Pseudonyms for safety, not sex – part 1

Several weeks ago, I was quite surprised when I initially heard the news about a letter from Sorcha Rowan. My first reaction was a typical ‘oh shit’ and as I learned more and more about how far it really was, my surprise turned to shock and shouting ‘what the fuck’ to my computer screen. If you were a part of NSFW Twitter, especially in the erotica writing community, it was difficult to not know who Sorcha Rowan was. They had a very large presence after they began pushing one ebook out after another, even contributing their stories to other sites.

There isn’t anything wrong with expressing your sexuality. No one will knock you down or shame you for living your best kinky life when you’re here. We encourage you to be who you are, so long as it is safe, sane and consensual, and it’s a big reason this is such a positive community. But Sorcha crossed a big line and violated consent. Apparently, certain secrets couldn’t be kept anymore, and ‘Sorcha’, who presented themselves as a lesbian woman writing erotica was, in fact, a cis man named Scott with a wife and kids. Worse yet, his wife had no idea he was writing erotica, nor did she know about all the women he lured into trusting him with their nude photos.

I was debating whether I should write something about it at the time, but my interactions with Scott was very limited. He asked me to review one of ‘Sorcha’s’ books a long time ago, but when when I gave an average rating, I got radio silence from then on. I decided to leave it to those more personally involved to give the story. But in recent weeks, more and more names have begun revealing themselves, including Shawna Cummings and Liberty Waltz, as predators who used pseudonyms to prey on women. Both of which were also men posing as women writers, and both guilty of taking advantage of women who decided to trust them. And all of them outing themselves because they were about to be caught, or worried they might get caught soon. They wrote letters apologizing for their actions and asked for our forgiveness, and want to move on as if they didn’t just cause irreparable damage to the entire community. So here is what I do want to talk about:

We need to have a fucking talk about pseudonyms, and we need to do it right-fucking-now.

A pseudonym does not make you a different person, nor does it give you license to engage with others as if you were. It is wholly disingenuous to take advantage of another person’s trust and infringe on consent given to someone who is not you. A pseudonym is an alternative name someone uses to protect their identity. It needs protecting because there are predators who will use a creator’s identity to stalk, harass, abuse, and disenfranchise a creator, or their family and friends. Others may use a pseudonym because they wish to share their work with readers or fans who can appreciate their work, but keep themselves private from family and friends who may disapprove. It could even be used to prevent readers from associating one form of work from another. A great example of that was J.K. Rowling and Robert Galbraith(what a blunder that was for the marketing team).

In any instance or use of a pseudonym, the individual is using it to protect themselves in some way. Not to deceive or hide who they really are in some way, but for their own safety and privacy. So when you take advantage of that name for an agenda beyond privacy and safety, you create a precedent of distrust towards others who want nothing more than to share their thoughts, stories, art, and experience.

The actions of those three former members of the community have done heinous things to good people who believed were worth trusting. Sorcha, Shawna, and Liberty didn’t just break that trust, they violated consent. Not only hurting their victims, but the friends they made, business associates, and in some cases, their own families. They left scars on their victims that won’t heal so easily. So, no, we’re not going to move on from this. We know their names now, and we’re going to be keeping a closer eye out for others. There’s more I’d like to add, but I’ll save it for part 2. Be safe out there. And don’t be a dick.

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