Stubborn Privilege and Trigger Warnings: The SexGenderBody Fiasco

[TW on all links to sexgenderbody for potentially-triggering material with no warning (I don't know what they've posted since writing this), and a really shitty privilege-heavy attitude on why they refuse to use them]

I'm not, myself, particularly big on tumblr.  At least not yet.  I have one, and I follow a few of my twiends who have tumblrs, but that's the extent of it so far.  However, as y'all may know, I am quite a fan of Twitter and spend a shit-ton of time on there (@WitchWords, if anyone cares).  I find a lot of interesting reading material, often stuff I blog about, via links people post on Twitter.  I used to get a lot of these from the @sexgenderbody Twitter account, which is linked to the sexgenderbody tumblog, which is as far as I can tell is curated and moderated by Arvan Reese, who founded it and the associated blog.  (I used to think there was no more awkward word for "collection of crap on the internet" than "blog".  I was wrong.  There's "tumblog".)

Sexgenderbody's tagline is "A direct, honest and respectful conversation about sex, gender and body."  They post links to blog posts and tumblr posts and images having to do with, you guessed it, sex, gender, and the body.  My content has shown up in the sexgenderbody feed a few times, and I've really enjoyed some of the stuff I have found by clicking through on items in their Twitter feed.  There was a bit of a furor over the inconsistent use of trigger warnings on the tumblr awhile back, and Arvan posted a big long justification that basically boiled down to "I don't object to them but I won't add them either."  I only skimmed it at the time, as I wasn't following them on tumblr and only click through on perhaps a third of the links they post to Twitter, if that, so I'd never come across anything egregiously triggering to me that lacked a warning.  It wasn't a big deal to me at the time.  Rereading it now, it basically comes off as a hugely privilege-denying wankfest of "If you don't like it close the browser," with a side order of "let's conflate offensive with triggering and post topless pics of men and women to prove our point!"  Also, "well with a name like sexgenderbody, you should expect to see NSFW stuff in the feed, I don't know why you're so upset."  Honestly, that article alone could feed creation of about four different PDDs.

I say I "used to" get blog fodder from them, because as of today I've unfollowed and blocked them on Twitter, and if I can figure out how to do it on tumblr (I'm still learning!) I'll be blocking them there, too.

Yesterday, one of the things they posted was [TW: self-harm, open wounds, blood] an image of a patch of medium-tone flesh with the word "DYSPHORIA" carved into it, still bleeding.  [END TW]  Several people used the "ask" thing on tumblr to request a trigger warning be placed on the image, since such a graphic depiction of self-harm could be *really* triggering to people.  Well, since their tagline says they're interested in "respectful" discussion, they immediately apologized and fixed it, right?

Lolno.  The first person to ask for a trigger warning - very politely, I might add - got this reply:
I’m not about to put a trigger warning on someone else’s body. If the OP put a trigger, I’ve included that. But it’s not *my* place to make someone else’s body a trigger.
...Whut.  What the fuck does "make someone else's body a trigger" even mean?  Adding a TW isn't "[making] someone else's body a trigger."  It's a triggery image whether it's got the actual TW on it or not.  All an actual TW would do is help keep people from being ambushed by a disturbing image that might trigger them into anything, from a few minutes of deep focused breathing and needing to look at pictures of kittens for awhile to calm down, to sitting in a corner shaking and crying all day, to attempting fucking suicide.  Why is the "respect" apparently all reserved for the person who posted it in the first place, and not the people who could have moments/afternoons/days/weeks/etc totally fucked up by seeing it without warning? 

But it got worse.  When someone replied saying it wasn't about making someone's body a trigger, but about the welfare of people reading who could be harmed, adding that they do self-harm sometimes and wouldn't want to trigger people, Arvan replied
"I respect your experience.  You should unsubscribe from this feed and take care of yourself - always.  Take care of yourself."
1: No, you don't.  If you did, you'd take two fucking seconds and put a fucking TW on it.  2: It's hard to "take care of yourself" by unsubscribing AFTER being triggered by something like this.  Saying "just unsubscribe" after the fact is singularly unhelpful.  

At that point, the responses of "this is not a "respectful discussion"" started pouring in. 

I think it's about time you changed your description. Your utter refusal to listen to anyone who finds some of the images triggering is NOT evidence of a 'respectful conversation' about anything. It would require very little effort on your part to put cuts or content warnings. And your reasons for refusal are ignorant. it is not shaming to put a content warning on cutting. It is, however, shaming to those of us with triggers to act like the existence of our triggers are somehow shaming people.
You seem to misunderstand what triggers are for. ... It's not to protect people's sensibilities, or to censor content. It is a tool to help protect people with disabilities.
Refusing to put trigger warnings on content is incredibly ableist as you are excluding or directly harming people with those triggers.
This isn't a discussion.
Refusing to put trigger warnings is ableist, and is absolutely not, even slightly, respectful.
Those two and at least two others got a copy-pasted response of "We are not going to alter our behavior or language.  If this site or policy triggers you, please unfollow."  Way to engage your critics, Arvan! 

Well, of course people started to get angry.  Which, as so many privileged people* do, Arvan took as proof that zie was in the right because, y'know, you all are being so mean and disrespectful and angry at me!  And as we all know, being angry automatically means you forfeit the discussion and the calm person wins.

I'm not going to quote the rest of the answers Arvan gave to everyone's objections, cause this post is already long enough as it is.  Suffice to say, if you want a blood-pressure-spike-inducing read, click through on the sexgenderbody tumblr link I provided up top, and scroll through the first page.  On that page alone, I was able to check off the following bingo squares:
  • Requesting trigger warnings is linguistic oppression!
  • I'm not responsible for your emotions (Direct quote: "All of us need to be responsible for our triggers.")
  • If you might be triggered, stay off the internet. (Not kidding, that's a near-direct quote)
  • Calling me ___-ist is calling names!  Now who's the bad guy?
  • Commenting anonymously means I don't have to take you seriously
  • You're taking my words out of context
  • Who are you to judge what's -ist and what's not?
  • You're bullying me! (Also a near-direct quote)
For fuck's sake, that's almost a double bingo.  And throughout it all was the constant thread of "But if I put a trigger warning on that photo it would be mean/discriminatory/disrespectful/judging to the person in the photo!"

I genuinely don't understand the reasoning behind that.  Nobody who asked for trigger warnings was in any way trying to harm or condemn the OP.  A trigger warning on something is not a condemnation, nor a judgment.  It's a reflection of reality in a world filled with trauma survivors, and a courtesy to people who have already suffered to try not to add to their suffering further.  This is not, was not, has never been about the person in the photo.  It is about being a decent fucking human being.  It is about the photo itself and being responsible for the media one disseminates.  It is not about the person in it, or the person who took it, or the person who posted it.  It is about those who may see it.  Arvan is putting the spotlight squarely on the wrong person's feelings here.  (Why does that sound familiar?  Oh, right.  Rape culture.  Victim-blaming.  Whose feelings are important [the privileged person, in this case, Arvan*] and whose feelings can be discounted [the person actually being harmed].  This is a calculation we've all seen played out innumerable times.)

To repeatedly deny requests for trigger warnings on a photo like that one - I mean, shit, I'm not particularly easily triggered despite a history of self-harm in my own life, but that one was enough to make me take deep breaths and run through my "this is now, not then, you don't have to do that anymore" mental spiel to stay calm - is the height of rudeness and disconcern for your audience.  Arvan Reese of sexgenderbody has, in effect, told all hir readers, "I do not give a shit about you.  My intellectual high horse and misunderstanding of trigger warnings as censorship is more important than making sure the people who enjoy my tumblr aren't triggered into potentially killing themselves.  I think people with histories of trauma and neuroatypical people don't belong on the internet because their need for warnings before potentially triggery content inconveniences the rest of us.  People with trigger issues should be able to snap out of it and control their reactions, or else they just need to miss out on vast swathes of potentially-excellent content because typing two words at the top of a post is against my principles."

Well, Arvan, in that case, fuck you too.  

And if you're pissed off after reading all that, and just need a righteous fucking rant about it, check this shit out.  14 instances of fuck in 5 paragraphs.  Fuck yes.  Also, here is an excellent post about what being triggered can really do to someone, and here's a very thorough explanation of how forcing marginalized people to constantly defend their access to discussions about their issues reinforces their oppressions.

*I posit Arvan as "privileged" in the sense of not suffering debilitating triggered episodes versus those who could be truly harmed by a triggered episode, because while zie claims to have triggers of hir own in one of hir responses to a calling-out post, I almost doubt it; I kind of think someone who has genuinely experienced being triggered as opposed to being offended or upset by a photo of something would understand that triggering isn't something you can "be responsible for".  Zie's certainly acting like a PDD in this exchange, anyway.  My referring to hir as "privileged" is a specific reference to the privileged/oppressed pair of not needing trigger warnings/needing trigger warnings.  It is not meant to invalidate hir experiences of oppression on whatever other axes zie may experience.


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