4:40 pm - 06/01/2015

Rules & Guidelines for Participating in VP

Hi VPers,

As you may have noticed, we've been experiencing some technical issues with our VP.com site -- which includes, among other things, VP's rules. Obviously, we want to preserve and continue those community standards, but we think it's only fair that if we ask people to follow VP's rules, we should have them available and accessible at all times. To that end, this post (which will be stickied) will serve as a working version of those rules for the time being.

Thanks for understanding,
Tori
For the VP Team
contact_vp






Table of Contents


What is VP?
What is safe(r) space? Empowerment? Accountability?
How does that look in real life? What are the rules?
I see a concerning post or comment. How should I respond?
I received a Safe Space Reminder from the Maintainer Team. How should I respond?


What is VP?

Founded in 2001, VaginaPagina is an online community that offers a supportive, progressive, body- and sex-positive environment in which to discuss issues related to sexual and reproductive health and wellness. It is a unique, empowerment-based safe space that is GLBTQQIA- and kink-friendly. Our goal is to build knowledge and combat misinformation by sharing personal experiences and reliable information from credible sources.

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What is Safe(r) Space? Empowerment? Accountability?

VP is founded on 3 concepts: safe(r) space, empowerment, and accountability.

When we say VP strives to be a safe space, we mean that members should feel comfortable knowing that their input -- both in terms of questions and responses -- will be respected rather than ridiculed or judged. This doesn't mean that people will never disagree with or challenge others, but when they do so, it will be done respectfully and constructively. Because, however, we realize that no open place on the Internet is truly a "safe space" -- for example, we acknowledge that there's a learning curve to participating in VP, and Internet trolls are a real thing in this world (even on LJ? still?) -- we use the term safer space to recognize that while safe space is the ideal, it's not always possible to achieve in the real world.

Empowerment means trying to provide the complete, quality, and relevant information that will help members make decisions that are best for their own lives. It also means understanding the fact that a lot of the choices we encounter in VP are complicated and deeply personal, and so it's equally vital to remember not to substitute our own personal judgment for that of another member's. In essence, it's understanding that "what I would do" does not necessarily translate into "what you should do."

Accountability, in short, is how we respond when we mess up. It means understanding that someone may say something hurtful while still having good intent. At the same time, it means realizing that good intent is not magic. It means, that when we learn something we've said is alienating, judgmental, or otherwise hurtful, we acknowledge and apologize for that, fix what we can -- and learn for next time.

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How does that look in real life? What are the rules?

In practice, these are the main concrete things we ask members to do:
  1. Give good information. Try to address members' questions or concerns, credibly source information that's not common knowledge (and feel free to ask for someone else's source if you feel it would be helpful), and distinguish between personal anecdote and more overarching recommendations.

  2. Keep your language inclusive. For example, VP has members with lots of different gender identities, so addressing a post to the "ladies" or "women" of VP isn't always the most helpful as it suggests that some genders are more welcome in VP than are others. Also, a lot of talk about sexually transmitted infections happens in VP, including people revealing past or present infections, and using "dirty" or "clean" to discuss STI status can be judgmental of those members. As a final example, many VPers live with mental illness, and so casual use of terms like "crazy" or "insane" to mean things like "ridiculous" or "extreme" can further negative stereotypes about mental illness. This is one of those situations where, regardless of intent, the effect of exclusive language choices can be to make some members feel as though they're less valued in VP -- which isn't something we want.

  3. Refrain from judging people's consensual sexual choices. This includes things like whether a person is ready to have sex, how many partners is too many, what types of contraception or other safer sex practices a person should/should not be using, or how to respond to an unintended pregnancy.

  4. Along those lines, VP is not the place for political or abstract discussions or debates about abortion.

  5. Support survivors of sexual assault and abuse. Empowerment is key here: Since assault and abuse involve the loss of control on a very visceral level, helping survivors be in control of their response and recovery can make a huge difference. If you're not familiar with this concept, you can try reading Victim Blaming, How to Respond to a Survivor, and When It Happens to a Friend to help inform your participation in VP.

  6. Place graphic images and/or potentially triggering material behind a descriptive LJ-cut. If there's information in your post that you could reasonably predict might be upsetting for a group of other readers -- e.g., pictures of naked breasts or genitalia, discussions of sexual assault, discussions of disordered eating -- placing it behind a descriptive LJ-cut can give such readers the option to make an informed decision before clicking or not.

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I see a concerning post or comment. How should I respond?

If you as a member see a concerning post or comment, something that isn't in line with the above rules, you have a couple of options for responding:
  1. You can respectfully engage with the VPer yourself. You might choose this option if, for example, you've been around VP for a while, you can explain well about the rule and its application in this case, and/or you have a sense that this person would be open to learning and/or being reminded about this aspect of safer space. That said, you always have the option of proceeding directly to Option 2.

  2. You can contact the Maintainer Team by posting in contact_vp for us to address it. You might choose this option if you don't feel comfortable engaging initially for any reason, if you've tried engaging, and it doesn't seem to be working, and/or if you feel the concern is especially egregious.

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I received a Safe Space Reminder from the Maintainer Team. How should I respond?

First, it's important to let you know that some of our guiding principles -- safer space and accountability -- operate on the assumption that people will make mistakes when participating in VP. Receiving an SSR does not mean that we think you're a bad person, that we don't value your input, or that we don't want you here in VP. Rather, it's a reminder that VP is a diverse group of awesome people -- and that we ask VPers to be extra mindful of their phrasings precisely to help keep it that way.

If you'd like to talk about your SSR -- to ask questions about it, to disagree with it, etc. -- we ask that you make a post over in contact_vp. Contact VP is a space that was specifically designed to hold these sorts of conversations about how VP does or should work. Trying to have those same conversations in VP -- especially when it's on someone else's post, where they're trying to have a health question answered -- can be distracting and can ultimately lead to that person not getting the information they need. Because of that, we ask that you bring rules-type questions to contact_vp.

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