Sensitivity Readers: Should We Allow This?
What are Sensitivity Readers?
Why do we even need sensitivity readers?
A sensitivity reader is someone who reviews your work to ensure it doesn't offend any one and you are treating your characters and situations with respect to those who are like your character of have experienced the type of situation you have portrayed.
Whew! That is a mouthful. But what does that mean? Well, in short, it means someone it censoring your work. They are telling you what to write and how to write it to avoid offending any one.
What does all of this mean?
You are being told to not offend anyone.
What this means is they can tell you what not to write. Let's give an example. You want to write a book where there heroine is raped by a doctor. She decides to have him killed and hires a Latino gang to do it. They agree if she become the leader's girl and agrees to do whatever he says. (This is not a real story but an outlandish example, well maybe not all that outlandish...lol)
What you sensitivity reader might say is you can't use a doctor since that demeans the medical profession but you can use an orderly. You definitely can't use Latinos as the gang as it will offend the Latinos so use a biker gang. And on top of that, your heroine needs help so you need to be more realistic and show her having therapy to control her anger and need for revenge for what he did to her. Show her suing the doctor and how she defeats him in court.
How does this affect your story?
What had happened to your story? Your story has changed to a courtroom drama from a revenge action, thriller type story. It will no longer be what you wanted it to be. So what do you do?
The only thing you can do it to tell the overly sensitive people to get a grip and realize it's fiction. If it offends you, then don't read it. Censorship in any form is wrong. It is curtailing the freedom of speech. Think of how different Huckleberry Finn will be with all the sensitivity censorship. The same with a lot of other enduring works which were written for the time the author was alive. If you censor them, you loose what the author intended when he wrote it.
What do we do now?
Do you allow them to censor your book or ignore the overly sensitive people and write what you want?
First of all, overly sensitive people need to toughen up. Not everything is aimed at you. In fact very little is aimed at you. As to political correctness, forget it. Authors (and many people for that matter) aren't politically correct or are willing to pander to those who are easily offended. If a book says adult situations and language and you don't agree with either one, DON'T READ THE BOOK! It's that simple.
When you begin to allow censorship to fit certain group's beliefs or to prevent hurt feelings, we will end up with bland books which are boring and not worth the time to read them. Part of writing is dealing with sensitive situations and sometimes it means an in your face type of book. Not everyone deals with situations the same way. Even fair tales have sugar coated messages.
Back to my example. The heroine decides to kill her rapist but you can change that to her going to therapy and taking him to court. Of course it changes the tone of the book. Then again she could destroy his practice through subterfuge. Oops, there's that anger and get even attitude, but you have to remember what he did. A different scenario could focus on how she puts her life back together again and what happens to her marriage and family. That changes the book to a drama.There are multiple ways to go with the story and it's up to the author what they want to write, not some sensitivity reader who is reading from their point of view which may be distorted due to their life history.
No, I'm not sorry if I offend someone with my books. Maybe you need to be offended since you are looking at things through lenses which aren't the same as those of the author. Some of my writing is from personal experience or the experiences of other people which means you might want to look for the truths behind the prose. Censorship isn't the answer and never will be. Look back at history and see what censorship did to various cultures.
For more on this go to: http://blog.bookbaby.com/2018/03/publishers-are-hiring-sensitivity-readers
The comments are worth reading.
About the Author
B.A Mealer is an author and a traveler. This is a person who refuses to grow up and get old.