In Defense of Anonymity
Betty Dodson has long been one of my sex-positive-feminist heroines. But then, because I do highly regard her opinions, her blog post yesterday entitled Going Public with Our Sexual Activity stung me. The post begins:
I'd like to get rid of all the "anon" sign-offs and cyber avatars. What is everyone afraid of? Why can't we all celebrate who we are sexually? What are the concerns people have about claiming their sex-lives under their own name? As long as we continue to hide who we are sexually, we will continue to be manipulated by our repressed conservative society that really hates, or I should say "fears" sex.
The moralists proudly shout their opinions from the roof tops while far too many in the sexual community sneak around under aliases...
And she has an excellent point. But then, my real name isn't Annabelle, and I won't be publishing it here, even if Betty Dodson does judge me for it.
The comments to her post already make the most obvious counter-points: We don't want to lose our jobs or to upset our families with information that really isn't our family's business. Which Betty Dodson brushes off in the comment to the end of her comments by paraphrasing, "Not being ostracized from the country club," but there are real-life consequences, and Google does increase their likelihood. Once something hits the internet, the author loses all control over who can find it.
But with the freedom of a pseudonym, we can write absolutely anything about our sex lives, with less risk that someone will find it through Google before we're ready to share with them. I have been influenced and inspired by any number of sex-writers whom I assume are using pseudonyms, from Violet Blue to Cunning Minx to Luna Grey and Catherine Liszt. Catherine Liszt came out under her real name Janet Hardy between publishing the first and second editions of The Ethical Slut, but the book is essentially the same. The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom does wonderful and pragmatic work for sexual liberation, even with a couple directors and staff listed as Mercury and Lolita Wolf, which I suspect isn't written on their driver's licenses.
If pseudonyms make us feel safer about making our sexual honesty available to the masses, isn't that better than censorship?
Besides the pseudonym, I maintain very different standards of sexual privacy on the internet vs. in the flesh. In the flesh, most of my friends and friends-of-friends are well-aware that I identify as kinky and have both a husband and a boyfriend. I stopped making the dramatic "coming-out" "confessions" a few years ago, and now just mention my "proclivities" as they happen to come up in conversation. At kink events, I usually use my real first name. So I don't feel like I'm "hiding" in my everyday life. The difference is Google.
All that being said, I deeply admire and thank the people who are all-the-way out under their real names, blazing the trail for the rest of us cowards.
In the meantime, we the anonymous are still helping them build the subculture that will create that change.