A. The fic I'm working on right now is triggery in couple of different ways, and
B. I suck at warnings. I'll admit it. Like, I SUCK. SO BAD. AT TRYING TO WRITE WARNINGS IN A WAY THAT IS COHERENT AND ACTUALLY HELPFUL.
And there was something that she mentions that really struck me:
Being triggered when reading descriptions of sexual assault usually follows two paths for me. The first is if an incident of sexual assault itself triggers me. This is, as I understand, fairly common. The second, however, is due to my having been molested, and also part of why I entered the current discussion on warnings in the first place. I spent sixteen years learning to gauge how things were going to go each day with my stepdad. I spent sixteen years learning to anticipate and analyze the creeping, mounting feeling that something bad, something non-consensual, was going to happen.
That is the feeling that anti-warnings people often pin down as a place where any survivor should know to leave a fic, no harm (or little harm) supposedly done. But that is the place that triggers me. The textual warning triggers me, which is why I need an extra-textual warning. By the time I anticipate it, it's too late; I'm back in the place where I'm trying to figure out if today is the day he stares at my crotch and licks his lips, or if I can talk him out of raping me, or at least into the living room so I have a chance to run away. For me this trigger is worse than being triggered by a violent rape scene. Because violent rape scenes throw me back into a specific assault, or at least a specific feeling. That creeping feeling, however, triggers me in a long-term, incredibly painful way.
So, I have no experiences that would cause me to be triggered by anything, thank God, but I do think I can understand that feeling. A lot of times, the vaguely creepy is much more scary and unsettling than the 'Omg aliens just attacked and we're all gonna dieeeeee!!!' obvious. So the obvious solution is just what she's saying: warnings are needed before it even gets to that point. And okay, obviously, you should warn for things that are obviously upsetting and that a lot of people don't want to read-- like rape or gore or weird fetishes.
But what if it never gets to the actual-- I don't know what to call it, the actual event that's supposed to be triggering? What if, for instance, there's the feeling that she describes-- say, the something non-consensual is about to happen-- but that thing itself never actually materializes? (So say, there's the vague impression that somebody is thinking of/wants to rape someone else, but they never actually take any actions that could be construed as a rape or attempted rape?)
What I'm wondering is: what the hell are you supposed to warn for then? I'm not trying to be a bitch; I really do wonder. Because all the warnings I can come up with would either be
1. Hugely over-warning (does it make sense to warn for something if the thing itself never actually makes an appearance in your fic?) And just as a side note: maybe I'm just being selfish and privileged because I'm not triggered by anything, but I really, really hate it when people over-warn. I mean, I get wanting to be on the safe side, but sometimes peoples' warnings make their fic look like a bloodbath when all that actually happens is that someone breaks his arm.
2. So vague and oddly worded as to be nonsensical. What would you say? "Warning for ideations of rape"? Because personally, I have to admit that I would just be confused if I read that and wouldn't be able to figure out if there actually was rape or not. Which presumably goes against the point of having warnings in the first place.
Does it make sense to warn for creepiness, or for things that you think may be upsetting but which even you would have trouble defining? Because, see, I know that I'm guilty as all hell when it comes to writing warnings that are so vague as to be incomprehensible-- but unless I'm missing something very obvious, warning for ideas as opposed to events is really hard.
And (completely moronic this time) side note: What the hell do you do when somebody fails to warn for something (especially something really obvious and concrete) because they don't realize they wrote it?
Example: it must have been about a year ago now that somebody in one of my fandoms posted a fic [to LJ, in a fandom that's generally... not all that horrible, and which has more highbrow fans than a lot of animanga fandoms] to a pairings comm that featured one half of the pairing abducting and raping the other. With no warnings. Which everybody at first thought was very rude of her.
But when she replied to comments, it became clear that it wasn't so much that she was rude as that she was just stupid. Apparently, it had never occurred to her that people might be offended, because in her lala land, rape was actually perfectly acceptable and a sign of love. And as awful as her fic was? By the end of it I felt a little like we were ganging up on her, because she obviously just DID. NOT. UNDERSTAND. At all. That rape is neither fun nor cuddly.
[/end of bizarre tangent]
--Tl;dr, abstracts are really hard to warn for, it seems to me, so how do you warn for them? Also, what about situations where events are unclear and the audience can read into them what they like. Say, if a character may or may not die at the end of a story-- does it make sense to warn for death? Doesn't that take away the ambiguity?