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Total privacy and absolute disclosure in the blogosphere: how anonymous courtesan blogs reveal all and why.

The goal of this article is to define the blog as a unique medium that allows for expression not possible anywhere else. Courtesan blogs are an extreme, but excellent, representation of this medium's potential as they take full advantage of its possibilities.

A blog is an online journal. Some blogs are thematic; others have a diarylike structure. Anonymous blogs are written under a pseudonym. Anonymity affects the quality of the blog because the blogger feels freer to speak her mind. Courtesan blogs are a great example of anonymity at work because their content is often controversial, and they exist only because the blog technology makes it possible. Courtesan blogs are written by women who claim to be real-world courtesans or high-end escorts. Some of the blogs serve as an advertisement and a point of contact for potential clients: "for sale" blogs. Others are written purely for personal pleasure and never reveal the blogger's identity.

The difference between a high-priced prostitute and a courtesan is that prostitutes sell "by the hour" sex, whereas courtesans provide companionship of which sex is only a part. They spend extended amounts of time with their clients, including accompanying them on vacation and to social events such as work functions and conventions, and have to be presentable and comfortable in different social situations. This is how Kim, of the Mercurial Girl blog, explained the process of selection for the job: "This is what separates escorts from courtesans. Marie, my manager, insisted that the girls she hired be graduates of elite schools, athletes or dancers and schooled in the arts. Bonus points for being the graduate of a finishing school or having been introduced to society. Pretty much all of the exclusive companions that I know of are a close fit to this profile." How telling is the fact that the qualities most prized by the bourgeoisie and upper classes for instilling in their daughters are the same ones they expect to see in their prostitutes.

Courtesan blogs best approximate what is historically known as a courtesan experience, that of being in the company of a charming, engaging, and seductive personality. Courtesan blogs are written by interesting, talented women. The sexual nature of their profession, and perhaps, their extroverted sexuality, does lend a frisson to their writing. Sex sells. For these women, sex is both the source of their income and a major contributor to the popularity of their blogs. Courtesan bloggers cover a wide variety of topics: sex, family life, friends, past experiences, travels, the books they read, and the food they cook. They write astute, interesting social commentary, perhaps because they experience more varied social situations than most.

In an analogous fashion, the blog medium relies on hypermedia, incorporating hypertext and audio-visual media such as video, audio clips, and photographs. Together, the hypermedia of the blog and the uninhibited diversity of its content create a multi-sensory, intellectually multi-dimensional experience.

Courtesan blogs present a curious inversion of the ideas of public and private spheres as presented in Joshua Meyrowitz's work in No Sense of Place, where he explores public and private roles and the fragmentation of self that occurs in response to changes in social environments. An anonymous blog is a paradox--a private diary fully exposed to a world of strangers. Anonymity protects the blogger from the repercussions of her revelations--she reveals her secrets, but they remain such, as long as they are not linked to the blogger's real life identity. Anonymously, it is possible to be anyone on the Internet, even one's real self.

Courtesan bloggers are more real in the digital realm than in the physical one. Their public and private roles are reversed: the most formal, public role most of us lead is at work. For a courtesan, work takes place in private; her job is not where she can connect socially. Her work is her secret life and takes place in her private sphere. Her private life and her informal interactions with friends, family, and lovers move into the formal, public realm since she cannot reveal to them the source of her income nor the way she spends her time. Consequently, she wears a mask with those closest to her. In essence, her life is always semi-formal, semi-guarded, and perhaps only on the blog can she be the most open and candid, even while in disguise.

This reversal and the merging of the private and the public spheres make blogs and courtesans ideally suited for each other. This perfect union echoes the idea of the medium affecting content, especially written content, as described by Katherine Hayles in Writing Machines. The blog medium makes the courtesan blogs possible--both the hypermedia content and the ideas and opinions they express.

There is no way to determine with certainty whether an anonymous blog is truthful. Though prevarication is an integral part of a courtesan blog, it is unlikely they are fake. Why would someone lie one hundred percent of the time, and more importantly, even for a pathological liar, what is the thrill of lying if one cannot get caught? Although it is possible that a random blog is a product of someone's active imagination or the result of a writing experiment, blogs are not novels, but living and interactive environments. Courtesan blogs constitute a community that actively reads, links, references, and vets its members. Numerous loyal and knowledgeable readers provide feedback via comments and e-mails. Since there is an expectation of truthfulness, anything outlandish is flagged and debated. Courtesan bloggers do forewarn that names and details are changed to protect the not so innocent; those details, however, are inconsequential as to the total value of the blog. Life is strange and more interesting than fiction; these women lead strange and interesting lives--it is reasonable to expect the gist of their stories to be true.

The blog medium gives voice to those who would otherwise not be heard. It is especially true for courtesan bloggers. Society has long ago made up its collective mind on prostitution and prostitutes. We shame them, study them, prosecute them, and try to save them, but we do not let them speak for themselves. Every other medium continues to stereotype and exploit them by disallowing the conversation to move past the salacious and the sensational. Courtesan bloggers are especially controversial since these highly educated, healthy young women from privileged American families are fully capable of professional work in other fields. They insist that becoming a prostitute was a voluntary choice, and in no way can they be considered victims of life or environment.

Courtesan bloggers take to heart Camille Paglia's admonition to women to be fully responsible for their actions. They do not apologize, and they do not agonize. On their blogs, the statement they seem to be making is: "Here I am, I am doing something naughty and I like it. I am not sorry, I do not need your pity and I do not need to be saved." The blog medium allows these women to share their lives, intellect, and even their humanity with us in a way that is acceptable to them, and perhaps provide a new perspective on an issue that has remained stagnant for a long time.

Bibliography

Hayles, N. K. (2002). Writing machines. Cambridge, MA: Mediawork.

Kim. (2006) EasyKimmie blog, extinct.

Kim. (2006-2007) Mercurial Girl, http://mcgirl.blogspot.com/.

Meyrowitz, J. (1985). No sense of place. The impact of electronic media on social behavior. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Olympia Manet. Postmodern Courtesan blog, extinct (2006).

Paglia, C. (1991). Sexual personnae. New York: Vintage Books.

Paglia, C. (1992). Sex, art, and American culture. New York: Vintage Books.

Paglia, C. (1994). Vamps & tramps. New York: Vintage Books.

Marian Kozhan, BA, MA, is a technical writer in the pharmaceutical industry. This article is based on a presentation given at the Across the Generations: Legacies of Hope and Meaning Conference sponsored by the Institute of General Semantics, held on September 11-13, 2009, at Fordham University in New York City. This presentation is based on a master's thesis written by the author under the direction of Dr. Lance Strate at Fordham University.
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Author:Kozhan, Marian
Publication:ETC.: A Review of General Semantics
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2011
Words:1353
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