I almost never use that warning. Chose Not To Warn.
I’ve considered it, though. I’ve had a few experiences where I wrote something, devoted a lot of thought to the tags, pointed out everything I thought could be problematic, and still wound up with a nastygram in my inbox because something triggered someone, something I’d thought was pretty well-explained within the text (drug use, but it was a prescription drug taken as prescribed; noncon, but it was consensual, just one of the characters had a drink to fortify himself before he went for it; underage, but both characters were of legally consenting age in the relevant jurisdiction and I just hadn’t specified enough, I guess?)
There have been a couple where people weren’t mad about it, but let me know that I triggered them severely, because I described something really vivid that happened to be something they’d experienced. But it was so specific– I’d put on a general warning, but short of having summarized the fic in detail there’d be no way to realize– even then, it was a descriptive detail I’d used that gave them a flashback, in one case, and they wouldn’t have known to brace for it, and I certainly wouldn’t have known to warn for it. It’s not possible; some triggers are so idiosyncratic, that if you just tell a vivid story, you’re going to risk setting someone off.
And even if the person wasn’t mad at you, it’s still upsetting. You tried your best, but you still upset someone, and that doesn’t feel good.
I write pretty straightforward stuff; I’m kink-adjacent, but not really very kinky, and my shit is generally pretty vanilla; I go in more for emotional self-torture than anything else, and it’s usually pretty obvious that I’m gonna fall short of the dark side of fic, even in the darkest stuff I publish.
And even I sometimes have trouble tagging my stuff. I’m a person without any triggers, but with some pretty serious squicks, so I get how serious it is, but just enough really to understand that there’s a lot I don’t know.
If I wrote more complex stuff, I’d probably use the CNTW tag. Like, I can’t guarantee that I’m going to get everything tagged correctly. Proceed with caution. I’d prefer a wider audience, so I’m gonna try to use the archive warnings and tag as specifically as I can, but it gets to a point, sometimes, where you’re just sure you’re going to miss something, or you’re just not sure how to tag it.
That’s why the CNTW tag even exists. That, and some people just don’t really understand the warnings system. If you haven’t spent eight years on Tumblr reading the various discourses, if you haven’t had much experience reading up on how fandom specifically handles this shit, if you’ve never been to therapy and you’re not entirely sure what any of that means, how the hell are you going to know how to properly tag your shit?
That’s why that option exists. Some stuff, you can’t warn for. Other stuff, you don’t know how to warn for. CNTW is a big general-purpose warning flag. If you are the sort of person who’s going to be triggered by something, if you’re someone whose entire day could be ruined by an untagged major character death, if you’re someone who’s going to go into a horrible anxiety spiral over something too vivid, then please, for the love of God, take care of yourself, and steer away.
It’s not a “fuck off, we’re too good for your kind here.” It’s a “I’m so sorry, we don’t know how not to hurt you, and we want you to be safe.” Maybe it’s a “we don’t understand you,” or maybe it’s a “we have to take care of ourselves and the way we do that is by creating painfully cathartic content that we know hurts other people but our own compass for that shit is so broken we don’t know how to tag it anymore”, but either way, it is a big, bright, sparkly “this is not a safe space!” neon sign, and it is really important, and it is there on purpose, and it is there so you can take care of yourself.
You can take care of yourself. And that is really the only way to guarantee a safe space: giving you the tools you need to make it safe for you. That’s what all warnings are, what all tags are. But you need to use them. You need to curate your own experience. You need to understand that other people have vastly different requirements from their fictional escapes than you do. You need to arm yourself. You need to empower yourself.
That’s how it works.
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