Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Trigger Warnings

Rebel's prompt this week is about trigger warnings, and to be honest I have been pondering which way to go with it. I don't usually follow the prompt but this one seems right up my street as I write erotica and illness, necrophillia, domesitc violence, murder etc. so most of my work could have some form of trigger warnings on it. Indeed on some of the ones I feel are more extreme I put something up at the front about people of a delicate disposition should look away.

There were several ways I could have gone with this. I could have written something heinous that set off some people's triggers. I could write about censorship and the compulsory trigger warnings on writing and books. However I was taught that if you are going to comment on things then 'add value'. I think if I went down that route then I would not be adding anything to the argument, just adding hot air.

Thus, I wanted to talk about something that I am passionate about in the frame of trigger warnings. I want to talk about intelligence.

In my working life I come across people if all shapes and sizes and intellects including learning difficulty (IQ of 80-90) and learning disability (IQ of 80 or less), as well as exceptionally brainy people (IQ of 150+). I need to communicate to all of these people, using a variety of different methods. I do not have any difficulty in communicating with them in a way that makes sense to them. One thing that I do not do, I never do, is dumb things down. I treat them like articulate human beings, because they are. Individuals with a unique sense of self and self identity.

I see trigger warnings on things on Fetlife where it may or may not be appropriate. What I find is that the 'trigger' is usually insignificant to me as a reader but of huge import to the author. I find them an irritation because they preclude me from thinking and making my own choices, if I want to read the article or not without explaining explicitly what the content is. I find that mildly offensive at the time and very offensive when I reflect upon it.

We title things to give people an idea of what the contents are. There is blurb on the back of books, DVD's, games and so on to give us more of an idea of the content so we can make an informed choice. That is why they are there so we know approximately what it is all about. Our curiosity takes us further if we want to. What is the point of getting a book if I already know what happens in it?

I am a huge fan of series like Wonders of the Solar System and Blue Planet. They cover topics that I know nothing about but pitch it at such a level so that I do not feel stupid but that it is engaging and educational. It is poles apart from Americana-esqe programmes which dumb things down to the lowest common denominator, instead or presuming that their audience has some modicum of intelligence. Spoon feeding is a huge turn off to intellectual engagement of the subject, at any level and at any age.

So let's examine the lowest common denominator for a second. The average IQ is 100 and I have yet to meet a person who does not want to be considered as an individual, a unique being. From that it is the right to make their own choices, what they want to wear, what they want to watch, what they want to read. They customise social media sites to suite them such as Twitter and Facebook. No one has a Twitter account full of Conservative party announcements when they are interested in elephant riding and not politics. They choose. They are selective.

McDonald's now famous warning sign of 'hot contents' when you buy a hot beverage is not a warning to protect people, it is a legal back covering exercise. I do not know of anybody, including people with learning disabilities, who are not aware that a cup of coffee will be hot. It does not come as a surprise to them. Therefore, it is not out of concern for the customer, it is out of concern for themselves, much like trigger warning where the concern is to relieve the uncomfortable feelings of the author.

I am all for warnings about explicit lyrics and age ratings as there does need to be some regulation; some way of knowing if it is age appropriate or contains offensive material. To be able to read my blog you have to acknowledge that you are over 18 and readers are warned that it contains adult content. I am for correct descriptions of things, accurate blurbs and titles. I am all for individual choices. The UK Mental Capacity Act states that we have the right to make unwise choices (I love that bit about it, it always makes me smile). Trigger warnings take away that right to choose, they take away any level of intelligence to make a judgement whether or not we want to read or watch something.

I am pro choice, pro intelligence, pro individualism.


  1. Great take on this. I agree with you 100%. Where does it all end and who are we protecting ourselves from...ourselves?

  2. "Therefore, it is not out of concern for the customer, it is out of concern for themselves, much like trigger warning where the concern is to relieve the uncomfortable feelings of the author."

    I love your take on this and just have to agree! I will much rather make my own choice than have someone else make it for me!

    Rebel xox

  3. I am in such a minority with this, but the more I think about it, the more I am certain I need them. As a writer.

    I would not write my edgier stories if I was not able to put a content advisory on the front of the story. I couldn't do it, I would feel like I was writing something heinous and not have the ability to warn my readers that this was not my usual stuff.

    That content advisory is a bit like the McDonalds sign; it is as much for me as it is for the consumer. They give me freedom to warn. Whether that makes me weak or misguided, I don't know, but the content advisories will stay on my work where appropriate because I don't want to spring a surprise on anyone.

    And the Government legislating for unwise choices; LOL. Is that bit for Mr Clegg?!

  4. For me it is the writers perogative to decide whether their work requires a warning and for the reader to decide if they wish to read the content whether or not the warning is there.

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  6. It's all about context.
    If you are browsing a BDSM website, I would expect images and comment that may cause triggers, likewise a sex blog.
    If a cookery blog suddenly went into graphic details of the gang rape of the author, yes, that needs a TW.