Trigger Warnings (revisited)

triggersBack in May 2014 I wrote a post on trigger warnings and so did many others. My post back then was sparked because of some nasty comments I received on one of my posts. Not on the post itself, but on Twitter and I saw it by accident. I was never approached directly. The conversation on Twitter was that trigger warnings on posts and books should be made compulsory and in my post about trigger warnings, I said that I totally understand trigger warnings, but I just didn’t want them to be compulsory.

I still stand by that. I don’t want trigger warnings to be compulsory.

But…
I have changed my mind on trigger warnings. I know this is confusing as I just said that I stand by what I said, but allow me to explain.

Back then I never stopped to think whether a trigger warning might be necessary on a story. When I am writing, I do think about whether it would be acceptable, whether it’s not to hard or harsh, whether I am not crossing some ‘unwritten rules’. I always try to keep my stories within certain limits (which are difficult to explain but might have something to do with my own sexual and moral boundaries). I never thought it necessary to put a trigger warning on any of my stories. On that I have changed my mind.

A post that has always stayed with me back when ‘trigger warnings’ was a prompt, was the one written by Ruby Goodnight. I think my mind started changing back then, but it took quite some time for me to get to the point where I realized my thinking was different. Ruby made me realize that putting a trigger warning on my writing is only another way of classifying my story. Putting a trigger warning on my story doesn’t mean that I will scare all readers off. It doesn’t make my story bad. It’s just a courtesy to whoever wants to read it, to make sure that they know there might be something in there that might trigger a bad memory in their lives.

I recently attempted to read ‘120 days of Sodom’. I wish there was a trigger warning on the book. Okay, I know, it’s been written by Marquis de Sade, so I had to expect ‘something’, but this was going to be my first ever book I would read of him. And, I love anal sex. So why not start with this one. Wrong! I put it down when I was about one third, maybe a quarter through. By then I had skipped so many paragraphs that I knew it was senseless to continue reading. Even though I was appalled at the ages of the kids that were ‘recruited’ I tried to see it in the time frame of back then. I didn’t mind the talk about anal sex, not at all. But I just couldn’t read about faeces and all they did with it. When I read how one of the young girls ate the stool, I literally got nauseous. I skipped a couple of paragraphs, continued reading, skipped paragraphs, read, skipped, read, skipped, skipped, skipped… and then just stopped. I couldn’t stomach it anymore. Literally!

It was a recent post by the lovely Oleander Plume that reminded me that I wanted to blog about trigger warnings again. I have a soft spot for Oleander. She’s a kind person, always willing to help, always enthusiastic about everything and she’s been through a helluva lot. These words touched me very deeply:

Since the writer in question did not label her story as “non-consensual”, a landmine exploded in my face. Shortly afterward, I was caught in the throes of a panic attack that three Xanax and four shots of whiskey wouldn’t touch.

 

Here I am, a survivor of sexual abuse and thanks to god knows what, I have no trauma because of it. Or, as I have said in other posts, maybe I do and maybe this was what influenced some of my life choices upon which many had frowned. However, I can read about sexual abuse and not have the same reaction Oleander had. Reading about her reaction was enough for me to understand: trigger warnings are good, not bad. Like Oleander said:

Trigger warnings are NOT censorship. They are a kindness.

 

I like to think of myself as a kind person. I hate hurting others. I’m a people-person. That said, in hindsight I don’t understand why I never added trigger warnings to stories before, because yes, there might be a couple on my blog that needs a warning. Maybe I just thought they were not ‘hard enough’ for trigger warnings because I was okay with writing it and putting it out there. I never thought it might trigger negative reactions in others. Over time I will go search for those stories and add trigger warnings and future stories that need them, will definitely have trigger warnings.

For those of you who still doubt whether you should or should not use trigger warnings, this is why you should:

  • It’s not censorship.
  • You won’t lose readers.
  • You will gain respect.
  • It’s an act of kindness (thanks Oleander for this one!)

I would, as before, love to hear your thoughts on trigger warnings.

© Rebel’s Notes

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