trig warnings

I expect I read the Code of conduct before, but since it appeared at the top of all forums I read it anew.

I disapprove of this code recommending ‘trigger warnings’. There is no peer-reviewed advocation of their health or psychological benefits (and the general science lean is against), they remain generally contentious and have prompted repeat arguments on this forum. I wouldn’t mind such a position in a more specific or personal forum where the owners set the conditions to personal political inclinations, but I think it’s not appropriate for this to be recommended conduct in a general audience interactive fiction forum.

I appreciate the code points out the rules are neither hard nor fast, and to ‘use best judgment’ in the case of the relevant rule, but in such case, something this unsupported should just be left out. People can put trigger warnings in whenever they like. This should not be a recommended course of action, though.


They are recommended, not mandatory - so if you want the CoC changed, I think it would make more sense for you to argue that they are harmful, rather than useless.

Does occasionally seeing trigger warnings irritate you enough that you consider it more harmful than the potential though unproven benefit it might provide to others?

Or by ‘the general science lean is against’ you already mean they might do more harm than good?

EDIT: I see now that you already started a thread on this last year, perhaps you discussed this already.

I personally believe they are harmful.

I disagree very strongly that that’s an argument I should be making. Something this nebulous and unsupported by science, and which affects health and psychology, should not be recommended.

The moderators should be pointing to science to prove they are helpful before they recommend them. It isn’t there.

  • Wade

I hate trigger warnings, it’s just a ridiculous way of saying “a heads up”. What’s wrong with just giving somebody a heads up?

For example:

Just a heads up, this game contains a lot of rape and murder.

This seems to work fine?

I too believe they are harmful (if used irresponsibly) - not in themselves, but by what they represent. If you teach people X is harmful, even if it’s not, any exposure to X will impact them negatively, and negative influences stack. Think of racism. If you hear ‘damn (bunchofpeoplewhoallbleedredbutforsomebullshitreasongetsingledout) coming here taking our jobs’ enough … well, you know what I’m getting at.

What would be appropriate?

Warning: adult themes.
[rant]not to say it’s because some guy says fuck, shit and crap five times every three words, but an exploration of complicated emotions. We all know there’s a line of thinking that, if explored too early in life, can (i thought ‘eschew’ was the word to use here but uh… english isn’t my first language, the word i’m looking for is that it can make things bad, negatively impact, forever negatively alter, …) sour (?) people in certain matters.

the example given in the COC is a good example, one that i can fully get behind. it’s one of my few exceptions to my no-spoiling-rule, one that gets as vehement a defense as the no-spoiling-rule itself.[/rant]
warning: shock value
[rant]when you’re actively out to use shock to accomplish something. and i’m not saying this to protect the children, i’m saying this because when i was in … uh, middle school? … I was fourteen - and for school i had to read a book off a book list (yes sorry, story time). and it was a crappy sci fi thing and long story short a girl in early pubescence from a modern facility ended up in the outside world and there was a guy her age but he was dirty and uncivilized and they fucked and it went into detail on how it hurt her and she went through a lot of stuff which was problematic and scarring… and none of the fucking subplot had anything to do with the story.

it was gross, and disgusting, and repulsive, and annoying, and uncomfortable, and awkward, and vile and all things negative - and it was there for no reason. Well, one reason. I’ll mention that one reason in the next paragraph.

i did my report not on the book but on how people shouldn’t just compile book lists for school without reading the fucking books because holy fucking shit - was i angry for having read that. I get angry just remembering it. It was awful, uncomfortable, disgusting and in very, very, very poor taste. And this coming from the guy who made the king and the crown, i think it says enough. a young teen book with shock value for shock value. turns out the only reason it was on that list was because it was controversial and controversial was “in”. yup! some fuckwit wrote a sex scene for KIDS to sell his piece of shit book that’s not even good enough to burn. and if it wasn’t a library book, i’d have thrown the book out. in front of the class. onto the street. into a fire.

and then i’d apologize to the fire. (not good enough to burn)

So that book could have done with a warning. I don’t have a problem with shock value - as long as it’s got a point. Fun fact, it’s at this point in my writing that I’ve decided to use rant boxes.

TLDR: shock value can be used if it’s to make a point. just include some warning there’s shock stuff. doesn’t have to detail what the shock stuff is - leave something for the audience. no spoilers.[/rant]
warning: Trolls
[rant]people deserve warnings against wastes of time.[/rant]
That kind of stuff. but “trigger warnings” are… a very, very, very bad idea. and I speak for the whole of humanity when I say this (or at least I believe I do. On behalf of. you know what i mean.).

Long story short (and i’m not good at cutting things short but i’ll try my best):
It is my belief that intolerance against certain subjects breeds an intolerant, hostile world full of and because of intolerant, hostile people.

I disagree with Wade disagreeing. In spirit of rules that are to be taken as “recommended” rather than mandatory, regardless that i find the recommendation stupidly dangerous, it’s a free world and discussing and having logical debates and having reasonable (as in worth reasoning, thinking, talk-about-able that kind of reasoning) opinions is good.

Free internet. I don’t have to agree with stuff for it to exist. it existing though i don’t approve, agree with or enjoy it, because I am not the supreme ruler of this world. … I know, I’ve filed a complaint on that, and they told me they’d let me know within ten business days.

  • Wes

I consider this may be a touchy subject. I appreciate you taking the time to read my thoughts especially as they tend to be chaotic. i took a lot of time and thought to try and make this as ‘me’ as possible. authenticity is important. It’s lacking in many things today.

PPS: closeby there’s this bit in the COC with which i disagree

I would see it altered to

Yeah yeah i know “that’ll lead to fascism running rampant” and “hide yo thoughts hide yo opinions cuz they censoring everybody up in here” but if kids fight in the schoolyard they get pulled apart and they both get detention. plus the parents get informed so they’re neck deep in number 2 at home too.

PPPS: hold people responsible to their actions regardless of good intentions and white knighting and such. [rant]I’m gonna limit this to one example because otherwise we’ll be here all week. after getting publicly yelled at for “not respecting people” at the same time as being “a horrible disgusting shit that should be shot in public” by someone i’d never seen before and have never seen since for walking out of a mcdonalds i can indicate that those crazy people (let’s not mince words. that person was crazy, and probably still is) are perfectly capable of causing permanent, deep psychological damage with their “good intentions”. this is an extreme example, but still. if we say it’s okay to be intolerant about X they what’s to keep us from being intolerant about Y and Z and before you know it there’s racial segregation and mandatory veganism and all genders will be forced to hate each other actively and we’ll never leave this fucking rock because culture and community will cease to exist and such a glorious concept as Starfleet and its values will never see the light of day!

and yes, that actually matters to me. Starfleet is the goal. getting along peacefully with everyone, working out differences, everyone contributing in positive means, …[/rant]

I’m sympathetic.

Our CoC is rather long and overly specify in places. I think I’d prefer adopting a more concise CoC rather than using our bespoke one. If only there was something like a ‘standard’ CoC, but there isn’t. The Contributor Covenant might be the closest.

We don’t need something with so many specific rules which people will pick bones with. The forum mods have always had discretion to act as they feel they need to, and our CoC was never going to be exhaustive, or something we felt we would need to prosecute every violation over. The CoC sets a vision for the forum community, and if members ever protest mod actions, is something we can point to.

I like these:

I just checked out IFComp’s code of conduct, and it’s only two paragraphs! If the IFComp or IFTF ever wanted to write one that was a little bit longer then I think I’d like to adopt it here.

But trigger warnings are meant for people to whom X IS harmful.

Is it really so different from warnings such as ‘May contain traces of nuts’ on food for people who have allergies?
For most people, nuts are fine, but for a few they definitively are not. What’s the harm in warning them?

I think it would be good thing if people who have benefited from trigger warnings (I’m sure we have some in the community) spoke up.

Also since X is almost always something like violence, sexual assault, or child abuse, I can’t really see the argument that we shouldn’t “teach people X is harmful, even if it’s not”.

If you’re lucky enough not to have to care, good for you, but plenty of people - including me on a bad day - can have their day ruined by seeing something like that out of the blue. If you think avoiding that for them isn’t worth having to read two words for you, I don’t know what to say to you.

I will re-summarise my basic stance on the issue being in the code of conduct before I go on holiday.

My assessment of trigger warnings: The concept of trigger warnings takes medical language around PTSD and incorrectly applies it to broad swathes of topics - anything that anybody wants to decide is a trigger for them or someone. It has grown out of opinion in blogs but seeks the imprimatur power of medicine without the scrutiny that medicine applies to itself. It has no genuine connection to bodies of established health science or psychology. It is basically in opposition to cognitive behavioural therapy, something which does have mountains of peer-reviewed evidence, research and dispassionate data behind it, and real results we have taken the time to measure to show it works. Graded exposure, understandable setbacks because this is a real world we’re in, and long term strengthening, desesnsitisation and resilience building.

In medicine, we don’t recommend a treatment until it has been thoroughly tested and its overall merit and safety demonstrated. Lone anecdotes aren’t relevant. A solid body of data is relevant. Sorry robin johnson, this is why your story of a time you felt relief, or my own story of a time I felt relief to have avoided something, doesn’t alter my opinion. There’s no onus on anyone to prove the opposite (prove this DOESN’T help!) if no benefit, let alone a safe one, has even been able to be demonstrated in the first place.

You will find no large and reputable body of doctors or psychiatrists saying ‘Yes, trigger warnings are making people stronger and healthier, keep issuing them.’ You will find research going the other way, pointing out that trigger warnings enhance people’s sensitisation (sort of like cognitive therapy going in the wrong direction) and that choosing to place trauma centrally to your identity is bad for your mental health, and that’s even before the semantic argument about crediting so much power to the sight of a word or idea that you’re stripping power from yourself.

I feel that it is overkill for me to have to say so much about this, but this code of conduct - for a forum, a general internet forum! - is recommending something that no reputable health body recommends. There’s no way it should be doing that.

(If anyone suggests ‘content warnings are no different’, the language is half the difference. Trigger warnings use the word ‘trigger’ to make sure they draw on that PTSD function and attach themselves to the relevant politics. They also depict an inherent connection between the trigger and the triggered (which is not guaranteed) and strongly imply helplessness, and are very specific about what’s going to trigger you. Content warnings tend to list the most broadly controversial areas of the fiction, which don’t vary much - swearing, sex, violence, and variations on these with different adjectives.)

Now I’m going to Queensland.


I think that “trigger warning” is not meaningfully different from a “content warning” or “a heads up”, or not much different. That is how I see the term “trigger warning” used in the world: informally, not with the intent to sound like a medical professional.

Yes, language has context and politics. But the politics I see (not just here, but generally in fannish circles and increasingly in the world) is being considerate of people and their attempts to manage their weaknesses. Informed consent is not a principle that requires clinical testing. And given that, objecting to the label per se seems petty.

my problem is caring too much. (but don’t worry. I’m going into therapy for that. … That’s not a joke.) and the “almost always” is … well, no. Most times I encounter “trigger warnings” it’s on stuff that’s closer to “people having an opinion differing from my own”. just because people have different opinions doesn’t make them bad people. they can still achieve great things together, if they’re both willing to.

people freaking out, making scenes, and stressing/scaring the shit out of me isn’t cool. giving people excuses to stress/scare the shit out of me is also not cool.

but hey i’m probably extremely biased towards things called trigger warnings. i just don’t believe i can physically and/or psychologically handle any more people deciding ‘on my behalf’ what’s good for me, what my limits are, etc. the only way I know “trigger warnings” is in the sense of “shut the fuck up you entitled privileged shit you’ve been oppressing us too long” and I’m just trying to be a good person and shit like that isn’t helping.

is there another kind of this? if so, i’m a stranger to it.

Although, let’s say, if someone comes back from a war zone all PTSD’d i don’t think trigger warnings are gonna do much. at least, nothing any normal warning labels won’t do.
here’s what I’d suggest:
[rant=i dont know how to make these smaller so i put them in rant boxes]

Again, I care too much. When I read the first part of this, and especially the last bit - i felt attacked. was I attacked? probably not. was it directed directly at me? … dunno. could be. It’s referencing something I sad up top so… I guess?

But I’m not asking for people to start living differently around be just because I’m stressed out of my eyeballs and there’s long periods of time (or at least they seem pretty damn long to me) out of EVERY day where I just can’t take it anymore. I’ve suffered. I’m suffering. I’m going to suffer. Same with my attempt to offer my comedic flair with this year’s IFComp. In one line that’s made me panic attack all over the place - because of something that’s to me a massive outrage. one of the worst things in the world - evil let run rampant. those who would seek to inflict harm out of entertainment. And after my panic attack, I get all fire and brimstone. Then I feel horrible for a plethora of reasons. in short, for at least four hours I’m useless and a pain to be around. Because of a teensy tiny major psychological trauma I’ll probably never get out of my head.

let’s take it one step further. crank the thing in my head up to eleven and rip the knob off. I’m not saying what i have compares to someone who’s seen combat, who’s got PTSD (the real kind)… i’m certain those people will be smart enough to not go see a movie set in war zones or have gunfights or include whatever. With common sense you can tell - and you can always ask someone if you’re not sure. “hey is there anything horrible in transformers 4?” “You mean aside from mark wahlberg?” as soon as they notice you’re not laughing at their hilarious crack they’ll let you know about the explosions (because michael bay) and…

What I’m trying to say here is i don’t want to have what’s wrong with me define me. i’m not my depression. if that’s the focus… then no matter what twist you wanna give it, depression will be the main focus in my life and it’ll wreck me.
But if i’m just doing stuff and something happens to come my way even if it completely messes me up for the rest of the day or a week… afterwards I can just continue. I’m not seeking out the things that could fuck me up because then they’re already in my head, always in my head, in the foreground of my thoughts.

too much attention to the wrong thing could turn people off good things, out of fear. I don’t wanna live in a world of fear.

I wanna live in a world where people can fight their demons and someone’s always there to hand them a sword.
not build a bunker to hide them in so the big bad demons can’t get to them.

… I’m gonna stop here because what i wanna say isn’t coming out and I don’t know how else to put it.

one last thing - it’s incredibly hard for me to put things out there in a serious tone. I always get in trouble for having an opinion that’s important to me - and after years and years of getting told off my ability to voice my opinion clearly has been crippled. So if you’ve taken the time to read through that and tried to understand what I’m trying to say, you have my thanks, even if you disagree with me. disagreeing is okay - it’s how we disagree with each other that matters. (… Did i mention therapy?) And I’m hesitant to voice my opinion but again, gonna face my demons, not gonna let them get the best of me, i’m gonna post this post and what happens happens. i’m gonna doubt every letter in this post anyway so why the fuck not. it’s not fun going through life being convinced everybody already thinks you’re shit and things would be worse if you even thought of opening your mouth. it’s no way to live. okay i didn’t say the one last thing was gonna be a short thing but there it is. sometimes i think i keep typing because i’m afraid of submitting this post because then you’ll get to read it.

You getting to decide that for yourself is entirely the point of the warnings. You’re being told about any potentially sensitive topics that are coming, so you can take a moment to steel yourself, or give the content a pass, or ignore them and read on.

I would click the Like button on these, if this forum had one.

but what i see (and would be subjected to constantly) is “hey you’re not strong enough to handle this so why don’t you just sit this one out okay kiddo”

other people deciding this.

if we’re going to shield other people from everything then we’re breeding people who are intolerant in nature. and i’ve never seen someone who’s intolerant -and- happy.

And isn’t happiness the reward for living?

if it’s absolutely brutal there’ll be a warning. people with PTSD will have someone check it or ask about it or when possible use common sense (a war movie will have war zones, a cop movie will have shootouts, sparkly vampire movies are gonna suck, …)

but if we hammer on that “X is bad” then even if X is something relatively harmless (someone eating meat products) then we lower the standard for what’s allowed, not raise it.

there is no doubt in my mind that we start with shielding people from stuff (in contrast to my earlier mention of censorship) and deciding on behalf of other people we’re all gonna end up unhappy and cruel. i cannot for the life of me see a positive spin on this trigger warning thing. a warning is fine. a trigger warning would be something that’s soooooooooooooooooo horrible, you’d be surprised it’s allowed for distribution.

I’m gonna have to call it a night here. My brain’s on the fritz and I can’t -this topic- anymore.

main question from me is: how is it a positive thing to emphasize in what ways we’re all broken? (each person is born broken, etc etc i’m sure you know the story. i think it was called the porcelain people or something. every one of them had a defect and nobody noticed because nobody bothered them about it and then they’re like oh no i have a crack well that’s okay i have two cracks and nobody minds. yeah it was a kids story but … i’m gonna go) i don’t see healing happening when we get the problem hammered onto our heads at every angle.

That’s not what a content warning actually says. The warning is just reminding you of other times someone said that.

If the main objection is to the term “trigger warning”, could we change the CoC to advise general content warnings instead? As a person without any sort of PTSD, there are still some things I’d like to know about before playing a new IF.

By and large I prefer “content warning” or even “content advisory” because, as noted, it lacks the politics of trigger warnings. It bothers me that the term “trigger,” which used to have a very specific psychological meaning, has been co-opted by popular use and largely rendered meaningless; that damage may have already been done, so maybe there’s no point in fighting against it, but I personally don’t like using “triggered” when what I really mean is “squicked” or “made uncomfortable.” (no more than I like people saying “I’m OCD about this” when what they mean is “I’m fussy and particular.”)

I have no issue with trigger warnings, but I do appreciate when they are “spoilered” either behind a link on the first page of a choice-narrative, or possibly with a “Would you like to view trigger warnings for this story (yes/no)?” choice at the beginning of parser.

Content notifications are not a problem as they are not as specific “Contains violence and crude language” doesn’t give anything away.

I’m fine with “content warning”.

Somebody plays an undisclosed game that involves rape, and it didn’t sit well with them:

“That game didn’t have a trigger warning, and now I am triggered.” --> Yuck, what a terrible choice of words, even Roy Orbison would make this sentence sound like breaking glass.


“That game didn’t have a content warning, and now I am offended.” --> Much better.

These three. So much the words I do not have.