Romance & Safe Spaces
I was working on a different post, but this situation happened out of nowhere, and I feel compelled to speak.
Consider it one of my rants I try to avoid anymore because they get me in trouble, but in this case, the whole Spoutible thing has me thinking, and until I get this off my chest it’s going to sit there like a giant anvil and I have things to do.
I posted this on Twitter and on Facebook because, Christopher Bouzy annoys me. Does it surprise me that this man used his platform to bully Courtney Milan? No. This isn't his first time around the drama cesspool, and I know he has a following. But a lot of shady people have followings. The parasocial relationships online communities dedicate them to do not grant legitimacy to their skills, their character, or their business.
I know I know, he “proved” Megan Markle was bullied. Whatever.
He was also behind the company that “proved” the supposed coordinated bullying of Amber Heard, and that was bullshit. Anyone who watched that trial knows what Bot Sentinel said had no viability in the facts. Which is funny, because now he says the romance community was involved in a “coordinated” attack and it most certainly was not.
The man does not know what an organic community looks like.
Get to the point.
In the end though, Bouzy is just another symptom of the problem. Romance writers need a place to express themselves to their readers in a way that allows them to be themselves and share their books.
We’re treated poorly in the spaces where we’re needed, such as bookstores and online platforms who sell our stories, and in places where we need to be, like social media platforms where we promote our stories.
In one place, they put us in dungeons, hide or suppress our covers, tell us how toxic we are, or just ban parts of our genre. In the other, they tell us we’re porn and to sit down and shut up.
And what's worse? We have members who help punish others with venomous and vile judgement, as if they’re in a position to claim the high ground. They take notes from the far right and condemn books and sub genres as unacceptable or evil.
All of this forgetting there’s no true safe space for them either.
Betwixt and between,
never to be seen.
Many in the romance community believe the far progressive left is more accepting of our genre than the right. But there is just as much speech suppression, book monitoring, and disapproval there. If you don't think so, you haven't been paying attention to their communities.
When a safe space is defined as: a place that provides a physical and emotionally safe environment for a person or group of people, especially a place where people can freely express themselves without fear of prejudice and negative judgment, than any "wrong" step is going to be problematic.
Romance by nature pushes the boundaries of what makes people comfortable.
It always has.
The idea that only conservatives will be uncomfortable with romance is lazy. Bordering on ignorant. In fact, all you have to do is look at the conversations within progressive writing communities to find out how volatile the conversation are to realize how much of a failure that presumption is.
And if the idea is to leave behind the sub genres the our more “precious” members dislike, say pure erotica, dark romance, monster romance, because hey, no one should be reading that smut anyway… Believe me when I say they will come for you.
The mommy handing their phones over to their child, doesn't lock their phone. They won't like your kissy cover unless it's a cartoon. It will offend them when their teenage daughter downloads that smut scene, horrified you thought to put that in your paranormal. And then you'll be gone too.
Quit looking for safe spaces. Romance don’t belong there.
I understand why people don't want to see hate in their timelines. It makes your pulse race and it can last with you all night, ending any possibility of sleep. It can suck every bit of creativity out of your mind if you let it, but romance does not belong in the vacuum of a safe space.
Romances involve engaging in emotion. The point is to pull it out of the reader. The more the better. If it doesn't, why write it? Why read it?
Which means you're going to have people who don't like it. They won't like you. That’s the opposite of safe. That is what you sign up for when you publish. I know what that means because I’m on a shelf that calls me a misogynist. Not the greatest thing to be called because it's not true, but I got an emotion out of that reviewer.
I made her mad.
She hates me. And that's okay. No, fuck that. That's glorious.
She was so engaged that she went on a rant. And I know all about those. I also made people cry who love the book. Again, big emotion.
None of which can happen in a safe space. The marketing of it can’t go there either. Because to jerk on those emotions, I have to risk making people upset. I have to risk that rant.
Anyone doing this work risks upsetting people.
You wrote this, you didn’t write that. How dare you post a clench cover? How could you post a man’s nipple? My kid saw that.
You know my answer to that? What the fuck is your child doing playing around on app that requires they be at least thirteen? I'm not responsible for your five-year-old seeing something on an app that requires you be X age. That’s a you-parental problem.
When I get complaints about abs on my cover, my thought is, if you're old enough to read about sex, you should be old enough to have a book with people parts on it. Not to say I won't make different choices for different books, or recover, which I will to make more money. But I refuse to cater to a safe space concept. And romance as a genre, dare not.
It dare not.
Because the minute we cater to change to please others, we lose the right to please ourselves. Which is what the genre is here for. Exploring what pleases and provides a happy ending to the reader. To the writer. To humans.
I know in the current climate, we want a moment to feel okay, but that's what family is for. Private chats. Real friends.
Social media timelines are not.
We need to learn how to keep our personal social circle's safe and make sure our larger communities never end up in tiny little silos on safe sites. Because we should be pushing everyone to learn how to be kind, to learn what consent looks like, to learn how to please their partners, and to learn how to seek a happy ending.