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See also: warning, squick
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Triggers are things that cause a strong, heavy emotional response in a person. These usually occur after something traumatic has happened to them. The term is commonly used in the parts of fandom that produce and consume fanworks.

Triggering material has the potential to remind a person of a traumatic event. [1] Some common triggers include sexual assault, abuse, self-harm, and addiction. Visual media such as vids and animated gifs may also require warning for physical triggers. Quick cuts and flashing lights, for instance, may trigger migraine headaches.

Some people appear to think that a trigger is simply something that one dislikes or is squicked by.

Triggers and trigger warnings can be a controversial topic. (People who don't warn, people who demand warnings the author doesn't agree with, people who don't believe in triggers, people who don't want to be responsible for another person's mental well-being, "how do you survive in the real world if you're such a delicate snowflake," the misuse of the term, etc.)

In response, some fans include a warning policy on their journals or archives stating what, if anything, they warn for. Some authors who don't include warnings invite potential readers to contact them directly for more detailed information about a story if they are concerned about potentially triggering content.

History in Fandom

When the concept of triggers entered media fandom is not clear. Some fanzines would often provide brief summaries of stories and if there were any death stories, the publishers would sometimes identify them in ad listings or flyers. Adult material usually required an age statement. Go to the warnings section for an in depth discussion the history of warnings in fandom.

In 2000, fans on mailing lists were discussing triggers and how to alert readers to possible triggering content.

"I tend to argue passionately in favor of no warnings, or generalized warnings...and warn more specifically anyway. But I'm never sure where the line is. If I have a story that's got no "obvious" triggers (rape, incest, death, etc.) but the lead character is, say, a bigoted asshole, do I warn people that his attitudes are offensive? Or if I'm writing from the perspective of a mentally ill character, do I warn people that *that* might upset them (and yes, both of these examples are taken from stuff I've actually written in other fandoms). I mean, I know for a fact that that *would* wreck the story for many folks out there. Is it common courtesy, or is it political correctness? Where's the line?"[2]

In 2014, a writer for the Buzzfeed online journal wrote an article about the history of trigger warnings and touched briefly on the use of the phrase in media fandom. She traces an early use to 2002 on Livejournal. She distinguishes the phrase "trigger" from the broader and more general usage of "warning" although acknowledges the two often are used together interchangeably.

Awareness of the term and its meaning grew in livejournal fanworks fandom. In the late 2000s, there were several rounds of trigger warning debates; see Trigger Warning Debate (2009) and Vividcon/Vividcon_2010#The_Debate. As of 2011, much attention was devoted to triggers and trigger warnings (see, for example, the numerous rants at FFR about the lack of trigger warnings and/or the wrong kind of warnings).

Further Reading


  1. I would like to talk with ya’ll about trigger warnings. (Accessed June 25, 2011)
  2. post to the Bindlestitch mailing list dated May 14, 2000, quoted anonymously with permission.
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