Thoughts On Trigger Warnings

TW for brief mentions of… basically everything that I trigger-warn for, actually.

I have anxiety triggers that are almost never warned for.

This is because my triggers are either very uncommon (people are drinking aaaaaaaaaaah) or impossible to implement warnings for (unfortunately, I cannot get the people who hate me to say “TW for pressing Ozy’s ‘I am a horrible person’ buttons”). This affects my thoughts on triggers somewhat!

First, there’s a certain well-meant but ultimately futile effort among people to warn for every conceivable trigger. It’s not going to work. I know someone who’s triggered by brunettes.* It would be absurd to warn everything “trigger warning: brunettes” because of one guy. I am never going to get people to warn for the presence of drug use, and I am slightly less likely to get people to warn for public embarrassment (although that one’s a common enough trigger for people with social phobia I think they should consider it). We should only trigger-warn for things that are common triggers– violence, eating disorders, suicide, rape and abuse, etc. I probably have more than a hundred readers who are triggered by rape at least sometimes. I have one who is triggered by brunettes. It is not worth my time to warn for brunettes.

Second, trigger warnings are really, really, really fucking important.

I don’t watch comedies unless they’ve been pre-vetted by someone I trust. There’s too high a chance that all the humor will be based around someone being embarrassed in public, and then I will have to spend the entire movie with my eyes closed and ears stopped up repeating to myself “it’s only a movie, it’s only a movie” and it will be terrible for everyone.  But, you know, I can live a happy life without comedies, and comedies are not particularly harmed as a genre by my assiduous avoidance of them. But imagine, on the other hand, rape survivors and gender blogs. I think everyone can agree that gender blogs would be greatly harmed if we no longer had rape survivors comment, given the gendered nature of rape. And rape survivors would be harmed by no longer having a group of people that is much more likely than average to be supportive to talk to. But without trigger warnings, every time they read, no matter what brain-state they’re in, they might be hit by something that reminds them of their rape, and that will make it less likely that they read the fucking blog, and that is a crappy situation for everyone.

It’s not just about courtesy, it’s about blind, naked self-interest.

Now, there are two common misconceptions about trigger warnings I would like to take a moment to address.

Trigger warnings are coddling abuse survivors. I honestly have no idea where this idea comes from. I am not saying “this article is about rape, rape survivors keep out!” I’m saying “this article is about rape, so if you’d like to read something else you should probably read something else.” It’s not making them weaker, it’s empowering them to control their own mental health.

I am [identity X] and I don’t need trigger warnings. If you are a person who has survived abuse or who has an eating disorder or whatever, and you don’t need trigger warnings, GREAT. I’m honestly happy for you. Skip over them. But they take literally five seconds of my time, and they do actually help a lot of people. I think that’s a worthy thing.

Triggers aren’t real. Whenever I hear someone say this I want to go have an anxiety attack on their doorstep.

Trigger warnings no longer refer to just mental health things, they refer to anything people find annoying. It’s a fair cop; I think it’s an outcome of people trying to warn for literally everything that could possibly trigger someone, which is as previously discussed impossible. Where you draw the line about what to warn for is an individual thing; I’ve gone everywhere from “basically no warnings” to “very liberal with the warnings” myself, and I’m currently on the very liberal side. Actually, some people have transitioned to using content notes instead of trigger warnings when just referring to things that people may not want to read. Personally, I figure that if you’re not actually triggered by it you can work out what the article is about by the title or the first paragraph and hence avoid it.

Trigger warnings just help women. Err, what pile of sexist shite is that? (And, yes, I have read people say this, usually so-called MRAs.) Are we saying men aren’t raped or abused now, aren’t suicidal or self-injurers, never have eating disorders or anxiety attacks? Or are we saying that men are such masculine piles of manly manliness, free of such silly human things as ‘feelings,’ that they could never be reduced to panic by mere words? Except, um, that’s not true. Trigger warnings help all kinds of people with mental health problems! They are a good thing!

*Not really, but I don’t want to invade his privacy by sharing what his actual trigger is, and it’s similarly random.

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About ozyfrantz

Ozy Frantz is a student at a well-respected Hippie College in the United States. Zie bases most of zir life decisions on Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, and identifies more closely with Pinkie Pie than is probably necessary. Ozy can be contacted at [email protected] or on Twitter as @ozyfrantz. Writing is presently Ozy's primary means of support, so to tip the blogger, click here.

Comments

  1. “I cannot get the people who hate me to say “TW for pressing Ozy’s ‘I am a horrible person’ buttons”).”
    Ozy, I would like to say you are a wonderful person! In addition, I may sometimes come off as blunt, harsh or inflexible. This is just how Lamech types on the internet. Don’t let it make you think Lamech dislikes you. Again Lamech thinks you are a wonderful person.

    • Here here for Ozy being a wonderful person!

    • PsyConomics says:

      You have a trigger associated with being called a bad person and you started a blog (with a non-traditional philosophical position no less) on gender?

      I don’t mean to invade your privacy, but how much did it cost to get your car’s chasis re-enforced to accommodate your GIANT METAPHORICAL GONADS?

      That is amazing and you are amazing for gazing right into your own abyss, letting it gaze back into you, and continuing to post such amazing, articulate, poignant, thoughtful posts. I have no concept of exactly how hard that must be beyond stories from others who have to deal with jobs involving triggers, but for what it’s worth, your work is greatly appreciated by at least one reader :).

  2. I think that public embarrassment/shame as a potential trigger definitely needs to become more aware in the public conscious. Not only in trigger warnings, but just in general.

    Also, I’ve always thought that people who disregard the importance of trigger warnings (and the problem of triggers in the real world) are basically victim-blaming a second time, which is horrible.

    • I agree that public embarrassment should be more often acknowledged. Not just as a trigger but to give people more of a choice. If I know a film is going to misogynistic or include bullying or public shame (esp. without addressing it properly) then I won’t go see it. Simply to boycott stupid themes in comedies. I know if I relaxed, I’d probably still enjoy it as these aren’t my triggers, but I don’t think these films should be encouraged any more than they already are.

    • Kaija24 says:

      I”m so glad that I’m not the only one who feels really REALLY uncomfortable with public embarrassment scenes. It’s why I don’t really enjoy a lot of TV/movies and especially any reality shows…watching someone be publicly embarrassed makes my stomach knot up and I feel waves of embarrassment and sympathy for that person, fictional or otherwise. I don’t get a kick out someone else’s misery…I get secondhand misery, and like second-hand smoke, I feel it is bad for me and I will avoid!

      • I completely agree. I was glad when I read this too because I always thought I was the only one who didn’t get any enjoyment out of movies like that or find them all that funny. There’s a lot of comedies I don’t watch because of the potential for that being the humor and it makes me so uncomfortable that I want to crawl out of my skin and I too don’t watch a lot of reality TV because of that as well.

        • Yeah, I could watch Girl With The Dragon Tattoo without flinching….but I can’t even watch the trailers to Borat without my skin crawling.

          It wasn’t until wicked recently that I even realized this was a legitimate trigger. I used to just tell myself I was being over-sensitive or whatever, which isn’t the healthiest way to deal with it.

          • I’m the same way. I thought Bridesmaids was a hilarious movie, but during that party scene where the protagonist adn that other women kept grabbing the microphone from one another, I had to stop the movie and leave the room for a few minutes.

  3. A good read.

    Just for discussion on the subject of triggers referring to anything people find annoying: I, too, am of the opinion that anything can be a trigger (brunettes, left-handed redheads, whatever), and that there’s the extent to which it’s futile to attempt to account for ALL of them.

    The best compromise I’ve found is as follows: provide trigger warnings for “the usual suspects” (rape, abuse, etc.), though I feel

    Personally? One of my very few triggers is media depicting the slaughter of so-called “punch-clock villains” by so-called protagonists (usually brooding, one-dimensional anti-heroes), who are almost always superhuman in some way and for which no amount of training could prepare the so-called antagonists (who are just doing their jobs). Examples are the lobby scene from the Matrix, etc. It makes it very difficult to watch such movies or even root for the protagonists.

    Actually, to be honest, it makes me want to [[trigger warning for violence]] quite literally curb-stomp the protagonists. This is why I’m on the quest for the ultimate anti-villain.

    • Er, that should have read…

      The best compromise I’ve found is as follows: provide trigger warnings for “the usual suspects” (rape, abuse, etc.), though I feel there honestly should be a LIST of those subjects somewhere; and provide content tags for any other subject you discuss, including brunettes.

    • On the subject of “slaughtering punch-clock villains” (some who may not be aware that they’re working for a bad guy, or be aware but too afraid to quit) one could sometimes make the case that the heroes (or antiheroes) don’t know whether they’ll surrender peacefully or warn the big bad (especially if their plan involves taking said big bad by surprise) and probably don’t have time to secure them. This is tactically sound, if morally questionable. On the other hand, if they just barge in and slaughter everyone they see without even trying to be stealthy, then unless they have strong evidence that virtually everyone present is an enemy warrior/soldier/terrorist/whatever… now that’s just plain wrong.

      (And as for The Matrix, I only vaguely remember the film so I’m not sure about that particular scene, but people have endlessly debated the morality of slaughtering everyone present when potentially anyone could turn into an agent, who are basically superbeings that could respawn endlessly, and the goal is supposedly to free all humanity from a form of slavery – except the “slavery” part is itself also questionable.)

      • pocketjacks says:

        “(And as for The Matrix, I only vaguely remember the film so I’m not sure about that particular scene, but people have endlessly debated the morality of slaughtering everyone present when potentially anyone could turn into an agent, who are basically superbeings that could respawn endlessly, and the goal is supposedly to free all humanity from a form of slavery – except the “slavery” part is itself also questionable.)”

        Not to mention the stupidity of it. Remember how they shot up that hallway full of security guards to get to the rooftop? Remember that they found a helicopter there that took them the rest of the way? Remember that they could generate a chopper anytime they wanted to from the beginning, like they did with the guns?

        But they needed *something* to go with that Crystal Method track, I guess.

        PS how do blockquotes work here?

  4. pocketjacks says:

    [quote]I don’t watch comedies unless they’ve been pre-vetted by someone I trust. There’s too high a chance that all the humor will be based around someone being embarrassed in public, and then I will have to spend the entire movie with my eyes closed and ears stopped up repeating to myself “it’s only a movie, it’s only a movie” and it will be terrible for everyone.[/quote]

    I hate “cringe humor” centered around public or social embarrassment. I fucking can’t stand shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm, and American Idol tryouts are of course definitely out of the question. (I don’t watch the later stages of the show either, because I boycott it for the above reason.) Even The Office is borderline for me. I wouldn’t call it a trigger, though. I just don’t find it funny, and often just cruel.

  5. To trigger warn or not, that is the question? Not quite – it’s even how to warn that can be a bigger issue. It seems mad to some, but the very use of the “Trigger Warning” meme can it self be a trigger – it even encourages people to “”not”” read content, that for them, is not triggering and even helpful. I’ve even had to deal with people who have developed a high level of attachment to “Trigger Warnings” as proof of their own Victim Status and lack of power in the face of two words.

    The meme has taken hold on the net due to some pushing the Rape = PTSD meme, and so you get two memes breading and combining. It also gets wrapped up in the politicisation of rape, rape survival and recovery – I do wish that some would stop with the Political Football. The meme also has that AA ethos being dragged in as well – One drink is too many and a million not enough – one trigger is all you need, and so you have to avoid all triggers (Potential or Real) to not be a quivering wreck and ball of neurotic flashing back – re-experiencing – and you have to be treated as a pathetic individual who just needs to be looked after and controlled for your own good.

    Would writers tell Alcoholics to not read a page which mentions Bourbon – Trigger Warning for Booze? If a page deals with someone recovering from Benzo addiction would there be warnings because someone mentions taking a sleeping pill … oh I have to grab valium now I’ve been triggered?

    How about someone with PTSD due to military service and being blown to pieces by an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) – have they been given all the relevant trigger warnings due to fire crackers and the 4th of July?

    I often find it massively arrogant for Bloggers and Net types to assume they know what is best for other people. It can even lead to highly controlling behaviour. Yes it can be a kindness and even courtesy to say “This blog – post – addresses XX or YY or ZZZZZ, but ultimately it is the person reading who has both the right and responsibility to deal with the reactions they have.

    … oh and I’m writing from the position of dealing daily with people with PTSD and who are also living with the results of rape, all forms of sexual violence and triggers of all types. Triggers can be random? Oh Yes! … and controlling for the random is not possible, so why do some insist on attempting to control others in none random ways?

    As for denial of triggers being Secondary Victim Blaming – that’s very odd. But then again, assuming superiority of knowledge and Victim Controlling Behaviour through assuming and even telling people they need their Triggers to be controlled by strangers is even worse.

    • My susceptibility to triggers depends on my state of mind. If I am feeling unstable, I avoid alcohol and any kind of media that might trigger me. If I am feeling stable, then I can read about rape and child abuse as much as I like.

      I like having the choice.

      As for your argument that combat veterans don’t get PTSD trigger warnings, THEY SHOULD! It is bad that they don’t.

      • DysgraphicProgrammer says:

        Yes. I have a friend who can’t watch certain movies for this reason. Any movie with sustained gunfire in a semi-realistic tactical situation is a problem for her. (Mobsters getting in a pistol fight: OK. Almost any war movie: NO)

    • I agree MediaHound – I too am skeptical of their current usage.

      Trigger warnings have gone a level deeper into the comments themselves. And sometimes within the comment, the trigger warning is placed not at the top of the comment, but at the top of a paragraph within the comment. I personally don’t have readable trigger warnings, though there are horrific written descriptions that cost me emotional strength to read – I find particular visual imagery much more disturbing, as there is no real way to stop or ease into images.

  6. Emmeline says:

    Ahh, trigger warnings. I had to defollow a friend on LJ because she kept on putting them on every single post she did. At first I’d see “trigger warning for uncomfortable subjects”, steel myself (while we’re sharing, my vision gets foggy and I throw up at eating disorders being used for laughs or kinks) and then I’d see a vague line about Anakin from Star Wars getting beaten up. Eventually I got complacent, and what d’you know, there was a video of the baby scene in A Serbian Film.

    • Doug S. says:

      Yeah, too high a false positive rate makes warnings useless. Computer security warnings are notorious for this – you see them all the time and they’re never actually a problem, so you just start ignoring them…

      • Yeah, this is a very interesting point. Since everything -could- be triggering it’s tempting to warn about everything, but then you might as well warn about nothing.

  7. Daniel Thompson says:

    Yeah… I am fine with trigger warnings in theory, but my particular issue with trigger warnings is that they seem to make an arbitrary distinction between what is likely to make someone upset and what isn’t.

    Yes, of course there is a spectrum and there are certain things that we are all more likely to agree are upsetting than others, but where do you draw the line? Exactly what are (to use the phrase that some have above) “the usual suspects?” And what happens when several of us strongly disagree about who ought to be included in that list and who ought to be left out. In other words, it’s not a debate about the trigger warnings for rape (that almost anyone approving of the idea of trigger warning would accept) or the trigger warnings for brunettes (that everyone would agree was silly). It is instead the stuff more in the middle that complicates things.

    Personally, for example, I am chagrinned and aggravated that due simply to the fact that those most familiar with the concept of trigger warnings are generally left leaning (whereas I am somewhat less so) I have seen several examples of something like: “Trigger warnings for douchey evangelical Republican bullshit” and virtually none that say: “Trigger warnings for hypocritical liberal misandry”
    (I suppose I could write some myself, but the short-term satisfaction would not be worth engaging in the very thing that I’m decrying…)

    Thus, I personally, have no problem with most good-faith attempts to label things with trigger warnings, but I have to admit that I often find the practice overused by those wishing to label controversial things they disagree with as a source of more real and likely anxiety than the positions and opinions that they espouse themselves… Sometimes what infuriates you, may inspire me, you know? So, if the use of trigger warning labels is to continue, I would personally simply prefer that it was used with an extremely high degree of restraint.

    That’s my thinking… Reasonable?

    • Hmmm…so basically what I’m getting from your comment is that you have no problem with people posting genuine trigger warnings. It’s when people start putting in their own opinion of an issue into a trigger warning that it becomes a problem?

      Like for your example of “general Republican douchery…” well that’s hardly a useful trigger warning anyway. It doesn’t really, specifically, help warn anyone who may be triggered anyway. All it really does is poke at the Republicans, which presumably the article would do that anyway. I definitely think trigger warnings should be informative and not agenda pushing.

      On the other hand, at the moment in politics it just happens to be that a lot of Republican policies and platforms are pretty damn callous. But yeah, there’s no need to put the political leanings in the trigger warnings themselves.

      • Daniel Thompson says:

        @HeatherN

        Actually, I’m worried I might be being misunderstood here. You suggest that I don’t have a problem “with anyone posting *geniune* trigger warnings.” …but my concern is that it is usually a bit difficult to discern or at least to agree on what is and is not genuine.

        And I don’t want to say that the problem is only present when people discuss politics. *Any* hot topic provokes strong feelings and I give everyone the benefit of the doubt that their trigger warnings are all meant genuinely. Ie, they know that if someone like themselves were to stumble upon the article that they’re writing, it may well make them terrifically angry.

        But I mean, the New York Times does not post trigger warnings advising Holocaust survivors to skip over an article that quotes Ahmadinejad denying the Holocaust… The mainstream media instead generally runs a generic form letter in front of anything that may be particularly graphic, and I think that has worked well for the most part. The New York Times may well believe that Holocaust denial is far more upsetting than, say, news of protesters in Palestine being jailed in Israel, but when you start making many assumptions and distinctions about what people are likely going to get upset about, it can also seem like you’re endorsing an idea of what people *ought* to be upset about.

        And there are very few things that we agree *ought* to upset us. Rape and murder are pretty unassailable targets, but even issues of life and death aren’t cut and dry. A certain story about an abortion may seem perfectly tame to a pro-choicer, but be a “trigger” for a pro-lifer. An article about George Zimmerman’s release on bail may be a news item for some and a “trigger” for others… Even with rape there are assumptions made about exactly *what* people will find upsetting! Remember that Duke lacrosse incident a few years ago? Should the trigger warning be for the rape that some still think was committed? Or for the possibly misogynistic things that those students admitted to doing? Or for the fact that this was a possibly false accusation that hugely altered these students’ lives?

        The thing is, we often don’t even realize when we’re putting our political leanings into things… We see other people opposing us or our ideals and it makes us angry. We don’t, however, see that the other people are usually fighting, not *against* us, but *for* some other ideal that is less relevant or dear to us… So *generally* it’s best to just forgo the use of a trigger warning in my book…

        And if you feel a trigger warning is really really really necessary, how about instead of the common “trigger warning *FOR* x, y, and z…” we go with that old generic form letter: “The following discussion includes mentions of violent, sexual, or adult themes ~ reader discretion is advised”

        • Ah right, I think this is something of a misunderstanding of what a trigger is. A trigger isn’t just “oh this makes me uncomfortable,” or “oh I don’t like this.” A trigger warning isn’t there to tell people what they should or shouldn’t be upset about. It’s not even there to warn people that a subject may be sensitive or “adult themed.”

          A trigger warning is there for people who have a very personal, emotional and physical response to a subject. When someone says “trigger warning for discussions of rape,” they aren’t actually directing that to everyone. Something like that is being directed at someone who has had personal experience with sexual violence. Someone with a history of sexual assault can have an anxiety attack by reading about someone else’s discussion of sexual assault.

          Right like…my mother hates watching violence on television and she’ll often squinch her eyes shut. But she hasn’t been triggered by it. She just doesn’t like watching it…it makes her uncomfortable, but that’s it. As soon as a violent scene passes she’s fine and dandy. That’s not a trigger…that’s just “ew that looks disgusting.”

          A trigger with regards to violence is if someone empathizes with the depiction so greatly (perhaps because of past experiences with violence) that they become agitated. It could even result in ptsd-like flashbacks and has a lasting effect on a person’s emotional well being.

          • Daniel Thompson says:

            Well, again, while *I* would not be inclined to label anything with a “trigger warning” that I didn’t think would very likely cause someone out there to have a panic attack (if I was going to use the label at all, which I probably wouldn’t), what I’m saying is that I don’t think that that is how it has *come to be used*. I think it, instead, has come to be far overused, and imagine, based on how you would prefer to define the word that you would agree…

            I guess my question would be, don’t you agree that the real-world usage of the term “trigger warning” has become so overused by the internet that its usage ought to mostly just be discouraged at this point?

            Further, doesn’t the harm of most people using it inconsistently, or with such bias outweigh the good it generally does (especially since I think that it is rare that especially in a textual format people stumble upon many triggers without already having had a certain amount of contextual warning)?

            Again, I know that such labels are only directed at a small segment of people, but that would be true of the example I used with the NYT trying to spare the feelings of Holocaust survivors. It doesn’t matter if they’re only directed at a few people, if everyone sees them, and many notice that those applying the label are only worried about sparing a certain segment that has experienced X from the trauma of a trigger, but does not consider or worry about the segment of society that has experienced Y…

            And we do tend to see trigger warnings around rape more than anything else, but is that deserves that warning? What would you personally include in a list of things worthy of trigger warnings? How would you make such a list? If others didn’t agree with the list, would you feel it necessary to modify it, and how?

            I don’t have a “problem” with people that label things with trigger warnings (they’re just trying to be good people and spare others some traumatic feelings), but I think if we’re looking for a consistent policy that acknowledges that the range of things that causes people deep psychological pain we ought to err on the side of making few if any distinctions and privileging one trigger over another.

            • Daniel Thompson says:

              Oh, just wanted to add that the original article gets into what I’m saying about how they’re used now I think; Ozy wrote:

              “Trigger warnings no longer refer to just mental health things, they refer to anything people find annoying. It’s a fair cop; I think it’s an outcome of people trying to warn for literally everything that could possibly trigger someone, which is as previously discussed impossible.”

              Ozy says its a “fair cop,” and think zie is saying something similar to what I was saying, but doesn’t know what the reaction should be. Zie never really says… If it’s a “fair cop” should we stop using trigger warnings, at all? I would tend to say yes, though I think zie would tend to say no… But if not, what to do about all the misuse? And, again, even if everyone recognized trigger warnings as legitimate and used them responsibly, you can’t write trigger warnings for everything, so the salient question is again, where to draw the line? As I see that, too, as an impossible task I think it may be best to just stop making distinctions…

            • “I guess my question would be, don’t you agree that the real-world usage of the term “trigger warning” has become so overused by the internet that its usage ought to mostly just be discouraged at this point?”

              Trigger warnings are mostly used online…just try to impose a consistent policy of term usage and standards of practice onto the internet…I dare you…lol. ;) But seriously, yes there is inconsistency, as Ozy points out…and yes that can be a problem. One of the other commenters was pointing out about how someone used to over-use it so much it became meaningless, and then one time actually had a post that needed a trigger warning, but the warning was ignored because of so many “false positives.” And yeah, that’s a problem.

              But that doesn’t mean do away with them altogether. They are really flipping important and necessary. We need to use them more responsibly and accurately.

  8. Some blogpost here posted a few days ago had a trigger warning for “discussion of boundary violations”.

    My reaction to this, posted in the comments, was “Oh, for heaven’s sake”. It got nerfed by the mods, for reasons that are not immediately clear to me. To me, that’s exactly the kind of ludicrous trigger warning that’s brilliantly spoofed at http://isthisfeminist.tumblr.com/

    For one thing, there’s a huge difference between harrowing survivor stories of rape and abuse and a quasi-academic “discussion of boundary violations”, and to slap them all with the same “trigger warning” feels very wrong, trivializing the former in a rather unpleasant way. Then again, it seems grossly implausible that anyone who genuinely was triggered by a discussion of boundary violations would be reading Good Men Project, where it seems like roughly every fifth article posted relates to how to maintain appropriate boundaries between men and women (regrettably). I also question how many of these people there actually are. Rape and abuse victims I have known tend to have rather more serious triggers than “discussion of boundary violations” .

    • “For one thing, there’s a huge difference between harrowing survivor stories of rape and abuse and a quasi-academic “discussion of boundary violations”, and to slap them all with the same “trigger warning” feels very wrong, trivializing the former in a rather unpleasant way.”

      I suppose that depends on how you read it. I don’t think warning someone who has survived the former that a discussion of the latter may trigger them, somehow minimizes their experience. That sort of reminds me of the same arguments made about slapping same-sex marriage with the title of ‘civil rights.’ (It’s different…but similar). Right like, the argument I’ve heard is that by calling lgbt rights ‘civil rights,’ that somehow diminishes the experiences of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. But it doesn’t…saying that two things (in this case racial equality and sexual orientation equality) have something in common (the way in which they are tied to civil rights)…doesn’t negate the differences between them.

      So like, saying that someone’s survival of abuse shares something with a discussion of boundary issues (in this case, the possibility of triggering someone)…doesn’t negate the very large differences between them.

      Heck…even me drawing this parallel doesn’t mean I’m saying that abuse and lgbt rights are comparable in any other way. I think we have a problem with understanding that limited analogies and making limited connections between two different things, doesn’t necessarily imply that everything about those two subjects is the same.

      (Also, apologies if that analogy didn’t work out as well as I thought it would in my head)

      “I also question how many of these people there actually are. Rape and abuse victims I have known tend to have rather more serious triggers than “discussion of boundary violations.”

      Okay, but it could do. Isn’t it better to err on the side of caution? As Ozy points out, there is certainly such a thing as going too far…so yeah it’s about finding a balance, sure.

      • What makes that one rather ridiculous is that “discussion of boundary violations” is hopelessly vague. Rape is a thing, y’know? Abuse is a thing. Rather like the famous definition of porn, we might not be able to define them very well, but we know them when see them (or read about them).

        Discussion of boundary violations? That could literally cover everything from tales of friends who give unwanted hugs to the blogposts of parents who force their kids to eat their greens to the comic story of some poor sod who finds a couple shagging in a library study room they thought was locked. Very plausibly, someone could be triggered by a mention of people reading 50 Shades of Grey on the tube, given the non-zero number of people who have suffered abuse in the kink community (regrettably). These are all fine examples of stories of incidents that could prove triggering to someone somewhere, and a few of them probably aren’t even that uncommon as triggers. But if our criteria are going to be this wide, literally ever single internet piece printed anywhere should come with a mountain of trigger warnings as long as the article itself. Which is patently ridiculous

        IMHO, if used at all, trigger warnings should be reserved for tales of rape and abuse, or academic discussion of these things that could cut close to the bone – and even then only if article title isn’t a sufficient tip-off. We have to have some standards, somewhere.

        • I do agree with your ending sentence that if the article title tips people off a trigger warning isn’t also strictly needed. I mean, let’s give people some credit in their reading comprehension.

          And I do agree that a trigger warning like “boundary violations” is vague…perhaps nearing the edge where it’s vague enough to almost no longer serve it’s purpose. However, I also think that limiting it as you do can end up making trigger warnings so restrictive that they no longer serve their purpose either, because then you can end up with some legitimately triggering discussions that come with no warning because they didn’t fit the set of standards for when to include a warning.

          Unfortunately I think the nature of the beast is that it’s inexact.

  9. I actually had a weird conundrum about trigger warnings a handful of days ago – I wanted to write a comment which included a link to an article, and I wanted to put a trigger warning on the article. The problem is, I couldn’t figure out how to indicate what kind of triggering content there was without making the trigger warning triggering by itself. I wound up not posting the comment, but the article is one of my go-to stories of weirdness, so this problem may come up again.
    Is it appropriate to provide a trigger warning without a description? Any other suggestions how I could deal with this?

    • Hmm, I don’t know. If I were linking to an article that contains victim blaming I would probably just say “watch out for the victim blaming in this article” or something. I know I’ve linked to articles with specific warnings against reading the comments.

      I suppose if the article contains something disturbing in terms of vivid descriptions, I’d probably write just that – “there are disturbing vivid descriptions of _____ in the article”

  10. Maartje says:

    I like trigger warnings. (And I’m copying the one that holds for the post for this comment!)

    I like them because having to look at what may be triggering for people makes people think about whether that rape analogy is actually a good argument or whether you’re just going with the most horrible example you can come up with. Because caring enough to look at what may be triggering means you’re by definition not a troll. All good things.

    I don’t ‘need’ trigger warnings myself (although I do appreciate them on ‘squick’ subjects, I don’t actually get triggered by them – I just like a fair warning because I DO have a limited amount of energy each day and I mainly browse the web to relax), but I had a bout of acute PTSD a couple of years ago where ANYTHING could send me into a full-scale panic attack. I remember how horrible it is to feel that way, and I gladly do my part if that helps prevent others from feeling like that.

  11. scarbunkle says:

    Interesting. Personally, I’ve often found trigger warnings clunky and somewhat patronizing as an alert external to the content. I like using, whenever possible, a self-descriptive title instead. For example, I recently posted some thoughts on a suicide mentioned in my local paper. I feel that if someone’s triggered by that sort of thing, they are perfectly capable of recognizing that something titled “On a Recent High-Profile Suicide” is likely to contain discussion of suicide.

    If you absolutely have to use a title that makes the triggering content seem out of the blue, a trigger warning makes sense. But it seems like if it’s already labeled, you aren’t being as much a helpful person as you are questioning their ability to recognize the relationship between title and content.

  12. jesus_marley says:

    “I think everyone can agree that gender blogs would be greatly harmed if we no longer had rape survivors comment, given the gendered nature of rape. ”

    Whenever I start to think that you just might be starting to really understand the male perspective, you always manage to disappoint. Rape is not a gendered crime. It never has been a gendered crime, it never will be. It, like pretty much everything else in this world, is an equal opportunity piece of shit occurrence. It is the height of arrogance on your part to speak of trigger warnings and rape and then truck out that old chestnut. Your bias is showing. You might want to cover that up.

    • Hmmmmm! Yes it does smack of a tad of sexism and presumption! It’s a bit like the arguments (Ongoing) that Rape Trauma Syndrome is a special subset of PTSD – and all the gendered arguments that go with that – from the supposed empirical, and based only on one sex being assessed, to the “It’s Real becasue I say so ” arguments. The whole trigger warning on articles dealing with rape comes from that neck of the woods. It’s odd how I have personally observed the exact same behaviour, that is supposed to be the hall mark of rape – and 100% Rape Trauma Syndrome specific, in the behaviours of bomb blast survivors, car crash survivors and even emergency response personnel.

      I was looking for a paper that I needed, and rediscovered this gem “Effects of sexual assaults on men: physical, mental and sexual consequences”.

      Figures for men sexual assaulted in Los Angeles (over age 15) 7% – and figures range globally from 3 to 15% depending upon definitions used and criteria for assessment. They exclude prison populations. The extant research also shows that men are considerably less likely than women to report sexual assault/rape to anyone – let alone law enforcement, medical professionals etc, so the under reporting issues are even more critical and significant when it’s a male victim.

      There are so many gender issues and stereotypes involved, It’s so hard to see the leaves in the forest let alone the trees! P^)

      It’s a bit like the Domestic Violence/Abuse memes – and yet the evidence from ongoing research for 20 years shows gender parity for both victims and aggressors – and how Modus Operandi is the issue which is gendered and needs the expert training and insight to grasp. Stereotypes and Politics are terrible bed fellows – they really should be kept apart.

    • Give me a little bit of credit. All I meant by “gendered” is that male and female rape survivors often have different experiences because of their gender.

      • jesus_marley says:

        The only difference, I would argue, in experience by gender with regard to rape is in how men are treated after the fact in comparison to women.

  13. The Talk needs a trigger warning….

    I find the discussion of a man’s penis being cutt off then thrown in the garbage disposal triggering….

    Then evil Sharon Osbourne saying his penis should be fed to the dog….

    vicious stuff…

  14. anyways, a prankster one time mocked Melissa McEwan (hope I spelled that right) and said the word “trigger” was triggering for them because they were held up at gunpoint…..

    even though it was a prank, it brought up the point that different people will have different triggers and it is impossible to create a “safe space” so maybe people could move onto something else and say-“We talk about some grizzly stuff here but free speech is very important so proceed at your own risk.”

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