Times Online's 'Pornography' Article - Putting My 2 Pennies In
Recently in the blogosphere there has been furore over the Times article entitled 'British Novelists Writing Pornography' by Richard Brooks. Infamous sexperts and 'pornographers' have added their own comments - some humorous, some scathing - and whilst I usually avoid arguments and stepping out of line, this is something that I can't bite my tongue over any longer…
The Times Online article in question is by Richard Brooks, the Arts Editor for the Times Online. Brooks takes a look at the soon to be released 'In Bed With…' book, which is a collection of 'unashamedly sexy stories' by a group of 20 women, each a famous author in their own right, who have used a pseudonym to tell tales of sex and seduction.
Part of the intrigue of the book is figuring out which pseudonym matches which author (Fay Weldon, Joanne Harris, Rachel Johnson…) and Brooks spends the majority of his article playing Sherlock Holmes. Badly.
Many bloggers, sexperts and writers of erotic fiction have taken offense to the article for different reasons. Some do not like the fact that erotica is referred to as 'pornography', others do not like the insistence that these renowned and award winning authors are using pseudonyms because to use their real name would be a blemish on their otherwise sterling careers. I actually quite like the article but take slight issue with the fact that it aims to de-pseudonym the writers.
In my opinion, the point of these writers using pseudonyms is simply a great marketing ploy - people will buy it in order to play detective and find out which of their favourite authors wrote what. It is a moot point to try and take away their 'anonymity' because that is the point of the book! Brooks is attempting to be the person who spoils a movie by telling you the ending 5 minutes before it happens. And he doesn't even do it well.
Brooks has been dull, stereotypical and in some cases insulting in his 'guesses' as to who is who.
For example, Brooks assumes that one of the Sapphic stories must belong to crime writer Stella Duffy, who is a lesbian. Not wanting to shoot herself in the foot in regards to positive publicity, Duffy rather kindly explains of her story "I did have a heterosexual life before, which I can remember, though there might be a passing reference to lesbianism".
Speculation would have been a better approach to the article. Instead, Brooks makes an assumption based on apparent "fact" then out right asks the authors which story they have written. Where is the fun in that? Let the authors have their pseudonyms and 'anonymity' and for those of us who read erotica for more than masturbation material, we'll have a go at guessing ourselves.
I don't feel that using a pseudonym is a bad thing, nor is it necessarily a ruse to shamefully hide who someone really is. Take my own work for instance (shameless plug goes here!). I will happily call the things I write 'pornography' - hell, some of my stories have even featured in a few of the original top shelf magazines and we all know their sole intent and purpose - but I have used pseudonyms for those stories, for many reasons.
When I wrote my first story for Lovehoney back in October 2007, I was asked if I wanted to use a pseudonym or my real name. At first, I was intent on using a pseudonym due to not wanting my mother or my employers to know what I had been up to! But with a little more thought, I realised that I was proud of what I had wrote - it was fluent, it was sexy and it had won me the Erotic Writing Competition!
It was then that I decided to use my real name. My employers were progressive enough to not really care and my mum simply said "what would your Grandmother say!?" In all honesty, if my Gran figures out how to get online and google my name then I think we both expect for her to find something she doesn't necessarily want to see - whether it's photos of me drunk and dressed like a pirate on Facebook or naughty stories on Lovehoney.
I decided to use a pseudonym when writing for the lads mags not to protect my artistic integrity (I have none) but to separate my work into easily manageable sections. Whilst Carly Drew writes 'erotic fiction', Jen Charles writes 'smut'.
Firstly, it helps me when I'm writing. Carly Drew can write pages and pages of beautiful, romantic, love making. Jen Charles can write short, snappy "wham-bam, thank you ma'am" sex scenes. Call it my split personality if you will, but if I know that I'm writing under a specific name, I know exactly what I need to write, who for and how long it needs to be.
It also makes it easier when the cheques are coming in. Both my taxes and bills are much better handled when things are addressed correctly and go into the right accounts not to mention how easy it is to find an individual story within 100+ files on my computer for an invoice!
I'm not saying the authors that wrote for 'In Bed With…' are all anally retentive smut writers with OCD for order and organisation. I'm simply trying to reiterate the point that it doesn't really matter if they use a pseudonym or their real name; surely it's the content that counts?