Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Hard Veto Toward Trigger Warnings

I've always censored my writing. Starting with Antioch, I began refusing to write sex scenes because I wanted to prove that, contrary to popular opinion, a book could be written without dicks plunging into holes every five seconds. I had moderate success with this idea, and it encouraged me. Eventually, though, suggestions of sex leaked into my stories. It only happened if it moved the story along, and I always felt the need to warn people. I have straight male readers, and somehow, in my mind I always pictured them coming across some mention of gay sex and turning into this immature, disgusted asshole and making a huge deal out of how disgusted they were. After all, that's what society expects. Or rather, it did during the Bush era, I suppose. The gay rights movement really moved back about ten years from 2000 to 2008, didn't it? We're almost back to the level of acceptance we were at in 1999. That's another story, though. I'll get to that in another blog at another time.

It occurred to me that when I come across a straight sex scene, I survive anyway. I have no reaction to it, in fact. Why should anyone have a visceral, violent reaction to a written scene unless they are so uncomfortable with their own sexuality that they simply cannot stand how much a scene like that functions as a mirror. In which case, sad day. However, I suddenly have no fucks to give. If there's a sex scene that moves the story forward, it'll happen. You'll not be warned.

Also, trigger warnings are officially gone from my writing. I was informed a long time ago by a friend of mine who simultaneously rallies for equality and talks about "damn Mexicans" that I ought to warn people when a particularly upsetting scene is in a story. Rape, for instance. You know what putting a rape trigger warning on Spin the Bottle did? It made it my most popular story. People see words like rape and death and sex and molestation and suicide and they immediately want to see it. It is not my problem that triggers exist for people. I am no longer going to do trigger warnings. You'll read my work as it is written without warning and you'll either freak out and kill yourself because you just can’t deal with reality, or you'll see the purpose behind the scene and examine your own life. It is neither my fault nor my problem that my writing a story with a rape scene causes you to have rape flashbacks. Maybe that's what I'm going for. I'm a fucking artist, and I create worlds with the purpose of disturbing, causing emotion, causing a reaction. I personally have triggers as well. It doesn't stop me from reading if the book is triggering. Quite the opposite.

Trigger warnings are a bullshit invention of millennial hippies, telling you that you can indeed write a scene of incest, but you have to make sure everyone knows beforehand that it's there. As though life itself needed warning labels. As though every aisle in every grocery store needed a warning label saying TRIGGER WARNING: PEOPLE for those of us with social anxiety. Trigger warnings are cruise control for people who lack the ability to control themselves when exposed to triggering stimuli, and I don't write specifically for people who cannot keep their emotions in check. If someone cannot find within them the maturity and sense to be able to read one of my stories without having some kind of strong reaction that is so bad they can't stand it, they ought not read my stories. They're about to get worse. I'm releasing one of the darkest things I've ever written on Halloween, and I am through holding everyone's damn hand through their personal set of triggers. If it's a trigger for you, don't pull it and you won't get blown away. It doesn't pull itself. That's not how it works. Learn how to control yourself or get medicated. We all have to do it at some point. I am not here to hold your hand and make the world less scary by warning you of what's going to happen next. That defeats the purpose of writing. We call those things "spoilers" and they're generally frowned upon. In Spin the Bottle, the rape scene was the part of the story known as Rising action and climax. It was pretty much the end. By putting a “trigger warning” at the beginning, I let everyone know how the story ended. I am bitter, bitter, BITTER about being told that I need to use trigger warnings, because in the end, I censored myself even harder.

I realize that sounds hostile. I didn't intend for it to sound that way, but I have started to resent the idea of having to hold your hand through the experience of reading my work. I understand issues. I get them. Writing is supposed to reflect them like a mirror. Art itself is supposed to cause a reaction, sometimes unpleasant, to the world around you. In my opinion, my generation is so busy trying to avoid triggering events that we forget how to be truly moved by anything. My advice is to take some pills, calm the hell down, and enjoy the ride. The things that you consider triggers shan’t be going away, and you can’t always prepare for them. If life is really so upsetting that you need to be warned that it’s still happening around you, maybe you should retire from the internet. And reading. And movies. And social interaction. And life. I am no longer censoring myself, putting up trigger warnings, or in any way indicating to my reader what’s going to happen at the end just because it might cause some particularly unstable person to freak out. I refuse. This is art, not therapy. I am an artist. I am not here to smooth the world over for you.

Expect changes. You can accept them, or you can leave. I'm not doing this anymore. I may continue my spiral in person, but writing is my one safe place, and you will not make me put up warning signs because something makes you uncomfortable. These are my stories, and you've invited yourself into them. You wouldn't go into someone's house and insist on warnings that some of the carpets are green, and you'll not be doing something similar in the only safe place I have left to express myself. Fuck your triggers. Grow a spine or stop reading altogether, because there's a whole world of literature out there with triggering scenes. Art is what it is, and I'd rather create art that stays true to life than make sure your stupid fucking life stays free of irritants. Veto. Absolutely not.

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