6 comments on “Trigger Warnings

  1. As an aspiring writer myself, I gotta agree. If I ever put the stuff I write out there, and there’s a trigger warning on it, please shoot me.

  2. You make a lot of good and interesting points. I can’t fully judge the situations of others so I am not 100% against some warning in some forms of media or discussion topics. Not in books. You should know, if you’re reading an adult book, there may be things in there that is not all sunshine and rainbows. Even in YA books, there’s violence and abuse. The gallons of blood spilled in the Hunger Games trilogy, for example. That’s how you create conflict in a story. And, most of the time, those conflicts are resolved.
    I have an assault scene in one of my books and I did put a warning for my beta readers in case they wanted an out from reading it. But, I’m not going to include a warning when the book is published because it’s a key point in a character’s backstory and, as you say, it is anti-marketing. I have a mild style, anyway, so I find it hard to believe anyone will actually be triggered. But, if someone has an issue with it, I’ll deal with it when the time comes. Have to get one book out before I worry about the reaction to this one.
    I also feel that “trigger warning” has had its true meaning altered. Now it means “someone might get offended.” When, if someone has a true issue with a triggering issue, there are more underlying problems and help should be sought out.

    • Good on ya, Carey. I’m positive most people who push for trigger warnings have never suffered in their lives. I had one potential reviewer opt out of a review trade because of the stuff I mentioned here in The Helios Legacy, citing religious reasons or something.

  3. Information is good. Whatever exactly is the difference between being “triggered” and “offended”, it doesn’t matter in this case, there’s no drawbacks to people knowing what they’re getting into.

    The best way I’ve seen it set up is in Archive Of Our Own: there’s custom tags, which are optional and can specify details such as whether a story contains “excruciating detail” or just implicit mentions or this or that theme. And there are default tags for most commonly concerning stuff like rape and violence. A work can be tagged as containing some of those, none of those, or by default, “chose not to use Archive warnings”. And so readers can chose whether they want to engage with works whose author didn’t want to label clearly.

    I consider content warnings (or trigger warnings, but I find that term too specific, there are many reasons to want to know more) a good concept, not as rules to tell people what they can and cannot do, but as a common courtesy like holding a door open or telling someone the time when they ask.

    As for losing out on experiences, I know there are many people who are willing to read about drastic subjects as long as they know what they’re getting into, and the only thing they want to avoid is an unpleasant surprise. So by labeling your content clearly, you may actually end up with more readers and not less. Not to mention that they’ll feel more respected if you give them the freedom to make an informed choice, and may be less critical about your choice of themes if they see you’re being self-aware about them.

    The people who use trigger warnings the most are, surprise surprise, people who actually write about drastic subjects. If they thought problematic content has no merit whatsoever in any form, they’d advocate for banning it, not for putting warnings on it.

    And if someone doesn’t want to read about certain subjects, for whatever reason (whether it’s about a major traumatic trigger or a plain and simple lack of preference), they sure as hell aren’t gonna be grateful for being “given” the “opportunity” to read it anyway.

    All in all, I’m sure your concerns are not without merit; it should be up to the authors to decide how to label their works and in how much detail, and up to the readers to decide whether or not to engage based on the information they’re given.

    The only thing I can’t see doing you any favors is your attitude towards people who disagree with you on labeling preferences. I can imagine that many of said people were rude and unfair towards you as well, but that’s not a reason to call trauma victims weak babies for coping with their trauma in a different way than this one dude you know copes with his. Imagine being raped and abused only to have some dude on the internet tell you that you clearly “never suffered” because you disagree with him on how to label fictional stories.

    • I can see your points, and I’m really glad you actually took the time to try and articulate them instead of telling me to “get raped” like one of the other (umpublished) commenters did. I don’t think it changes the fact that people have gotten too sensitive to “being surprised” by the drastic content of a story. I don’t really see the connection between holding a door for someone and warning them that the gritty crime thriller they’re about to read has gritty stuff in it. One is being friendly, the other is condescending.

      There really isn’t much difference, either, between the mentalities of adding trigger warnings to “problematic” content and wanting to ban it outright. Both mentalities requires a level of elitist self-importance that says “i know what’s best for the people and I’m going to make the decision for them.” Readers are perfectly capable of putting down a book if the content rubs them the wrong way or makes them uncomfortable. Nobody should be making the decision for them before they even pick it up. And the fact remains, if i’ve been raped and abused and simply reading those words is enough to consistently send me off the deep end, I’m in dire need of psychological help that I’m clearly not getting.

      Trigger warnings arrogantly aim to preemptively shelter people on the presumption that they’re too fragile to even see a reference to what might have happened to them. I’ll add my own hypothetical example since you provided one in your last paragraph: What if before every screening of a war movie a simpering little man came out and warned the audience, “by the way, there is going to be war violence here, so if any of you are war veterans, you may want to leave now so you don’t suffer PTSD.” Which is more likely to happen?

      1) The soldiers in the audience thank him and walk out of the theater with smiles on their faces and hope for humanity in their hearts.

      2) The soldiers in the audience laugh, roll their eyes, and tell him to fuck off.

      At the end of the day, authors are gonna do what they want, and I won’t go out of my way to stop them, though I’ll highly recommend they not do stuff like this to their audience.

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