Friday, November 22, 2013

Phallic Friday - triggers

I've been thinking about 'triggers' lately because I realise that I don't seem to have them.

By 'triggers' I mean a sensitivity to a topic that can make you react in a specific (often hostile or emotional) way. From the free dictionary, it's defined as "anything, as an act or event, that initiates or precipitates a reaction or series of reactions."

In erotic writing, there seems to be many triggers (e.g. a particular sex act, rape, sexual violence, BDSM, a phrase) that people (readers) may/will react to. And maybe it's because erotic writing walks a fine line between being open, and opening up wounds for people.

There have been a couple of questions on Facebook about triggers, and I've read a few reviews that alerted people to triggers before they reviewed a story. And both of these things have made me realise, I don't have triggers.

In fact, I wasn't consciously aware that these things could cause a lot of angst and issue. Of course I knew that some topics may upset people. Of course I knew that people who had had bad experiences would not like to read about such experiences, especially if they were done incorrectly/lightly/not dealt with properly.

What I didn't understand was how it can affect someone's reading experience, their day/week, and their impression of you as a person. Which is rather naive of me. Incredibly naive really.

It was a while ago, but I was speaking to another erotic writer, and she made me think about my story from a reader's perspective. I was a bit stunned. I write my stories for me, what I want to read - that's the advice you get when you start writing. But as you develop, you need to think of your story from a readers' perspective...and for me, that's difficult.

I don't have triggers...well, none that I'm aware of. It gets me into trouble - a lot - in my life, not my writing (or not yet, anyhow). I'm a bit too clinical, interested in the 'why' and not so concerned about how someone feels. I've upset my sisters many times by not showing enough care, because I didn't understand how deeply a topic affected them. It's not that I don't care, it's just that I want to understand why they feel this way, why it's such an issue, why it bothers them. And, you know, people would much rather have sympathy than explain themselves - and I get that, I do. But I'm a writer and a scientist and I want to know the nitty gritty. I'm sorry, but that burning need to know overwhelms me at times, and I forget to be sympathetic and caring and loving.

So for all the people with triggers, I'm sorry if I don't handle something correctly. If you'd like to explain what I've done wrong, I'm more than happy to learn.


  1. I'm with you on this one Cate. I can't think of much that I wouldn't read on account of it triggering my own bad experience.
    Reading is so subjective. I know you've read The Yearning. I know you loved it. I loved it too. But I leant my copy to my mother & my aunt (mum's sister). My mum made it to page 20 and my aunt to page 44, and they couldn't go on. They said it didn't interest them.
    Now possibly - mum was a teacher, and she might have had difficulty with the concept of a teacher & a student, and the student being in love with him. I don't know. So possibly - those type of experiences (e.g. your career etc) may also be a trigger?
    Interesting post - as always!

    Lily M

    1. Hey Lily,

      I've encouraged 3 men to read The Yearning. 2 loved it and had similar reactions to me about it (dad and a friend). Mr E couldn't understand why anyone would like it and thought there was too much sex in it!! (You can see why he doesn't read my stories, huh?).

      It is so very subjective.

      I guess as a teacher, maybe it does hit too close to home. It is rather confronting. As my Dad said, you want to be Solomon, yet you're repulsed by him at the same time.

      Thanks for commenting.
      Cate xox

  2. I have to admit, while rape is not a 'trigger' for me or something that has happened to me, I won't touch a novel with rape in it. I guess I don't consider rape to be entertainment.

    1. Hi Rhyll,
      I agree that rape isn't entertainment. I don't know that I'd consider writing that either.

      Having said that, in my teenage years I read a book (name and author unknown, but I remember the cover had an embossed silver goanna) that had a rape scene that had such a powerful effect on me. It was probably the first graphic sex scene I'd ever read. I can still vividly remember the scene and my reaction of almost overheating. Wish I knew what it was to see if it really was that good - I somehow doubt it was. And the book ended up in the incinerator when I gave it to dad to read - although he has no memory of the book or incident. Maybe I dreamed it all!

      Thanks for your thoughts.

      Cate xo