Ten years ago today, I posted my inaugural entry on this blog. It makes me feel quite old and very nostalgic to be looking back to then; a lot has changed in my life since that initial moment I pressed ‘publish’. I remember being filled with excitement when I did. Finally, I had a platform all of my own, a soapbox on which I could say what I wanted without fear of judgement. Because my day-to-day life at that time consisted of working on male-dominated, very sexist, film sets, I feared ridicule for speaking my mind, so it was amazingly liberating to be able to do that here.
Looking back, I can see how naïve I was then: really, I knew little about being safe online and my enthusiasm for the medium overshadowed my instinctive hesitancy regarding my own security. I probably was a little too forthcoming with the truth - a ‘quality’ of mine that both hinders and helps me to this day - and if I knew then what I knew now, about how one’s privacy can be breached, exploited, violated, I probably would have been less honest in what I shared on here.
But then, that was what my blog was: a true account of a real woman’s sex life, blogged with total veracity, not fictionalised, glossed-up, or softened for audience approval or advertising revenue. I guess the honesty is what made readers connect with it: the good, bad and ugly were all covered (let’s face it, sex can be pretty disappointing sometimes) and people could relate to that.
I’ve always said that my obvious neuroses and insecurities as detailed on the blog made it clear that I didn’t write it to titillate; there’s as much introspective navel-gazing in the posts as there are descriptions of wanking. Speaking of which, quite a few men have written to me over the years to tell me that whilst they initially explored the blog for its erotic content and their own self-pleasure, they ended up staying for the personal-reflection, political ruminations and humour. Or, more bluntly, they came (pun intended) to wank, and left thinking about sex, but with two hands still firmly on their keyboards, not in their laps. Hearing that made me proud, not because there’s anything wrong with finding this blog, or any other sex blog arousing, but to know that men connected with it beyond their cocks, and in an intellectual way, meant I had achieved what I set out to do: to get people to think differently about sex.
Funnily enough, I never thought women would connect with the blog at all. When I began writing it, I felt alienated from other women, which may have had something to do with my daily working environment, or, perhaps, just a product of the era: in 2004, online communities were a bit more fragmented and it wasn’t as easy as it is now (say, with Twitter) to feel part of an alliance of like-minded individuals whose experiences are shared.
Back then, it felt like I was shouting about sex into a vacuum where there were two extreme, opposing perspectives: one, in women’s magazines, where women were portrayed as basically ‘innocent’ non-sexual beings who ‘give’ away their virginity to men and whose objective is to a) find a man and b) please him; and two, the other end of the media spectrum, where women were seen as 'sluts', and sexual ‘liberation’ meant the 'freedom' to be objectified for men’s titillation and gratification. I related to neither position.
How was it possible, I wondered, to express that I, as a feminist woman, was a desirous being who had sexual agency and who was neither ashamed of that, nor interested in expressing my sexuality through a patriarchal capitalist lens which solely focused on male pleasure? The answer, for me, was this blog: here would be my authentic female experience. I loved sex and was not going to apologise for that.
What I did not expect was that other women might relate to what I had written - which shows both my ignorance and my feeling isolated at that time. I really had no idea that the blog - and later, the books - would resonate so much with women; I had imagined that my online ramblings about my sex life might be read by a few nerds, rather than, a few years in, more than eight million people.
I’ve been told that some young women refer to my first book with an alternative title: ‘The Bible’. Now, stating that here will make me sound like an arrogant arse, I know. But you know what? Fuck it. I’ve had scores - no, hundreds - of emails from young women telling me they have passed around and shared battered, bookmarked, copies of my book with their friends and that from it they have learned that there is no shame in sex, or in owning their desire; that deriving pleasure from their own bodies is a positive thing; that they feel more confident in finding out what they enjoy in sex (and asking for it); and you know what? That makes me so proud. It never occurred to me that the book would be helpful to others in this way and knowing that it has, means that whatever difficulties I faced as a result of its publication makes the writing of it, and the blog, all worthwhile.
I have to mention the loss of my anonymity, of course I do. How could I not? (For those at the back of the class, a quick catch-up: I wrote this blog anonymously; in late 2005 I was offered a publishing deal; the book was published in late 2006; a few days after the book was out, the Sunday Times ran an expose ‘outing’ me as the author; the tabloids hounded me and my family; I went into hiding.) I think the violation of my privacy damaged me in ways I couldn’t comprehend and I am still suffering, emotionally, now. Sure, it’s some years later, and I’m far more savvy about the press, especially given I am now part of the media, but privately there’s still a hole, a tear in me, which is unhealed and raw and painful.
I realise I am still unable to fully trust people, find it hard to let people get close to me, and am far more suspicious than I used to be of other’s motives when it comes to sex and relationships. Perhaps this is good - cynicism can offer emotional protection - but it’s also restrictive: you have to open up to be able to be intimate with people, and it’s this part of me which is still, to this day, fragile and damaged.
I’ve learned this wound gets reopened and triggered by unexpected things. While in a happily non-monogamous relationship with someone, seeing others publicly flirt with him, or try to date him made me feel like my life was transparent, on display: I felt invaded, naked, nothing to hide or protect me. Rather than see other people’s interactions with my partner as something sweet (as I may once have done), and separate to me, it reignited my memory of violation once again, where I felt I had no control over what people know or don’t know about my personal life. Ironically, for someone who lived their (albeit anonymous) sex life very publicly on here, I am now - as a necessity of my own emotional survival - incredibly private.
This is why I have not written about the most meaningful relationship of my life so far, or about my realising I want a life partner and children. Or why I’ve not shared the threesomes, foursomes and fivesomes I’ve had, the sex parties I’ve been to, the forays into London’s poly scene, or the fact I finally ticked pegging off my list (and loved it). Why make public any of this, if it makes me feel like I have nothing of my own to cherish any more? Or if it makes me unsafe, untrusting and unable to enjoy the casual sex I once had? The little privacy I have now is sacred to me; what’s difficult is that it appears that others, even those close to me, or close to my partner, rarely understand this. People seem to assume that because I have been so open about sex, I am therefore offering others an access-all-areas pass to the most intimate parts of my life. Nothing could be further from the truth; this is why I’ve dozens of draft posts here which I’ve never published and probably never will, both to protect me and the privacy of those in my private life.
I feel like I should be ending this with a list, as I did in my very first post, but beyond a dull, bullet-pointed agenda of upcoming projects I am excited about and currently spinning a variety of plates over, there’s not anything I can offer. I will say that I’m happy and that I’m determined not to let negative arseholes get me down this year. I’m also hoping that, for personal reasons, this upcoming year is better than 2013 was. I’m optimistic about the future, about my life being enriched by good people, love, and plenty of board games. And I’m crossing my fingers for lots more sex - if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the ten years since I began this blog, it’s that sex gets even better the older you get. Something to look forward to over the next decade, indeed.
P.S. The comment system below is b0rked, so if you want to respond to this post, please do so on Twitter - @girlonetrack - or on Facebook. Yeah, I know, I need to sort out OA/Disqus, pronto.