Are Disclaimers In Books Necessary? | Rants & Rambles

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Rants (7)

Rants & Rambles is a weekly feature where I share my own personal thoughts and opinions about both bookish and blogging related topics. As stated, these are MY OWN opinions and while you can choose to disagree with it, I hope that you at least respect it.


This week on Rants & Rambles I want to discuss:

DINING IN TOKYO (45)

Today, instead of doing a discussion posts in the typical manner where I ask a question and then provide somewhat of an answer, I’m going to play devil’s advocate because quite frankly, I don’t know the answer to my own question.

Let’s start from the beginning with how this question even popped into my head. I was on Goodreads on Thursday, scrolling down my feed and reading the drama surrounding Empire of Storms (this was me being petty) when I saw that someone pointed out the “Mature Content for Mature Readers” disclaimer on Empire of Storms. Some readers felt that this meant that EoS would contain explicit sex scenes, like those found in ACOMAF, and they were not too happy to hear this. Some of them stated that the explicit sex scenes in ACOMAF made them uncomfortable and it was a turn-off for them. So the disclaimer should be considered a good thing, right? There are no surprises as readers are advised beforehand that there are going to be explicit scenes in the upcoming installment of the Throne of Glass series

But here’s my question, what I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around…

WHO ARE MATURE READERS?

At what age are readers considered to be mature?  Does life experience play a role when considering if someone is mature? Who gets to decide whether or not a person is mature enough to handle the content they are reading: the parent or the reader themselves? How does a reader EVEN KNOW IF they themselves are mature enough to handle the content they are reading?  

Growing up, my mother didn’t pay much attention to the books I read. She never read the synopsis, never checked which section of the library I got the book from, so she wasn’t aware that I was reading adult urban fiction at the age of twelve and we all know those books can contain highly explicit content. But I felt I was mature enough to handle the content in these books and so I kept reading them, until, one of my teachers saw me reading these books and took them away saying that I was “not mature enough” to handle the content in these types of books. But how did she really know? She never asked me? If she had asked me to explain in my own words what was happening in the book, I probably would’ve been able to, but she never did, so how did she know for sure?

So this brings me back to my question and the topic for this discussion: are disclaimer even necessary if we can’t TRULY define “who” these mature readers are? Some say yes, as young readers should be aware that the book they are considering contains heavy subject matter, which they may not be able to handle. But others disagree and say no, that young readers are capable of handling these darker-themed narratives and don’t need a warning sign.

Personally for me, when it comes to disclaimers in books, it has always been a case-by-case basis. There are rare occasions where I do like to know beforehand if a book contains graphic scenes of abuse of any kind so I can mentally prepare myself for it. Then there are times where I don’t need a disclaimer. Also, just because a book has a disclaimer, doesn’t mean I won’t read it. There are a lot of other factors that play a role in whether or not I decide to read a book and disclaimers are not always a key factor for me.

My thoughts are kind of all over the place for this discussion, but like I said before, I’m not too sure where I stand on this topic.


So I want to know how do you all feel about disclaimers and what do you believe defines a reader as “mature”? At what age is a reader “mature enough” to handle these heavier contents? At what age did YOU feel mature enough to read books dealing with heavier themes? I really don’t like ending a discussion with so much questions, but I’m curious to hear everyone’s thoughts.

That is all for this week’s Rants & Rambles. I hope you enjoyed my random thoughts!

How do you feel about disclaimers and do you think they are necessary?

Let me know in the comments!

-Ari (2)

17 thoughts on “Are Disclaimers In Books Necessary? | Rants & Rambles

  1. I’m not sure. Sometimes I think so. Sometimes it’s really hard to tell, because the blurb doesn’t provide enough info and I feel blindsided. However, at the same time, I don’t want the book ruined. I think it’s worse in movies, if you don’t have some kind of disclaimer. The first time I saw The Perks of Being A Wallflower. It was devastating, and hard to handle, if that makes sense.

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    • I totally understand what you mean about The Perks of Being A Wallflower. I never read the book so when we find out what happened to the MC when he was younger, it took me by surprised. I was not expecting the story to turn in that direction at all. I think general disclaimers are good because then they let readers know that a book deals with certain topics that some may not be comfortable with.

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  2. Great discussion, Ari! 🙂 I usually put disclaimers on books when there’s abuse, violence, taboo sex themes (BDSM, Menage etc.). I don’t put disclaimers on YA books with sex scenes because (in my case) they’re mild and not detailed like erotica novels. Nowadays, people have curious minds and most likely they’ll read it. As for the maturity, it varies on the person’s open mindedness to heavier/thought provoking themes.

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    • I feel like if a YA book has sex, a disclaimer isn’t really necessary since most of those scenes are not heavily detailed. Plus, sex is natural and shouldn’t be seen as something shameful in YA books. And I totally agree that maturity is something that varies. It’s not something that can be measured so whose to say I’m not mature enough to handle a particular subject matter.

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  3. I always figured that the disclaimers in young adult books were for the parents, teachers,community members that were watching what kids read. Most teenagers are curious, and aren’t going to set down a book just because of a warning – it might even make them more likely to pick it up. But adults can be fussy about what their kids are exposed to, for one reason or another. My mum was aware of what I was reading (mostly incase she wanted to read it as well), but she allowed me to make my own choices, so I started reading books with sex scenes when I was about 12/13. Despite what some of my teachers might have thought (no comments, lots of weird looks when I was in school), I turned out fine.

    I find that western civilizations, and especially North America, have weird hang ups about sex. Other countries, France for example, are much more relaxed about the topic, and they don’t run into the issues that we do about censorship or warnings, or even kids being stupid about. I think we teach our kids to have issue with it, by taking issue with it ourselves. But maybe that’s just me.

    Great discussion!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree that America doesn’t handle the topic of sex in the best way. I mean in some states, abstinence is the only thing that is taught and safe-sex is totally disregarded. I will never understand why some states do this because if we don’t feel comfortable enough to talk to our children about sex, how will they learn. I guess to each their own.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Like you, I read more “mature” novels at a younger age because of my limited library. But I felt like I was mature enough to make my own decisions and if anything made me uncomfortable, I just skipped those pages or stopped reading.

    I think some disclaimers are necessary though because certain things can act as triggers for people. Like abusive situations or scenes of sexual assault. If a person can know before they invest time that this novel, it might save them some grief and heartache. And even for readers who might not be triggered by it, not everyone can handle graphic scenes of violence or they simply don’t enjoy reading that (perhaps they like “lighter” reads).

    On my blog, if a YA novel has descriptive sex scenes, it gets a “spicy YA” label; but every book gets a “heat” rating. I only put a disclaimer if its a book that describes a sexual assault or has graphic violence because I think it is a nice fair warning for potential readers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I feel like listing trigger warnings is more effective than just slapping a “mature reader” disclaimer because it’s too broad. I know that it’s impossible to cover all triggers, but heavily depicted scenes of violence in books should have trigger warnings. I personally am not triggered by much, but I do appreciate it when I know beforehand if the book I’m going to read deals with heavy subject matter because then I’m better prepared for it mentally.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Such an interesting question! I’m studying library science right now and I’m planing on being a Youth Librarian, so this is definitely an issue close to me. While I don’t think it’s strictly necessary to have actual disclaimers on books, it’s important for booksellers, librarians, teachers, etc., to display them appropriately and advise their readers appropriately. Every person is unique when it comes to what they’re ready to read, so it’s up to good professionals to guide people in the right direction. Handy labels and displays are useful, but I don’t think we should put bold disclaimers on books, because even disclaimers may be misleading.

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  6. Great, great question! I don’t think “mature” should be anywhere in the disclaimer. Because you’re right – you can be mature at different ages. No one should tell you you aren’t mature enough for something if you think you really are. It’s not for them to decide. I’m not sure if I like disclaimers on everything, but if they want to at least let you know that there is some explicit scenes, go ahead. But don’t throw it under the umbrella of “mature content for mature readers”. Just state what it is. *shrugs* For people who don’t like those surprises, it’s handy. Others are fine with it popping up unexpectedly.

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    • I agree that the word “mature” subjective because maturity is not something we can accurately measure. I would much rather publishers/authors state what that “mature” subject matter is (e.g., abuse, rape, self-harm) and let readers determine if this is subject matter they can handle. Also, by saying “mature” readers, just because a person can’t handle a subject matter, doesn’t mean they’re not mature.

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  7. When I was younger, I used to read Sweet Valley High books. I even watch some rated R movies.My mother and my grandmother didn’t really mind. When I write about movies on another website I do warnings, and I do sometimes do warnings on books I post.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Seeing a disclaimer like that would probably make me want to read the book 🙂 Well by any other author other than SJM that is. I think if a YA book needs a disclaimer for mature audiences…then it’s not a YA book, or it shouldn’t be anyway.

    I don’t think all subjects and books need disclaimers on other subjects. But I do think things like rape and abuse shouldn’t be used as plot twists and should definitely have disclaimers.

    If I could have disclaimers for pregnancies and books with kids I would be so happy, I hate reading books with those topics, especially when they are sprung on me or used as drama.

    Nereyda│ Nick & Nereyda’s Infinite Booklist

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    • I kind of feel the same way. When I was reading YA, I never saw disclaimers on books so to see them now always make me wonder if it should really be considered YA. I think it’s great that more books are dealing with heavier topics, but if they’re written in a way that needs a disclaimers, then maybe it shouldn’t be considered YA.

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  9. Pingback: August Wrap-Up & September Most Anticipated Releases | The Daydreaming Bookworm

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