Content warnings

Photo by Tyler B on Unsplash

Content Warning: Cancer – A discussion about whether blog posts mentioning my breast cancer diagnosis should contain content warnings.

Recently I’ve been a bit irritated by the hashtags a friend of mine uses every day on her instagram posts. These in turn a reposted on facebook and if you subscribe, to her YouTube account. This friend follows a pretty extreme diet, which she believes has helped her remission from stage 4 cancer. The first 3 or 4 hashtags have the word cancer in them. She looks fantastic and whether the diet is responsible or not, I am of course happy that she is so well. I don’t want to be the one to ask her to move the cancer related hashtags down the list (there’s usually about 20), but I do feel somewhat triggered. This got me thinking about content warnings on my blog.

Supporting evidence for content warnings

The Sex Bloggers for Mental Health site has this week reiterated the importance of using content warnings for posts where readers may find difficult to read or traumatic. Posts which could trigger trauma or PTSD. One of the subjects mentioned is cancer. The post there was originally written and posted on Melody’s blog by SwirlingFire. Indeed I only read that this week and have commented.

So, my question to myself and others if you care to respond is: Should I put content warnings on my posts about cancer? Also, should I do this retrospectively with what is already posted. Lets face it I have been very open and honest about my breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. Plus the body image issues it presents me with.

What’s more, this week a post was retweeted (my old post revived widget posts directly to twitter) and a fellow blogger didn’t realise it was an old post. This made me wonder if I should go back through old posts and label them so that it’s clear that they are old. Or else should I actually remove them from the posts that are revived?

Up until now I’ve never put a content warning on anything

I’ve always been of the opinion that when people read my blog they know what they are getting. I make it clear that I am a slave and have a master. Also that we participate in BDSM activities. I try to be careful about consent issues and don’t really write about non consent. Even though our relationship is based on power exchange / CNC. But perhaps I need to be more careful there too.

It’s easy to be blasé about this issue. Until it happens to you and I guess that is exactly what has happened. Thoughts welcome please.

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20 Replies to “Content warnings”

  1. I think it is great that you are so open about your breast cancer and I am sure your posts will help others. I think content warning is good. I see content warnings as positive things and you give people a choice. For many choice was taken away and I believe in giving people control back. I was raped and I can read people’s experience around the situation but I don’t want to read a story about it.

    I hope you receive opinions of other and make a decision that makes you happy xx

  2. Julie, I know you read the #sb4mh posts and then found Swirly’s post. Involved as I am with both, I’m really glad you’ve engaged with what can be a delicate discussion.

    In many ways I am personally lucky in that I can read pretty much anything, a useful attribute being involved with #sb4mh. But I am aware of, and have discussions with people who need some idea of what they are about to read before deciding to read it. I also know that what they can’t read today, they may be able to read tomorrow. If they’ve been able to make an informed choice today not to read, then they are more likely to come back tomorrow.

    If they’ve had a bad experience by the time they get halfway down a troubling post then they are less likely to come back at all.

    I tend to agree that people who come specifically to your blog know who you are and what you are likely to write about. The more ambiguous area is when a post is linked to a prompt. This is a great way of encouraging readers who don’t know the poster to read work from someone different.

    Personally, I am more liable to think about a CN / CW for things I link to a prompt compared to something that’s published on the blog.

    Auto promoted old posts are a more thorny issue. People pick them up from your Twitter feed, so to a degree fall into the category of people who know what you might right about. But filtering through a fresh understanding of what can be troubling obviously makes you wonder.

    Going back through a whole posting history is not really on. If it was me, I’d wait to see what the widget pushed out as a tweet and then consider whether to do a quick update edit.

    Thank you for the engagement. 🌹🌹

    1. Thanks Melody, I hadn’t thought about the prompt posts, but yes that makes good sense. I’ll give it some serious thought, especially as I plan to up my fiction output. xx

  3. I don’t do content warnings unless I feel that what I’ve written is especially “out of the norm” for me…rape, suicide, or intense BDSM. Otherwise, I agree…if someone reads your blog, they know what they are getting. Of course, someone new could come along and not know. But, I am of the mind that we cannot try to avoid offending all others all of the time or we’d never get any writing done. Maybe I’m a little old school, but people can be triggered by so many things, I can’t possibly keep up with all the content warnings I’d have to bestow upon my posts. Maybe you could do a static landing page where you explain your topics upfront…as sort of a blanket content warning? Just a thought.

    1. I do plan a static page in my blog update this year so I’ll think about that. I think I’ll add something to the pages that exist meantime. Thanks for commenting xx

  4. I don’t do content warnings often, if someone is triggered by graphic descriptions of BDSM they really have no business on my blog at all, I don’t force anyone to click on my links, whatever happened to personal accountability and user discretion. I personally get triggered by things that are probably not typical(face-slapping for example), but I realize that it’s not the fault of the poster but my own issues.

    1. Yes, same here re: weird stuff to be triggered by. People find my site through slave, CNC stuff so, I agree. Thank you

  5. I try to use content warnings when talking about difficult subjects, although I must admit that when I read through the #sb4mh content warning list I wouldn’t think to put warnings for all those topics. I typically use them when I talk about weight issues and rape.

    I think that when people come to your website it is clear what the topic of the site is about. I mean, it’s kind of even in the name of your blog. But maybe you can put a warning on the more intense stories or just a general warning that your blog contains CNC and BDSM scenarios.

    As for older blog posts, I wouldn’t go back and put trigger warnings on them. That’s just not feasible.

  6. bullet points because my head is a bit foggy but I do have thoughts on this:

    CW are nice to haves, not requirements.
    you are not required to provide them just as people aren’t required to read your work
    you’re transparent, as you mentioned, about the topics you cover
    retroactive tags sounds like so much more work than it’s worth
    maybe try using a CW and see how it feels
    examine (and maybe you already have) why the idea rubs you wrong or why your friends tags bug you. I think you’re entitled to however you feel but the point above that they are like little gifts to readers is nice
    adding them won’t compromise or change the meaning if your words or experiences
    your blog, your rules. Always.

    Xo

  7. I am a breast cancer survivor who was diagnosed in 2006 and have endured numerous reconstruction surgeries. In retrospect, every time I look in the mirror and see my scars, it is a daily reminder.
    I have had many years to reconcile my feelings, and we all heal in our own time and way. For me I have never viewed others experiences, voices, photos as a Trigger, my Trigger is getting the notification in the mail from the radiologist my yearly mammo, sono, mri is due for rescheduling, which coincidentally was yesterday.
    If something in a blog is not what I want to read or see, i scroll past. It’s the same as in changing a channel on a tv, not in my taste, i Don’t watch it.
    If you feel you need to put hashtags going forward, you do you, there is no need to go back in my opinion.

    1. Thank you, I really value your response and am the same re: scars etc. As I mentioned in my post I am triggered by my friends posts, but know that she is doing what she does for a good reason and I don’t feel inclined to intervene. Certainly lots to consider.

  8. Well, when SB4MH posted their request I went to the posts I have linked to SB4MH and where I have talked about suicide or childhood trauma, out of respect for those who run the meme, I added a pop up CW, but, left to my own devices I would not.

    We each of us have endured one trauma or another and I believe it is impossible to warn against every single potential trigger or even understand what they may be to every potential reader.

    I also think there can be an abuse of content warnings. For example, if a post contains a warning that it contains extreme violence, it will undoubtedly attract an audience who have “searched” for “content warning”. In the same way that the tag NSFW is popular.

    Perhaps I am cynical? I don’t know, but I will continue as I always have, and write on my blog about the topics I need and want to, respecting the guidelines of the prompts I join.

    Of course I hope no one has a negative reaction to anything on my blog but that is out of my control. I have had bad reactions to the fictional stories of someone having secret sex being their partners back but I would not expect a content warning for infidelity…… these things can simply go too far!

    So there you go, my thoughts on content warnings, 😊

    Sweetgirl x

    1. Thanks. I agree, it is probably fiction that is the biggest issue. I’ll definitely think about putting a CW for stories. I also think you are right about people finding you from the warnings. My top search terms relate to CNC. xx

  9. I read this post without whale because it was clear from the title what you were discussing.

    If the title was unclear to anyone then your “please discuss” attitude came through just fine.

    Honestly though, when “CW” is the first thing I see on a blog post, I just don’t bother. It doesn’t matter to me what the warning is about; if it’s the first thing I see, it makes me not want to read.

    If, however, the content warning comes after the introduction paragraph – after I am already interested in continuing – THAT is when it feels like, “Oh, okay. This author wants me to make an informed decision about continuing. That’s nice.” THAT, I like.

    Like if, after your first paragraph, I read something like “The following discussion mentions my response to triggering material as a cancer survivor.” Like an aside, from which I can continue the flow of my reading uninterrupted.

    Brief, to the point. I’ve read your intro and now you’ve cautioned me; you’ve done due diligence and I can choose – and be fully responsible for that choice – to read on or not, as I please.

    Of course, I also take the time to read the ‘About’ page for folks I choose to follow — I want to know what I might be getting into, and that page should tell me enough to make an informed decision.

    Another thing I’ve seen people do to give a heads-up on content – something that’s quick and simple – is the use of brackets before the title. If, for example, I see something like [Breast Cancer] Reconstructive Surgery… If that’s the title, then those brackets are my warning. It’s very clear that the post is related to breast cancer (as opposed to reconstructive dental surgery or cosmetic surgery of another kind) and that’s all I need as a reader. No further action required.

    For me personally, I find photographs to be triggering. Marks that others find sexy – especially deep bruising (from consensual BDSM activities) – call up terrible memories for me. It doesn’t matter that intellectually I understand that those marks are not the result of abuse. Because my personal experience of marks like that is traumatically linked to the experience of abuse.

    Is that the poster’s intent? To cause me to have an uncomfortable experience? No, probably not. But I make a mental note that future visits to that blog will be undertaken with extreme caution. (Or not at all.)

    I assume the same is true for people in general when it comes to their blogging experience, whatever their triggers (or lack thereof) may be.

    As for your blog specifically, I will read here regardless of what you post, and regardless of whether those posts come with warnings. You’re very straightforward and matter-of-fact in your writing, and when it comes to writing about your experience with breast cancer, you’re very down-to-business about providing valuable information to this community.

    So please: you keep doing You. With or without extra notices, as you please. 🙂

    I’ll still be reading along.

  10. This is always an interesting discussion for me, because as a reader I have no desire for any type of content warning or note, but as a blogger I have used them, multiple times and will continue to do so when I know it’s a topic that is widely known to be difficult for some people to read. I also do it if I know I’m discussing some that is intensely emotional and those currently or recently having experienced similar may well be in a position where reading wouldn’t serve them well.

    While I agree it’s impossible to warn every single person about potential triggers because everyone has their own specific experiences that might cause them trouble, I think that overall we ALL know the main areas where people struggle and it’s those topics I try to be mindful of. For example most people coming to my blog probably don’t need a content warning for sexual content and won’t get one, because it’s what I do, but when I write about my termination and baby loss, I’m totally giving folks a heads up about that.

    I don’t judge anyone for not using CW’s, it’s entirely their choice, I do however think using them can be a kind thing to do for our readers on occasion. It honestly makes very little difference to my blogging experience to include them.

    At the end of the day I think its personal choice and only you can decide where you fall on this issues, I’ll be honest thought and say I’ve never really felt like your blog was one where the content has made me go ‘ooh wow, they could maybe have let people know about that being included’.

    x

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