After we had a discussion about sex on the Internet in Stack Overflow's C++ chat room yesterday, the room description was changed to something mentioning sex.

Before you think you discovered something held back by me, I did this particular change, but

A few hours after that, someone here on meta complained about the room description. The question was at https://meta.stackexchange.com/q/86686/133368, but unless you're one of the 0.x meta users with >10k rep, don't bother going there, all you find is the waffle iron. So it seems the question was closed and deleted while I was sleeping.

As much as I find the whole issue ridiculous and agree with closing that hilarious question, I now have no idea why this question was closed. Is it because those voting for closed agreed with my comment that the complaint is ridiculous? Is it because it turned into a flame war while I wasn't looking? Is it because the issue was "solved" anyway (one of the owners changed the description to something that, IMO, is even more controversial on a programmer's site, but is not mentioning sex) and the policy here recently seems to have changed to sweeping controversial topics under the carpet?

In short: Is it considered Ok to use the word sex in a room description and an affront to complain about it or is it the other way around?

I might add that I totally disagree with the manipulation of history that seems to be so common here. Those who wipe out discussions they would rather have not taken place are bound to see them repeated.

Unfortunately, I don't have the time tonight to reply to all the answers and comments made so far, but it seems that my question was giving the wrong impression, and I'd really like to try to fix that before I have to go again:

When I said we were "talking about sex", I was not implying we were talking about positions or anything like that. In fact a lot of the discussion actually evolved around the question whether it is Ok to talk about sex in the SO chat. Other than that, we were mainly discussing how downloaded porn clogs the Internet, wastes bandwidth, and considerably contributes to global warming.

Since Adam found it important to post examples here, I will try to at least put them into their context:

the internet isn't just made of sex
There's also quite a lot of hitler, and kittens

Without sex, the Internet would be a much cleaner place.

it'd also be able to fit into the ipv4 address space pretty much forever ;)

No. It's not the address space that's affected by all the downloaded sex movies, it's the bandwidth.

yeah, but don't you think there'd be fewer people online? :p

Yeah, that's true. But I still think the main problem is bandwidth. I guess without all the movie streaming, global warming would hold off for another 20 years...

Is it time to replace singleton by single in the room description?

I'm always in favor of regularly renewing the room description...

room topic changed to Lounge: Where we discuss about C++ and sex. And singletons. And sex.

Yes, there was more to it than this, many users had fun about the subject, but I feel like this resembles the core of the discussion more than ironic remarks like "pr0n is what makes up the internetz... lulz", "if the Internet didn't contain any sex, how would young people learn about it?", "But then where would poor malware authors release their work", and "there's nothing wrong with downloading some sex movies", although I freely admit that we LOL'ed about them.

These quotes now are not taken out of context anymore, because context matters, and we all know that there really is only one reason for quoting out of context. I also linked all messages, and this was the joke which started all this. So if you want you can attempt to follow the thread as it loosely splices through several other discussion threads, sub-threads, and sub-sub-threads, some of which spun off this one, some not.

I stand to what I said about this: "To me this seems to be a subject that one ought to be allowed to discuss in a programmer's chat." However, note that this remark was only added after there seemed to be a misunderstanding about what "talking about sex" meant. As such, it is not really related to what my question was actually about.

And one more thought before I, regrettably, have to leave: I find the allusion to the minimum age of Stack Overflow users, and the legal implications, highly hypocritical.

Nobody here ever objected to a discussion about alcohol, when the subject came up, even though alcohol is very likely prohibited for 13 year olds in any country that has any age restrictions on alcohol, and it might well be that there are countries where the discussion of alcohol is prohibited in the presence of 13 year olds. There's countries where women aren't allowed to visit soccer games, yet nobody here would object to discussing sports in the presence of women. There's cultures where eating is prohibited during the day four weeks a year, yet nobody objects to talk about food all day all year round. There's several cultures where pork is banned, and nobody would even mention the C++ room discussing pork.

This is a highly international forum, where users from all kinds of cultures participate. If you bring cultural prejudices here, be prepared for surprises. And as strange as this might seem for you (singular "you"), this is also true for the prejudices you grew up with.

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    @Michael: You seem to have not understood the issue at hand: I was asking whether using the term "sex" is Ok or not. Silently removing the tag that made you look at this question in the first place is not an answer to that. If you are against the usage of the word describing your own origin, please state so in an answer. (And did I mention I find this attitude hilarious?) – sbi Apr 9 '11 at 9:51
  • What made you think that I was against usage of that word, sbi? Because I removed the tag? Your question's not about sex (I assume), but about deleting a question for content. I'd remove the "rant" tag just as freely from your question, even though that tag has just about as much relevance to your question. – Michael Petrotta Apr 9 '11 at 9:53
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    I find Sex++ much more appropriate – Dr. belisarius Apr 9 '11 at 9:57
  • @Michael: You want to remove the tag describing the very thing a question deals with, and try to sell me this as "normal"? If that's indeed common practice here, then please go to meta.stackexchange.com/questions/86693/… and remove the reputation-graph tag. – sbi Apr 9 '11 at 9:58
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    Added a [meta-sex] tag. Question isn't about people actually having sex in the chat or on SO (Although I'd be interested in knowing if that is allowed as well), but merely about people using those places to talk about sex. – jalf Apr 9 '11 at 10:02
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    @Michael: as far as I'm aware, there was no sex in that room, no. But we do have our suspicions about one of the other rooms... – jalf Apr 9 '11 at 10:10
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    @jalf: I knew it! Those Python kids, right? – Michael Petrotta Apr 9 '11 at 10:13
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    It seems someone downvoted this question. I thought downvoting on meta means "I disagree". How can you "disagree" with a "is A or B the right thing" type of question?? – sbi Apr 9 '11 at 10:34
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    @sbi in my experience, in that case, the downvote is an expression of disagreement with the position of the person who asked the question. (i.e. it would be a vote for "no, it is not okay") – Pekka Apr 9 '11 at 10:45
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    Aren't chat rooms opt in features? As in, if you're offended by the title or the discussion, you can opt out of participating? It's unclear how this could ever be a real problem. If you're really that offended, there's a built-in solution. – Cody Gray Apr 9 '11 at 14:42
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    @sbi maybe you need to read the tooltip for that downvote arrow again. Personally, I think your question is semi-useful, but I can't help but feel tempted to downvote solely on the basis of your rampant jackassery with respect to the tags. – Aarobot Apr 9 '11 at 15:57
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    @sbi: Quite simply, this question is not about sex. No matter how you spin it, that is not the topic of this discussion. That is the topic of the quote that you are referring to, but that is no different from tagging a question here [c#] because it was complaining about a Stack Overflow question that happened to be about C#. This is about chat rules and standards, and frankly I'm beginning to wonder if any of this is being discussed in good faith or if this is just you being extremely defensive and a little obnoxious on the basis of your own history. – Aarobot Apr 10 '11 at 0:31
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    Is it me or does this post kind of read a little nonsensical? – Mark Rogers Apr 10 '11 at 0:32
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    @sbi I was referring to your history on this particular issue, not your entire post history on all sites. It's possible and in fact rather common for intelligent, well-meaning, ordinarily subdued people to turn into raving lunatics when some very specific pet issue or incident comes up. Everything in the discourse so far suggests that this has taken on some possibly disproportionate level of personal significance to you. Just my observation. – Aarobot Apr 10 '11 at 2:13
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    And regarding your post @sib, I found it appalling that you pretended the discussion was merely how pornography and sex related to bandwidth and global climate change, when you knew full well that in context it did not start out that way, and in terms of words and messages sent, less of the conversation was about that than was about sexual humor. I think it's funny that you are now cherry picking the "examples" of sexual discussion to support your point, and then go on to insist that you aren't taking a position, merely asking which position is better for stack overflow. – Pollyanna Apr 11 '11 at 2:13

Chat is supposed to be a bit looser with regard to content, provided you avoid flagrantly-offensive content, which I hardly think a discussion on sex entails. Singletons, perhaps. But you are expected to keep things reasonably civil, and would also be wise to keep in mind that the rooms are public and anything discussed is kept more or less permanently. Be nice, treat each other with respect, and... don't expect anyone to understand your in-jokes if an argument bleeds out onto another site.

FWIW, I closed/deleted the question posted here because it was 1) resolved, and 2) turning into a noisy, off-topic discussion (I originally opened it to find someone ranting about "puritanical Americans", which is pretty far into flame-bait territory).

I've had a couple conversations (here and in chat) with two of the users involved in the scene that started this, and I suspect it could have been handled better by simply bringing up the issue in the chatroom first, to give the users involved a chance to respond without dragging it onto Meta. Once here, this format (posing the question as a policy discussion) is preferable, as it gives both sides a chance to express their views without attacking each other.

Apart from that, I think there were two good points made here: Stack Exchange is a diverse community, and will likely host discussions that not all are comfortable with... But there's a time and a place, and if the room you're in goes off-topic and offends, try to deal with that diplomatically: the system provides tools for you to flag offensive messages, split off discussions into separate rooms, and - most importantly - talk to each other in real-time without resorting to overwrought posturing.

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    Thanks for your advice, which strikes me as very sound. Regarding your second paragraph: Your reason #1 is hilarious, unless you go and delete the 15.000 resolved question on this site. But that would be stupid, because then nobody could see the resolutions. Surprisingly, what applies to all the other questions, applies to this one, too: Had you simply closed the question, I could have seen the outcome, and this whole discussion here would have been unnecessary. – sbi Apr 10 '11 at 0:53
  • Also, IIRC, the comment you found was the very first made to that post, and it was deleted very quickly, so it can hardly be used as a proof that this turned into a noisy discussion. (Of course, since 99.8% - or so - of the meta users can't check this, it's very convenient to use it as an argument nevertheless. I can see the temptation.) – sbi Apr 10 '11 at 0:53
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    @sbi: I deleted the comment. When the discussion continued along the same lines, I deleted the question. You started a better discussion, here, in response. I'm pretty happy with that outcome, but if you really regret the lost opportunity to continue going back and forth with studiohack regarding the innate offensiveness of "sex", then feel free to invite him into a chat room... – Shog9 Apr 10 '11 at 1:00
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    @Shog9: Protecting or locking the question would have been enough to prevent the discussion continuing (which it must have done without me while I was asleep, BTW, because studiohack and I did finish this discussion in the chat before I went to bed), and would still allow us to see how it was resolved. Anyway, since you are one of the very few people who can still see that resolution, would you mind answering my question and share it here? – sbi Apr 10 '11 at 1:25
  • @sbi: locking would have sufficed, but... Eh, I just didn't see the point. It was a tagline in a chatroom - I didn't really expect there was this much to say. BTW: I hadn't realized until now that you couldn't see the deleted post - the outcome was James McNellis changing the tagline and noting that in an answer, which was then accepted. – Shog9 Apr 10 '11 at 1:39
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    @Shog9. But that is the point: Deletion wipes it off the site for (currently) 26200 out of 26245 users. This is what made the recent deletions so controversial, and I'm surprised how this could have escaped your attention. Anyway, thanks for relaying that information. However, I'm still puzzled how this could have been turned into a noisy, off-topic discussion, if this was the resolution. – sbi Apr 10 '11 at 1:55
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    @sbi: I'm well aware of the drama deletion can cause, which is why I showed up here to explain my reasons. Regardless of the larger implications here, one user over-reacting to a tagline and another user over-reacting to the first user isn't conducive to discussion - should such controversy arise again, I could conceivably see linking to this question... Last nights? Not so much. – Shog9 Apr 10 '11 at 3:36
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    @Shog9: I agree with your summary that there was overreaction on both sides. (I.e., I over-reacted, too.) I still disagree about the deletion of questions, but I understand that the majority of longtime/high rep users and moderators seems to see this different, so I will have to deal with it the way it is. Anyway, if not your answer, then this comment discussion seems to summarize pretty well, so I'll accept your answer. – sbi Apr 11 '11 at 7:20

The mere use of the word in a conversation among adults is not considered offensive in any part of the world that I am aware of.

The real question here seems to be whether the C++ chat room wants to accept occasional crude jokes in the chat room subtitles, or not. Seeing as you say this is pretty normal in that room, I'd say there is no problem.

The room tagline was changed back as a courtesy towards the user who complained. That is great, and surely the nicest way to resolve the dispute; but I don't think the tagline was breaking any rules.

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  • I think the main problem now is convincing some that it's better to be courteous then confrontational. – GManNickG Apr 9 '11 at 19:05
  • @GMan yeah. "Be nice" is surely the key here. – Pekka Apr 9 '11 at 19:10
  • @Pekka: What with your account being a "trolling account", I'm not sure how honest you were posting this :), but I upvoted it anyway, because I think what you said is true. – sbi Apr 10 '11 at 1:36
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    @sbi: It's part of an MSO meme. You can still trust that he's serious. – John Apr 10 '11 at 2:32
  • @John: Ah, i see. Well, as I said, I had upvoted it already. – sbi Apr 10 '11 at 2:42
  • @Pekka: ...in any part of the world that I am aware of. Not trying to agree or disagree, but which regions are you referring to, more specifically? (i.e. America/Europe/East Asia/Middle East/Aftrica/etc.) – user541686 Apr 11 '11 at 2:49
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    @Mehrdad I was thinking of societies that are under strict religious rule, say Saudi Arabia. I admit my argument is a bit spurious because a chat room talking about "C++ and sex" would probably get you into trouble there :) The point I wanted to make being, as long as the chat room doesn't feature stark nudity or endless graphic descriptions of lewd acts, making a sex-related joke in a tagline shouldn't really be a problem. – Pekka Apr 11 '11 at 8:44
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    "The mere use of the word in a conversation among adults is not considered offensive in any part of the world that I am aware of." I can think of a couple, actually. – ale Apr 11 '11 at 15:54
  • @Al Everett: Can you also tell us which ones those are? – SamB May 2 '11 at 21:14
  • @SamB: Not in a public forum. – ale May 3 '11 at 12:52

It's worth pointing out that the conversation about sex started here:


The ongoing C++ discussion where Tina was asking for some programming help was railroaded.

Further, when she requested that they stop talking about it, they refused and indicated that it was a normal topic of conversation, implying that she was being petty for requesting that the chat room stay on topic.

Could we have any better example of what shouldn't happen?

Most communities have a rule regarding the triumvirate of flammable topics: Politics, religion, and NSFW (which includes sex, even when discussed appropriately and sensitively).

Stack Exchange hasn't had this discussion because those things are off topic on the sites, and thus off topic in the chat rooms.

The chat rooms are a different forum altogether, though, and some amount of wandering off topic is expected and allowed.

However, like politics and religion, there's almost no way to discuss sex in a way that is inoffensive to everyone, and given that it's most assuredly off topic, then there is no reason to allow it.

More pointedly, though, Stack Exchange prohibits those under the age of 13 from participating in the sites. I know of 14 and 15 year old individuals that participate in some of the chat rooms. While it's probably not a problem, what are the legal liabilities that we expose stack exchange to when we start talking about sex with 13 and 14 year old youths in the room?

If you want to talk about sex in chat rooms, go support the related area51 proposal:


Otherwise I suggest that we encourage people to stay on topic when it comes to the three flammable topics.

If you must go off topic and you must use an SE chat room to talk about sex (because we all know there's no other place on the internet to talk about it...) then consider making a room specifically for that topic, so that those that want to participate in C++ sort of related discussion won't have to deal with wildly off topic and potentially offensive discussion.

Another important aspect to consider is that just because you are comfortable discussing it, others may not be. We really don't want the chat rooms to turn into a place where a portion of users feel uncomfortable visiting.

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Did the majority of people answering or commenting to that question agree with the user who complained about this or didn't they?

4 people up voted the question requesting that the tagline be changed due to it being offensive and inappropriate.

0 people down voted the question.

Six people commented on the main question, most of the comments were humorous rather than taking a position. Of the two comments that were seriously addressing the question one appeared to support the existing tagline (your comment) and the other seemed to support the middle ground, that while it wasn't offensive to them, they believed it wasn't appropriate.

One answer was given, which took the middle ground that while it wasn't offensive, it was appropriate to change it due to someone taking offense, and this did result in the tagline being changed.

This answer received five up votes and no down votes.

Comments on the answer were humorous, and did not appear to be intended to take a position.

There were no other answers, and if there were other comments they no longer exist.

I did not check timestamps, nor revision history to determine anything else about the question.

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  • Posted per sbi's request. – Pollyanna Apr 11 '11 at 2:41
  • Thanks for posting this. (Wouldn't it be so much easier if it was still available to look at for more than 0.17% of the users here?) – sbi Apr 11 '11 at 7:43

Any actual content aside: maybe just using the word might block the chat by some corporate firewalls/proxies/whatever? I've once been told that such is the only reason to write things like "d*mn" rather than the (very obvious) actual word.

And I am not sure if the word by itself is considered an expletive by any standard? If it is, then Are expletives allowed on SE sites? states:


Expletives are not acceptable behavior on meta or any other Stack Overflow site. If you can't effectively communicate what you need to say without resorting to lowest common denominator cursing, then keep it to yourself.

But given the reference to cursing, I guess the word by itself is not considered an expletive, right?

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    If somebody blocks the chat for single words, that's not our problem - else we get deputies of the mullahs. – user unknown Apr 9 '11 at 14:49
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    I have taken the time to lookup "expletive". Unless you are trying to tell me merely talking about human sexual intercourse implies using expletives, I really don't see how this answer is relevant to the word "sex". However, as the other comment says, when you start to bow to censorship, there's no end. (Also see the text I added to my question regarding this.) Finally, there are much better reasons for companies to block access to chat than that they might use the word "sex". – sbi Apr 10 '11 at 0:58
  • @sbi, I guess you're right about the "expletive" thing. Of course, I looked it up before posting too, but decided the reference might still be relevant. As for filtering: until Jeff tagged your question "chat", I thought it applied to plain questions as well. That aside, the first comment mentions mullahs, who have little to do with the filtering applied by many companies (or consumer filtering products). I hate such filters and censorship too, but if I can help avoiding blocking of SO by avoiding certain off-topic words, then I happily do. – Arjan Apr 10 '11 at 7:46
  • Whether "mullahs" is over the top or not, the underlying reasoning still applies. There's users here from cultures that disapprove of things that seem absolutely fine and natural to other users (like women watching soccer). If we'd try to please them all, there'd be very little left of C++ discussions but the dry standard paper itself. There will always be companies who block for one reason or another. There will also be companies who block the chat altogether. Heck, there's companies who block all of SO, lumping it with Facebook and the like. All we can do is to shrug and go on. – sbi Apr 11 '11 at 7:41

My two cents worth:

Sex is a part of life. So if it cannot be discussed in a chat room, then I don't know what can. It really doesn't matter what kind of chat room this is. As long as it doesn't go into insulting one another or some kind of flame war, I think a discussion about a topic such as this or even a 'chat room subject' shouldn't be taken as offensive.

A topic or subject title of a chat room holds the same rules, if something that is SO part of everyday existence, is considered offensive, then something is wrong if you ask me.

The point is that it's not because something is not talked about that it isn't happening. So it's always better to be open and talk about it.

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  • Please define "open" – Dr. belisarius Apr 9 '11 at 10:25
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    @Wether: "1. not closed or barred". – sbi Apr 9 '11 at 10:30
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    This is a completely irrelevant answer. If the room was intended for general chat and somebody wanted to exclude certain subjects, this rationale might have value, but the room is about C++. Hardly the place to be talking about hanky-panky (even if it's just a dumb joke in the tagline). – Aarobot Apr 9 '11 at 15:53
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    @Aarobot: you obviously haven't spent much time in the C++ room. That room is certainly intended for general chat. ;) The room name is a big clue too. It's not "C++ discussion", but Lounge<C++>. With emphasis on the lounge. Its purpose is for people (especially SO's C++ answerers) to kick back and relax and talk about whatever they like. Because we can only take so much standardese, and we get plenty of that in the SO questions. ;) – jalf Apr 9 '11 at 17:33
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    @jalf: It's too bad your comment is too long for Lounge<C++>'s tagline. – Fred Nurk Apr 9 '11 at 21:57
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    @Aarobot: Tony's answer was the first that actually answered my question ("Is it considered Ok to use the word sex in a room description...?") I'd be very interested in how you draw the conclusion that this could be irrelevant. – sbi Apr 10 '11 at 1:40
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    Correction, @sbi, Tony's answer was the first that said what you wanted to hear. That doesn't make it a relevant answer. – Aarobot Apr 10 '11 at 2:07
  • @Aarobot: No, he was indeed the first who addressed my question. There's been other answers which did not say what you think I wanted to hear, but which I upvoted nevertheless. – sbi Apr 10 '11 at 2:41

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