"Well behaved women seldom make history."
Editor's Note: On April 27, SexIs columnist and sex blogger The Beautiful Kind arrived at work at her “day job”and was summarily fired on the spot. Her transgression? Writing about sex. Not at work. At home. In private, and on her own time.
It didn't matter that she was writing under an assumed name. It didn't matter that she had done everything possible to distance her personal life from her professional one. It didn't matter that she was an exemplary employee—and a low-level one at that. Thanks to the tangled Web the Internet weaves, some Google snooping and a programming glitch, The Beautiful Kind was outed as a sex columnist—and as a result, she was out on her ass.
Now, in many “at will” states, employers are not required to justify giving a worker the boot. As long as it's not a case of outright discrimination, you can be let go for any reason. The nonprofit organization TBK worked for did not want to have its reputation tarnished by association with a sex-positive blogger. Nope, they'd rather be known for canning someone who was simply exercising her First Amendment rights in a manner they found unacceptable. (Way to go, and have a nice ride down that slippery slope.)
Unlike her former employer, The Beautiful Kind had more class than to out these folks. Unlike The Beautiful Kind, her former employer does not have the courage to come forward and own its actions. But that's what Google is for, isn't it? As Shakespeare said, “The truth will out.” In the meantime, we wish her well. We will continue to publish her work and support her cause. Her story follows, straight from the source.
My story boils down to this:
I have a sex blog. I got a job. I made it a point to keep my personal and professional lives separate. (I kept my name and face off of my website and did not mention my job on there.) My boss was advised by corporate office to Google employees. When they found my site due to a social media glitch, they fired me on the spot. The reason they gave for firing me is because they took offense to me discussing my private affairs online.
As soon as I turned over my keys and was cast out of the office in disgrace, I called my webmaster and asked him to take my site down. A lot of people didn’t understand why I did that. They figured, Why lock the barn after the horse has been stolen?
First and foremost, I wanted to protect others.
Second, I needed to lock my shit down. I felt violated. Having my former employer raid" my site was like knowing someone was digging around in my underwear drawer without my permission with harmful intent. I'd rather shut the drawer than open it wide and tell them, "Here you go! Have at it! Set my underwear on fire!"
Third, I needed to hit the reset button on my online presence and mull over some very difficult choices. What was I going to do? Should I kill my website? How would I make a living?
I was very surprised when my story reached a national audience. Then again, what happened to me hit close to home for many folks. Many people wrote me afterward expressing their own fear of having something like this turn their life upside down. They also have sex blogs and social media accounts and didn’t quite realize how insidious it can be.
My stupid mistake was when I signed up for a Twitter account over a year ago. New to the whole thing, when I filled out the form and they asked for my name, I typed my real one in there, thinking it wouldn’t be displayed on my profile but was just backend info. I thought my username would be on the front end. When I finished filling out the profile and saw that BOTH my name and username were displayed, I quickly went in and changed my name to TBK.
Despite doing this, a third party search engine picked up the original name and ran with it, linking my real name to my website in the bowels of the Internet. My boss had no problem finding my website. Oddly, I had Googled my name just two weeks earlier, and that damning evidence hadn’t popped up.
Even though I don’t have a new job yet, I’ve decided to make some changes to my website and put it back up. I figure it’s a known quantity, and I might as well start there and hope the right job for me falls into place. Besides, my blog is where my heart belongs and it means so much to so many people. I received hundreds of letters of support, including sentiments such as:
“The Internet seems a less welcoming place in the absence of your website.”
“I read you every day. You've been a big part of my sexual journey and I'll miss you.”
“You’re such an inspiration and I admire your courage. You've impacted my life in ways that have definitely improved it.”
“Your openness and honesty has done so much to help and encourage your readers. My hubby loves that I found your website.”
“As a girl growing up and learning what it means to be a woman, an individual, and a human being I have gained so much from your website.”
“I'm not surprised that your readers/fans/friends are supporting you. You give and give and give.”
“I got some awesome ideas about ways to improve my sex life and insight into the female perspective. I wouldn’t be exaggerating when I say that reading her blog for the last year has noticeably improved my knowledge of sex and relationships. TBK was a huge value for me, and I can only hope that TBK and her community rise again.”
The support and being in the spotlight has been overwhelming. I’m on a different playing field now. I always wished my website would reach a larger audience. However, this was not the way I hoped to make a breakthrough. Is this a case of “Be careful what you wish for” or “Make lemonade out of lemons”? Only time will tell.
My webmaster will be posting an article or two on my website, PSA-style, full of advice on how to protect yourself online and how to maintain a level of privacy in a very public domain. I wish I'd known these things before my scandalous shitstorm.
I’m networking hard and still trying to figure out how to make a living. It would be a dream come true to find a job that appreciated my talents and didn’t care about my sex life.
But just in case, I think I’ll legally change my name to Mary Smith.