The Not-So-Great Trigger Debate

Plenty of people in the BDSM community have triggers.  To be clear, I’m not talking about things that make them uncomfortable or squick them out; I’m talking about things that put them in a really bad place, things that may require removing themselves from the situation and/or emotional care.  Heavy things.  Many of these triggers involve a past traumatic experience of some sort.

What baffles me is when people try to place responsibility for avoiding their triggers on other people.  It may not be any fault of your own that you have that trigger, but now that you do have it, it’s yours.  Just like a medical condition, it’s up to you to take care of yourself by whatever means necessary.  If you’re diabetic, it’s up to you to eat right, check your sugar, and take your insulin.

This is one reason I find the call for people to announce trigger warnings at the beginning of every scene preposterous.  I’m sorry that you have that trigger, but I’m not going to tiptoe around you.  You came to a BDSM event knowing that people will be engaging in BDSM there.  If certain types of BDSM trigger you, then you have the decision to either skip the event or risk being triggered.  (Obviously if you’re unaware that you have a certain trigger, that’s different.)  When you willingly walk into an area knowing that people are doing things there that could trigger you, you’re making a choice.

People aren’t going to stop their scenes to announce it every time they’re about to break out a different toy or move on to a different form of play.  And announcing what types of play they may be doing at the beginning of the scene won’t do any good; only those present for that announcement will know.  What about the others who walk into the playspace after that announcement was made?

On top of that, there are so many triggers that it’s impossible to avoid them all.  People may be triggered by knives, littles (especially if it’s sexual in nature) face-slapping, choking, the top raising their voice, resistance play, blood, punching, sex, using certain words, tears, or any number of other things which are incredibly common at BDSM events.  Lots of people have triggers.  Some have more than one.  Now multiply that by all the people at the event, each with their own individual triggers.  How can you avoid them all?

I only have one trigger that I’m aware of.  It doesn’t hit me every time I run into it, but when it does, it can knock me out of action for the night or longer.  My trigger is a fairly common thing at many events, so it would be unrealistic to ask everyone to avoid this one thing while I’m around.  I take the more reasonable approach of taking care of myself.  I avoid certain events.  Other times I may leave early.  Or step outside for a while to remove myself from the situation.  Or grab someone I trust and find someplace private.  My well-being is my responsibility.  Trying to foist it on other people as if it were their problem would be rude.

One reason people come to these events is because they may not be able to engage in these forms of play at home for whatever reason.  Maybe they have kids in the house or are taking care of an elderly parent.  They could have thin walls in their apartment.  They may live in a dorm or barracks.  Requiring them to act as if their Grandma was in the room at an event would only drive them away.  People go to cut loose.  To do all the filthy, pervy BDSMy stuff that we do.

When you walk into a BDSM event, you’re aware that you’re likely to see and hear all sorts of extreme things.  There is no need for a walled-off “trigger zone” since nearly every scene would be required to happen in there.  The entire playspace is that “trigger zone”.  If you’re not ok with that, you don’t have to go in.  (Alternately, setting up a private party of your own with certain types of play being off-limits is an option.)  However, requiring a bunch of random strangers to conform to your requirements at a public event which you choose to attend is not going to be met well.

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