In the early days of blogging, writers only had to “self censor” if they thought their mother or pastor might be reading their ramblings. Now, it’s all too common to find employers perusing your posts, too…and taking notes—which is why many bloggers have decided the only way to be secure expressing opinions is behind the mask of anonymity.
While some argue that anonymous blogging lacks the accountability of “real” blogging, others claim the opposite: Without fear of your boss, friends and family reading your ramblings, a blogger can feel secure enough to share their most scandalous sexual exploits and edgiest opinions.
It’s no surprise, then, that the most compelling sex blogs are all written anonymously—with a freedom and fluency only the shield of a saucy screen name can give. There are literally hundreds of wildly talented scribes opinionating and arousing us with their musing, the vast majority writing behind a perceived wall of anonymity—which as it turns out, often offers protection as flimsy as a house of cards.
All of this occurred to me when SexIs first asked me to write this column. I had to choose to write under my real name, or a pseudonym.
Initially, the lure of anonymity was attractive. After all, my mum uses Google, and might stumble across what I write. But in the end, I passed.
Why? Because just a few weeks earlier, I’d sat at my laptop in the middle of the night, deleting “Half Nekkid Thursday” posts from what I’d thought was my anonymous blog, all because a blogging buddy of mine had pointed out a security flaw that made it easy to link my blog to my real name and email address.
Going incognito on the Internet was a lot harder than I thought, and that’s why eventually decided to write under my real name, but in the realm of sex blogging, anonymity is the rule, rather than the exception.
Why risk job, family and kids for the sake of writing about sex in the first place? It’s not a question that’s easily answered—but neither is it a new phenomenon.
The Confessional Instinct
People have been writing anonymously about sex for hundreds of years. Benjamin Franklin—perhaps the pioneer of pseudonymous snark—tackled puritan double standards about promiscuity as far back as 1747 in an anonymous article for London’s General Advertiser.
In the character of Polly Baker, a promiscuous woman who’d given birth to five children out of wedlock, Franklin assailed a system that punished women for pregnancy outside of marriage, but gave a free pass to the horny men who’d knocked them up.
A century and a half later, French author Anne Desclos adopted the name Pauline Réage to write her seminal sadomasochistic novel, The Story of O—a tale so explicit, its publisher was charged with obscenity.
It seems that there’s always been a burning instinct inside some people to express their sexuality. The proliferation of the Internet has just given more of them the opportunity.
And while that’s a great thing—giving us an enormous repository of amazing writing to enjoy—the rise of sex blogging has also made people more vulnerable than ever.
Hoist by One’s Own Petard
As mentioned previously, the most notable risk of blogging under a pseudonym is discovery. Outed bloggers are faced with the sobering state of affairs of having a world audience discover exactly whose dirty knickers were heretofore anonymously waving in the breeze. Ironically, it seems being forced to own up to your own words engenders as much or more outrage as such “real” consequences as losing one’s livelihood or one’s family.
Case in point: One of the first sex blogs I started reading was by a fellow Brit: Girl with a One-Track Mind (Abby Lee). A promiscuous Londoner, she wrote with an honesty and eroticism unfettered by the self-consciousness an “out” blogger might have suffered from.
Girl with a One-Track Mind followed in the footsteps of celebrity blogger Belle Du Jour by publishing her blog as a novel. Shortly afterward, predatory paparazzi for the Sunday Times tracked down the author and revealed her true identity.
“I now have had to deal with my entire family knowing that I write an explicit personal sex diary,” she wrote on her blog shortly afterwards. “It’s hell.”
When Girl with a One-Track Mind was exposed by the Sunday Times, she didn’t bite her tongue in attacking them: “In no way was it in the public interest to name me,” she complained on her blog, condemning the piece that exposed her as a “despicable article.”
Out, Out, Damn Blogger!
Other outed bloggers have been similarly quick to attack those who exposed them, or condemn a perceived hypocrisy regarding their behavior. As much as I adore the writing of Girl with a One-Track Mind—and many bloggers like her—I always had a tough time buying that.
Girl, for instance, was very far from a shrinking violet. She’d penned a blog visited by seven million subscribers, and presumably received a nice advance for her popular book. She’d actively courted the limelight, so it seemed somewhat hypocritical to cry foul when she lost control over just how much of that limelight shone her way.
To a certain extent, that’s how I feel about exposed bloggers. No matter how or why they got outed, these bloggers were ultimately the ones who put themselves in a position to be exposed in the first place.
Nobody forced them to blog. Nobody demanded they share the scintillating secrets that they did. Quite the opposite, in fact—most of the outed bloggers actively courted attention—openly soliciting traffic and comments.
Just like with Girl with a One-Track Mind, it seems somewhat duplicitous to expect anonymity while simultaneously demanding attention.
We live in an age in which digital signatures force us to own our words in a way we’ve never had to before—even if we originally intended to write them anonymously.
That’s why the words of Tobias Wolff are perhaps more pertinent now than ever: “A piece of writing is a dangerous thing. It can change your life.”
Any sex blogger who’s been outed knows exactly how true that is.