucking. Even soft-focus would be NC-17 for someone like that.
How about the percentage of sex in a story---say, if the fornication in question is 800 words of a 15,000 word saga? Three short paragraphs out of three thousand words?
It's baffling. To me, at least. Over at omni_fiction
, they have a much simpler system: "Green, Yellow, and Red. Green covers gen fic, humorous fic, and straight vanilla sexual encounters, whether M/F, M/M, or F/F. Yellow is for edgier stuff:- angst, deathfics, mild BDSM, multiple entities, consent issues. Save "Red" for the heavy stuff - rape, serious BDSM, and anything involving cephalopods."
THAT I can understand! It would be nice if more communities would adopt that logic. My gosh, that story that I reluctantly tagged NC-17 would be green and good to go, no worrying about whether it's achieved def-con: FUCK.