My accidental life as a lesbian pornographer

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My life as a lesbian pornographer started last week. I only made 39p, but it is the harbinger of a revolution, and some day I may make 10 times as much. And this is all thanks to

My life as a lesbian pornographer started last week. I only made 39p, but it is the harbinger of a revolution, and some day I may make 10 times as much. And this is all thanks to

Amazon has long had a system for "associates", where you can place on your own website a link to theirs, and if anyone follows it and buys a book, they will pay you a slice of the profit. Obviously you can sell your own books that way, and so make a double royalty. Or, if you find a book that seems a really monstrous imposition on the credulity of the public, you can sell that, too, and levy a private tax on stupidity.

But I slipped into the lesbian pornography business quite by accident. I know that the appetite of web surfers for sex is quite extraordinary. The most popular page on my site is a column I wrote about a dating agency for women in American prisons, called "Jail Babes", which continues to get four or five hundred hits every month.

Still it came as a shock when Amazon e-mailed me to explain that visitors to their shop who had started from my site had not only bought A Journey to the End of the Millennium, early Dylan and The Oxford Book of Classical Verse, but also Nicole Foster's Awakening the Virgin, one of the few books that not even the idlest reviewer could call seminal, though a Massachusetts reader did describe it as "a beautiful testament to the interface between hot sexual encounters and the emotional connection needed to make them so."

It's obviously part of a thriving genre. Customers who bought this book also bought Early embraces: true-life stories of women describing their first lesbian experience; Pillow Talk: lesbian stories between the covers; and Bushfire. I know all this because Amazon does, and helpfully tells visitors. This is where the story has a serious point. The global village turns out to have as little privacy as a real village once did.

Part of the problem is that the "clickstream" that you leave as you move around on the web reveals almost everything about what you read in the course of a working day: the logs of a website don't show unambiguously who has visited, but they do show where each visitor has come from. That is available to the Government under the RIP bill that received royal assent last week; it is also, of course, available to the people who run the computer system you are using, whether they are employers or outside contractors.

They gossip, too: which is how I know that when the first tentative internet connection was put into Downing Street in the early Nineties, it was used for accessing Grateful Dead newsgroups and very little else.

What could be more intimate than a knowledge of the books you read, the films and records that you buy? The question is not rhetorical, and it has a disconcerting answer: the knowledge becomes if anything more intimate when it can be compared to the same information about millions of other people. Best-seller lists are the crudest examples of this kind of knowledge, though they can be quite informative: you feel you know something about any parent who has not by now bought a Harry Potter book. Yet on Amazon's site there are far more refined tools than that.

There are "affinity groups" which show what customers from particular web addresses havebought. This is how I know that at the fundamentalist Abilene Christian University in Texas last week they were not buying Harry Potter at all: they preferred Getting Your Sex Life Off to a Great Start: a guide for engaged and newlywed couples and The Gift of Sex by the same authors. Isn't privacy wonderful?

The writer's website is