This thread TRIGGERS me!

I received a note on another site from a guy I’ve known online for a long time who wanted me to consider editing a story of mine. There’s a scene in MIMBO DROPS 2 where a police-officer subdues someone by kneeling on their neck – I’m sure this is true, but I don’t remember and haven’t read the story in ages.

Anyway, he wrote, given all that is currently going on in the USA regarding police brutality, perhaps I should edit that out of the story? He realizes that would be a logistical nightmare – even if I was interested in doing it – but it “triggers” him to the point where he can’t read the story anymore. Apparently, he can’t even read part 1 because he “knows part 2 is coming.”

Last year, I was posting another old story of mine, MILK MAN 2 (another sequel, too…) on the GSS and someone commented that the Alpha Male Bull that led his “herd” of milk-bearing bodybuilders in the story reminded them of the Real Life “noodlesnbeef” tragedy – more, I must be somehow connected to them in order to convey my characters so realistically.

This story, he complained, triggered him badly.

Forget that both stories were written nearly two decades ago and could therefore have no prescience on current events, they’re both works of fiction. As I wrote to the guy on MM2, I should hope no one lives their lives as these characters do, enslaved to a dom alpha male – but the point is they’re NOT real, therefore we can explore their reality and know we can close the book and be back in our own.

I feel the same way about the cop thing. Yeah, police brutality sucks! But how can I as an author write anything if I spend all my time worrying about what may or may not trigger people?

“Triggering” is not a new concept, it’s just got a word, now. There are things that “trigger” me – movie gore for one – so I avoid them. And if I come across them, I look away or pause or exit…

…or stop reading!

Looking for thoughts/ opinions?

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MILK MAN 2 was disquieting, but that was by design. The concept of a man who exerts absolute control over a group of subs and demands their complete obedience and loyalty is disturbing, because it happens in the gay community. And “noodlesnbeef” didn’t start it. I’m sure we all have horror stories about abusive men we’ve encountered in one way or another. That somebody thought you had to have been involved with that cult masquerading as a polycule to be able to describe a similar situation so vividly speaks to a very limited frame of reference, and a serious lack of imagination.

MILK MAN and its sequel remind me a lot of Pollination, actually, because they are both stories that deal with a fantasy (Part 1) turning into a nightmare (Part 2).

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I absolutely wouldn’t change what I’m writing in this context, but I am a fan of content warnings so that people can make a decision about whether they’re in a place to engage with something rather than running into it unawares. So, if you aren’t already using them, maybe some common content warnings for stuff you suspect may be a problem?

The tags certainly help but they don’t cover everything.

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Yeah, I think this might be the only thing I would tack on. Like, if there’s something that isn’t covered by the tags, maybe through an author’s note on the front end as a brief warning. But you of all people shouldn’t feel compelled to censure what you write.

It’s weird and often hard to predict what will “trigger” certain readers and not others. For instance, just a few months ago, I wrote a competition story, “Band of Brothers in Blue”, that quite intentionally referenced real-life scenes of police brutality:
"As he bolted for the door, Captain Roberts and Lieutenant McCann tackled him to the ground. As he tried to wriggle free, Jimenez could feel their muscles bulging as they pinned him to the floor.

“Looks like we’ll have to do this the hard way!” McCann sneered as he tried to put Jimenez in a chokehold.

“Help!” Jimenez shouted to his fellow officers, “Please, somebody, help!”"

No one complained at all, and I got a lot of praise for how “hot” the story was. I actually have similar scenes of police brutality in several of my other stories, including “Musclehead: The Force.” And again, no complaints from readers!

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Though I’m guilty in my career of writing a fight scene or two, I usually don’t go for actual violence, usually the threat of violence. I wonder if, in MM2, the Bull had been defeated — which is bound to happen in MM3 (if such a thing ever got written) — would there have been those feelings from the reader.

Police violence is part of police — every cop show ever as evidence — and one should expect it in a cop story. (No one gets off on a ticket.)

I’m always surprised by reactions.

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I think part of the problem is that people recoil at the concept of villainous victory, and subconsciously associate an author making the villain win with the author thinking the villain was in the right.

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Have you read the first chapter of Cop A Feel? :stuck_out_tongue: Although, I suppose you could argue that it’s the lack of ticket that’s the turn-on there.

TL;DR version of the scene: a cop pulls a speeder over only to find out it’s his physiotherapist (and hypnotist). The two of them talk for a bit while the PT strokes the cop’s cock, then the cop lets the guy drive off, thinking it’s weird that he just let the guy go…but also extremely arousing.

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I’m just glad someone played off my pun! Thank you!!!

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So “triggering” is supposed to refer to things that set off PTSD or similar trauma responses. So a soldier who comes back from war could be triggered by loud noises (like fireworks) or a sexual assault victim by depictions of rape. People use it more broadly these days to mean something that makes them uncomfortable, so sometimes its hard to tell which is being referred to.

I think in most cases people who do have these triggers avoid these stories or otherwise manage them and you don’t hear from them because they never make any noise or let you know. In the case of hypnothrills story its very obviously about police and tagged as such, so people know to avoid it or click out as soon a it becomes obvious where its going.

It sounds like in this case these are stories or kinks that they really like, but are unable to go back to because of later real world context. Whether its because or trauma or just because it makes them uncomfortable, i couldn’t say. Honestly, I’m not sure it matters. They loved these stories you wrote years ago but can’t get the same enjoyment out of them anymore and it makes them sad. And unfortunately suspension of disbelief/ the ability to seperate fiction from reality varies from person to person and topic to topic.

If you really wanted to do something about it, i think the most you can do is add content warnings so people know ahead of time. Otherwise i think its just feeling sad that these people who love your writing can’t enjoy it because the real world sucks.

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Kudos to you @absman420 for showing some care. But let me put this to you: what are you going to do after you’re gone and new things come up which trigger readers? You’re not going to do anything about it. And you shouldn’t because: IT’S ALL UP TO THE READER TO UNDERSTAND THEIR OWN REACTIONS. If the reference wasn’t intentional, then it’s totally the reader’s issue. If it really upset people I might acknowledge the coincidence (because that’s exactly what it is), but I wouldn’t change.

Remember that story whose initial scene included the killing of an innocent dog? I tried reading that story 3 times and I just couldn’t get past that scene. After much feedback, the author acknowledged how uncomfortable it made people - but he didn’t change the story (and that is absolutely his right).

I would leave it. And I would be more conscious of caving into readers’ issues.

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I appreciate all the kind words. It’s not necessarily about right/wrong, justified/unjustified feelings, it’s the things that people choose to question.

I wrote BULLDAWG a few years ago and caught a lot of shit because I used a “real world” reference in it, in an attempt to heighten the horror. I think the reaction is totally justified – I really do. I shouldn’t have made the reference – not just because the shock value wasn’t worth it, but because it “dates” the piece. Upon reflection, I would probably change it – except it’s too late now. Once something is “published” on the internet, there’s no getting it back.

(Hell, I put POLLINATION: Book One through an editorial draft before I posted it here on the GSS, and people still reference stuff I’d cut that they’d found on other sites.)

I look at things I’ve created in the past – artistic works, shows, stories – and I’d love to reopen them and “fix” stuff – who wouldn’t? The lesson for me in writing POLL: Book Two was I could take something I didn’t like much and turn it into something I love.

@nycboot I agree with you that it’s the readers’ issue – I also agree that we have tags or content warnings (like on GSS and most other story collections sites I’m a part of) to help people know what they’re about to read. On the other hand, if you’re reading a mind-control story, you’re pretty much reading an non-consensual sex story. (I didn’t say the word “rape” because I know that can be a trigger.)

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I’m the guilty party when it comes to remembering things in the first publication of Pollination Book 1.

I wouldn’t go back and change Mimbo Drops 2 or any of your other works unless you want to. You write these stories first for you and then your audience. There are parts of life and history we can’t change in this world. We can learn from them so that we don’t repeat them. I know this is all fantasy and I can separate what’s real life. Who ever said we should believe everything we read on the internet. I treat this as an escape from real life.

Like the others I don’t want this to discouraged you from continuing. I remember another time you stepped away and I failed to encourage you to keep writing. But the old cliche says your car windshield is larger than your rear view mirror for a reason.

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I’m not discouraged at all! I’m just curious about people.

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I always find it a bit weird that something “triggers” you and that you apparently go a long way to get that triggering thing corrected in some way or the other. Especially on the internet, what’s stopping you from just clicking away? I can see that in a political context you could discuss stuff, but that goes for opinionating articles in newspapers and such, not for fantasy stories either published online or in physical form, erotic in nature or not.
I think we should be cautious that the line between the two doesn’t get too blurry in the first place. What’s not political shouldn’t become political.

Secondly, I find it a bit egocentric to just go around demanding that stuff that triggers you gets edited, but that might be besides the point here :wink:

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I’ve made this mistake in the past – I mentioned BULLDAWG where I referenced a “real world” event and it threw my audience out of the fantasy. I get that. My bad. (Also, as I noted, it ends up “dating” the work and tying it to a place and time. Stories should be universal.)

We learn by making mistakes – but I agree with you in that fantasy is fantasy and one should read it as such.

I’ll just say that the Iraq War reference is one of my favorite parts of “The Bulldawg Maker.” It succinctly explains the motivations behind this evil conspiracy, and it shakes the reader out of his tendency to simply fetishize military men (decontextualized from the wars they wage).

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I’m gonna frame that – that’s a phrase I hardly ever read about my writing.

I think there are some things getting a bit conflated here. In my opinion, there’s a line between triggering, horror/gore/discomfort, and cultural tone-deafnesss.

Triggering has been explained well in this thread. Sometimes a depiction is a bit “too real” and can trigger a reader’s past traumas.

Horror/gore/discomfort is when a depiction is simply very unsettling and some readers can’t stomach it. Think like the Saw films, or very creepy things. Or depictions of mutilation. Such depictions may also trigger a trauma response, especially for someone who has been exposed to such things IRL, or has strong associations of those things with their trauma. But just being “grossed out”, even to the extent of having nightmares, is not necessarily a traumatic triggering. (However, they could lead to chronic nightmares that can then develop over time into trauma. This is especially true for children who’s brains are less able to decontextualize dreams, hence why children are much more likely to have nightmare disorders than adults.)

Then there is cultural tone-deafness. A classic example is something that happened while making Lilo and Stich. There was originally going to be a scene in this children’s movie when a spaceship was going to be flying through a city, narrowly avoiding skyscrapers. Then, 9/11 happened shortly before release. They had to reanimate the scene to take place in a mountain range because releasing it right after 9/11 would have been horrendously tone-deaf. Another hypothetical example - imagine if Heathers came out right after the Columbine shootings. As a viewer, I can enjoy Heathers because I know it came out during a time before such notorious mass school shootings, but without that context, the movie would read different - it would read as unaware and tone deaf.

Now, cultural tone-deafness can be triggering for victims of the referenced/related traumatic events. And, they can also be triggering if they are related to a significant cultural/chronic trauma. For example, some psychologists say that simply being a member of an oppressed minority group can lead to PTSD even if you are never the direct victim of abuse. I think a good example here for GSS is how many of us probably can be triggered by the topic of conversion therapy - even if we did not personally experience conversion therapy. The topic can trigger us into re-experiencing all sorts of trauma we might have experienced as gay men in an oppressive society. This would be especially true if, say, a straight writer used conversion therapy as a plot device, and was obviously unaware of the deep traumatic roots this topic has - such tone-deafness reminds us of all the other ways we are culturally erased.

Anyway, I think that having a scene where a police officer specifically kneels on someone’s neck can be perceived as cultural tone-deafness (which can lead to triggering), especially without the context that it was written years ago. Since you wrote it at a different time, the reader can probably tell that you wrote it without being aware of current events (since you literally were not, as the events had not happened). It might read like someone watching Heathers for the first time right after Columbine or Parkland, without being aware that it was written earlier. That context is very important.

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This whole discussion inspired me to reread “Mimbo Drops 2.” And I’m struck by how well-written a story it is, but also how it’s unlikely that any of us (Absman included) would write a story quite like it in 2020. It’s narrated by Officer Bautista (in the form of an incident report), and he’s not only brutal in his policing methods, he’s homophobic enough to write things like “this officer finds homosexual behavior both deviant and disgusting” and to repeatedly berate Miller as a “faggot.”

Again, I think it’s excellent writing, because it creates a vivid, believable character (which helps ground the story in reality even though it’s about a magic muscle growth potion that also turns straight men into insatiable gay sluts). But there’s plenty of material in there that would go against the sensitivities and sensibilities of a large portion of GSS’s 2020 readership.

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