Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Fanfic Has Ruined Me, or Books Should Come with Kink Listings & Trigger Warnings

a/k/a: More than most of you *ever* wanted to know about fanfic

*Note: This post is being written under the influence of frappucino. You've been warned.

So in the fanfic world it is generally considered polite (read: required), though not everyone does it, to include kink tags and warnings on your fics if any apply. There are plenty of fics to which none of this applies of course, but if you *do* write fic that contains kinks which might squick (turn people off) or interest people, you list them. It's partially how people find fics that they want to read and how people know which fics that they don't want to read. With any other content that is not necessarily sexual in nature but might trigger someone reading it, you list it as a 'Warning'.

For example, a kink listing could be: D/s, possessiveness, biting, bondage. Or it could be something as 'benign' as 'sleepy sex on the deck'. It doesn't have to necessarily be something that the majority of people find 'kinky' because as I said, it's basically used as a way to know if you're going to be interested in the action inside of the fic or not.

Warnings are a little bit more important. There are some things that should be warned for automatically. Things that could trigger a bad reaction in people reading the fic. For example: rape, incest, dubious consent, character death, suicide or suicidal thoughts/ideation, violence, eating disorders (anorexia, bulemia, etc.), mental illness, abuse, kidnapping.... The list could go on and on. But I think you get the idea, right? Things that a person could have issues with. As a real life example, my home town was hit by a hurricane several years ago. I was here for it and it was bad. We were personally lucky - though there was damage to our house, we still had a house standing and most of a roof afterward. Many of our neighbors weren't so lucky, and some people died. For a good while after the hurricane, I was unable to watch anything on television portraying catastrophic storms without feeling nauseated and anxious in a way that I hadn't felt before the hurricane hit us. So I wound up turning those shows off until they no longer caused that reaction in me.

Okay then. These things are, as I said, considered basic courtesy at the least, absolute required etiquette at the most in the fanfic world. (There are, of course, people who don't realize this, or miss listing something. There's not really a handbook and people have to learn by observing and interacting.)

No such rules apply in books. So you can pick up a book and have no idea that there might be something in there that will squick you or trigger you. And I think that that's kind of...not shitty, but I think it's something that maybe the mainstream, the 'norms', can learn from us and adapt. I came to this realization while reading a book last night. It's called 'A Private Hunger' by Sean Michaels and it's m/m story.

This is the back of the book blurb, which is really what most people use to decide whether they want to pick up the book or not. That and the cover:

"Matthew is taking a break before going to university, working at a cafe in Seattle. He's expecting to spend a few months meeting people, having fun and generally living it up before hitting the books. Then he meets Drakon, a passionate, masculine man with an animal magnetism that draws Matthew in. When Drakon offers Matt a job, he thinks the man is full of shit. But it soon turns out to be an offer he can't refuse. As Matthew moves in with Drakon on his country estate, he slowly finds himself cut off from the world. He begins to wonder if that animal magnetism is more literal than figurative and he thinks maybe Dragon would be a better name for his new lover. His only friend seems to be Drakon's butler, Wetthers, an old man with a gentle demeanor and a sympathetic ear. But even Wetthers can't save him from the near-obsessive need he has for Drakon, or from the danger that lurks right on the edge of his new life. Soon, Matt begins to wonder if he'll ever have the will to tell Drakon no. About anything. Will Matthew stay with the man he's growing to love once he discovers Drakon's long-lived, carefully guarded secret?"

Typical romance novel schpiel, essentially. Here's the thing. I'm...*checks* 66 pages into the book and if this was fanfic it would need so *many* kink listings and warnings.

The blurb is actually kind of misleading, in a way. When I read it, I came away with the impression that Matthew eventually takes Drakon's offer of employment and that their romance builds from there. What *actually* happens is that Matthew turns down Drakon (a totally random stranger who walks up to him and says, 'come work for me!' within two seconds of meeting him), then just happens to get beat up where Drakon finds and rescues him. Actually, that's pretty standard romance novel too, the fortuitous rescue. Where it gets kink and warning worthy is when Drakon takes Matthew home, keeps him drugged unconscious 'for his own good' while he heals, and then manipulates him into staying every time he tries to leave to get back to his life. There's also the part where Drakon keeps thinking that if Matthew actually tries to leave he's going to have to *eat him*. And not in the fun way people. Not in the fun way. And how something Drakon does keeps somehow overwriting what Matthew intends to do and makes him forget why he wants to do it in the first place.

I'm not saying it's a good book, mind you. I'm not too impressed with it at this point, but I'm not even half way through it. But for the love of god, this book needs warnings and a freaking kink listing. Abduction, drugging, dubious consent at best, manipulation. Creeper behavior in an (admittedly) non human character. Possessiveness. Animalistic behavior. There's probably going to be some BDSM at some point, I'm sure.

Happily, none of these things are triggery for me. But what about the people for whom they are? Reviews don't mention these things. It's not on the blurb. I think that people deserve to be warned, that they deserve to have the option to see what they're getting into and know if they want to read about that kind of kink or not.

So, yeah. TLDR: Books should come with kink listings and trigger warnings.

ETA: And the book just keeps getting worse. Let's add stalking and controlling behavior to the list. *headdesk*


  1. ha you are so right, why donk they do that on books...

    I read part of the lovely bones then couldnt go any further, I am obviously talking about the rape part. that was it. enough.

    and you also feel so cheated after paying for the book. grr

  2. dont not donk! lol

    also I can take anything that isnt real. witches, weres vampires.

    anything that could be real and close to the knuckle I dont like, if it is violent in any way

    1. It probably says something about me that reading about rape or violence or a whole slew of other things doesn't bother me in the least. So the warnings aren't for me so much as they are for the rest of humanity. :) I'm honestly more likely to be attracted to books with certain warnings.

      But your situation with The Lovely Bones is one of those that I was thinking of. It's not just the money, but some people have a very bad reaction to seeing or reading about portrayals of things like that and I think that they should be warned ahead of time, so they know and can either choose not to read it at all or know to be cautious.

    2. "It probably says something about me that reading about rape or violence or a whole slew of other things doesn't bother me in the least. So the warnings aren't for me so much as they are for the rest of humanity. :) I'm honestly more likely to be attracted to books with certain warnings."

      Erm yeah... Me too.

  3. Oh look, a new book for my list! :)

    And yes, trigger warnings and kinks would be good things to add to cover blurbs. Publishers should spend more time on fan communities and learn this sort of thing.

    1. If you mean a new book for your to be read list? I wouldn't bother. It's nothing special. The plot is non existent and the sex isn't that good either. Mostly I just sat back and thought of how good the book could have been but wasn't.

    2. Aw. :( But the description sounds so fun! And also, dragon! Good to know, though. :) I'll probably find it and read a chapter or two in the store to decide if I like it.

    3. And that's why I had to warn you! It could have been so good! But then it failed to be that good. It's very sad.

  4. Heh, I guess it says something about me that it wasn't through fanfic that I learnt about kink lists. That's all we'll say about that.

    For trigger warnings I find that the feminist blogosphere is really good at that.

    1. :) To be fair, I was reading fanfic at a very young and impressionable age. Way before I would have been able to learn about kink lists any other way.

      That does seem like something that the feminist blogs would be good about, but I don't think that people should have to be restricted to that path to find out if a book is going to be triggery. How many people actually look at a book and think, 'Oh, I need to check with Feminist-world before I read this.' Not very many would be my guess.

      *Feminist-world is not a real thing, to my knowledge. And if it is, I'm not referring to the real thing.

  5. They really should add warnings and kink lists to books, I agree


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