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The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation

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two highly recommended warnings essays
arthur one
As This Is My Life
So apparently, someone doing roadwork cut through our cable line, and we have a.) no cable, b.) no internet and c.) no phone. Which means tonight, may not be on if I can't get the tethering to work between John II and Arthur. However, Arthur the G1 and I are going to bond like whoa. Just. G3 is not very fast. So we'll see how that's going to work out.

ETA: Have internetz! They fixed it! Shocking.

Sexual Assault, Triggering, and Warnings: An Essay by impertinence

Warning: Very explicit discussion of sexual assault and the nature, anatomy, cause & effect of triggers. Is itself triggery.

In response to this essay, I've had a complete reversal on my general attitude of whatever on warnings. Sure, it should not take someone gutting themselves publicly for me to work out why this is so important, but there you go, that's what it actually took in this case. That is perhaps one of the hardest things I've read in the last year, bar none. Recommended reading no matter what side of the warning debate you are on and in my opinion required reading if you're going to debate this topic at all, ever, anywhere.

Also recommended:

Warnings by zvi_likes_tv at Dreamwidth, with an alternate perspective on the warning issue, along with very good conversations in comments (actually, both essays have both great and faintly terrifying commentary). I'm going to say whatever side you are on, this, too, should be read thoroughly before engaging.

ETA: reginagiraffe linked in comments to kalpurna's post on easy ways to do warnings. We shall all read and learn and do better.

For me, I think I'll just automatically add a line to all headers (and if I don't, someone for the love of God slap me for stupidity; I'm adding it to my autotext header in MSWord now) for Warning and either enter None or See Cut for a separate section before the story starts. I don't often have the more common trigger issues in my fic, but honestly, since I haven't thought about warnings, I very well may have and just haven't paid attention to it.

I am not a member of fandom, but I am a member of the online fiction-creating community. Also, as an artist, I often encounter the very issue that apparently is being discussed among fandom now, though in different representations. As a survivor of a small handful of rough traumas and presently believing I am mostly "okay" and "better" in spite of them thanks to years of recovery and treatment, I have been exploring the issues surrounding post-trauma a lot in the last year or two. "Triggers" falls into this exploration, I think.

In any case, I wanted to note appreciation of the considerate way you read and address your readings of such things as the essays listed above. It is a civil and intelligent way of behaving for both the micro-society you choose (fandom) and the larger society which you cannot (humanity in the whole).

On your linking, I have now read the first essay (I don't think my lack of participation in fandom excludes me from a desire to comprehend) and am going to take a little time to absorb and stir it into my brain-batter before attempting the second.

They're pretty universal, to be honest, and apply across the board for creativity, so yeah, fannish context isn't necessary. The second one doesn't (at my reading) have the same triggering content as teh first one.

Kind of not really ironically, I can't read the first link bkz of the triggeriness.


I could barely read the whole essay, and I'm still reeling. And, like you, my opinion of what needs and requires a warning has been radically changed. I've already added a warning to a story of mine, in response. I feel like someone reached into my head and reset my horizon just a little, and yeah, from this new perspective, I see where the problem is now. And maybe it's not my problem but that shouldn't matter, because it's someone's problem and this is not a difficult choice to make.

Yeah, that shocked me right out of "warnings pooh!" hard. And worse, when I think of her sitting there writing it out just for the barest line of text--I don't know. Sickened doesn't begin to describe it.

That first one, oh yes. I think one of the most important points she makes in it is that it's the moment before, the lead-up, that is her trigger, and that's the moment at which people argue survivors of rape and sexual assault should see what's coming up and click out of the fic. That's what this debate is about for me--I'm less interested in debating whether or not to warn for, say, character death (I do, with my stories, but I have incredibly strong reactions to what I read, and so I tend to try to be cautious in return). Consent issues is a common trigger, and warning for it just seems self-evident to me.

Until this essay, I never realized it wasn't the moment, but that the lead-up itself that was the trap. And once people get that far, backbuttoning doesn't do any good. And it really feels like soemthing that should be obvious.

kalpurna has a very useful post on practical ways to warn.

So now there's even less of an excuse.

You, darling, are marvelous. *hugs* Thank you.

I got through her post, and I'm glad I did. I never could articulate why certain warnings (non-con, especially and rape) were so important to me, but she was able to explain it - it's that moment before thing. You hit that part of the fic where you know that you need to get out of the fic and yeh, I back button out, but I've already been sent to the stomach churning place, regardless. And then it might be a week or a day or a month, depending on which memory sludges to the surface, before I get my equilibrium back.

That was--painful to read, and I hate the fact it took her writing that out to get what that meant for her and others in terms of the experience after. Sickeningly enough, I was always total backbutton, and this illustrated why the backbutton way too late by that point.

*hugs you* I'm so sorry for whatever you've read, by me or anyone, that wasn't sufficiently warning-ed.

It is heartening to see that this post has caused a shift in attitude in some people, and thank you for your eloquent phrasing on the subject.

In the same kind of spirit, and in the slightly wider context of warning on fics, I feel that I need to make a point I haven't seen raised (perhaps it has, and I have missed it). I am hesitant to do so, because I am severely lacking in spoons at the moment, but because I feel it is so important and also deserves attention, I shall repeat what I said in another journal (of someone who'd prefer not to be linked), on the topic of "Do you feel that apart from non-con/dub-con there should be any other hard and fast warnings?"

I think there should be a hard and fast warning for suicide/self-harm/serious dealings with mental health. Period. If you're afraid of spoiling, keep it to "deals with topics surrounding mental health, read at your own risk" or alike is fine.

But as someone who's been there, or close to there, what I can say for it in my experience (and YMMV), is that all the above can not only be triggering in the extreme, but, like with the point made about damage being already done by dub-con/non-con at the point where most people feel it's safe to hit the back button? Same goes for these topics. And if I'm reading fic and I'm already in a funk, and the mental health issues are subtly introduced, I may personally not be in a place to hit the back button, because I am incapable of doing so at the time because of said mental health issues, because that is their very nature.

And therefore, warning should be up front. So I get the chance to engage my brain *before* I run down the slippery slope of automatic thoughts.

And I am chickening out and commenting anonymously for the very same reason; that being in that place (having a calm, calculated plan which would have had a very high likelihood of success given my circumstances) is a very recent experience for me, and I therefore do not feel able to jump into this discussion with people whom I don't know through my own LJ. I hope this is understandable.

I would further like to add that I think it is because I am currently in this situation and thus hyperaware of it that this point occurred to me consciously for the first time and add the following:

That I am not, as a general rule, triggered by such topics, but have, in fact, loved fics because they dealt with those topics. But that, for further explanation of my POV, I also know that were I to read it (or any other bleak but well written suicide fic) whilst already feeling suicidal, (probably in an attempt to distract myself from these very feelings by reading fic) and not warned for the subject matter, it Would Not Be Good.

And given the prevalence of mental health issues, I could see myself not being the only one for whom a warning would be necessary in such a hypothetical scenario, and why I believe the reader should have knowledge of such themes beforehand.

If any further explanations on my part would be helpful, for example a more in depth personal explanation of what I mean by automatic thinking, I am happy to provide this.

And I am chickening out and commenting anonymously for the very same reason; that being in that place (having a calm, calculated plan which would have had a very high likelihood of success given my circumstances) is a very recent experience for me, and I therefore do not feel able to jump into this discussion with people whom I don't know through my own LJ. I hope this is understandable.

Very understandable and completely all right; I'm just glad you felt comfortable enough to comment at all. My only experience with this concept is through people's essays (like impertinence's) and some reading I did this afternoon for more context, though honestly, three paragraphs in was enough, I think, to illustrate the absolute necessity. That anything could set off a mental chain reaction that's this personally debilitating is terrible enough; the idea of anyone navigating fandom with that potential following them without being given the most basic tools for navigation, while those of us, including me, withhold the tools is sickening.

Thank you very much for further explanation. I'm sorry that it came to the point in fandom where all of us were so careless it was necessary to make something so personal and painful open to public debate. There's no way I can understand completely what everyone who has this goes through, but the explanations have shown just how much damage we're doing out of ignorance.

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That was incredibly harrowing and powerful (essay 1). I'm still in tears. Thank you for linking to it. I'll try to read Zvi's later. I've always been of the "why not warn, and warn extensively" mindset -- it's just how I think naturally -- so it hasn't changed my thinking, but it has steeled my resolve to do it as well as possible every single time, and maybe speak out more about it if it's appropriate.

And I just want to say, I respect people so much who can change their minds in the face of evidence/good arguments/better explanations, and do so publicly. I think it's a fantastic example you're setting. People can get so locked in, and afraid to say, you know, I think I was looking at it wrong. Don't beat yourself up too much over the "shouldn't take someone gutting themselves" thing (though after reading that essay, I certainly can understand why you would feel that way, god -- I'm questioning the adequacy of the warnings I've done myself after that). I'm still learning stuff/having my perspective changed by people in this community all the time. I think it's a rare person who hasn't, sometime in their life, had the shame of only learning something when someone guts themselves over it -- I know I do. If you think of it by analogizing to RaceFail, the issue comes down to, do you listen, and then change your behavior. And you have and are.

It's a personal failure. I never have gone the whee artist route, so there's always been a faint--heh, God, smugness that I never carried that kind of thinking around with me as a writer, but if anyone, anywhere, has to get to the point where she feels it necessary to write out her pain like this just for the sake of getting something so simple from us.... It's not just me (fandom, collective) not getting it; it's almost like being contrary possibly for no better reason than I didn't feel like thinking about it too hard.

*g* I mean, I am not a martyr to my own self-absorbent self here, but--I think in this case, after everything that's happened, that I hadn't extended it to paying attention to more aspects of fandom is a pretty good indicator I am not yet doing this right. In which case, yes, doing better is the most important thing and hopefully, please, encouraging more people to do the same.

I'm a bit confused. Are they saying that even the warnings are potential triggers? Or are they saying that there should be definite warnings about certain aspects of the story (dub-con, non-con, mental health issues, character death, etc)? Which I do anyway.

Have definite warnings so a reader can judge if it hits a trigger.

I feel the need to comment anonymously here because I'm just mentally not up for getting into a huge debate over this. I spent a large part of my afternoon reading blogs and comments and so on and mostly what it boils down to for me is this:

I will and do warn for hard and fast stuff, such as non-con. I have warned for mentions of domestic violence, even though I feel it takes away from the story to do so (if it's Characters A and B discussing life, and B says s/he was abused in the past and relates details, I will warn, even though I wish I didn't have to, because knowing up front takes something away from the story, IMO).

The thing is, I'll warn to hell and gone for various kinks, squicks, purple bunnies in a public community, in a shared space. But in my own, personal LJ? I'm much more lax about the warnings. I will warn for the hard and fast stuff, as I said above, but other than that? I'll warn for kink in a shared space and I won't do it in my own LJ.

I feel like anyone coming directly to my LJ to read fic has done one of two things. Either they've read my headers in a shared space and know what's coming, or they're on my LJ directly, in which case they know me and know what they're likely to find.

I understand the need for warnings and I'm not saying there shouldn't be any, but I think the rules should be different on personal blogs than on shared spaces. Is that so wrong of me?

When I read a story on a community site that I enjoy, I follow the author back to their personal journal to try to find other fic. It never occurred to me that someone would be more lax in warning on a personal journal.

This is not to say that you are wrong - simply that I personally would not expect it.

I don't write much, but I read and watch a lot. And I've always been on the side of "I'd rather you warned me" because I do have triggers that send me back into dangerous places mentally and emotionally, and it's just... In the rest of the world, I'm surrounded by people who don't share my culture of fandom, and many many many times the outside world will trigger me through ignorance or malice. In my online world, where I am surrounded by people (mostly women) who share my culture, it's sometimes overwhelming to have to fight so hard to get a simple line of text that says "This story/art/vid contains issues of non-con/dub-con/partner or child abuse/suicide/self-harm/eating disorders." I won't ever make the argument that you should warn for every squick that's out there, but warning for common triggers like the ones I listed above? I believe as a citizen of the web and as a member of fandom that it's my responsibility to take action to preserve the health and well-being of my fellow fen, and I don't really understand the writers/artists/vidders out there who believe down to their very core that their artistic vision is so delicate and visionary that a simple line of text would destroy it.

Interesting reads although a bit depressing. I haven't written in a while and now I'm wondering do I really want to bother writing again? Although it's ironic that we're all having a discussion on what warnings to put on our amateur stories using someone else's copy written characters and or real people. Perhaps we should all just warn that here lie college students, house wives/husbands and professionals trying to entertain or work out personal issues using another creator's characters and the writing my be darn bad so read at your own risk? Although I do understand putting certain warnings on stories if for no other reason than that a minor may stumble across an author's story involving and underage orgy at Hogwarts and Harry's subsequent suicide. (I need warnings for things like that too. LOL)

My apologies if I sounded flippant in the above. There's a lot of stuff written that isn't suitable for reading by anyone (IMHO) not just minors which is why I like warnings but I do worry about going too far in trying to 'regulate' fan fiction for other adult readers. I'm much more concerned about underage readers stumbling across stories, like in the HP universe that are totally unsuitable for children. Perhaps all stories not G rated should be kept in sections where they're not easily accessible and have a blanket disclaimer, like the adult movie section at your local video and then it comes down to a person's choice as to whether they're willing to browse that area?

Yeah, this sounds about right, and of course, isn't pertinent to just sexual trauma, but other kinds as well. I think it's really good that fanfiction communities raise awareness of this too.

I may have told you this, but when I was a senior in high school (and already reading all kinds of fanfiction), I took the AP Literature exam. To my shock, one of the short reading passages was a *very* graphic description of the aftermath of rape. Having friends at the time who were survivors, I couldn't believe that they would put that in there. Seriously, there *undoubtably* were kids who must have walked out of that exam in tears, or were too upset to finish the reading comprehension questions about the passage. I just think it goes to show this is a much bigger issue than just fandom, and it's good that fandom, at least, is making an effort to GET IT.

...how the heck did that get through? *blank*

Wednesday: linkage, and a meme

User cofax7 referenced to your post from Wednesday: linkage, and a meme saying: [...] Globe goes under, I'm going to miss this blog something terrible.) * On the warnings front: has some wise things to say, both with links and in the comments. Recommended reading. And over on DW, norah points outthat many people ... [...]

Hey, we don't really know each other, but I just wanted to drop you a line saying I am really, really glad to know that my post changed your mind. Thank you.

I'm sorry that it took you (and others now) having to speak about something so personal and so painful for me (and fandom, for that matter) to realize what we were doing. Accept my apology for the damage I know we've already done in ignorance.

I sincerely want to add, at the risk of sounding like an idiot, your poise under these circumstances and in comments in your LJ and elsewhere was amazing. I can't really imagine how hard that must have been to keep calm under the kind of pressure and conversation you were exposed to.