The Gentle Art of Making Enemies – or Why Content Warnings are Stupid.

I want to spend a little time talking about something I feel strongly against – CONTENT WARNINGS. To understand why I think they’re so fucking stupid, you have to understand the world I grew up in. I grew up during the Satanic panic, during a dark age where Dungeons and Dragons was considered a gateway drug into the occult, and metal music was under attack by the government by Tipper Gore and conservative Christians. Back then, artist literally had to fight for their right at freedom of expression, to battle against the rising tide of censorship and artistic suppression.

And then came the ‘parental advisory’ stickers on albums that hindered sales of particular music groups for their rebellious messaging – not just in metal, but in rap as well and other music genres. Artist were watched and warned about what they could say and do by government and society at large – which prompted a lot of artists to give a big fat finger to the establishment and push boundaries even further than what they were already doing.

Movies, music, and books challenged readers and the establishment, leaving nothing off the table. And moving into the 90’s, norms were challenged. Where Rage Against the Machine screamed, “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me,” To doing exactly what they told them.

And then something happened in recent years as the younger generation stopped fighting the system and became PART of it. We have a generation of people out there that are weak minded – who need everything around them wrapped in bubble tape and pillows, and demand trigger warnings and safe spaces! What a fucking joke.

These same people now go into OUR spaces and demand us to take the knee to their demands – and if you refuse, you are a bigot or racist. You are the villain. The mental fortitude of these idiots, these Twitter hate mobs, is juvenile and shows our country is ultimately doomed.  

Recently, I was part of a horror panel with some established authors. We were asked our views on content warnings, and seeing as we are part of the horror community – you know the community supposed to horrify and push boundaries – I thought we’d all agree that content warnings were bullshit. Boy was I wrong. Over the course of the next few minutes, these writers talked highly of content warnings, talking about how great they were and how necessary.

My mind was blown.

Eventually, I asked them, “Do you have a content warning in your current book?”

They all said no.

“Are you going to use them in your next book?”

They all said no.

Again, I was confused. Forget about the writer who went on to talk about content warnings being linked to white privilege, but the fact that these guys argued so strongly for them and yet refused to use them! Just remember, content warnings spoil parts of the story and can be used against an author. What if you put a content warning of ‘animal cruelty.’ What if Amazon one day says they will no longer sell any books with ‘animal cruelty’ in it – guess what that means – your book is fucking dead.

Let me tell you why content warnings are stupid. But before I do, if you want to use them, I got no beef with that – shit, it’s a fucking free country – knock yourself out! I just won’t and I’m not afraid to say that – fuck content warnings!

I’ll tell you why.

First, you don’t need them. On the back of your book is something called a blurb – which is a short summary of what your book is about. A potential reader can read that, like watching a movie trailer, and see if the book interests them. If there is anything hinted at that might ‘trigger’ them, they put the book down and go find something else.

Simple.

Second, they can read the first couple of pages. You can tell a lot from just that – tone, language, characters, plot, setting, etc.

Third – if you come to a point in a book that makes you uncomfortable – STOP READING IT. Take some individual responsibility and put the book down and walk away! There have been a ton of things I’ve come across in books that have made me uncomfortable and I have to choose to continue reading it or stop, like the underage gangbang in Stephen King’s ‘It.’

Finally, look at the cover of the book and title. So many hints there, that’s why erotica always has have barely dressed hunk on the cover with their muscles bulging as they go in for a kiss of some sexually clad female. You know if you buy that book, you’re going to read about a lot of fucking. Readers have to use some damn common sense, especially when getting into the horror genre.

You have to remember, everyone has their own personal issues, and as a writer, I don’t know YOU. What triggers you won’t trigger someone else. You, as the consumer, have to take it upon yourself to read or not read something based on your own flaws, traumas, etc.

And in the horror genre, if you can’t take death, gore, and depressing topics – don’t read it! I’m sorry, but my job as a writer is to make you uncomfortable, to scare and terrify! Don’t come to me after I scare the shit out of you complaining you weren’t warned that the dog dies on page 58 and the main character gets raped on page 100 before she comes back for revenge on the bastards on page 144 and kills them all with a spiked dildo!

This current generation needs to grow a pair of balls! Again, as a writer, my job is not to hold your hand – my job is to grab it and slam it down on a hot stove until your flesh blisters and burns. And if I hurt you, good, that means I did my job.

I remember when I was a student, I took a writing class where my story caused the teacher, a third wave feminist Nazi, to lose her collective shit. For 45 minutes in class, she ripped apart the story and called me all sorts of names. When the class ended, she asked me to remain behind so she could talk to me – turns out my story opened old wounds and made her remember her abusive husband. She claimed she had planned to come to class to talk about how powerful and brilliant my story was, but instead attacked me because of the strong emotion the story produced.

That’s power.

That’s my job.

That’s what makes a good fucking writer.

So, in the end, content warnings are bullshit and not needed. If you want to use them, feel free – but I never will. And if that means you will never buy my book, that’s fine with me, because maybe my book isn’t for you. But I promise you this – I will give you the best story I can produce with all the twists and turns, mayhem, gore, and violence you expect from a horror novel. You know why, because that’s my job. And I love my fucking job.

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