Roll over chick lit - there's a new genre in town

Bad-girl diarists are using the web to reveal their sex lives to the online world. Katy Guest and Joy Lo Dico investigate
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The Independent Culture

'It's the good girls who keep diaries," said Tallulah Bankhead. "The bad girls don't have time." It may have been true in the 1920s, but these days bad girls are finding time to do things that would shock even Bankhead. And that includes writing them down.

Abigail is a typical example of this growing breed of bad-girl diarists. Under the pseudonym "Girl with a One Track Mind", she writes about sex, work, men, Valentine's Day, cooking, sex, men and sex. Often all in the same sentence. She has just won the award for the Best British Blog at the Bloggies awards. And last year at the Frankfurt book fair, the rights to her first novel were bought by Ebury for an undisclosed sum.

Abigail is one of a growing number of Women with One Track Minds who are regaling their internet audience with eye-watering sexual tales, and being snapped up by publishers quicker than you can say "S&M". When it comes to this new branch of chick-lit, Britain leads the world. They are women like the mysterious call girl Belle de Jour, whose identity became the subject of feverish speculation when her online diaries became a best-selling novel. Then there was Nedjma, an anonymous Arab woman who wrote about her sexual awakening in The Almond. Jessica Cutler came next, hitting the headlines when she was fired from her job in Capitol Hill after her weblog, Washingtonienne, detailed the sexual relations she enjoyed with colleagues. A $300,000 book deal softened the blow. And there's also the woman known only by her blog title "My Boyfriend Is a Twat" and countless others whose pseudonyms are unrepeatable here.

What Bankhead failed to anticipate was the worldwide web, where more than 50 million people now scribble away at their intimate diaries. At least half of these are estimated to be women and, judging by all the evidence, it seems that a good proportion of them are bad. Take Library Girl - why not, everybody else has. She prefers women to men, because they "are soft and have such lovely bottoms". Or Curious Pussy, who pastes pictures of smacked bottoms into her diary and writes about her enthusiastic boyfriends, Teaboy and Papi. Freya, by contrast, combines fantasies about "drinking honey from your hive" with grumpy stories of her "shitty day".

"Sex-blogging is most definitely a genre," says Abigail, the Girl with a One Track Mind. "Just as there are blogs about technology or knitting, so there are blogs about people's sex lives. But whereas interest in the former may be limited, people will always have an interest in sexblogs because sex is something that affects all our lives."

One person who is hoping so is the literary agent Patrick Walsh, who found Belle de Jour and turned her blog into a best-selling novel. "If you look at the nature of books that come out of blogs, like Salam Pax, or the women bloggers in Iran, you see that they are expressing something that they can't in their daily lives," he says. "There is a sense of the subversive, or the unspeakable, which applies particularly to sex but also to politics and dissidence." As well as overseeing Belle de Jour's second book, Walsh is publishing Stephanie Klein's sex diaries, Straight Up and Dirty, through Ebury Press this summer and working on turning Bruna, a Brazilian ex-hooker, into the next Belle de Jour.

Not that Belle is ready to give up her Miss Online World crown. "My blog has become very boring of late," she says. "My life was significantly more outrageous before I started spending all my spare time writing!"

So what is the appeal of all this sex? It is a question that hardly needs asking, according to Robert Posner, who has the dubious title of Bad Sex Co-ordinator at the Literary Review. The magazine's Bad Sex Awards were founded to punish "the embarrassing inclusion of sex scenes in otherwise literary novels", and as such he says that novels purely about sex will not be eligible. But, he says, all publishers know that sex sells. "Auberon Waugh used to say that a surefire way to sell more magazines was to put the word 'sex' in big letters in the bottom righthand corner," he chuckles.

"We ran it for years. And it's much more sexy to have women revealing their thoughts about sex than men. There's a cloud over that part of women's minds and men want to know what's behind it. And women like to read about women who are just like them but with much more exciting sex lives."

Rowan Pelling, the former editor of the Erotic Review, agrees. "These blogs and books contain very explicit sex that leaves nothing to the imagination," she says. "There's no element of tease; you get a lot of bang for your buck. People find it therapeutic to write it and read it. It's nice to know that you're not the only one having this or that kind of sex."

"The internet has changed the way women express themselves," agrees the author of My Boyfriend Is a Twat. (To clarify, her boyfriend did challenge her to set up the blog.) "Hiding behind a monitor makes life so much easier because when the pain gets too unbearable, the monitor can simply be switched off."

Abigail has been overwhelmed by the response from her readers. "I regularly get women writing to me, saying that I have helped them feel better about themselves because they connected to something I said, or that I have enabled them to have a better sex life. Getting emails like these makes me immensely proud."

For a few minutes' typing a day, then, the sex blogger receives as much free therapy as she needs, an adoring audience, a huge new potential dating pool and the possibility of a book deal - and she even gets to remain anonymous. Another aphorism of Tallulah Bankhead's was: "If I had to live my life again, I'd make the same mistakes, only sooner." If she had to live her life in the 21st century, no doubt she would also post her mistakes on a blog.

The ups and downs of an active sex life

Freya's House of Dreams

http://freyashouse.blog spot.com/

"Through every forest, above the trees within my stomach, scraped off my knees i drink the honey inside your hive you are the reason i stay alive"

Moving up, I straddle your body. My hair slides down and curtains our faces. It's just the two of us.

Leaning down I brush my lips across yours softly and then move back.

I reach down and pull the flogger, a coil of rope and a paddle from the floor below. They're in your view and I raise an eyebrow in your direction. "Let's see if you're as tough as all that talk, shall we?"

... A brief break from the vacation story. I had a supremely shitty day yesterday. One of those days where you are rocking and then read an email and you find yourself crying. Something you hope for and it nearly happens but then doesn't and it feels like the end of the world ...

Girl with a One Track Mind

http://girlwithaonetrackmind.blogspot.com/

Because I write about sex, people often ask me: what makes a man a good lover?

Whilst I don't profess to know the answer to this - if I did, I'd be rich surely ... I have however, built up a vast knowledge in this subject. In other words: I have fucked a lot of men. Seriously. I have. The amount is irrelevant. Let's just assume many.

QUEENS OF THE SEX BLOG

GIRL WITH A ONE TRACK MIND

Who: Abby Lee, a woman in her thirties who lives in north London.

What's it about? Diary of a sex fiend.

Quote: "I regularly get women writing to me thanking me for my honesty and upfrontness about sex, saying that I have helped them feel better about themselves."

BELLE DE JOUR

Who: Author of Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl. Given up job in sex trade now and has "strait-laced, grown-up" new career.

What's it about? Diary of a London call girl.

Quote: "It's easier to write about revealing subjects when your boundaries are well defined, and on the internet, as the old joke goes, no one knows you're a dog."

WASHINGTONIENNE

Who: Jessica Cutler, 27, a former intern for the Republican Party.

What's it about? X-rated online accounts of her sexual encounters with other Republican staffers before she was found out and sacked.

Quote: "Now bloggers have more or less collectively determined that we all have the right to our anonymity."

MY BOY-FRIEND IS A TWAT

Who: Briton Zoe McCarthy lives in Belgium with her three kids and her boyfriend.

What's it about? Boyfriend urged her to start her own blog. She writes humourously on all aspects of life.

Quote: "I have yet to find a man who can write properly about sex and relationships. Their brain isn't in the right place."

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