As the fabulous girlonthenet says, being a sex blogger is great. And, as she goes on to add, being a sex blogger is awful. While her conclusion is absolutely correct, posts like that give me pause. See, it's really unusual for someone to blog about sex, even in the more theoretical less explicit way I do, under their real name. When people think those things, they think them about Emma Hart.
On Coming Out Day, Clarisse Thorn (not her real name) wrote about why she, in fact, isn't out. All of her reasons are things I've thought about myself. I perform the same risk calculus, and come to a different conclusion. That doesn't mean that I don't worry about those things approximately all the damn time. I know it doesn't look like it. It's easy to assume I give no thought to consequences, particularly when you can't see all the times I've sent a column to someone else to vet before I put it up.
When I was talking about this to my partner, I told him how much easier I find it doing this when he and our children have a different surname from mine. He was quite startled: it had never occured to him. The idea of people making assumptions about him because of things I've said, reading – correctly or incorrectly – between the lines, makes me deeply uncomfortable. I'm lucky that he's always had a sense of humour about it, even when people were introducing him at work by saying, "This is Karl; his partner blogs at Public Address."
And I cannot tell you, though I probably don't need to, how much I don't want people connecting my children with my writing. "Hey, your Mum said..." Fucking hell. Like my partner, my kids didn't volunteer for this.
And probably nobody's noticed, but I write a lot more about BDSM since my mother died.
With all that to worry about, protecting myself is actually pretty far down my list of priorities, and not something I often remember to think about. Well, not until, say, someone who lives in New Zealand has sent me pictures of them masturbating and I realise just how easy it would be for them to find my house. If that were a thing that happened. And, just to be clear, it is.
Mostly I cope using a sort of weird dissociative walled garden. I assume no-one I know reads my blogs. All the different bits of my life stay in their own discrete boxes. I only discovered a bunch of my friends were reading earlier this year when it caused a Bit of a Thing. Genuinely surprised. Basically, if you never say anything to me about my writing, if you're read-only, I have no sense of your presence, so I assume you're not there. And yes, perhaps a bunch of my mum's friends are still reading my stuff and thinking, "Goodness!", but I have no way of knowing, so it doesn't matter. They don't exist. Seriously, you there reading this. If you've never communicated with me, you don't exist.
Doing a different calculus, though, I get different results. I err on the side of a different caution. There are so many columns you'll never see, because I write under my real name. You'd have read a lot more about BDSM and abuse and abortion if I weren't protecting all those other people. I have thought about how to say those things, how much they need to be said and how much I need to have said them. Once, I wrote a piece anonymously. It felt wrong. Reading people's comments felt like spying. I felt like, in writing anonymously about what had happened to me, I made it something that specifically hadn't happened to Emma Hart, and that was wrong. It was a lie.
There is, however, one main reason I write under my real name, that makes all the down sides completely worth it. And this is going to sound unbelievably wanky and arrogant. Pretend some other chick said it.
People appreciate the honesty. I am a proper person, and so they listen to me as they wouldn't otherwise, and understand things they might not have. And if you think that's altruism, that I'm doing all this for The People, think again. Thing is, you guys say the most incredible things to me. And yes, people would still do that if I wrote under a pseudonym, but the other day I got this comment from someone who knows me, under my real name, from a completely different context:
I think when someone speaks openly and clearly in a forum like the internet it is hard to see the dividends it pays. Emma's honesty and willingness to speak has done so much to make me comfortable with myself and my sexuality that I don't even know how grateful I am, because I can't imagine how much harder it would have been without her.
Cried Like a Bitch. Sinead, you're the reason I'm out.