Let’s Chat: Trigger Warnings and Why I Hate Them

According to an online dictionary, a “Trigger Warning” is defined as: A Statement at the start of a piece of writing, video, etc. alerting the reader or viewer to the fact that it contains potentially distressing material (often used to introduce a description of such content)

Thankfully I don’t have any topics that are a true “trigger” for me. There are definitely topics that I REALLY, REALLY don’t like reading about…child abuse, child abduction, animal abuse, death of a parent, death of a child, death of a spouse, terminal illness, etc.

I can see how people would most definitely appreciate a warning before they willingly expose themselves to reading something potentially triggering. I would imagine this would especially ring true if they can make those connections in their own life which might make the book feel exceptionally “real”. I completely understand how people could feel like that! However I….

actually really hate trigger warnings.

If you have been a reader of mine for any length of time you know my absolute DETEST for spoilers and often I find trigger warnings to be huge spoilers for me! For example…let’s take the book that I am currently reading:

This is the very first page of the book:

So now I’m reading this book knowing that at any moment someone is about to get sexually assaulted. It has taken my focus away from other story lines and has turned each character into a potential assaulter. Every time a new character is introduced, I immediately wonder if he/she will eventually turn into a rapist! I wish I knew nothing about this part of the book before reading.

My favorite tv show EVER actually had a trigger warning at the very beginning of the episode last week. I found this so strange because if you watch Shameless, you know that EVERY episode contains MULTIPLE potential triggers! I wonder why last week was the first time viewers were “warned”…???

Looking back, I’m wondering if Tampa by Alissa Nutting has any trigger warnings listed at the beginning? That book was HANDS DOWN the most disturbing book I have ever read and although I wouldn’t have wanted to read the triggers ahead of time, I can absolutely see how others would. You can read the synopsis and my review of that vile book HERE.

I feel fortunate that I don’t have any true “triggers”. That said, I can fully appreciate that other people do. What could constitute a “spoiler” for me could be so much more for someone with a true “trigger” and even just reading about a triggering event could be catastrophic for them.

I wish there was a way where people who appreciate trigger warnings could be privy to them and those people who don’t want to know ahead of time…wouldn’t have to??

This is exactly why I never include trigger warnings on any of my reviews (except for Parachutes….it’s literally written on the very first page of the book). I respect other reviewers/bloggers who choose to include these trigger warnings in their reviews but I personally dislike reading reviews which include them if I haven’t yet read the book.

I know my thoughts on this most definitely have the potential to be highly unpopular and that’s totally ok! I’d love to hear your (respectful) thoughts on both sides of this.

Do you appreciate trigger warnings or would you rather read the book (or watch the movie/tv show, etc.) without them? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Happy Friday! I hope your weekend is filled with love and BOOKS!

Xo,

Jenny

Other Book Coffee Happy “Let’s Chat” posts:

Let’s Chat: Tablet Vs Book Vs Audiobook?

Let’s Chat: When Your Opinion Is The Unpopular One

Let’s Chat: I’m A Monster. Anyone Else?

Let’s Chat: Read the Book First or Watch the Movie First?

Let’s Chat: Spoilers. Love Knowing or Better Blind?

Let’s Chat: Is Reading a Social Hobby?

Let’s Chat: Book Clubs…Yay or Nay?

Let’s Chat: How Long Until You Officially Abandon A Book?

Let’s Chat: Do You Read the Book Synopsis Before You Read the Book?

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23 thoughts on “Let’s Chat: Trigger Warnings and Why I Hate Them

  1. I don’t like trigger warnings either. Case in point…there was a TV show I really liked a while back and in this one episode, they said at the beginning that someone was going to die. So I was freaked out for the entire episode. It was warranted, but still! I would have rather been surprised by that incident, as awful as it was.
    I usually don’t share TWs in my reviews, unless I feel it’s totally warranted.
    I have a friend who gets triggered easily and I only loan her light and fluffy books because of this. I know what topics to avoid for her. However, if I haven’t read a book and something comes up that triggers her, I feel bad about it.
    Great post. Thanks for the thoughtful topic!

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    1. Thank you so much for this insightful comment! Your TV show story is EXACTLY my point. Even if a situation is awful and hard to read/see I would still rather not know about it ahead of time and be able to focus my thoughts on other aspects of the book/episode. I’m pleasantly surprised to hear I’m not the only one who feels this way!

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  2. I totally agree with you, too. I wish we could just maybe use the R rated or PG-13 system as a warning for books if people insist on being warned, bc yes, I can see what you mean, how it just creates spoilers and a heightened sense of alert, which would ruin the whole plot and the whole buildup of tension that the author would’ve tried to create. It’s like someone telling you the worst part about a well-known movie before you go see it. “Did you hear about that part where…?”

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  3. I completely agree with you! I prefer to go into books and stories in general (movies, tv shows, etc.) completely blind, to the point that I purposefully don’t read the blurbs of books most times. My preferred way to read is to hear a book is good and that I’d enjoy it and that’s it. I don’t want to know anything! I totally get that others might need the trigger warnings so I guess I would prefer they be there because if someone has that trauma I’d rather they be taken care of, but for me personally I don’t want the warnings.

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  4. I agree with you, too! Trigger warnings do in a way spoil the story and they might not even cover everything that could potentially trigger a reader. I hardly ever include trigger warnings in my reviews because I could never say for sure if something in the book will trigger someone, so may as well put my mind back in the days before regular people could post book reviews online and just had to take a chance on the book. Even back then, people could be triggered, but still read.

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  5. I just want to say THANK YOU for all of these positive and polite comments! To be transparent, I was nervous to post this because I didn’t want to come across as insensitive. I absolutely still welcome those with a different opinion to comment…I’d love to hear opinions from the other side of this. Xo!

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  6. I am like you. I totally understand why trigger warnings are needed for some but for me personally I want to go into a story blind. I am lucky enough to not have any triggers. Maybe there should be a designated spot in the back of the book where trigger warnings are put so that those who need them can look for them and those who don’t can just jump into the book.

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  7. Really interesting post and you’ve definitely made me look at the other side of the argument. Completely agree with other people who have said perhaps they could go at the back of the book so if you have triggers you can look out for that, but if you don’t then you can just read ahead and not have certain elements of the book spoiled. Great post!

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  8. So, I was 100% annoyed as well about the trigger warning in Parachutes. Every character i wondered if he/she would be involved in the rape.

    I used to not write trigger warnings but I recommended a book last year that I loved (can’t remember which one) but someone mentioned that I should warn people it has to do with 9/11 because it can be such a trigger to people. Ever since then, i sometimes have put warnings….granted my 1,000 hashtags usually also give away themes that come up.

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