The Pseudonym Problem
Saturday 3rd March was a day of realisations and new consciousness; over the course of the twelve hours I spent at Eroticon I suddenly became aware of so many truths and complexities inherent in writing about sex, and most of them were sparked at the Identity, ethics and sex blogging panel.
First of all, I had never consciously drawn such a clear line between sex bloggers, and erotic writers. It seems obvious, of course, but between twitter and writing prompts we all seem to get mixed in with each other quite a lot. And further than that, there are in fact three realms: sex blogging, erotic writing, and sex journalism.
I’m defining them as follows:
• Sex blogging: autobiographical writing about the author’s sex life.
• Erotic writing: fiction, stories, poems, etc..
• Sex journalism: articles about sex in a social and/or political light.
Whilst many blogs skip between the three, or (more commonly) between two of the three, most seem to have a primary purpose: Frisky in the 916 is primarily a sex blog, but it also contains much of the other two; Remittance Girl is driven by erotic fiction, but she also writes about sex in terms of social trends and politics.; and Rachel Rabbit White is a sex journalist, but like many in that field she slips into autobiography from time to time.
This blog started as erotic fiction, then enjoyed a brief and horrible stint as an autobiographical sex blog, before returning to erotic fiction and finally bringing in some journalism as well. However, being an exhibitionist there has always been a certain allure, for me, in moments of autobiography – particularly in the blurbs I posted with my photography. As much as I enjoy having little pieces of myself here, I always felt that was where my blog was weakest. And if I ever wrote well about myself*, that writing and my photographs changed the intention of my blog overall. In short, my own sex blogging is something I find deeply dissatisfying, and that is a large part of the reason you can no longer see me naked here.
Conversely, whilst Eroticon raised my awareness of the divide between different kinds of sex writers, it also made me realise just how much we need one another’s support. In the end, we are all writing about sex, and that is what most of the world finds controversial. We really can’t afford to divide into camps; we all need to fight for our right to discuss sex without abuse or discrimination. Fortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any question about that: at Eroticon Ruby Kiddell gave us all something, and brought us together perfectly.
However, the realisations didn’t end with similarities and differences. The aforementioned panel combined with the Sex and the media debate also brought the point of anonymity and identity to the surface of my consciousness. I have always been on the verge of coming out, whilst also keeping my blog URL away from my every day life. It’s always been a case of “they probably won’t find me, but if they do, it’ll be fairly obvious”. Until Eroticon I was pretty satisfied with this state of affairs. But I would like my status to rise as a writer. I would like to be published. And as soon as I do that, I up the stakes, which is the second reason for my sudden disappearance.
But this issue does not end with me hiding my face and deciding not to write about my life. For me, and (as Eroticon proved) for many others, there is a question of ethics.
I think I speak for all sex writers when I say I wish I lived in a world where I could safely and happily be out about the nature and content of my work here. Unfortunately we all have good reasons to hide behind our pseudonyms and false identities. There is so much more to our lives than just what we write, and more often than not the pressure of protecting those other parts of ourselves is considerable. But, of course, by hiding our true identities we are, whether we wish to or not, perpetuating the need to do just that.
It takes a brave human being to come out as a sex writer, no matter which of my three categories they dwell in, and I feel fairly certain that in order to fight the stigma, we are going to have to start coming out sooner or later. But at present, for most of us, the cost is simply too high.
As for myself, personally? At the moment, if I came out, it would cause ripples in more lives than just mine, and until my situation is lower risk, I really feel that I need to keep my identity hidden. However, I can’t imagine maintaining this for the rest of my life. My writing is too big a part of me for it to be forever partitioned off under a pseudonym.
Meanwhile, I imagine, the inner turmoil shall continue.
(*Yes, I am aware of how ironic it is to write about myself not writing about myself.)