'Abby Lee' - the pseudonym that Zoe Margolis, 33, has adopted - might not be a household name but her blog, 'Girl With a One-track Mind', is. Since its inception in January 2004, the blog has received over two million hits (over 100,000 a month now); it was converted into a book; and it won Margolis the Best British/Irish blogger award at the Bloggies 2006.
London-based Margolis used to work as a film-assistant (she was third assistant director for the forthcoming, 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix') but gave up her job when her identity as a sex-blog writer was discovered shortly after the publication of her book. At present, she is busy with her writing, and hopes to be back in a film studio with, 'Girl With a One-track Mind', the movie.
While many believe that Margolis's blog is part of the 'raunch culture' that equates exhibitionism with empowerment, she refutes this. She talks about why she revealed so much about her personal life in her blog and why she thinks the blog so powerfully captured the imagination of netizens. An interview.
Q. So, tell us how it all started...
A. I wrote the blog because I did not see my non-sexist, feminist views on sex expressed anywhere in mainstream media. I wanted to challenge society's stereotyped view of women's sexuality as being passive and solely defined in terms of male fantasy. I also felt it was important to speak up as a woman and say that I wasn't ashamed about my views and experiences of sex, and that I oppose the misogynist labeling of women as 'sluts' or 'whores' if they are sexually active. Additionally, I wanted an outlet to express the thoughts and feelings that occupied me, which I was unable to talk about in my daily life - writing this blog was cathartic for me.
Q. Did you anticipate the enormous success of this blog? Why do you think this blog became such a phenomenon?
A. I had no idea that the blog would take off as it did; when I realized how many people were visiting it regularly to read my writing, I was shocked. I originally thought that not many other women would feel the same way as I did about sex or sexuality, so I was overjoyed to discover that the opposite was true. I've had hundreds of emails from other women saying how much they relate to, or empathize with, what I have written about, which makes me very happy. I'm sure the fact that I write about sex sparks off the initial interest for many people visiting my site, but the reason so many come back for more is because the experiences I have detailed resonate with them at a deeper level. I guess that is why the blog has been so popular: people can connect with it emotionally and intellectually.
Q. There have been allegations that your blog is part of the 'raunch culture'. How do you react to this?
A. I don't think that that is what Ariel Levy meant by 'raunch culture' in her book, 'Female Chauvinist Pigs'. She was actually arguing the opposite - that even though they might be sexual exhibitionists, women were not becoming more empowered as a result. I'm inclined to agree with her on that point actually; I don't think women have more freedom, power or status in the world as a result of their bodies being freely on display; they are just commodities for capitalist profit. Saying that my book or blog are part of the 'raunch culture' is a complete misinterpretation of my writing.
Firstly, my writing - whether it is about a sexual experience, or an event, or a thought process I have gone through - is always set against the sub-text of politics and psychoanalytical interpretation. I'm not being an exhibitionist or writing to titillate. I am writing to get people to talk about sex and challenge sexist stereotypes in the process. Secondly, I don't write about sex to titillate men; that is not my objective. In contrast, I'm far more interested in using my writing to get men to question and explore their own thoughts and feelings about sex. In our society, men are not allowed to express themselves this way, and to me that's a tragic shame; it denies them full enjoyment of the experience.
And thirdly, I don't support a fantasy model of female sexuality; I don't think female empowerment comes through acting like a porn star or having breast implants. The battle for sexual equality in society has to be an intellectual and psychological one, not to mention a political one. In an age where women can be called 'sluts' just because they are sexually active, we still have a long way to go. Rather than promote the view that being open and free with our sexuality simply means more women showing off their bodies, e.g. 'raunch culture', my work has been trying to get people actively talking about sex, and the issues around it. This way, we might challenge and change sexist stereotypes, rather than reinforce them.
Q. You have also been called the voice of 'third-wave feminism'...
A. I am genuinely touched that this has been said of me. I most definitely am a feminist; I've never hidden my politics and I will continue to use my writing (and my rather loud voice) to highlight the issues I feel strongly about. The most inspiring thing about the book and the blog is that I've received scores of emails from women telling me that my writing has made them feel empowered and more confident and, as a result, they have had better sex. That's the best compliment I could ever get, and makes me immensely proud: it may not be female emancipation on a grand scale, but being able to bring more confidence and happiness to a few women is surely a step in the right direction.