Here Are 6 Reasons Why Trigger Warnings Aren't Bullshit.

Comments

1
I'm confused. How do you work through your problems if we can't talk about it?
2
Thank you, Sydney. It seems that through your work, the Stranger has at least one de facto expert on staff. Shame that Dan didn't choose to consult you.
3
I was diagnosed with PTSD after my second deployment to Afghanistan. I didn't storm the beaches of Normandy or anything, but I saw (and occasionally, did) some messed up stuff.

For the most part, I'm fairly functional. Have problems in crowds and around people in general. I tried to re-watch Saving Private Ryan recently and bawled like a little girl less than 10 minutes in.

But I don't expect people to warn me if they want to talk about things that may upset me. This is my issue to deal with and my responsibility.

Just my .02 cents.
4
Isn't life its own trigger warning? Life is rough and shitty, which should be apparently to nearly everyone. It's sort of a given. People who wish to express themselves shouldn't have the burden to disclaim that life is rough and shitty every time there is a school lecture, discussion, forum post, or whatnot, just because some people may not like the content of said discourse or may react unfavorably to it.
5
I think I get PTSD and have no issue with trigger warnings, but I don't see how students can expect trigger warnings to be fairly applied and enforced in schools. Maaaybe in some of your early course work when its just an instructor lecturing to 300 people without open discussion its scripted enough. Later, when you get into those more organic discussion heavy classes you can't expect a teacher to cut people off from making their point. A discussion on economics, unions, geopolitics, etc or can go into racism, sexual assault, genocide quite easily.
6
I don't count 6 reasons. Maaaaaybe 1.5. Most of them just seem neither here nor there.

Just to pick one of your reasons: "Rape is underreported, often results in PTSD, and is common."

That's true, and appalling, but what bearing does that have on whether trigger warnings are good/bad/effective/detrimental? I just think your reasons don't have much to say about it one way or the other.

I think the trigger warning advocates are not so much motived by evidence of best-practices, as the desire to acknowledge the pain and trauma of the victims of horrific crimes and traumatic events. It is admirable that these advocates want to do something proactive about it, but I just don't see that trigger warnings actually help anyone. I'd be happy to change my tune on that one if actual evidence came out supporting the efficacy of trigger warnings for mitigating the trauma of victims.
7
@3

But what do you mean by "talk about things that may upset [you]"? That description is general. If I know you are a veteran I might ask you about war, or I might ask something about a current event, and I would not necessarily warn you. (I might in the sense of being polite and asking if I could ask you about Afghanistan.) But if people attend a workshop about transitioning back to civilian life, for example, wouldn't it be appropriate for there to be a warning if graphic images of bleeding civilians and soldiers are going to shown? It will still be your shit to deal with, but you have the chance to prepare yourself or to excuse yourself.
8
Sydney, could you please provide an example, or a scenario even, describing the setting, class, instructor, and PTSD survivor on how a trigger warning is successfully used? This debate needs some tangibles to work with.
9
@2: That was almost exactly what I thought.

I'm glad Sydney is on staff at the Stranger.
10
@7. No. The burden should not be on the speaker.
11
One personal frustration with trigger warnings is that they are pretty subjective. Something like the movie rating system would help establish context about the nature and severity of said triggers.
12
I really can't not see how a trigger warning, freely given, is necessarily a bad thing.

It appears like people arguing over this are kind of going past each other. Those against trigger warnings seem to be railing not against warnings themselves, but rather those who would demand them, or proclaim that the course must be changed to accommodate them.

But does that ever truly happen, besides maybe a handful of over-exposed cases? Isn't it much more likely that a person will simply excuse themselves or drop the class? Would this not be doing, as many claim they should, taking care of their personal situation on their own?

It kind of seems like a straw man standing in place of a general distaste for what Clint Eastwood calls the "pussy generation," i.e. Millennials.
13
@8: I am no expert, but the most simple scenario I can think of is: "Over the next week we will be discussing sexual violence/reading about scenes of sexual violence. If you feel this will be emotionally troubling, feel free to not be in attendance."

Perhaps things have changed a lot since I was a student/educator, but topics and reading material used to be made very clear from the outset of the course.
14
Thank you so much for this. I agree with Dan about 75% of the time, but when he gets something wrong? JESUS. He really gets it wrong!

One note about exposure therapy. I agree it can be very helpful when -- and this is key -- the person suffering PTSD is in charge of his/her own exposure.

People who are not mental health professionals or don't have or have never had PTSD need to SHUT THE FUCK UP ABOUT HOW WE SHOULD TREAT PEOPLE WITH PTSD.
15
Love the stats- based approach. But one doesn't add up. You say that 19.7% of women will be raped in their lifetime, and then that 1 in 5 of college women will be raped while in college. Do you really believe that there is a greater likelihood of college women being raped in that 4-5 year window than for non- college women in their lifetime?
16
I ask because I've read that all the focus on college rape misses the fact that non- college women in the same age cohort suffer from a higher degree of rape, and that the focus on college rape comes down to class privilege.

17
2010s will surely be known as the decade when people lost their minds over governing tongues and the ridiculous positions on both sides that spawned.

Have some fucking manners.

Also, if you ask me not to talk about something in your presence, 99% of the time i'm gonna be super sensitive polite about but if you lecture me about how should never have said x well, then I'm going to not be your friend and maybe I'll even be a little rude right back because that's what your doing, you're being rude.
18
I may be wrong but I think the 1 in 5 statistic comes from a study asking about "unwanted sexual contact" in college, which covers a broader range of situations than the strictest definition of rape.

Anyway, yeah, it seems like the people raging against trigger warnings see it as frightened little flowers demanding that courses be altered to suit their preferences, while my understanding of them is more like a content advisory, so people know what they're in for ahead of time. Which seems perfectly reasonable to me. I know the U of C letter also mentions demanding the removal of college speakers, but I think if you're sinking tens of thousands into your college you have a right to be pissed if that money is going to someone who directly works against your own values.
19
@15 & 16: Maybe I'm missing your point, but: 19.7 % = 20% = 1 in 5
20
@11:

Well, they kind of have to be subjective: not everyone who suffers from trauma is going to deal with it (or not) in quite the same way, and the trigger could be different for any number of people who experienced roughly the same type or degree of similar trauma. There's no "one size fits all" approach. I think that's a major reason why it gets so easily dismissed: some people have never suffered a major personal or physical trauma, or at least very little, while others have suffered a great deal, and yet all too often the response, even from trauma victims themselves, is "get over it." Sometimes people have seen, done, or had done to them horrible things they just DON'T get over.
21
The thing I wish people without PTSD would try to understand about those of us who do:

We want to live in the world. We want to participate. We are not avoiding the challenges of life or executing some adult-level bratty exceptionalism about having to deal with the shit most adults have to deal with in largely every day circumstances. Many of us don't know what will trigger us until its happened and our otherwise okay day has spiraled into black mooded exhaustion or animal-brained panic. Or we know it will but we don't want to or can't invoke the PTSD card in professional or social circumstances because of the blowback that it causes so come up with ninja-like tactics so we can maintain the veneer of engagement and participation even though we'd like to borrow some scissors so we can unzip our own skin and escape just to get away from the crooked, invisible finger hammering the button that makes us feel this way.

Some people see some terrible things or experience some terrible things and their mind does a kind of afterwork on them that doesn't do this to us. I bitterly wish that I was one of those lucky people who had a brain that took in the events that took me away from the person I used to be and did some other thing. Some other mousetrap-esque network of pulleys and levers and wires and cogs that made a bad, bad thing but not a bad, bad thing that makes large crowds a thing I can enter and participate in without chewing on a couple Xanax and itchly contemplating if concealing some vodka in a water bottle will make this all tolerable.

Because I want to participate and be in the world and do the things that other people do with ease in circumstances that trigger my damaged psyche and I don't want to attract attention negatively or be that one that needs a special exception. I don't want to be treated with kid gloves or have perceptions of me altered as the quietly damaged one but that's in part because many people still view PTSD as self-absorbed, precious widdle baby snowflakery. But the public conversation as it currently stands about this issue is that we can only live in two places: the resigned stoic or the wailing withering flower.
22
I think the trigger warning backlash is a proxy for people who think kids these days are a bunch of entitled brats to express their displeasure with the next generation of young adults without having to say "GET OFF MY LAWN!", because the anger and resistance is in vast disproportion to the concept itself – we've used content warnings for movies and TV shows without controversy for years; people just want to bring it to the college classroom and let students decide for themselves, at literally no expense to anyone.

We'll be fighting over what PTSD is and what is best for its sufferers for decades (psychology is a borderline pseudoscience without a unifying theory to model and understand human behavior, so no one has all the answers), but in the meantime, we can just give people a little bit of warning so they can figure out how to take care of themselves, and the rest of us can stop fucking worrying about it already, because it's really not a big deal.
23
Patton thought PTSD ('shell shock') was cowardice. He even slapped two soldiers, suffering from PTSD in the infirmary, for being cowards. So, we should start slapping rape victims into their senses and make them swear allegiance to the slav- er - confederate flag.
24
@23) I'm channeling the inner Trump in all of us.
25
Is it really so difficult for people to understand the idea of a trigger warning? It's about giving agency back to people who have had it stolen from them. Most of the people I know with PTSD still choose to engage with something after being given a trigger warning about it. This is because they now have the power to CHOOSE to be in that situation, and to prepare themselves for it. It's a small kindness to someone who has seen the world at its most malevolent. It's courteous and compassionate. And if you have a conscientous objection to courtesy and compassion, then you maaaybe need to rethink your life/choices.
26
On that last point, the one about structural violence, you absolutely must start with the fact that we live in what is absolutely and without a doubt the least violent human society there has ever been, anytime, anywhere.

We talk about what it is for things to be "normal". Well normal for the human species is pretty darn brutal.

The point being, society reaches a point of diminishing returns when it finds itself catering more and more to traumatized individuals. That's a hard, cold, callous sounding thing to say, but it's important.

The reality is, if we're going to choose between students of criminal law being able to candidly discuss rape or assault and battery or domestic violence in class and avoiding those subjects because someone might have entirely justifiable difficulty with those topics, then honestly, I think the best solution is for that person to withdraw from law school unless and until they can do the work.

Not everyone is cut out to be someone who deals with these hard situations. No matter how much you may want to be a lawyer or counselor or police officer or whatever, you may not have the psychological wherewithal to handle the job. Just like I, at my age, can't just go run off and enlist in the Army. There's nothing wrong with that; we've all got different strengths and weaknesses.

My concern is that we are now raking the discussion to a place where we are being asked to artificially limit speech where it should be most free, and alter standards for no good pedagogical reason.
27
Just to be clear: people are saying that warnings give people the option to withdraw, restore agency, and all that.

In every class, you get a syllabus. I'm in one right now that deals with genocide and holocaust studies, something that could be acutely triggering. The appropriate time to deal with that question. Is at the beginning of the semester, one on one with the teacher. You can do talk through concerns and decide if the class is right for you.

It's inappropriate to ask to be exempted from having to study one part of the coursework while everyone else has to go through it. If you can't handle part of the course, you can't handle the course. You do have options (i.e. agency)

1) Take a different, equivalent course with different materials.
2) Wait until you are in a position to take the entire course.
3) If the material in that course is required for your major or degree, consider another line of study.

But you should not get a free pass for any material just because it's particularly difficult fo you. Nor do you get to arbitrarily alter the class to suit your circumstances. That's not fair to the other students or to the teacher.
28
I think one thing that appears to be getting missed here is that there is suspicion that the push for trigger warnings is at least sometimes a none too subtle attempt at censorship. One particular case comes to mind, the controversy over the sleepwalking man sculpture at Wellesley College's art museum. There was a clear attempt there to censor an art exhibition and the arguments put forward all had to do with the 'triggering' affect the sculpture might have.
29
If you're someone who balks at the inconvenience of adding a trigger warning to the beginning of your spiel, it's proof that you are of true noble blood. Like the Princess and the Pea? Only a real, honest and true-born princess would have such sensitive, delicate flesh that they could still be kept awake by the discomfort of only one pea at the bottom of 20 mattresses. If you howl in annoyance when asked to do nothing more than deliver a trigger warning, I say you are, without a doubt, a fit bride for a fairy tale prince. You're that special.

Also something about unicorns will be your friend.
30
@28

What's wrong with censoring fucked up art set up to ambush unwilling participants? Placing basic limits on expression is a perfectly healthy thing for any free society to do. These coddled, over-privileged "artists" who think they have a natural right to go around fucking with innocent bystanders in the name of so-called "art" need to grow up.
31
@26 - no one is asking for material to be removed from a course because someone might find it triggering. We're asking for an advance warning that the material will be included. That may come in the syllabus, it may come at the end of the previous week's class, whatever. Trigger warnings never ever ever remove any content from anything; rather, they add an accessibility feature for trauma survivors. We'll then make an informed decision on whether to take the course, or drop out if needs be, or whether to tough it out. In most cases, it will be the latter. In no cases will it affect the course content or the experience of non-traumatised people.

I don't get why this is hard to understand. To warn isn't to censor. It's very much like putting up a sign that says 'CAUTION WET FLOOR'; that doesn't restrict access, but rather, it enables people who are less sure-footed to prepare to keep their balance. And sure, we can't warn for every possible surface obstruction, but that's no reason to stop helping people by warning about wet floors. And sure, maybe some folks want the warning not due to a mobility ailment but because they're precious about their shoes, but that doesn't matter - the warnings are still helpful to a lot of folks. But sure, keep yelling 'but having to warn will stop people accessing the building! people should just take wet floors as they come!' That's super helpful.
32
@30 Whoa boy, plenty, so much wrong with that.Who are we supposed to allow to decide what is 'fucked up art'? Thanks though, you are basically confirming my point. People with your mindset are more than happy to use nebulous concepts like 'triggering' to suppress anything you don't like.
33
Trigger warnings are nothing more than censorship light. It's yet to be determined if it's about common decency or about ultimately shutting off different opinions. But I think we know how it will play out in our culture of constant pointless outrage where everyone is a victim of something. Everyone except heterosexual white males.
35
@30:

In the case of Tony Mitelli's "Sleepwalker", I think it's rather hyperbolic to suggest "unwilling participants" were somehow "ambushed" into interacting with a static, albeit very realistic-looking piece of painted bronze one had to approach from a distance.
36
@33:

See @31...
37
I had a lot of dental trauma as a kid. Leave aside the filling & braces most kids also had. I had 16 teeth pulled, and all but 4 come out perfectly clearly, despite the Novocain. (Being knocked out for the wisdom teeth was like an oasis). So when I rented "Marathon Man" as an unsuspecting college cinephile novice should the box have had a Trigger Warning about the infamous torture scene? We're just talking about college classes? Well, should a film professor put such a warning if it's on the syllabus? I haven't been raped or been in a war, but I have watched a parent go bald & shrivel up & die from cancer. Should they put warnings with people with my experience in mind on DVDs of "One True Thing" and "Dying Young" and "Wit" and so on? All people have experienced a variety of traumas that we couldn't even begin to thoroughly catalog here. Some are given more weight in certain societies and at certain points in history. But who are we to judge? Did watching a movie like "One True Thing" (or, in the case of what I might have inherited & have to go through, "50/50") actually *help me* deal with something life through at me without an instruction manual? I think so, but I can certainly accept that for someone else seeing versions of their real life experiences mirrored could have a deliterious effect. But the Catch-22 is that, if every work of art (and news article? Where's it end?) came with a list of potential difficult aspects at the front, then the work the artist put into it in terms of *the order in which they wanted us to encounter plot points, character and theme development, and so on* -- well, not only is that all lost, but so is any potential healing effects that depend on experiencing the work *as intended.* Seeing the bullet points that a book by Faulkner deals with racism, sexism, rape, mental illness, and so on, is NOTHING like teasing out those facts bit by slowly-dawning bit, through individual reading and discussion with others.
38
@32

The same people who made the six words you can't say on TV? The same people who don't let you broadcast "Saw" on the wall of a building opposite a schoolyard? Or any other wall? Or who would arrest you for broadcasting secret government documents? Or publishing pictures you took of people in a public bathroom? Revealing the positions of our troops in battle?

The list of things that somebody has decided to suppress is very long. The number of authorities who make those decisions is very long. Those decisions are made every day, at every level of government and private enterprise.

But you pick arbitrarily one particular thing, this one piece of art, and you suddenly act like you never heard of censorship before. Like never once in your whole life has anything been suppressed before. Suddenly you play-act like "a LINE has been crossed".

Shining lights in the eyes of drivers or pilots? Bad. Terrorizing people walking down a path at night? ART! Please. What a load of bullshit. Put Creepy Guy in Underwear in a private art gallery and nobody cares. The whole performance consists of fucking with innocent bystanders trying to walk from A to B in peace. The First Amendment does not promise to deliver an unwilling audience to your doorstep. It doesn't work like that, and never has.

Your point has not been proven. You don't have a point. You are a partisan on one side of one specific battle, and you're playing this fake role of someone defending free speech. Solely because you disagree with a specific group who has been asking for trigger warnings: women. The same defenders of free speech who are digging in to thwart the goals of women in this particular case suddenly have nothing to defend when a law against flag burning ("inciting a riot" natch) is at stake.

So yeah, by all means, teach your class without telling anybody that you're going to spring rape or bloody battles or torture on your students. Because you are a dick who gets off on the shock effect. What a great statement for academic freedom you have made. Take pride in that. Instead of, like, an actual academic achievement, you be proud of being the professor who does childish jump scares.

That's how stupid this is.
39
@38:

Your entire argument is based on the premise that someone could conceivably have come across Matelli's sculpture (which was actually sited along the side of a road, not a walking path) unawares, when in fact the placement was prominently mentioned to the point that so many people were aware of its impending existence a petition requesting its removal was circulated BEFORE it was even installed. So, the attempt to censor the work occurred well prior to anyone even having an opportunity to be "triggered" by it - which, BTW never actually occurred - because people knew about it in advance and could therefore make a conscious choice as to whether or not to deliberately engage with it; which, as has been noted above, is pretty much a textbook example of what trigger warnings are intended to achieve.
40
@38 Eh, I hardly think that case was a unique one, and no making the yelling of 'fire!' in a movie theater illegal is not equivalent to censoring art, literature, speech. That's just simply a ludicrous assertion.

I'd say once trigger warnings become some de facto law on campuses, a situation we could well be headed for, it will be implied that the speech that requires the trigger warning is outside of acceptable discourse, or at the very least it requires some extra justification because some people are traumatized or merely offended by it. There's the key: how does one determine whether something is traumatizing or just merely offensive, or whether, as in the case with the underwear man sculpture, a bunch of busybodies just decided it might be traumatizing or offensive to someone?
41
I don't know how many ways people can say this. Trigger warnings, or content warnings, are NOT ABOUT SUPPRESSING CONTENT.

It's just a heads-up that some heavy stuff is in next week's readings.
42
@39

Busybodies. Yeah. Bitches, am I right?

People have always determined what is acceptable discourse on campus. You bros have never been bothered by the kinds of limits placed on speech on campus for the last 500 years, limits protecting the white male power structure. It's only now when these female "busybodies" start taking away your toys that all of a sudden you dudes discovered the notion that speech limits on campus are a bad thing.

Your fundamental delusion is that open discourse is a frail flower that will wilt and die if look at it sideways. Speech is highly regulated and it always has been. No society has, literally, free speech.

Even in the rare cases where trigger warnings are actually mandatory (and your slippery slope FUD is not an argument) they don't actually limit discourse. Except in the mind of a very frail professor indeed.

Your argument is this: rape victims, war veterans, trauma survivors need to toughen up. Wimps. Why? Because your heroes, professors, will run like frightened rabbits if you tell them they absolutely must put something in the syllabus saying there's going to be a graphic description of some horrors. College teachers are that weak and scared. They'll be terrified to speak their minds now.

I don't think a professor that weak willed really has much of value to say anyway. And I absolutely care more about the feelings of people who have been through hell than this crybaby professor whose identity can be summed up in the words, "You're not the boss of me!"

Grow a pair, dudes, and have the courage to say what you have to say, even if you do have to tell everyone in advance what they're in for.
43
@42 Your argument is not getting any less flabby there.

Censorship has no place in an allegedly free society and it most certainly has no place on the campus of a higher learning facility in a free society. Trying hard to see how this viewpoint/conviction/fact exclusively rests on 500 years of white male privilege. Help me out here.

You seem to be simultaneously denying that part of what is behind the push for trigger warnings is in fact the desire to suppress objectionable views/content and arguing that the fringe left brand of censorship is different/better than the cranky old white anti-PC professor brand of censorship because it is all about protecting the feelings of marginalized/oppressed/disenfranchised people. Do I have this right?

This seems, I don't know, contradictory?
44
I have PTSD and something people may not understand is that triggers are super personal and often don't have anything to do with an objective trauma. For example, the worst trigger I had in college was from being forced by my teacher to play a name game when I didn't want to. Kind of silly sounding, right? But it made me cry in the middle of class, which is not something I'm prone to doing. In fact, and I think this is a somewhat common symptom, I am so emotionally numb and detached that hearing about violent experiences similar to mine really have no effect on me. I'm more triggered by guys who look like my abuser, or being talked to in a certain tone. How can I expect trigger warnings for that? And why would I want to oppress other artists by forcing them to dull the impact of their work that way? There's just no way to warn every unique trauma survivor about all their unique triggers..
45
Pornography is censored. Sedition is censored. Copyrighted material is censored. Trade secrets are censored. Government secrets are censored. Defamation and libel is censored. Private, personal information is censored. Personal attacks and ridicule are censored. Plagiarism is censored. Campuses add more censorship on top of this, such as requirements that research cannot be utter works of fiction. There's all kinds of censorship around the particular tone and language used in academic discourse. Some of this censorship will get you fired immediately, other kinds will only harm your reputation and dampen your career advancement. Some campus censorship is clearly explained and published. Other censorship is never written down, and only dimly understood.

"Censorship has no place"? Censorship is everywhere. You just never noticed before. Did you notice last week, when Hope Solo's speech was censored for saying Things One May Not Say? Did you even realize you were watching someone being censored?

You are completely delusional if you think there is a university anywhere that has "free speech". There's a LOT of freedom to say what you want. But there's also a hell of a lot you can't say. You're so used to it you don't even think about it, yet your imagination runs wild with the chilling effect of adding a sentence to a syllabus. Some sense of proportion there.

Trigger warnings are not "fringe left". They're a common sense request to tell people what they're in for. What kind of misanthrope can't teach his class if you take away his ability to ambush and blindside his students with gruesome descriptions or pictures? Whoever is unable to work under these conditions must be a real piece of work.
46
Sydney, it jumps out at me that the two studies almost certainly defined "rape" differently. And that, as defined by the 1/5 study, you would expect it to have a significantly lower rate of PTSD compared to what was considered rape in the 1995 study looking at even older data. Did you just multiply the percentage of women who are victims of rape (as defined by the 1/5 study) by the prevalence of PTSD amongst rape victims (as defined by the older study, which found less than 10% of women were raped in their lifetime per that definition and study)?
47
@45 So why are you going to such spine-dislocating lengths to justify censorship if you believe that trigger warnings are nothing but a totally benign way to let people know what they're in for? Seems kind of like you don't believe your own bullshit argument.

Couple tangents here: it has occurred to me this election season for the first time that this country actually has its own version of the human subspecies that I would call the Euro-left: people who are outwardly socially liberal but at their core committed authoritarians. Usually here in the states social liberalism and a commitment to civil liberties go hand and hand. You and your ilk seem to be the new mutants: Freedom blah blah blah. There should be no limits to trodding down the oppressors of the downtrodden, yanking out the vocal cords of those who say not nice things, denying tenure to those who have insufficiently accommodated students who have had a kind of unpleasant childhood, or are merely kind of sad today and are sensitive to loud noises.

Second tangent: although I think Sydney Brownstone has a lot of sensible things to say, and I generally admire her writing these '6 reasons' are a whole lot of mooshy smoosh. For one thing, citing the DSM-V when talking about 'fact checking'. This compendium of quackery is just about as good a source of facts as the Book of Mormon.

People in this country, and probably in a lot of countries love to finally find out that they have some sort of disorder. Literally there are multitudes just waiting and waiting to get a name for the disorder they are sure they are suffering from. This really dawned on me when I read about a year ago about this new unofficial disorder: misophonia, the intolerance of the sound of other people eating. I fully expected the news of this disorder being discovered to be met with nothing but derision but instead there was a tsunami of joy, the multitudes who had finally found out what condition they suffered from.

If you think about it there are really infinite potential disorders and subsequently infinite triggers that might rouse them from harmless dormancy to full-blown psychosis. If we are really going to keep on top of this every university, every work place, should have a department dedicated to keeping track of every disorder/trigger that every student/worker has registered as well as all the stimuli out there on the campus/work place, or around the campus/work place, or maybe even global stimuli that might adversely interact with any given trigger.
48
@44 - I've had this conversation with groups of traumatised people a few times and the consensus is, let's do the part that is easy to do and which will help a large number of people. That generally means rape, sexual abuse, graphic violence, domestic violence, incest, suicide/suicidal ideation, and self harm. Triggers are incredibly context-driven and many of us have one or two that would be innocuous to others, but the above are widespread enough to be worth doing something about.

And that's the OTHER thing I hate about this whole argument. The trauma might come up in any number of ways. We are NOT asking to be protected or "coddled" (another enraging word, which implies we want to be kids, when in many cases our childhoods ended violently and with the whole onus for our care left on us ever since), because that literally isn't possible. I have yet to meet ANYONE who is asking for comprehensive warnings to cover all their own triggers. We're asking for an opportunity to prepare so that dealing with this stuff day after day will be marginally less crap.

Whatever the math, that this argument has emerged right when people are first taking notice of how much rape takes place at colleges is telling. You're a woman, you get raped now and you shut the fuck up about it, take care of yourself and don't expect anyone else to give a shit. It definitely feels like a way to reorient the issue so that the onus is on rape survivors to drop out.
49
@47 with the slippery slope idiocy. This may come as a shock to you, but there are plenty of spaces that have instituted a warnings code already - most of the ones I've been involved with are art or writing groups, or specifically mental health-oriented therapeutic spaces. Not one of these places has experienced the effect you describe. Most have the exact same warnings code they first implemented years ago. But it sure would suck to look at real trauma survivors when you can just insult imaginary hypothetical trauma survivors instead, wouldn't it?

But hey, I guess I shouldn't bother if you are the kind of fringe asshole who thinks that no serious discussion of psychology should mention the DSM-V.
50
Literally every 'WAAAH ACKNOWLEDGING OTHER PEOPLE'S NEEDS IS BAD' argument goes aaaaaaall about the hypothetical people canoeing down a slippery slope to disaster. There are real people here telling you about how this really works and has really been implemented in other places in the past, but for some reason it's easier to make shit up than to listen to people with personal knowledge of how trigger warnings have been used as an access tool. Nah, fuck them, let's IMAGINE how trigger warnings would work in a HYPOTHETICAL UNIVERSE, because how they work IRL is irrelevant! This isn't a new idea, so if you're going to object to its use please produce some real world examples of warnings gone awry.
51
Censorship is a normal part of every healthy, free society. We are censored every day. We censor others every day. It's beyond silly to shriek in fear at the mere *hint* of censorship. To be terrified of a mere warning because it might could maybe be interpreted the wrong way as sort of saying that you shouldn't say that, and saying that you shouldn't say that is almost kind of like, in a way, the same as -- oh my god -- actual censorship.

Warnings are not censorship. You're clutching your pearls because you imagine that warnings are a step towards censorship. And we can never go there!

Never go there? We are there. We've always been there.

The other part of this faulty slippery slope theory that makes no sense is why rape survivors or war veterans would want to suppress realistic descriptions of what they went through. Keeping the reality of what happened to them secret benefits them how? It doesn't. It would benefit them for more people to vividly understand exactly what they experienced. Censoring that from general audiences would not help them.

You're telling me now that these people who spend their time going around trying to make people understand what happened to them actually want to censor what happened to them? You think they think that? PTSD doesn't make you an idiot. (Though privilege sometimes does.)

Nobody wants warnings to keep knowledge of these experiences hidden from the public. The warnings are a necessary protection for people who will suffer actual harm. They don't want this stuff censored. They want to keep themselves safe.

But even if it would help them to actually censor graphic depictions of trauma (and nobody has said it would) and even if they wanted to censor them (trigger warnings are not censorship) it wouldn't be out of the ordinary to do that. We censor things every day to protect people. We censor, without a second thought, depictions of Mickey Mouse to protect Disney from having a little less profits. Why not censor something to actually help an actual person?

Which nobody has proposed. And which trigger warnings have not in any way led to. Because the slippery slope FUD is FUD. We did the experiment and you were proved wrong.
52
#42: If you really believe what you said here, you're kind of exactly the reason why institutionalized trigger warnings are a bad idea. It's not about safety, it's about ax grinding. You have an political content agenda, and this is a useful way for you to push it. Please stay away from others' free speech.
53
Censorship is a wonderful thing when you get to decide what gets censored. The only problem with it is the other side can use the same tools against you and the content you think people should be exposed to. It's amazing how hard it is to understand this incredibly basic idea.

And no, I don't think a very basic courtesy trigger warning is censorship. I just think a lot of people advocating for them are doing it for the wrong reason.
54
@52

I'm not a reason for anything. I have nothing to do with any university or any decision to do anything. I could be the worst person in the world, and I could be wrong in an infinite number of ways. Even so, I still have nothing whatsoever to do with any suggested or mandatory trigger warnings anywhere.

What Some Guy On The Internet thinks is not a reason to do or think anything. Don't go attacking people I have nothing to do with because of what I think. They've never heard of me.

Of course "other side" can use censorship as a tool. The play thatswhatshesaid critiqued the theater establishment with their own words, and they fought back with a case and desist letter threatening suit over copyright. This kind of thing goes on every day, in business, art, entertainment, government. Censorship is normal.

"Who gets to decide?" the Philosophy 101 freshman asked, in a grave voice. Lots of people get to decide what gets censored. I love how naive dudebros pretend to be when they are beating up on uppity women.

Of course free speech is still very important. It's just that you guys don't understand what free speech is. It's not "you're not the boss of me I get to say anything I want any time any where!!!!"

Can you imagine if the Second Amendment kooks took *this* extremist of a position? Even the NRA isn't this absolute. That literally any *hint* of a limitation on arms was reason to run shrieking through the streets. Anybody would have a right to a nuclear submarine. Sarin gas shells. Any weapon. That's silly of course. We have a vast number of limitations on what arms a person can have and even more on using them.

Same goes with the First Amendment right to free speech. Look around.
55
Yeah, fuck those cowardly professors! With their high rate of adjunct status, low pay, terrible benefits and no job security.

(Slagging entire professions with a wave of a hand is probably a bad idea)
56
When I was in college every professor handed out a syllabus listing all the reading materials and videos that would be covered in class and the weeks they'd be discussed. With this information and The internet, a student susceptible to being triggered can look this information up on their own without expecting the professor to do so. What am I missing here?
57
"I could be the worst person in the world, and I could be wrong in an infinite number of ways. Even so, I still have nothing whatsoever to do with any suggested or mandatory trigger warnings anywhere."

Fair enough.

"Of course "other side" can use censorship as a tool. The play thatswhatshesaid critiqued the theater establishment with their own words, and they fought back with a case and desist letter threatening suit over copyright. This kind of thing goes on every day, in business, art, entertainment, government. Censorship is normal."

The very existence of censorship in its many forms is not an argument for it.

"Who gets to decide?" the Philosophy 101 freshman asked, in a grave voice. Lots of people get to decide what gets censored. I love how naive dudebros pretend to be when they are beating up on uppity women."

I find the fact you characterize people who disagree with you as "dudebros beating up on women" pretty disheartening. There is nothing gendered about promoting free speech on campus as far as it's possible, there's nothing inherently masculine or "dude bro" about believing in free and open discourse. I wouldn't dare venture to tell a feminist or an activist to self-censor because I want to hear what they say, and my support of their right to do so isn't a cudgel against them. How could it be? I want to hear what they say.

"Of course free speech is still very important. It's just that you guys don't understand what free speech is. It's not "you're not the boss of me I get to say anything I want any time any where!!!!"
Who exactly is saying this? I didn't say this. Again, you're mischaracterizing an argument.

"Can you imagine if the Second Amendment kooks took *this* extremist of a position? Even the NRA isn't this absolute. That literally any *hint* of a limitation on arms was reason to run shrieking through the streets. Anybody would have a right to a nuclear submarine. Sarin gas shells. Any weapon. That's silly of course. We have a vast number of limitations on what arms a person can have and even more on using them. "

Yes, rational limits on speech in certain forums is perfectly fine--it's often the only way free speech and discussion is possible. But so what? I'm not saying it's an anything goes free-for-all. On some level I feel you're kind of talking past people in your mad dash to argue against a strawman.

Allow me to be clear, I don't think trigger warnings are censorship. I thing the dubious efforts of people to politicize them (by trying to develop triggers around every conceivable trauma, including a lot of left-sanctioned political topics) might lead to censorship if institutionalized, and probably at the very least cause an administrative headache. But a student requesting warnings from a professor or faculty is fine by me. And please, I'm not a dude bro.
58
Dan wasn't advocating exposure therapy via the elimination of trigger warnings. He expressly disavowed that stance. He pointed out--rightly--that avoidance exacerbates the condition.
59
My takeaway from this is that our campuses are rife with professors who teach their classes "without telling anybody that you're going to spring rape or bloody battles or torture on your students. Because you are a dick who gets off on the shock effect." Also, that these professors tell women who have just been raped to "shut the fuck up about it, take care of yourself and don't expect anyone else to give a shit."

If this is the problem, I'm not sure that trigger warnings for students who can't google the syllabus is the solution.
60
@58: Again, no one wants to fucking avoid. It's knowing that it's coming, and being prepared for it. I've told the story of a professor I had who showed 'Requiem for a Dream' on the first night of class, with no warning at all and no chance to look at a syllabus. Who benefited from that?
61
@21 really great comment. I was thinking "I don't get triggers and I'm called ptsd" but the way you described it, I guess I do, just not necessarily when being exposed to brutal literature, shows, or conversation topics. Like I find SVU law&order to be cathartic, for example, and he same with some really extreme, "emotionally harrowing/honest books" because it's nice to see similar emotions or experiences validated on paper. Or with SVU, watch them vicariously get justice. If they don't, they get Benson lovingly holding their hand through the entire process (emotionally, anyway, to some degree) plus the validation factor.

But other minor events (more than topics, I think, for me) as triggers, like encountering intentional belittlers or bullies; that describes what a trigger feels like with staggering accuracy, making me realize I do or have gotten them. Then I berate myself for feeling badly, and i don't notice the current cause, the outside intruder that breached my walls and poisoned my emotional well for the time being. Or, perhaps some ptsd sufferers simply become (or think they become) immune to hurtful stimuli, just waiting for life to pass, not feeling much of anything at all.

This turned out a lot longer than expected. I liked your comment, @21, is all.

This article spurned some interesting debate.
62
I'm a college professor. When I'm dealing with sensitive material, I let my students know. It takes all of about a minute; to a student, every one of them stays in class, and we discuss the material. It works.
63
The whole point of the trigger warning mess is who decides what is and isn't a valid issue. I've read articles where someone listed Dan Savage in their trigger warning.
64
@19 Nobody else said it, but thank you for being able to actually do math. I thought it was odd that the article was basically stating almost the exact same ratio twice, for women in general and then women in college, but I always forget how bad people can be at converting fractions to decimals on the fly.

And yes, technically 19.3% is lower than 20%, but I'm guessing it's much more convenient and to the point to say "(implied: approximately) 1 in 5" instead of "193 in 1000."