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Sensitivity readers, aka the hopelessly neurotic

Handsome princes – and beautiful princesses falling for them at first sight – have been deemed problematic by sensitivity readers advising on offensive content, due to the privilege given to physical attractiveness and heteronormative romance.

You’re not, obviously enough, going to “sensitivity read” summat and then say “Yep, that’s fine”. For that is to diminish the seeming importance of what it is that you do. Just as an American subeditor is never going to leave your prose alone, for if they did then what’s the point of an American subeditor?

For example, here. Physical attractiveness is a privilege. Shrug. The things we call physical attractiveness are those very things which give privilege in being able to get a bonk. And?

There’s no absolute reason why a decent rack or retrousee nose are attractive. They’re just things that make other humans more likely to say “Jump on my bones, right now”. As such in the arena of bone jumping, they’re privileges.

Outdated or harmful elements in fairy tales, according to publishing insiders, may also include characters presuming each other’s pronouns or social class, and a lack of diversity among blonde-haired and blue-eyed protagonists.

If we put all the hopeless neurotics in charge of the books we may read then we’re only going to get books that pass the hopeless neurotics, aren’t we? It’s going to be about as effective as putting all the anal retentives in charge of law making and look how well the EU does.

18 thoughts on “Sensitivity readers, aka the hopelessly neurotic”

  1. Simples.
    Every book has two editions.
    !) Sensitivity edited
    2) Harsh, nasty book
    Publisher prints 10,000 of 1. Sells 0. Loses £10k.
    Publisher prints 10,000 of 2. Sells 10,000. Makes £50k.
    Sensitivity edited books cease to be published.
    Lionel Shriver expressed it in her usual excellent style in an edition of the Spectator a couple of weeks ago.

  2. I would have thought that any narrative has the potential to be outside the comprehension skills of some cognitively different person, so is itself deeply problematic.

    Ban them all.

    We won’t be able to remember why we banned them, as reasoning itself is also problematic and inherently Euro-centric.

  3. More and more, authors are being advised not to just engage beta readers (sensible and pragmatic) but to engage sensitivity readers to check for problematic words, phrases and characters. I very much use the former. The latter, over my dead body.

  4. The conceptual problem with ‘sensitivity readers’ is that, in order to stay employed, the must become ever more sensitive.

    If there are no findings, what use is the inspector?

    A witchfinder who does not find witches does not eat.

  5. Tim should be very worried about neopronouns. His less than rigorous spellchecking gives us lines like this, from a later item this very day:
    “Ee could, indeed, take that increased productivity as more time off.”

  6. A surprising percentage of adults have never gotten over the fact that the prettiest girls in school preferred the masculine, confident boys in the first XV.

  7. @Steve,

    … and they continue to be pissed off that those selfsame girls got shagged and dumped, or had their jaws and noses broken by completely useless fuckwits whose prowess on the sportsfield at school was a substitute for brains and hard work in the hard grind of real life. As for the prettiest girls in school, they were mostly airheads (in most of the schools I attended, there weren’t any girls you could describe as beautiful) end up at the menopause being vindictive harridans in HR hating anyone younger and less wrinkled than they are, and all men for the crimes of the sporty kids.

  8. I have an idea. Why not pick some of the sort of people you’d like to buy your books. And see what they think.

    Of course I’m thinking of the fuss in the newspapers when the Harry Potter books came out. So when I saw one in the library, I took it out and read it. Remembering the trash I read when I was a kid, it seemed a nice, smooth school-kids-and-magic sort of thing that the kids’d love. So Rowling would have had no trouble persuading me to buy it for a niece or nephew.

  9. Fairy tale for the woke:

    And the former Prince, who had given up his titles and riches due to the inherent unfairness and inequity of inherited wealth, persuaded the monsters and dragons to allow him to pass to the top of the tower (for he was a pacifist as all good people are – eschewing violence in all its forms).
    There he saw the Princess, laying asleep. He went to kiss her to wake her up, but realised that he hadn’t acquired consent for such an action, so left her there to die of old age, never to wake up.

  10. @ Witchie
    Some of us lack the misfortune of having an inferiority complex about those who are better at sport than ourselves. In almost every case I have found that those much better than I are pretty nice guys (or gals) – it was the boys who weren’t good enough to get into the 4th XV, and resented that, who tended to play dirty.
    Having been in a single-sex school from 13 to 17, I cannot fully compare my experience with yours but the prettiest girl in my class when I was 12 vied for top place and won a scholarship to goosd Public School, the prettiest I knew at 18 earned a Law degree from Oxford.

  11. the prettiest girls in school preferred the masculine, confident boys in the first XV.
    And they grew up & went for the money.

  12. it was the boys who weren’t good enough to get into the 4th XV, and resented that, who tended to play dirty.
    Are you suggesting there’s something wrong in playing dirty, John? Well done those boys! You’ve learned the lessons of life early. The intelligent lads are behind the bike sheds – selling cigarettes to the smokers.

  13. Which brings us back the above article, highlighted here on Friday, and its images of a typical attractive British male and female.
    A couple of days ago I stumbled across the new sequel to Death in Paradise: Beyond Paradise. The plot was interesting in light of what the Woken SS insist on manipulating people into thinking what the typical British family is.

    Set in coastal Devon. A family mysteriously disappears. White man, black woman, two black kids.
    Ok, so woah! they’re not his kids. Closely followed by: black family in middle of rural back of beyond – plot explanation please! – which never comes.
    The plot is: she’s hiding an affair.
    Ok. Cuckolded man raising some other man’s kids while his woman is carrying on with yet another man.
    Wifey confesses to this. Hubby kidnaps family and drives them off to see it out with the other man. Accidently runs him over, panics, drives off to cliff edge, threatens to take whole family over cliff.
    Police turn up, persuade him to let wifey and (obviously not his) kids out of the car, locks door, floors it over the cliff.

    So what’s this telling us? If you want nooky, you must take on some women’s kids by other men, put up with them continuing to sleep around, and if you don’t like it, top yourself.

  14. Given that this whole “sensitivity reader” lark has become a Thing, I’d happily take up a job as such as a sideline..

    A bit like our Host reading Cosmo articles and the like, there must be a market for peeps that can ensure maximum offense to the Snowflakes is given in a given amount of words somewhere.
    It’d mean delving into the mindset of said Snowflakes more than neccessary, but that’s where the enumerative incentive comes in..
    And it’s Indoors Work I could do from my comfortable home..

  15. @ bis
    I learned the lessons of life long before that: as a middle-class boy I was on the receiving end of the class war from the age of five.

  16. But life’s lesson #3 John. Always be on the winning side. Which one it is, isn’t important.

  17. But life’s lesson #3 John. Always be on the winning side. Which one it is, isn’t important.

    I would hazard a guess that John has done rather better than the class warriors that gave him grief at the age of 5 (if only because class warriors tend to be life’s losers anyway).

    Winning in this case being not playing their games at all.

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