This may shock and surprise you, but “Ms. Naughty” is a pseudonym. It’s the name I use to identify myself in the porn world. It’s what you’ll see on my films, erotic fiction and articles. I use a pseudonym because working in porn makes you a target; those who work in the sex industry are often in danger of being threatened and stalked by people who think we are less worthy of respect than others. People who deem themselves to have “morals” will happily throw all ethical behaviour out the window when it comes to sex workers or porn producers like me.
Most recently a good friend of mine in the porn industry has been threatened and stalked by someone with links to a fundamentalist Christian organization. He has posted her personal details on Facebook and even made threats against her son. Facebook has refused to take these things seriously; this person continues to act with impunity. He’s been reported to the police who, so far, haven’t done much.
My friend goes by her real name.
Pseudonyms aren’t just used by people in porn; they’re vital to sexual minorities like LGBTQ people and women who are escaping domestic violence. And a pseudonym isn’t just a name; it’s often a signifier of an important identity, one that is separate but equal to a “real world” name and person.
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This week has seen the “nymwars” (online issues surrounding the use of pseudonyms) fire up again with Facebook purging the accounts of those who don’t use their “real names”. This purge has unfairly focused on drag performers and LGBTQ people. It actually got to the point that FB met with a group of drag performers and other stakeholders today to discuss their policy. After pretending to listen, they refused to change the policy, offering an “amnesty” to performers before their accounts are deleted. I don’t think it needs to be said but, this sucks.
I’m not “Ms. Naughty” on Facebook. I’m “Louise Lush”. If you’ve been following along (and I’m sure you have!), Louise Lush is the real-sounding name I figured I should adopt when I took up making porn films. “Ms. Naughty” was my online presence, “Louise Lush” was the filmmaker. After a couple of years, I realized this was a branding mistake; it’s confusing to have two names. Just over two years ago I announced I was retiring the name “Louise Lush”. I decided to just be “Ms. Naughty” since that was the older name and one I was better known by.
Except it’s proved harder to kill off Louise than I expected, mostly thanks to Google and Facebook. Last year I made five different attempts to have Google Plus recognize “Ms. Naughty” as a legitimate working pseudonym, to no avail. It’s only since their recent policy reversal that I’ve been able to change the name on my now totally neglected Google+ profile.
On Facebook, I set up an account as “Louise Lush” because it sounded nice and realistic. Then I made it “Louise MsNaughty Lush” until some jerk in administration told me that name wasn’t real enough and forcefully changed it to just “Louise Lush”. I’m so grateful I didn’t make the mistake of giving them my legal name at any point or I may have been in the same situation as poor Julie Simone, when Facebook decided to freeze her out of her account for four weeks and display her legal name on her profile in the meantime. You can imagine the stalkers loved that.
Now, thanks to Facebook, I get a lot of people contacting me calling me “Louise”. Which is fine except I forget that’s supposed to be my name, I don’t answer to it very well. I think I understand why people in porn opt for their first names with a false surname, so much easier.
Also, I’m due to be a Filmmaker in Focus at the Berlin Porn Film Festival in October and their website is referring to me as Louise Lush. Who knew it would be so hard to escape a fake name?
The stupid thing is that “Louise Lush” is no more “real” than “Ms. Naughty”. They’re both just names I made up. But one is easily identifiable as a pseudonym according to various algorithms and to people who think they have a right to say what’s a “real name” and what isn’t.
I use my Facebook profile to network, keep up with porn industry friends and also to promote my work. It could theoretically be deleted for not showing my legal name. Nonetheless, I’ll happily kill the account rather than make that information available to them.
I’ve said it before; I miss the old internet where common spaces weren’t wholly owned by private companies who could enforce these kinds of rules. The web was built on anonymity and pseudonyms. I hate to see the freedoms I used to take for granted being dismantled like this.
* By the way, my friend’s stalker uses a fake name on Facebook to assist with his abuse. In theory, having “real names” is supposed to prevent this kind of shit. In reality, all you need is a “real-sounding” name and you can troll and threaten with impunity. And, as I mentioned, Facebook won’t do a goddamned thing to stop it, even when it’s been reported.
Edit 19th Sept. I decided not to post this link on my Facebook page because it felt like I’d be handing them an excuse to delete. Now that Violet Blue has linked to this piece (thanks, Violet!) I’m half expecting to be banned. So we’ll see.