[Community] Content Warnings Say ‘I Support You’


#WickedWednesday, Community, Life, Self Expression, Self Reflection / Wednesday, March 4th, 2020

This past week there has been a lot of conversation, much of it quite heated, around the topic of content warnings and how, why and if we should be using them as bloggers. They may also be referred to as content notes and trigger warnings. I am not going to discuss my opinion on the catalyst for this topic to arise on Twitter partly because I wasn’t involved in it, I do however have thoughts on content warnings in general that I’d like to share. 

I want to start by pointing out I have a fuck ton of privilege with regards to content warnings because I don’t really need them. There are very few topics any of you could write about that would upset me to the point where that upset stayed with me for any longer than the duration of the post. Yes sometimes I might ponder things you’ve said for a little longer, or maybe what you’ve shared with me will alter my viewpoint or understanding permanently. However, I won’t be plunged into anxiety, panic, or forced to revisit past traumas because of what you have written. 

If you feel that way about reading fellow bloggers work too then I believe you also need to accept how lucky you are before you consider the why’s and when’s of content warnings. To make it clearer I can read about domestic violence and I think it is abhorrent and I hate that so many of you have gone through it, but I haven’t, so I don’t have any trauma related to that topic. Likewise with rape, child abuse, suicide or many other topics that we regularly state should have contents warnings. My life has been fairly trauma-free, do you know how blessed that makes me? How bloody lucky I am to remain largely unaffected by situations that have deeply impacted our fellow bloggers and friends? I do see how fortunate that makes me and that I why I use content warnings and it is why I think you should consider using them too. 

I think it’s also worth noting what it is to be triggered. I think unfortunately this is a word that has been swept up into our daily usage and now we think every other people is going to be ‘triggered’ by us simply having or own opinions and thoughts. This is not the case. When someone who has past trauma is triggered, it’s not them being a bit upset, it could be them having flashbacks to the events that caused their trauma, it could lead them to self-harm, to isolate themselves and a whole host of other things that I’m sure we all agree we’d rather our friends weren’t having to deal with. 

We can’t protect the people we care about from everything that is going to be a trigger for them, we can’t save everyone but we can support them, which is a line totally stolen from Jae Lynn from her post Don’t Save Me, Support Me. I am not equipped to help anyone deal with past trauma, what I can do though is listen to what people are saying with regards to this topic and see how I can support them, a long while back I realise content warnings were a way in which I could offer my support and perhaps avoid one of my posts being the trigger someone would rather avoid. 

Freedom of Speech and Self-Censorship

I fund my blog out of my own pocket, no advertising, no affiliate links, I work hard and one of the things I choose to do with my money is pay for a self-hosted blog. One of the reasons I like doing it this way is I can write whatever the hell I like and agree or disagree with me no one else has a say in how I do things here. Now, I could take that approach and be a total dick about it but I probably wouldn’t have much of a readership. Then again places like The Sun and Daily Mail do just that and sadly their readership numbers are tragically high. So who knows, maybe I’d be a roaring success if was a douchebag. Thankfully for my sense of pride and wellbeing I am, I think, a fairly decent human being. So being able to write what I want means something different for me. 

I have written about kinks in the past that not only won’t be to everyone’s tastes but may actually be a topic that is going to be triggering for them. I’m not going to stop writing about those things and when I write about them I am not going to censor myself to make things more palatable. I’m going to write about whatever it is I need to say, in a way I need to say it and then I’m going to review what I’ve said and then slap a big fact content warning at the top of the page so my readers can decide for themselves if they are in a good place mentally to tackle a post on a subject that might cause them harm. 

If They Don’t Like it, They Can Just Move On

I see this a lot, the notion that if someone doesn’t like what you post, they can just move on. By the time they’ve realised the topic you’re discussing poses an issue for them though it’s too late for then ‘just’ move on. They might already be in the middle of a flashback or having a mahoosive anxiety attack, all because using a content warning seems like what; Pandering? Babying? Restrictive to you as a blogger? Censoring you as a human being? Honestly, I don’t get that logic. 

To my mind, if someone visits your blog, has a bad experience with regards to their personal triggers because they did not know to avoid it, then that person very likely isn’t going to return. You are no longer a safe place for them, they can’t have any assurance that at any given time in one of your posts they won’t read something that will be harmful to their sense of wellbeing. So you’ve lost a reader, all because you were reluctant to add another 5-10 words to your post. 

Again, if you can ‘just move on’ from reading something you find upsetting, remember that privilege you most likely have, ask yourself what awful things you haven’t experienced, the absence of which allows you to move along to the next post, rather than having to step away from the computer to deal with the return of traumatic memories. 

If for some reason you are sat reading this saying ‘yeah, but I have experienced ‘insert traumatic event here’ and I don’t need a trigger warning for that, so why should other people need it’ again I would suggest you need to be grateful for something. Perhaps you got the help you needed when you needed it to help you get through that experience, maybe other people didn’t. Perhaps a whole host of other factors influenced how you processed and view that experience, but I don’t think anyone should be forced to revisit past trauma just because someone else doesn’t have an issue with doing that themselves. 

Forced? That’s a Bit Extreme Isn’t It?

Honestly, I don’t think it is an extreme word to use. If you are writing about a topic that you know is one some people might struggle with, omitting to declare that information to people when you easily could, does rather force them to deal with it whether they want to or not. 

Now, some of you will say, ‘but it’s clear from the title’. I agree, sometimes this is the case, not always though. Sometimes the triggering topic might on be reflected on in a single paragraph in a much larger post about something else. I guarantee you still know you’ve discussed it though. So why shouldn’t someone else know it’s there too?

At this point, I bet there is also someone saying ‘so, what you’re saying is I had to put a content warning on everything I write?’ Well, yes, if everything you write is triggering as fuck, which honestly in the sex blogging community is no one. The topics content warnings are usually appreciated for are fairly obvious to anyone who has any common sense. If they’re not obvious to you and you feel like I’ve just insulted you, I’d ask you to just take a minute and seriously consider if that truly is the case. 

If you genuinely don’t know that topics like domestic violence, child abuse, rape, bereavement, eating disorders, racism, transphobia, abortion, animal cruelty, drug use, body shaming, graphic violence, homophobia, incest, infertility and suicide to name but a few are going to be triggering for some people in our community then I suggest you expand on the blogs you are reading because many fine and wonderful bloggers write about their experiences with traumatic topics in a way that I think is extremely valuable to people who take the time to sit with their words a while. 

Once Again Floss is Perfect & Everyone Else Sucks

I always think when I write posts like this and similarly ‘Don’t Be Like Gollum’ I sound like I think I’ve got it all figured out and I know exactly how to not make mistakes or hurt anyone’s feelings, or cause any undue harm. Which is absolutely not the case. In fact, I reckon if someone searched hard enough they could find a post on my blog without a content warning that might need one. My reaction to being called out on this would be to add a content warning, maybe not immediately but certainly as soon as it became possible for me to do so. It would take about 2 minutes of my time and might save someone from discomfort in the future. To me, it is a no brainer of a decision. 

I’m also well aware that some of my photos aren’t really everyone’s cup of tea and that is where I perhaps tread a fine line between giving enough warnings and making people uncomfortable. I try even when my photos include something that may cause other people discomfort, for example, blood and bruises, to make the photos as palatable as I can. I have in the past used them for my header images though and as such, they would perhaps be hard to avoid. 

I have thought long and hard about why in the spirit of content warnings I don’t just remove them and use something more suitable for all eyes to see, I’d like to give a well thought out, caring answer, but in truth I suppose is just selfishness, I do think though if those were the kinds of images I shared regularly I would absolutely have some kind of pop-up warning of extreme imagery. I’m not going to hide behind a veil of pretence over not censoring those images though, and if someone comes to me to discuss that, then I’ll genuinely listen to them and consider their point of view, knowing that they may be upset by the time they get to me. 

As I said at the beginning of this post, I think more people should consider using content warnings, but your blog equals your choice, and I support your right to manage your platform in any way you see fit. However, like with my situation with sharing images of slightly edgier kinks, I do think you should be open, of mind and heart, to people approaching you when your words might have caught them off guard. Sometimes we can make small decisions that are more far-reaching than we can imagine, I think content warnings come under that category. It’s something we can do to support others and might just help someone avoid a day far shittier than some of us can even begin to imagine. 

17 Replies to “[Community] Content Warnings Say ‘I Support You’”

  1. I am on the fence about trigger warnings. The list on SB4MH contains as an example dental procedures. Of course some people have traumatic experiences with dentists but at some point every potentially uncomfortable thing becomes a trigger for someone. On the other hand some things like death or illness are experienced by everyone. Do we need to warn each other when we write (respectfully) about the good and bad parts of life that almost everyone experiences in one way or another? I need to think about it more. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
    a mental switch recently posted…[Masturbation Monday] On saleMy Profile

  2. This. Yes. I’m right there with you in the blessed category in that I’ve experienced very little trauma in my life, but I clearly see the need for trigger warnings. It’s not difficult, it doesn’t negatively affect the content of a post, there’s literally no reason not to include one on posts that could be triggering to someone. You do a great job of explaining that here. Now I need to go back to all my past posts and make sure I haven’t missed one. Thank you!

  3. Over the years I have definitely changed my mind about content warning, understanding that they are necessary on some posts, and how triggering they can be for people. Despite having experienced trauma in my youth, and also some as an adult, I can mostly distance myself from the words I read, but sometimes there is just no way to escape the ‘fight or flight’ reaction, and that’s not a nice place to be. I am definitely not perfect about putting content warnings on my posts, and should probably go back and check which might need some, but I am always willing to put on on. I also know I have used the words “If They Don’t Like it, They Can Just Move On” but when I used them, they had nothing to do with content which would need a CW/TW. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Floss.

    Rebel xox

  4. I suffered trauma when I was young – that messed with my head- but of course addressed that as the years passed by. Luckily getting to a place where the proper use of the phrase being triggered occurs rarely. I am lucky. But on occasion when i am feeling mentally delicate I pay heed and appreciate the CW. Another thing I do is go into my settings on twitter and mute particular words so I don’t see tweets containing that word. However, saying all of that I do like to read posts which maybe leave me feeling conflicted or questioning my own beliefs. This can be an uncomfortable feeling but important I think.
    I use CW on my work a lot – and from now on the content in my tweet will be very general – I have been conditioned or maybe evolved 😉
    May x
    May More recently posted…God is a Concept: Believing in MeMy Profile

  5. An excellent treatise on the topic of Content Warnings, Floss. I don’t think you’ll find many in the writing community here that will disagree with the intent of CW’s, or at least I hope.
    Taking the time to read through your own work and trying to identify what could be a potential trigger sounds like a mindfulness step, and one that I personally can do better with in my writing.

    1. Also, and not being facetious here, but sometimes it’s hard to define what is and isn’t a trigger. I’ve seen tweets and posts that have ‘sex’ and ‘plus size’ as CW’s – I get the intent here, but where do you draw the line? I fully get that some people can be triggered by sex, or by mentions of plus size people, or PIV sex, or hetero-, or oral, and in that case do you just have a disclaimer with a general content warning on your blog header?
      Am I overthinking this now?
      Cal recently posted…May 2019My Profile

      1. I would say that exactly which content warnings you use are (mostly) personal, meaning just because someone else uses a “sex” or “plus size” or “diet” (I’ve seen all kinds) on their content, doesn’t mean everyone has to use those specific warnings. They may use them because it’s a trigger for them or they know someone who would prefer to know ahead of time. If you choose to use content warnings, the “big topics” are the most common/obvious: death, physical/emotional abuse, assault, violence, blood. There are a TON of others that have been used, of course, and as we learn more of what can cause trauma for people, I think we decide for ourselves what other warnings we might want to add to our personal list for our content. But its always a personal choice which ones you use or not. You “draw that line” for yourself.

        And I’ve also seen some people use a content warning not because that topic (like sex) is disturbing/triggering but the WAY they talk about it might be. But again, it’s a personal decision based on experiences, conversations, and what feels important to you.
        Kayla Lords recently posted…Plumbing His DepthsMy Profile

  6. I think this is absolutely brilliantly written, and you’ve said much of what I’ve been thinking about that particular discussion. I want people to associate many, many feelings and thoughts with my content — but re-living their own trauma isn’t one of them. It took me a while to evolve on content warnings, and it felt strange the first time I used one (as I wasn’t quite sure I was saying/doing it right), but the feedback I’ve received from people who appreciated the note has always been worth it.

  7. Like you I feel huge privilege when it comes to content warnings and as a result my thoughts on them have changed over the years. I absolutely agree with what you have said here 100% and like you I know there are many posts I need to go back and edit them into. I need more hours in my day.

    Also with regards to images. I am in a similar quandary. I don’t want to censor my images. They are a big part of my blog and very important to me creatively and sexually but there are some that I know are challenging in nature. How to present those in the best way possible is something I don’t have an answer for right now but it is definitely a consideration

    Molly

  8. Well said. It’s about consideration. I often don’t use it feel the need to use CW. But if I know my post will contain a big topic that can upset people, I make sure to allude to a possible trigger. I could do this better, to be honest. It’s definitely made me think a little harder about the importance of them.
    Cara Thereon recently posted…Work for her moneyMy Profile

  9. Thank you very much for the mention Floss. I wasn’t quite sure how the post was going to flow but I’m glad it made sense.

    I stumbled on CW/TW when I had just begun blogging and I had no idea if I used it correctly. Since then I’ve tried to be more mindful of labeling my content as well. I do like some fairly dark things so not much can shake me, even with prior trauma in my life. I was blessed with people who helped me see through it and it’s no longer triggering for me. Many people are not able to do that as each person’s trauma is processed differently.

    I think this was very well thought out and written and I’m glad you shared it.

  10. Lately I’ve seen a lot of content warnings on some of the blogs I follow. I’ve never included one on my blog. Nothing I’ve written so far has struck me as a post that would cause people issues. That being said, I’m going to start thinking more critically about my posts and will include content warnings in the future. I would hate to trigger some one in any way. I would also hope that readers would tell me if I’ve pushed an envelope too far. Then at least I could add the warnings after the fact.
    Good post Floss!

  11. I only use them when “I” think something may be a bit much for some to handle. The problem is…I don’t know when something will be too much. Anything can be a trigger.

    The alternatives are to leave them off, altogether, or put warnings on everything.

    I try to be sensitive to others, but I do feel there is a limit. I’m not going to start putting CW on posts about D/s because my blog is a D/s blog. Same for nude photos. If it is part of your regular content, and you explain that on your main page, I do not think you need to add another layer of warning. If it is something out of the ordinary, or something that may obviously cause issues for some more sensitive readers, I think it is just common courtesy. But I think we can be sane about the issue. We don’t need content warnings because we mention the word “pink” or talk about our missing cat, even though those things could potentially trigger someone.

    But we all have an opinion, and I don’t doubt that this issue is going to shut a few blogs and writers down.
    Brigit Delaney recently posted…D/s as a Regular Show of FaithMy Profile

  12. Great post, well weighed up. I do use content / trigger warnings now but I need to go back and look at some of my earliest pieces of fiction because they may need editing in.
    Occasionally I have thought a CW would spoil the ‘surprise’ of my plot but it only took one discussion with a traumatised blogger to see how selfish that stance is, so since then I’ve tried to be more aware when I turn my writing into a post. Thanks Floss.

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