Google is becoming like that irritating customer who thinks he’s so clever for figuring out that stripper probably really isn’t named Fantasia, what with asking people, “No, really, what’s your real name?” Welcome to our world, online handle users! Choosing a work name is one of the first things nearly every sex worker does when entering the business. My name isn’t really Bubbles, Kat’s driver’s license says something else, and Charlotte wasn’t given that name at birth. We all have different reasons for using other identities online from the frivolous (to bitch about work without trouble) to the very serious (malevolent stalkers).
One of our own contributors, chelsea g. summers, has battled with serious online harassment. She’s “come out” under her real name as part of a project that hopes to demonstrate the importance of pseudonyms, the My Name Is Me site, that uses personal stories to illustrate the importance of retaining control over what name you use online.
That site/project came about in response to the (admittedly spotty) enforcement of the use of “real names” on Google Plus. One of the reasons Twitter is my favorite social network is how it allows users freedom to present themselves as they wish. Facebook and Google Plus require more constant vigilance about your privacy settings and who you friend. Maintaining a presence on those sites while protecting your privacy requires a constant battle with ever-changing visibility settings and name requirements.
My Name Is Me has a dedicated category for sex workers. Artist Molly Crabapple describes how she started using her name while working as a nude model, and unlike Janice, chooses to only identify herself that way today, as should be her decision to make. We’re willing to make a deal: You don’t ask us what our real names are, and we’ll put up with the occasional troll, sock puppet, or middle-aged man posing as an escort blogger in order to keep whatever degree of privacy, safety, and anonymity we can still maintain online.