By Lori Perkins
I guess it was inevitable that the launch of the new Twitter alternative Spoutible, would not go unscathed. My bet was on the MAGATs ,but round 1 was fought between romance writers and Spoutible founder Christopher Bouzy.
As many of you know, I was a big fan of the new site, as we’re finally going to have a social media platform not run by a white male. I was hoping that would make a difference, but I forgot how deep and blinding male privilege can be. Chris Bouzy reminded us all.
Spoutible released its Terms of Service (TOS), which addressed a no patience policy for sexually explicit content and nudity, which Courtney Milan, that NY Times best-selling historical romance writer who was a Supreme Court justice law clerk (so knows a thing or two about obscenity and the law), Spouted that his TOS was unclear and that she would be willing to give him a hand improving it.
He responded by telling her that if she didn’t like it, she could start her own platform.
Now, as a business owner, I have been there (and I’ve also been that bitch who told publishers how to market and sell their books, and they also told me that if I knew so much about publishing why didn’t I start my own punishing company, which I eventually did, but that is besides the point here). That response is never anyone’s finest moment.
And instead of doing a little research and looking into who Courtney Milan is and why she was saying this could adversely affect and discourage romance readers/writers from joining Spoutible, he went on a rampage saying the romance community was a small group and there were about 30 rabble-rousers who were bad-mouthing his start-up. He also posted a truly distasteful Twitter image of a Black woman being harassed by uniformed white police with the words,
You created an account at Spoutible, you didn't like the adult nudity & sexual content policy, so you asked to speak to the manager. The manager is a Black man who told you the policy stays, and your brain couldn't process being told no by a Black man. Happy Black History Month.
Trying to make this a racial issue, just demeaned the entire debate. Somehow he didn’t know that Courtney Milan is a woman of color, but that shouldn’t even come into play here. She could have just as easily said, “Look, here’s another man trying to shout down a woman standing her ground” and screamed sexism and misogyny, which she did not.
Bouzy/Spoutible fans took his side. Romance aficionados went loud and proud on Twitter and chaos soon ensued with allegations appearing out of nowhere that Spoutible was not a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community (which is very much NOT the case) and that it was anti-sex worker.
Bouzy held a two hour (maybe even three, but I gave up after the second hour) “Q & A” on Twitter Space (irony) supposedly about this issue, but it soon degenerated into a love-fest for what he is trying to do.
So for now there’s a real antithesis towards Spoutible for many romance peeps, and that’s just so sad.
We need a new platform as Twitter morphs into who knows what.
This was probably a tempest in a teapot, but it was also a whistle blowing.
It was most disturbing to see how Bouzy got so defensive so quickly, how easily he dismissed a community he obviously knew nothing about and double-downed instead of pausing and doing some research. His mansplaining responses and odd racial-focusing did not help. But, let’s be real, the sky-is-falling warnings about romance novel covers and banning sex workers was also overblown.
Bouzy repeatedly defended himself by saying he asked 200,000 beta readers about their concerns on sexual content and nudity, but I was a beta signer-on and I never got the invite. I think he was completely unaware that the romance community existed and that it has such an influence online. Many tech men just don’t know we exist, and if they do, don’t take us seriously and think of romance as “porn for women.”
Bouzy should rewrite the TOS, and apologize to Milan and see if she will help him, or bring in some other voices from the romance community. He can do better, and should.