Apr 132011

One of the mind-altering panel sessions that I attended at Momentum was Who is SexyKitty69? Exploring the social media pros & cons of anonymity. Twanna Hines1, moderator, and Shanna Katz2, Samantha Fraser3 and Stef Woods4, panelists, were all originally anonymous bloggers (see footnotes for their “out” stories). They all now show their faces and blog alongside their real name. Katherine Curtis, also on the panel, is a little more like me (half-in half-out) except that she shows her face; she keeps some anonymity by using Kat as a pen name on Naked News.

There are many reasons why bloggers of any niche change from anonymous to open; most of these bloggers out themselves. Conversely, some like the blogger-formerly-known-as Zoe Margolis /Girl with a One Track Mind, have been outed without consent. She was outed because she wrote a book based on her blog, and published it anonymously. Since this happened back before sex bloggers and risque books were “common”, the UK media did everything in their power to find out Zoe’s real name. The damage done to her life was, and continues to be, devastating in many ways.

Blogging about sex isn’t always as easy to do as “the real you”. It’s a touchy subject in this country, and it can be very off-putting for some to openly discuss the sex they’re having knowing all the while that friends and family could be reading about last week’s threesome at any moment. For many, the cloak of anonymity offers freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and less worry that you’ll have to deal with real-life fall-out from the content of your blog.

With my fast-approaching life changes, I’ve considered being “less anonymous” on my blog. I’ve considered finally disclosing who I (at the time of this post still) work for, as an explanation for why I had to be so careful. I’ve considered showing more of my face, or even sharing more personal details about life in general. Instead, I was smacked in the face with a realization during this session: there is no way to reliably and easily walk that tightrope. I would never put my real name on this blog, yet I’d consider exposing details that, if anybody who knew me were to find my blog, would identify me as much as my name or face. It is all too easy to slip up and give away something game-changing. I didn’t think about those details until this session.

It also occurred to me during this session that I really need to re-think how my future plans for the sex toy education parties are going to affect me and my anonymity. One big facet of the workshop was to teach them how to find reliable sex toy reviews – and I feel that it’s easier to find a reliable reviewer by looking to the blogs. (You can go back and read all their reviews, see what they like and how they like it and find someone who’s likes and dislikes mesh with your own; you can also see that they’ve been giving credible and thorough reviews for awhile.)  But by teaching them to search for reviews on blogs, you know what’s going to eventually happen, right?

They’ll land on my blog.

While I don’t show my full face and try to only show enough that still gives me a veil of “is that…..? nah….not her,” I could be wrong. One of them could easily find my blog and recognize me! Of course, since these people will be somewhat local to me, there’s a chance they might know others I also know, or others I might write about in the future (should I start going out again). All of which leads to this really big reminder:

When you blog, it is not just about YOUYou are involving everyone in your life (unless of course you never, ever write about anybody other than yourself).Your partner, your friends, your family and even your boss/coworkers/company. If you’re anonymous it’s not as big of an invasion unless one of them finds your blog. If you’re out or decide to be out….you’re not just outing yourself. You’re outing them all. And did they give their consent? Probably not, I’d guess. And even if they did give their consent could they even have a clue what consequences there will be? Can even you foresee the future complications for yourself? Your partner? Your child? Your future child? Your next job? There is a big responsibility to everyone else in your life when you decide to blog publicly about sex. Take responsibility. When the shit hits the fan take responsibility for it yourself. Please don’t expect other people to clean up your mess5.

There are notable downsides to being out. Shanna pointed out that if she ever wanted to go back to her old type of work, in the vanilla world, she’s going to have a very hard time getting a job. On the internet, “Shanna Katz” is completely tied to her old moniker “Essin’Em”.  Employers DO Google and man will they ever get an eyeful when they see her internet presence – sex educator, sex blogger, she’s been in porn, etc. Awesome creds for sex-pos jobs, scary creds for say….an accountant. Stef pointed out that she’d like to adopt a child. Will her blog, which is about her friends/dates/sex life, prevent her from being able to adopt a child? Will they employ slut-shaming tactics and judge her mothering abilities based on the blog? Katherine Curtis and Shanna both have had fans try to “friend” their mom, their partner, etc on Facebook. And of course there’s the nut-jobs who might stalk you.

I don’t mean to be the purveyor of doom and gloom here, I truly don’t. I recognize that coming out and blogging as the real you (or in my case, just a little bit more of the real me) can be freeing. No more worrying about someone finding and outing you without your consent, and no more dual identities. So what about a little of each? Sharing some privacy-cropped photos, details of your personal life, attending events where a roomful (or conference-full) of people are putting a face (and maybe real name) to your blog but yet not going completely commando – taking care to draw lines and use different email addresses, not showing your face on a public blog, not sharing even your real first name or the name of the town you live in? But if you think you can pull off that tightrope walk of being half-in and half-out, consider these facts:

  • 78% of Americans are online.
  • 52% of people are on Facebook.
  • Half of those on Facebook are online at any given moment.
  • The average Facebook user has 132 friends.

Luckily for me I don’t meet that average number. Over a year ago I had a very close encounter with Facebook’s lovely practice of recommending friends based on things like number of friends in common AND who’s in your combined address books of the third party accounts you both chose to associate with the Facebook account. I’d had a blog-me FB and a real-me FB. One day I noticed that someone who was friends with real-me had requested to friend blog-me. Thankfully, she’s pretty cool and open and had no problem with the blog. But she had uh, ahem, recognized the cleavage in the blog-me photo I’d chosen to use. Not my face, not the background…my cleavage. What if someone else from my friends list at that time had clicked on the recommendation, not by recognition of my tits, but sheer curiosity? Would they have made the connection, seeing more of my body parts? It was a nerve-wracking 36 hours as I did my best to shovel dirt on my tracks and delete my blog-me presence in Facebook.

Another potential disaster that happened, because I was cocky and not thinking, occurred early on in my blogging career. I showed potential OKC or Craigslist dates my sex blog. After all, it gave them a pretty good inside scoop as to what I liked sexually and hey – great conversation starter! I know other sex bloggers who’ve done it as well with mixed results, but I just happened to show it to someone who worked for the same organization as me. The cards collapsed when he figured out where I worked based on one of my photos wherein I showed something outside one of our office windows. Once he knew what building I was in, and based on what I’d already disclosed privately and on my blog about my office…he came over. He didn’t ask, he just did it. Since I was a receptionist and not hidden in the cube farm, he was able to walk right by my desk.  He had texted me in warning about 20 seconds before entering my floor so I had the warning and I didn’t look up from my desk. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a guy walk by that had to be him. He didn’t say a word, just walked by. Twice. As I trembled in fear and adrenaline, I realized that he knew too much.

And he had seen my real name.

The panic that ensued on my part nearly got me to yank the blog entirely. He could have outed me to my boss and gotten me fired. It was a HUGE deal.

Instead of shuttering my entire online presence, I removed a few photos, changed a few others, & changed some previously-written details within my blog entries. At the time I balked about doing that. It felt “wrong” to me. Like I wasn’t being as authentic as I could be. But one smart point that Samantha made during the session was this: What is more important: The safety/happiness of a date/partner/job/yourself, or the story? She even brought up the time she was forced to change details & even remove some posts altogether once she was outed, all in the name of protecting someone she cared very much for who didn’t want to be on the blog.

I don’t know what I’m going to do now going forward. I do know that I have a lot to think about, both with this blog and the sex toy education parties I plan to do. The session presented me with a look at what could happen, and to be frank…it scared me. But it is a fear I am thankful for. I WILL be more careful, and I will put a lot more thought into my actions with this blog. I will think about myself, my family, those I’ve talked about on this blog, those related to those I’ve talked about on the blog and so on. I will learn to compartmentalize better and be safer while still retaining my authenticity and not becoming a recluse.

I’d really like to hear thoughts from all types of bloggers who are in various phases of anonymity or out-ness. What are your reasons for the choice? Do you plan to change? Do you have a “shit hit the fan” plan?
  1. Twanna started out blogging just as Funky Brown Chick when she was approached to do a paid writing gig for Nerve; once it was made known to her that they wanted a face shot to go along with her byline she took the plunge
  2. Shanna blogged for a good number of years under her roller derby name, Essin’Em. When she got her sex ed degree and started doing college campus tours and various classes it became clear that using her real name (which is what’s on her degree, of course) would make things infinitely more easy. It helped that by then she was working already for a sex-positive company (Fascinations/FunLove)
  3. Sam was anonymous until she was approached by a national newspaper to do a big front-page type article on her and her husband’s open marriage lifestyle – complete with real names and face photos. They both took the plunge with much thought and reverence given
  4. As CityGirl, a DC dating blog, Stef attended some blogging gatherings. When she attended things as CityGirl she would allow them to photograph her from the back, showing only her trademark long red hair. When she was at events as Stef the attorney, she allowed full face and name photos. But one day at a DC Blogging bash, an online publication listed her face shot as CityGirlBlog’s Stef Woods, not what she req’d: Attorney Stef Woods. The change was quickly made online and she continued to be partially out in the DC social scene. It wasn’t until her breast cancer diagnosis that she decided to be fully out on her blog in the name of activism
  5. and yes, I am referring to a few bloggers most of us know – be their situation chosen or outed, I don’t support their cries to the community for money to help them clean up the messes they ultimately made. Cold? Maybe. But when you’re doing something risky, you have to be prepared. I’m not going to help you pay for your unpreparedness
 Posted by at 2:32 pm
Apr 072011

So Sunday I had both breakfast and lunch with AAG and her awesomely funny roommate Heidi (I first mentioned her here) and others. More good conversations and laughs. And coffee. Jesus we drained pots of coffee that morning.

The Sunday sessions started out with the Feminist Connection by Lillith – she’s also a really great educator. I went into that session thinking “I’m not really a feminist” but yeah. She changed me. She changed my whole outlook on things. Again though, that’s a whole other post. But I want to say here (and will repeat) a fact that hit me hard from her session:

Research has shown that you get more of a happiness-boost from being with a group of your friends once a month than having your salary doubled (obvs paraphrasing here as I can’t recall the exact wording, and note that the salary thing doesn’t apply to poverty or the rich).

YES. This is what’s been wrong with me and why I haven’t truly enjoyed the last couple NYC events like I feel I should have AND why I’ve been feeling disconnected from the blogging/twittering community lately. At those events I didn’t get the cerebral connections – it was too loud, too chaotic, and too triggering to my anxieties. They were parties where it felt kind of like a collision of egos and pomp; where being dramatic and trying to hit on everyone was all but expected. That’s not me. But this? Momentum was like a dream. It changed me. And yes, it recharged me. It made me happy. I now more than ever need this move and need to surround myself with sex-positive, supportive, nurturing friends who care about me, who include me, who make me a better person and vice versa. Not once at Momentum did I feel like I was outside of a circle looking in, tagging along, invisible. I’m at the point where yeah….I’m a sex blogger and I love sex just as much as everyone else but Momentum wasn’t *about* filling up your fuck card and I liked it like that. I’m not dissing those other events; if that’s your thing and you feel comfortable in that, great. But it’s not for me anymore.

Another panel I went to that day was the Ethics & Responsibilities for Sex-Positive Writing; the panelists brought up some really good points. (broken record time: this will get it’s own post) I learned a lot from them and will be making some changes with my blogging and my blog itself.

The time for check-out and the closing remarks came too soon. I needed to get home to my hubs and take care of him and his poor impending root canal the next day but yet I wanted to stay in the bubble of the con. It was actually a good thing that I rushed to leave right after the closing remarks because if I lingered on the goodbyes I’d have cried.

[box]I can’t stress this enough: No matter what you do online, no matter how big or small a fish you are….if you read the #mcon tweets and wished you were there… GO NEXT YEAR. Get over your fears, save up your money and GO. It’s the best thing that happened to me in a long time. I want these people I spent time with to be in my real life and see them more often; I got all mopey yesterday as con-drop started to wear off and my irritation with those surrounding me in real life hit fully. I miss all of you. I want back in the bubble of happiness. This conference changed me, for the better. Diva and Tess did a huge huge amazing thing in creating it.[/box]

I am usually very introverted and prefer to blend in. But this conference did something else…..I feel like I want to be part of it next year even more. I’m truly considering submitting a session proposal. However I’m still not entirely convinced that I have enough to share that people would actually want to listen to. I keep bouncing around a few ideas but I’m afraid they fall short or wouldn’t fit in with the conference. And of course I couldn’t possible do it alone, no way in hell would I stand up in from of a room full 7 people by myself no no I’m draggin somebody else’s ass up there with me. Or maybe someone else will create a panel type session on which I might have something to add to. Who knows.  Any thoughts?

Also: If you took notes at sessions I didn’t go to, can you email me? I might be interested in reading your notes.

Apr 062011

Like so many others, going to Momentum has sparked a lot of things in me. There is so much I want to talk about; the conference itself, the people I met; the discussions we had; the things I learned in sessions. It’s almost overwhelming, really.

It wasn’t just a conference for bloggers, or sex workers, or feminists. Sure there were a lot of niche-related sessions going on but it was about more than the sessions, even. It was about being in a place where you looked around and felt….normal. Welcomed. Accepted. Understood.

I had a really good roommate, too. He is more outgoing than me and so by proxy I let down my social anxiety guards more and through his easy-going friendliness I had meals with people I didn’t really know and one hour (or two) later knew I’d gained another friend or three. The event was kicked off on Friday first with an ice cream social – where people sat at big tables and either knew some, or knew of a person, or knew no one. And we sat there and probably each privately wondered and worried if we’d be liked. (I was actually shocked when someone else admitted it to me the next day because I’d pegged her for being a fearless, confident woman. Knowing she’d felt intimidated at first made me feel better.) Then things kicked off with a wonderful comic who does sex ed talks to colleges and comedy clubs, Maria Falzone. She had me laughing so hard I was crying. Then there was the perfect opening keynote panel of Tristan Taormino, Carol Queen, Jenny Block, Reid Mihalko and Lynn Comella. The discussions and stories from the people on the panel further opened everyone up. At some point after that a group of us stumbled off to a nearby diner where we relaxed and had good food. Unfortunately, my brain was so wired from the night and for looking forward to the next day that I stupidly didn’t take my sleeping meds – I thought I was exhausted enough to sleep without. So I didn’t get much sleep that night, and ended up looking exhausted most of Saturday (and oh joy, I retained my “I just woke up 5 minutes ago” hoarse voice all day, too).

Saturday’s sessions for me kicked off with awesome sex educator Megan Andelloux‘s “Odd Girl Out: Straddling the Fields of Sexual Health and Sexual Pleasure“. I learned a lot, and I think some of what I learned I’ll be able to use when I host my sex toy education parties – I’ll have to realize that the people I’ll be talking to aren’t toy reviewers like us who are fully at ease discussing sexual pleasure. After that, I had an interview with Tristan fuckin Taormino and her partner, Colten (for a job that I don’t actually expect to get, realistically, but it was fun to talk to her and god she’s amazing!!). Afterwards, a last-minute replacement session where Greg from Njoy rattled off on tangents about the toys he’s created. Guess what? Those who know and love the Pure Wand and are all enthralled at how it feels like the weight and the weight distribution perfectly aid and enhance the toy? It’s a fluke. He was simply trying to design a better dildo for G- and P-spot stimulation, thought that the curve would make it more accessible to people with different bodies (like me!) and would aid in massaging those spots. He thought it was dumb to have both sides be the same size, which just happened to lead to the weight balance thing. We finally got to see at the end some really interesting prototypes that I hope he gets to work on, soon!!

Jay and I then went out for lunch with an amazing couple he met in a session, they’re on Twitter as _Uncensor and _missalex_ and I just love them to bits. Between Friday night and Saturday I got to meet/hug/love so many people that I hope I don’t miss any. Crista.Ann is SO cute and sweet and so is @spunquee, who’s shirt topped me on Saturday. We hugged and laughed and bonded. Lillith Grey and her partner, Synn (I think I have a crush on them both) were amongst the Saturday night dinner companions. The food wasn’t great but the conversation fucking rocked so we stayed there 2 hours – talking about so many facets of gender, butch/femme identity, perceptions, cooking, sex, disabilities…wow. So much sexybrain intelligence and laughter and fun. @b_playful and Ten and others for Friday’s late night dinner and Ten was passed around like a doll on Saturday night in the bar, lol. I met AAG! Famous AAG! Saw my NYC friends Mia and @Insomnias_Bitch and N (her and Lillith did a Fabulous session on Burlesque) and Missy and Brandon. Finally met SilverDreams and oh! Shanna Katz! Another Famous! She’s so adorable and funny and a great teacher. (her and Lillith fuckin made me blush during the keynote speech twittering about my boobs) She gave Lillith a lesson on how to store things in your bra while we were at the hotel bar. Shanna was also responsible for numerous people being caned on the ass (or tits) in the bar, too. Of course by then many of us had started drinking (some more than others, ahem) and things got a little rowdy, a lot sexy and terribly fun even if I was half asleep for the last hour of it.

*deep breaths, Lilly*

whew. That’s a lot! And there’s more. I didn’t even get to mention the session I attended Saturday afternoon on anonymity  & blogging, but that’s going to be a whole other post. The panel was awesome and gave me a LOT to think about. I’ve never been to a conference of any sort so it was just…unreal. And the twittering! jesus! I sucked at twittering during sessions because I’m not a good multi-tasker like that. I left it to the pros. Shanna tweeted a lot of really great tidbits, so did Reid and others.

That was all so rambly and disjointed, I’m sorry. But there’s just so much. So many wonderful people, wonderful conversations, jam-packed into 48 hours that it felt like it was longer than that (in a good way). The “real world” felt so foreign to me, even my own kitchen felt foreign when I got home Sunday night. But my point.

My point. It’s epic.

A good friend was assuring my stupid social anxiety nerves on Friday evening (he wasn’t there, I was just hyperventilating via IM) by telling me to just relax, lighten up and have fun – that these were my people and it would all be okay. That sunk in Saturday. YES omg THESE ARE MY PEOPLE. *wistful sigh* YOU are my people. Don’t you all see that? Sure, as a collective we may disagree with each other be it one on one or bigger events. But we are all intertwined and like-minded; we should be building each other up and supporting the collective as a whole, not competing and eating our own.

Part 2 will come soon, as will a number of other #mcon related posts. More sexy people to tell you about, more wonderful conversations. To be continued…..

Feb 242011

I’m really looking forward to my upcoming long weekend in D.C. to attend MOMENTUM, a sexuality conference bringing together many types of talks and speakers and topics relating to sex, sex work, feminism, and new social media. From the site:

With nearly 50 presenters, among them Megan Andelloux, Jenny Block, Susie Bright, Dr. Lynn Comella, Twanna A. Hines, Dr. Carol Queen, Tristan Taormino, Dr. Shira Tarrant, and Jamye Waxman, and 34 sessions covering a wide range of viewpoints on sexuality, MOMENTUM’s jam-packed program has something of interest to everyone.

A lot of fellow bloggers and twitter friends are going and hopefully even more that I know can go! The creators of the conference, Tied Up Events, is having a contest this week to win two tickets AND goodies! Check out all the wonderful sessions they’re having and you’ll know that it’s going to be great and informative. I hope to see some of you there!

What’s better than attending a conference that brings together notable sexuality experts such as educator, activist & icon, Susie Bright, author and feminist pornographer, Tristan Taormino, author & FoxNews sex columnist, Jenny Block, professor and author, Dr. Shira Tarrant, speaker and coach, Reid Mihalko, Good Vibes staff sexologist, Dr. Carol Queen, founder and director of the The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health, Megan Andelloux and… (I could do on and on but you can read about all of these amazing people on MOMENTUM’s presenters page)? Attending it for FREE, that’s what!

Since at MOMENTUM we’ll be encouraging you to think, to talk and to act, we’re going to encourage you to start doing just that by giving away two tickets to MOMENTUM. All you have to do to have a chance to win is write a post, by Saturday, February 26th at midnight EST, about why you’re attending MOMENTUM, which session you’re most looking forward to and why (see the Session Details page to read all about them). Then, leave us a comment with your link on this post and also tweet the link to @momentumcon. That’s it! On Monday, February 28th, we’ll announce two winners who will each get one free admission to MOMENTUM, a gift basket from Wet (you can pick it up at the con) and a $50 gift card from our premier sponsor, Fascinations.

Don’t fret if you’ve already purchased your ticket, if the winner(s) already is a ticket holder(s), we’ll refund you the purchase price.

 Posted by at 4:39 pm