The last couple of days, there's been a bit of a blow-up on Twitter. You won't have noticed, because it's completely unimportant, but it's been a nice distraction for me. Otherwise, my life has just been full of packing and moving while our house undergoes EQC repairs. I have seen all the wallpapers and all the vinyls in the city, and frankly a nice bit of political ridiculousness and feminist outrage makes a refreshing change.
There's this guy, Milo Yiannopoulos*. Mostly he's known as "that gay guy who argued against gay marriage on Newsnight". A couple of days ago, he wrote a superb piece of link-baiting, in which he said;
It couldn’t possibly be, could it, that the politically correct public sector consistently over-promotes women, who are often ferociously greedy and lazy but great at fighting their corner, bitching, back-stabbing and boasting to get their hands on promotions and pay rises?
Brilliant. The only piece I've seen lately that surpasses it for cynical traffic-generation was Stuff's "the Crusaders only win because they cheat" opinion column.
Where it got interesting was that Yiannopoulos got into a fight over it, with Zoe Margolis. And he tweeted this:
Sex bloggers don't get to assume the moral high ground. Ever. What they do for a living is incredibly damaging to women.
Is there a difference between writing about sex for money and having sex for money? Not really. What a grubby, humiliating way to make rent.
This is where I have to step up. And say more than the obvious "fuck you, buddy".
While Yiannopolous didn't come close to shutting up, unfortunately he didn't explain how Margolis's work is "damaging to women". Popping by her hugely-popular long-running blog, it's still very hard to tell. Perhaps it's the charity work, or her vocal support of decent sex education.
I first ran across her blog many years ago, before I started writing here, and it was a revelation. Someone was talking about sex, frankly and honestly, and relating experiences I could identify with - for the first time. This is what sex bloggers do. Margolis is also a perfect example of how high the personal cost can be.
I'm quite willing to bet that nobody has ever walked up to Yiannopoulos and told him that his writing has changed their life, made them happier and more at peace with themselves, made them feel like they're not the only person in the world who feels that way.
Sex bloggers talk about things we're not supposed to talk about, not seriously. Because we don't talk about it, it can be difficult to realise the immense breadth of perfectly natural, perfectly all right, sexual feelings and experiences. The more people who are prepared to talk, publicly, about their own personal experience, the more complete the picture becomes. We feel affirmed when we can identify, and (hopefully) curious and intrigued when we run across something very different from our own headspace. The more we know about, the more able we are to make informed and intelligent decisions about our own lives. We acknowledge more paths to happiness.
We learn, too. Blogs like Ask Constance (NSFW!) don't just feature smutty pics, but also the kind of really useful sex advice you never got in Sex Ed at school. Common sense, level-headed advice without giggling or censure. And you know what? It's sex bloggers who talk about the down sides, too, and how to cope: sexual abuse, complicated borderline consent issues, slut-shaming, how we're pressured into sex and pressured into not having sex.
Sex bloggers walk a fraught and hideous balance between helping people by talking about their experiences, and protecting the privacy of their partners. They risk unwanted attention – everything from persistent stalky hitting-on to death threats. Sex bloggers risk losing jobs, friendships, relationships, peace of mind and the ability to sleep. I know, because I am one. The idea that I put myself through this, and what I and many of my friends do is "damaging to women" is both appalling, and so ridiculous it's almost amusing.
Milo, dear? Hush now. You're embarrassing yourself.
*I'm assuming his Twitter handle is not, unfortunately, a Dangermouse reference.