Thursday, March 27, 2014

Warning About Trigger Warnings

“Trigger warnings are presented as a gesture of empathy, but the irony is they lead only to more solipsism, an over-preoccupation with one’s own feelings—much to the detriment of society as a whole. Structuring public life around the most fragile personal sensitivities will only restrict all of our horizons. Engaging with ideas involves risk, and slapping warnings on them only undermines the principle of intellectual exploration. We cannot anticipate every potential trigger—the world, like the Internet, is too large and unwieldy. But even if we could, why would we want to? Bending the world to accommodate our personal frailties does not help us overcome them.” (Jenny Jarvi)

So, I’ll admit it, I am not one of the most PC people you’ll ever meet. Not even close. I write smutty, romanticized, BDSM erotica that often plays with power, control, and pain rather unapologetically.

I like to think that I—and I do try my best to—portray racial minorities, women, men, and kinksters of all kinds in a respectful and honest way. I try very hard to only present safe, sane, consensual sex and kink between partners who actually care about each other’s well-being. Who see each other as people first, rather than just a means of sexual gratification.

I don’t preface with this to say I deserve a pat on the back, but simply as a backdrop to this issue. 

I don’t typically start off my stories with trigger warnings. 

And, yes, I’ve received requests saying that I should. 

And, indeed, perhaps I should.

I have stories that feature Littles Daddy/daughter sex, that feature interracial power play, that feature very gendered power play, that feature sensation-heavy kink play, that teeters on the line of dubious consent.

And that’s just my erotic writing. If you read my non-erotic writing, you will encounter scenes with graphic violence and assault. You will find the stories and perspectives of characters whom even I don’t agree with, but whose stories I wanted to tell.

Maybe I ought to preface my stories with trigger warnings.

But I’m not going to.

And it’s not because I’m insensitive to the trauma of those who may read my work. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love my fans. And I would never want to intentionally trigger or offend them.

And that’s the crux, isn’t it? 

When I write and post I don’t really know what’s going to trigger a reader until it does. And what triggers one reader likely won’t with most. In fact, what often triggers one reader is the very thing that makes the story speak to most.

And, often, I’m asked, well, even if it only affects a few of your readers, does it really harm anyone else by putting a trigger warning at the start of the story to protect the few it does affect? 

Yes. Quite a lot actually.

Particularly as a kinky writer who is trying—very, very, very hard—to portray kinksters as more than their kinks. To give us a public image as people first, rather than the broken, flat fetish freaks we’re so often portrayed as in mainstream media. Poor, two-dimensional stereotypes puppeting the real star of the story: the act. The Kink.

So much of what’s out there and readily available to the mainstream about kinksters isn’t written by kinksters. It’s written by people whose closest brush with kink are the fantasies that float around in their heads. These portrayals approach kink as an act. Flashy and taboo. Dangerous and edgy. Too often, they rob us of our humanity. They forget that, beneath the bonds and blindfolds, beneath the leather and latex, are people. Just trying to live and love.

Placing: “TRIGGER WARNING: Scenes involving simulated force” or “TRIGGER WARNING: Scenes involving simulated age play” at the start of my stories, even with the best of intentions, plays into that practice. It takes scenes and stories about healthy and loving people expressing their healthy sexualities in healthy and loving relationships and reduces them to the worst, most unhealthy, most degrading, and understandably and gut-wrenchingly hateful images.

It’s the basic PR problem with kink whenever we butt heads with the vanilla mainstream. 

What we do, taken completely out of context, is deplorable. Stripped of all context, it is the very worst that humanity inflicts on itself. If you take consensual out of consensual non-consent, all you have is rape. If you take SSC (safe, sane, consensual) rules out of BDSM, all you have is abuse. If you preface us with what we do before who we are, all the world sees us as are monsters.

So, no, as much as I hate the thought of hurting or harming any of my readers—even though I know I’ve lost readers over it—I will not be using trigger warnings to preface most of my stories. Because, even though some of my readers think it infringes on their consent, to be shocked with a trigger mid-way through one of my stories—and, for that, I am very sorry—by using those warnings, I would be participating in the exact practice and culture I got into all this to change.

I will say, for those who are worried about being triggered, I do and will continue to try to give some key terms in the top titles of all my stories. And, even if you find some of my stories triggering, I hope that you can find and enjoy others that aren’t.

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