On the whole, the writer’s trade is not a risky one, not this writer’s, at least. The biggest danger I generally encounter is catching my toe under the rollers of my chair, which is pretty painful, but hardly pushes being a novelist into the ranks of bomb disposal, say, or the potentially eviscerating shame inherent in working as an image consultant for the CEO of a multinational corporation. But once in a while I have been ambushed by the Internet and dragged into terrain that is a potential minefield. I’m talking porn here.
Last year, writing a book about Brittany, I was describing a headland where belladonna grows, and I wanted to know if the plant is only a poison or whether it has any medicinal properties, as well, so I duly googled belladonna. You can probably guess what’s coming here. I didn’t, but then I can be invincibly dim on occasion. Now that I think about it though, some of what popped up did suggest a medical documentary.
Transpires that Belladonna is the name of a popular porn star, a very busy girl who gets up to the most extraordinary and uncomfortable looking antics, and has won numerous awards at the porn industry’s equivalent of the Oscars, including the prize for ‘Endurance’. Check out her site and you’ll see why. On second thoughts, don’t. It makes the sort of magazines that used to get passed around when I was an adolescent look innocent to the point of imbecility. Queasy hardly covers it.
You see the risk in all this? You know what it sounds like when some celebrity gets done for downloading something dubious from the Internet and they start protesting their innocence saying, “I was researching a book”. Everybody thinks, ‘Yeh, right.’ So how’s it going to look if muggins here turns up with an eyeful of every conceivable and inconceivable angle of Ms. Donna claiming it all came about because of botany? The very least one could conclude is that this is a man who has severely muddled his flora and his fauna.
True, out of curiosity (a vice common to most readers and writers who are almost invariably nosy bastards driven by a desire to find out everything about everyone and everything), I did click on the site and I did follow the links for about five minutes until I was wilting with exhaustion and wondering whether I wouldn’t push the monastic aspect of being a writer a little further and simply retire to Mount Athos. Mea culpa. But, really, is nothing sacred? I almost wrote a letter and moved to Tunbridge.
A few months later, writing about Sudan and vaguely remembering that there were some interesting religious cults down there that were the preserve of women and that scared the hell out of their menfolk, I tapped in, among other things, ‘African goddesses’. All right, perhaps I was being a bit naïve. Seemed like very nice girls, but I don’t imagine they pose any threat to Ms. Donna’s position at the top of the gre. . . Ms. Donna’s pre-eminent position in the porn industry. It was all rather innocent really, made me quite nostalgic for my adolescence.
Then things turned nasty.
Writing the same book, I was working up a metaphor and I wanted to know if cotton is teased in the same way that wool is, so I entered ‘teasing cotton’. Oh, come on! There’s nothing malign or predatory or salacious or even remotely tickle-your-fancy about that, is there? Yup, there is.
Up comes ‘Teen teasing in cotton panties’ and ‘Cotton Underwear Teen at Teasing Panty Models’ –no, I didn’t quite follow the syntax, either– and ‘Arielle Lee All Natural Nude Asian Girl’ –don’t know how she got in there, or for that matter what she is, but she sounds like one of those T-shirt slogans scripted by someone with a bilingual dictionary and an admirable disregard for conventional collocation; insert the word ‘free’ and Ms. Lee would do very well as a label on a pair of sweatshop jeans– and ‘Teasing Slut, Teen Amateur Slut In Cotton Panties, Small Tits . . .’ and ‘Free Porn Search Sologirl Ann Angel In Cotton Panties Teasing’ and ‘Babelicious.com The best babes in super high definition photoshoots & videos’ and . . . . Oh, that’s enough. You get the picture anyway (or hopefully not) and that was just the first page of 309,000 results.
Once bitten, twice shy. I decided this was one particular road –not avenue, let’s not talk about avenues; passages are to be avoided, too– that I most emphatically did not want to go down. I don’t think I’m particularly prudish, but words like slut signify an attitude to women I could really do without, and the emphasis on ‘teasing teens’ suggests that we’re only one step away from the sort of material blameless celebrities happen upon when they’re ‘researching a book’. I logged off and made up a metaphor regardless. I am a novelist, after all. I’m meant to make stuff up.
There you have it then, the professional hazards of writing. I admit, I was asking for trouble with ‘belladonna’ and ‘African goddesses’, but please, ‘teasing cotton’? I hardly dare google anything nowadays. Only the other day, I made the mistake of succumbing to an ornithological query concerning the ‘first swallow’ and was instead offered ‘cum tasting sluts’ –What is it with these people and ‘sluts’? – including several sub-hyperlinks of which the most innocent sounding was ‘she likes it big’. Oh, grow up, for god’s sake!
So why am I writing this now? It is, after all, a bit embarrassing to tell the world at large that you’ve been perusing pornography on the Internet. Two reasons, really. First, the subject is one I’ve been thinking about recently. I’m currently rewriting a novel, one theme of which is the near impossibility of describing sex well, and I’m using pornography to show just how risible the attempt usually is – no, I am not doing any research. The second reason is more malicious and relates to my outrage at the teasing cotton fiasco.
The thing is, what I would really like is that when some sad sod with a box of Kleenex beside his computer settles down of an evening and keys in the words ‘teasing teenage sluts’, he’ll come up with me wittering on about books! That would be a bit of a dampener, wouldn’t it? There he’d be, keenly anticipating ‘teasing teenage sluts’, only to be confronted with a bald, bearded, middle-aged bloke and a blog about writing. I know it’s probably not going to happen. The algorithms are all against me. But wouldn’t it be nice? That’s what I’d call a google result.
Come on, big boy! Buy one of my books.
Causes Charles Davis Supports
Oxfam, Amnesty International, Greenpeace