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Sunday, August 13, 2006

Response II 

I have written an article for the Independent on Sunday newspaper:

Ten days ago, I was a nobody. A 33 year-old London woman working in the film industry, trying to juggle a decent social life with a career. Nothing special there. I just happen, over the last two years, to have written a detailed sex diary on the internet, which has had over 2m visitors and was recently published as a book. It was, as they say on the Net, decidedly "Not Safe for Work".

I was nameless though: all my writing had been done under the pseudonym, 'Abby Lee'. No-one, not even my publishers, knew my real name. (All my dealings with them were via "my agent", a phrase I never thought I would hear myself say. He had contacted me after reading my blog.) With the advantage of anonymity, I could write, with complete honesty, about the most erotic and emotional events in my life. I believed, perhaps naively, that my anonymity was safe – until a Sunday newspaper decided to reveal my true identity last weekend. Suddenly, from being a nobody, I became the scarlet woman du jour.

The first I knew of the 'expose' was when I received a bunch of flowers, and as I signed for them, a hidden photographer took pictures of me. Somehow a Sunday Times journalist had got hold of my name and address and was planning to reveal my real identity as the author of my book and blog, 'Girl With a One-Track Mind'. With them ringing my ex-directory home 'phone constantly, I decided to talk to my parents.

Of all the difficult discussions to have, divulging to your parents that you have a book out featuring your most intimate sexual experiences and thoughts, pretty much comes top of my list. Imagine: on the one hand, trying to emphasise the positive – "but my book's doing really well on Amazon!" – contrasted with: "my identity is about to be revealed, and you might be embarrassed because the book is, er, very explicit."

My parents (professional, liberal, thank goodness) were wonderfully supportive though. 'Pack a bag', they told me. 'Leave now'. I did, and then went into hiding. I'm still hiding now: photographers continue to get to know my front garden intimately. (You can leave now chaps, I'm not going back just yet.).

The irony is that the Sunday Times had serialised my book just three weeks before. If I hadn't felt so intimidated, I would have found it hilarious. But I didn't laugh when they emailed me what would be included in the article: my birth certificate; where I live; details of where I went to school; my mother's name, her profession, and location. Instead, I cried, and read out the email to my parents. Again, they backed me up, and insisted that I shouldn't reply to it.

However, I was still worried about how this news story might infringe upon, and affect, my family, friends, ex-lovers and colleagues, so I set about informing everyone when the article came out. To my immense relief, people rallied around me: messages of support came flooding in. Whilst my private life as I knew it come crumbling down, knowing that so many were backing me, gave me confidence. If the people close to me, saw my feminist perspective on sex being a good thing, then others might too.

Being plunged from obscurity to notoriety has had its positives: hundreds of encouraging comments on my blog, and other bloggers have rallied round. Of course, cynics might point out that this media attention hasn't done my book any harm. Watching it move its way up the sales chart, and being informed that it's already being reprinted for a third time, is great, of course. But the flipside of all this, is that my life is now under public and press scrutiny, as if I was a 'celebrity' of some kind and I'm still trying to get to grips with what potential effect this might have on me and the people around me.

The reason I wanted to remain anonymous, was to ensure privacy for me and others, not because I have any shame about my book, or my life for that matter. It's 2006 for goodness' sake – is sex really that big a deal? If one good thing could come out of my losing my anonymity, it would be the hope that my writing might help to challenge old fashioned and sexist views on female sexuality – an ongoing battle and one that I would be happy to be part of.

Hopefully, alongside the Guardian piece, this article might help to balance out the other drivel - of which I had nothing to do with - that is still circulating.

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