Trigger Warnings and Books

The wedding of

Recently, I noticed a discussion going around about whether or whether not books should be given trigger warnings. Here’s my opinion on this topic, which I thought I could give a good perspective on-I have triggers, which have stopped me from reading certain books, as well as DNF them.

Here’s why they’re important.

What is a Trigger Warning?

A trigger warning is a warning, obviously, for potentially harmful content within any piece of media. Say a book discusses abusive relationships. Abusive relationships, despite being fictional, can still harm those who have been in an abusive relationship because it reminds them of their experiences.

The ‘trigger’ refers to possible panic attacks or uncomfortableness that ensues after experiencing the reminder.

Second, what prompted this post?

Recently, a popular New Adult author (that I haven’t read, and will not name) made a post on her blog on why she didn’t want trigger warnings on her books, despite their potentially triggering content. Her reasoning? The warnings spoil the plot.

So, here am, someone who has triggers, with my “experience” and “knowledge” to tell YOU why trigger warnings are needed.


I’ll speak from three different perspectives. My own, my friend’s, and an authors.

Because my friend and I are two different people, we have different experiences. And yet, we both have triggers that affect our day to day lives, and while books aren’t the only things that could/would trigger us, it is very possible, us both being avid readers.

Either way, trigger warnings are necessary because of how they can effect the people who need trigger warnings. While I can go from slightly uncomfortable to in a full on panic attack, my friend gets slightly sick and could end up puking-although I don’t completely speak for her. The more important reasoning is that it can cause someone to take extreme measures, some of which can be quite dangerous. Being reminded of our negative experiences hurts us. And no one wants to run into that on the assumption that it wouldn’t happen.

And, while giving trigger warning to people who need them could spoil the plot . . . why the fuck would you use something that could hurt someone as a plot device. What kind of fucked up privileged do you have to live with to think this? If a book needs a trigger warning, then it’s there for a reason–so people who could be hurt or affected by the topic are able to stay away from it, rather than being hurt by it.

And, most of the time, triggers can be quite vague. Sexual abuse, suicide, self-harm–specific, yes. But they’re vague in accordance to the plot. So nothing should be spoiled by something as vague as a trigger warning. And, even if they’re part of a plot twist or *the big reveal*, topics like that shouldn’t be used for shock appeal or attention. They are serious topics that should be taken seriously. 

And if you can’t take someone’s personal experience to that topic seriously, then you shouldn’t be using that topic as a plot device.

All in all, trigger warnings are no different then those rating screens you see before each movie. They’re just like those tags used on Archive of Our Own, and similar sites. Trigger warnings are not censorship, they are not “ruining” your book.

But without them, they could ruin someone’s life.


This post was inspired by Taryn‘s rant on Twitter as well as Aimal‘s recent post.

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