I recently read The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See and I was taken by surprise by some of the darker elements of the book. If you haven’t read my review of it, here is a recap: the book goes into some pretty dark descriptions of violence, rape, and death and it put me in a pretty dark place. There was nothing on the book that lead me to believe that these things would be such a big part of the story, so I was completely unprepared for it.
This got me thinking. If I had known that this book had these elements, I could have either been prepared for them when they came up, or I could have decided that I wouldn’t have been able to handle them even if I prepared myself, so I just wouldn’t read the book. Either one of these decisions would have left me in a better state than going into this book blind.
I would love to see more content warnings in books, like in Girls of Paper and Fire (above). I did a little research about this, and it seems like there are so many reasons that people are against including content warnings in books. I have found some common arguments against content warnings and have explained why I think they are wrong or irrelevant to people that could benefit from content warnings.
CONTENT WARNINGS COULD GIVE AWAY SPOILERS
I’m just gonna say it: if you think a content warning for rape is a spoiler, you are probably garbage. If a content warning for rape is a spoiler for a book, that book is probably garbage. I try not to make statements like these, but sexual assault is never something that should be used for shock value or a plot twist. The same goes for violence, abuse, suicide, ect. These are vague enough that they don’t give anything away, but can warn and prepare people for the themes inside the book.
LIFE DOESN’T HAVE CONTENT WARNINGS
This is always a silly argument to me. No, life does not have content warnings, but other forms of media like movies, video games, and TV shows do, so why don’t books? Most people read because it is a hobby that they enjoy, so they should be able to make an informed decision about whether or not they think they could enjoy a book. If a person wants to deal with issues that affect them personally that could be in a content warning, they should have the choice to do it when are ready, not when a book springs it on them and forces them to deal with it.
IT’S CENSORSHIP TO INCLUDE CONTENT WARNINGS
Censorship is the suppression of any part of media. Content warnings do not change or hide any of the contents of a book, they simply let readers know that some dark or painful themes for some people will be mentioned in the book. Someone deciding they aren’t in the right place to read a book based on included content warnings is not censorship, it’s a personal decision.
I am absolutely in favor of more books including content warnings. It is so much better to be prepared for any difficult content in a book, especially when most content warnings are for things that many people have dealt with in their life. If you are person that doesn’t need content warnings, that’s great, but just because you don’t need them doesn’t mean that other people don’t need them either.
What are your thoughts? Are content warnings something that should be more common?