The Pseudonym Problem

hidden-face_10942_990x742Saturday 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.)

8 thoughts on “The Pseudonym Problem”

  1. Juliette Turrell says:

    The Truths and Complexities… Oh My.

    Yes, yes and again yes… #this as we say on Twitter…

    It took me a while to work out what I was doing wrong, for me that is, why it didn’t sit right. I started by writing erotic fiction and as I was already a blogger it seemed natural to blog about my thoughts too. My thoughts, such as they were, rants about things people said to me, how they said it, how that made me feel mostly. Yes, about sex of course, most of my thoughts are! Not pictures, not being a exhibitionist it’s not my thing. Just thoughts, but I never felt I fitted in, I’m not a sex blogger, I didn’t share details of my sex life often and certainly not a ‘sex journalist’ I’m not savy or political enough to be that. My posts were just thoughts.

    I won’t go into detail about how it went wrong, a few funny comments and things like that had me worried, people claiming to ‘know’ me, other stuff too but mainly that. My anonymity is important to me, I have small children, when they are older perhaps I will be brave enough to stand up and say ‘that’s me, that is’ but not now, so I shut it down. I stressed over the choice for a few months, eventually I chose to recreate myself as just a Erotica/Romance writer, no non fiction. I’m not sure how this is going to work for me as I enjoyed her ‘voice’ but as I’m hoping to get some of my stories published soon I think, all things considered, this is the right thing to do.

    Time will tell I guess, as you say, the inner turmoil continues.

    1. LadyGrinSoul says:

      Wow! What a wonderful comment. Let me know how the writing goes! Sounds like we’ve been in similar(ish) journeys. I guess we’re all figuring it out.

  2. Nolens Volens says:

    When I started my autobiographical journey, I worried in the beginning about being unmasked. I have obligations that would go against me poorly if that were to happen. Slowly, I came to realize something about myself and that would be how I faced my own fears and learned my own sexual identity. At first, I thought I was some pervert who liked to show his cock to people. As it turned out, I just wanted to be validated as a sexual being and my confidence rose when I realized I wasn’t some weirdo with dark secrets.

    My writing skill took on a life of its own and I found myself pouring words after words, on top of words, like syrup flowing smoothly from the bottle. I learned how to articulate my feelings and desires and I put away my cock. Sort of. ;) I took a hiatus from blogging and I realized how much I enjoyed the writing so I came back and re-invented myself. I am glad I did because I am enjoying the new direction.

    I am sad every time when a blogger leaves for whatever reason, I always feel the absence.

    1. LadyGrinSoul says:

      Yeah, it’s strange what a gap a blogger can leave when you consider how much more than that our own lives are. But still… you do miss them. And thanks for the stuff about you. The comments I’m getting on this piece are so interesting… I’m getting to see into people’s own worlds.

  3. Lily says:

    I have always kept a journal. In fact, I was one of those little girls who got excited about the diary with the Genuine “Gold-Tone” lock. “Dear Diary…”

    As I grew up I got cooler notebooks and started calling them “journals.”

    When I discovered blogging, I quickly realized that I couldn’t write the same way I wrote in my journal. For one thing, I wouldn’t only be violating my own privacy – I’d be violating other people’s privacy. So I developed what I called “the bus stop rule.” That is, I wouldn’t write anything on my blog about anyone else other than me that I wouldn’t tell a friendly stranger at a bus stop. My friend having trouble with their boyfriend? Not on the blog. My friend releases a new book? Absolutely on the blog.

    I didn’t want my friends to have to worry that anything they said to me might end up on my blog.

    And that all worked wonderfully…until sex started becoming a bigger part of the “plot” of my life.

    The problem? There was no way to write about my sex life without writing about someone else’s sex life, and someone else’s sex life is certainly not something I’d talk to a stranger about at the bus stop.

    So now, I do the following:

    1. I don’t write about my partners without their permission.
    2. I don’t settle arguments on the internet. I might write about a conflict or issue my partner and I overcame, but only after it’s over, and resolved in a way we both feel good about.
    3. I use pseudonyms for them, and a pseudonym for me (since if I didn’t use one for me using one for them would be…pretty ineffective).
    4. I refrain from revealing things that would make it easy to identify me or them (including facial pictures, details about work or where we live, etc.).

    1. LadyGrinSoul says:

      In my short stint as a sex blogger I pretty much adhered to the same rules. But made some catastrophic mistakes… but you know, live and learn. Everyone’s journey is so interesting though!

  4. Lily says:

    I’d ask you what the mistakes were…but then that might precipitate another mistake :)

    I’d also say that the quality of experiences you’re having with a lover is paramount. If writing about them gets in the way of that, for either party? Ditch it.

    I think it helped me that I’d been blogging for so long about personal (but nonsexual) topics. I had nearly a decade to work out where my “line” was about what I wanted to say and why.

    1. LadyGrinSoul says:

      Yes, I can imagine that would help! And no, haha… I learnt; I won’t discuss my horrendous mistakes.

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