[This blog post contains minor spoilers for my story “Satisfied By A Stegosaurus”]
I’m not opposed to the idea of trigger warnings. In fact, I think that they’re often a good idea. I personally like to check with DoesTheDogDie.com before I watch a movie, because I don’t like to wander into that kind of thing without advanced warning. It’s not truly a trigger for me, but it’s certainly upsetting. Likewise, I know any number of rape victims that have been unpleasantly surprised (and triggered) by a rape scene appearing in a film where there was no indication in the ads or previews. I can understand why trigger warnings exist.
I also understand that in erotica, rape/reluctant/violent scenes can turn what was supposed to be a perfectly pleasant experience into something horrible, or at the least upsetting and annoying. I want all of my readers to have perfectly pleasant experiences when they read my stories–that’s one reason why I write erotica in the first place.
While I do have the common author’s conceit of wanting readers to approach my stories without any spoilers, I also understand that when dealing with erotic short stories, it’s not as much of an issue. The plot is that somebody or some bodies have sex of some kind. Because people tend to have particular kinks and sexual tastes, knowing in advance what the sex scene is going to involve isn’t a spoiler–it’s advertising.
So for the most part, I’m cool with trigger warnings, even if they’d “spoil” part of the plot.
The main issue for me is that as an independent author, I work mostly through Amazon, and that means that trigger warnings could directly interfere with my business as a writer. Amazon has a very arbitrary set of standards that is sporadically enforced. They technically will not publish any books with rape scenes in them, for example, except for all of the books that that they publish that have rape scenes in them. “The Color Purple,” for example. And most dinosaur erotica. The difference being that Amazon is NOT going to yank “The Color Purple” from their electronic shelves due to content, but any indie or small-time erotica author could have their work(s) yanked at pretty much any time.
I went into the writing of my story “Satisfied By A Stegosaurus” with the idea that I’d go against the grain–and err on the side of caution–by having the human/dino sex be consensual. Oddly, during the writing of the story, a human/human rape-fantasy scene occurred as part of the main character’s back story. It’s not a particularly brutal scene, and I wrote it in such a way that it the rapist doesn’t exactly come out on top. But it is a rape/non-consent scene, even if it’s one that isn’t likely to trigger anybody. I’d gladly warn people about that plot element in the beginning of the book, or in the blurb, except that by doing so I’d be likely to attract the attention of Amazon’s enforcers.
Sure, they don’t seem to have a problem with countless beast-rape stories like “Taken By The T-Rex,” but the nature of the content often doesn’t seem to matter as much as whether Amazon has plausible deniability. If I, the author, mention that there’s rape-fantasy or non-consensual activity in a story, and somebody reports it, then Amazon would be more likely to take action.
Remember, Amazon’s applicable guidelines are as follows:
We don’t accept pornography or offensive depictions of graphic sexual acts.
What we deem offensive is probably about what you would expect.
So the hazard for including trigger warnings for rape-fantasy/non-consent stuff applies equally to most possible triggers that might appear in my work. My BDSM novel has scenes where the main character is tied, cuffed, or blindfolded. Those things might trigger some people. But if I acknowledge that those elements are included, the Amazonian hammer might come down on me for it. Even though they’d never consider banning “50 Shades of Grey.”
Another factor is the nature of what I write.
I don’t feel bad about not including a trigger warning on “Satisfied By A Stegosaurus,” because the very nature of that particular sub-genre, dinosaur-human sex, is that consent is rarely included. It’s mostly just straight-forward stories about dinosaurs fantasy-raping humans. Similarly, my story “The Octopunishment” includes (surprise, surprise!) tentacle-rape scenes. Again, that shouldn’t surprise anybody. Likewise, my story “Moonheat” has a werewolf-on-human nonconsent/rape scene, and the only surprise there might be that the werewolf is female and the human is male.
In general, I try to write within genre and sub-genre norms and expectations when it comes possible triggers. If I write superhero stuff, there’s going to be some violence, and probably varying levels of non-consent at times. If I write monster sex, it might well include rape-fantasy scenes. I don’t feel that trigger warnings are necessary when it comes to standard conventions of a genre or sub-genre.
If anybody out there is curious about my work, but has particular things that they’d like to avoid (or to seek out), just send me an email, a tweet (public or private), or respond to this post, and just ask.