On the awkwardness of ‘girl’ on the net

Image by the brilliant Stuart F Taylor

This blog has been running for ten years now. Ten years! Christ. There are kids who were born when I started writing who already know how to swear! When I began, I was in my twenties and it didn’t feel that weird to keep calling myself ‘girl.’ But fuck it, that girl had no idea that this might turn into her job, and certainly no idea she’d be doing it long after the word ‘girl’ started to sound a little optimistic. Over the last few years, understandably, the comments I’ve had about my choice to remain ‘girl’ on the net (as opposed to, say, ‘woman’) have become more numerous, so fuck it I’m going to have a crack at explaining myself. Here’s why I’m going to be ‘girl’ on the net until the day I finally hang up my blogging cap for good.

Changing my name is a pain in the arse

Let’s deal with the boring shit first so I can end on the way more interesting bit. Firstly, there’s a ‘brand’ issue here. My blog survives and thrives mainly on search traffic, and once you have brand recognition (CRINGE ALONG WITH ME, PALS), changing your name is a huge, expensive, time-consuming project. I’d have to change my url, Twitter handle, Facebook page, plus pages and pages and pages of content, and that’s just the start of it.

I’d also have to do something about the fact that ‘Girl on the Net’ is the name on the cover of my books, and the one by which people who might give me paid work recognise me. I don’t just use ‘Girl on the net’ as a nickname, because of the anonymity thing I have used it in place of my actual full-on name in so many areas of my life. Switching to something different isn’t just a question of admin, it’s a question of building all that recognition back up again.

What would I change it to?

‘Woman’ on the net doesn’t have the same ring really, does it? I could pick something fully new like ‘Sexy Mc Fuckpants’ or ‘Ms Greedycunt’ but as you can see from those two simple suggestions, I am not that great at picking names. Perhaps I could throw it open and offer Patreons the chance to rename me – suggestions in comments, then vote on the name you like best. But even if I do that, I’ve lost something that’s pretty precious to me: my affinity to this name and all it’s guises. Girl, GOTN, Netty, G, and everything else that people call me when they don’t want to use the full thing.

Just as you get used to your own name, to the point where you’ll automatically turn around if someone shouts it across a crowded sex party, so I’ve become used to GOTN and it’d take a very long time for any other name to replace it’s ability to turn my head. Sorry to sound like a wanker, but it resonates.

What’s wrong with ‘girl’ on the net?

It’s probably worth explaining the issues with the name in the first place, isn’t it? I wouldn’t normally be bothered by people highlighting the ridiculousness of ‘girl’ on the net, but honestly I myself have frequently lamented – in private and in public – my error in picking such a silly pseudonym.

For one thing, it’s very obviously not a name name. If I’d gone with a pseudonym that’s name-sounding like one of my excellent colleagues – ‘Molly Moore‘, for instance – journalists who interview me and people who email me would be less eager to ask the question ‘yeah, but what’s your real name though?‘ Something which sounds like a real name sometimes heads this question off at the pass, not to mention it bypasses the understandable awkwardness of someone having to start an email with ‘Hey Girl,’ like a bad Ryan Gosling meme.

Then there’s the argument that ‘girl’ is often used as a way to infantilise women. This is worth spending some time on, because holy shit I do not want to be part of a culture that feels comfortable calling men ‘men’ but uses ‘girls’ when they mean ‘women’ in that same context. When I first started blogging, I referred to the men I was shagging as ‘boys’. None of them were technically and literally ‘boys’, of course – everyone who features on this blog is over eighteen, and even when I started a decade ago I’d have been uncomfortable shagging anyone under the age of about twenty. No offence, younger dudes, I just like to know that when we’re enjoying some post-sex chitchat I can mention 90s kids’ TV and not be met with a completely blank stare.

These days, I avoid ‘boy’ for exactly this reason – it conjures an image of men who are far too young to float my boat. Clear-skinned, bright-eyed twenty-somethings of the kind I’d have gone wild for when I was also in my twenties, but who these days just seem suspiciously fresh. Not yet weathered into bitter old cunts by the unforgiving threshing-machine of Life. Men are no longer boys, they are ‘men’, ‘guys’, and occasionally ‘dudes’ because along with my penchant for flared trousers my language also lives somewhere in the past.

So. I don’t think I’m using ‘girl’ to diminish women or set men above them, because when I chose the name I used the same level of address for boys too. But is my continued use of ‘girl’ now inadvertently doing exactly this? Maybe. Maybe. But it’s also doing something else, and having thought about it for a good long while, it’s something I can’t help but cling onto.

I’m just a girl

A while ago someone on Twitter took issue with ‘Girl on the Net’ because she said she doesn’t know of many adult women who refer to themselves as ‘girl.’ And while I do understand this from the above perspective, there was also something powerfully weird about hearing someone put it like that because so much of my direct experience contradicts it.

My kneejerk response on reading that tweet (in my mind, obviously, I didn’t actually reply on Twitter because most of the time I’m a coward who’d rather avoid a fight) was… you what mate?? I know so many women who refer to themselves as ‘girls’ – many of them far older than I am. My Mum still often refers to herself as a girl – we’ve had many conversations about the fact that despite time very rudely insisting on moving forwards, and entropy being constant, the physical fact of ageing rarely affects how old each of us feels inside. Despite the decades that have passed since either of us was a teenager, both she and I still instinctively reach for something like ‘nineteen’ or ‘twenty two’ when someone asks how old we are. It takes a brief pause and correction before being able to offer our actual age, because sometimes you just feel it inside and have to be reminded that there’s a lot more water under the bridge than your lizard brain might believe. I’ve spent many happy hours giggling over gin and tonic with my Mum when I’d have merrily have told anyone – and genuinely believed – that the pair of us were nineteen instead of in our thirties and sixties.

But even laying all this to one side, where the word ‘girl’ comes into its own is when I’m talking to you about – yeah, I’m doing it – boys. When I tell you I have a crush on a boy, or I really want this boy to like me. When I tell you that I lust for this or that dude, ‘man’ doesn’t always seem to cut it. ‘Man’ makes it sound like my feelings are mature and considered, when they are usually anything but. People’s comments and questions about ‘girl’ gave me serious pause for thought – as mentioned above, I have genuinely considered the possibility of changing it. But ultimately the thought process kept bringing me back here: despite being just a few years away from my fortieth birthday, and demonstrably an adult woman, the pounding of my heart always knocks me back to girlhood. The grown-up decisions and power I like to hold these days disintegrates at the first sign of a heart-flutter. Or a cunt-flutter, come to think of it.

Lust feels very adult. But love, affection, intimacy – the things that are inevitably wrapped up in blogging about sex – don’t make me feel like a grown-up at all, but like a teenager eager to leap into the next disastrous mistake. And although there are usually powerful fuck-feelings going on, there’s still a girl inside Ms Cockloving Greedycunt who’s just hoping her affection will be reciprocated. A girl who wants a boy to hold her hand and tell her she’s pretty and make her feel the same way she felt aged 14, when someone passed her a note in maths class asking ‘will you go out with my mate?’

I might understand mortgage paperwork and know where my stopcock is and use power tools to put up shelving units like a complete and utter adult, but the second I find myself going squishy over a dude, I immediately cease to be a woman.

I’m just a girl. Standing in front of a boy. Hoping he’ll destroy her cunt love her.



  • fuzzy says:

    Great post. Even as someone with a dick, I have practiced at times using “girls” in the same way I use ‘guys’. People often look at me funny, which means i get to then explain that i am desexualizing (the dictionary here thinks this should be desalinizing, btw) yet another word — if guys can be anyone why can’t “girls”. It doesn’t work so well, but I like to think i get credit for trying. Anyway, i endorse all your reasoning in this post, not that you require such, but just to add to the folks who are helping support the pillars of your reasoning. (i use “folks” more than anything for plural inclusive, even more than ya’ll).

  • girlieboy says:

    I am with you all the way on this. Not surprising given my own choice of label, but the choice was not made with conscious thought. Great explanation.

  • SpaceCaptainSmith says:

    I guess the name might seem increasingly silly if you’re still blogging under it in another ten years… (Happy blogversary, btw!) But for better or worse, it seems like you’re stuck with it for now. And believe me, there are worse names to be stuck with! I created a social media profile years ago under a different name (not this one) which I now find annoying, but am too well known under that name now to change it… why did no one warn us about these things when we were younger? ;)

  • Mosscat says:

    All the reasons why my 84 year old Mum always talked about her friends as ‘the girls’ and I have girlfriends and my boss doesn’t understand that referring to an expert team of scientists as ‘girls’ is NOT okay….. Sigh.

  • katerina says:

    Glad you’re keeping it – not for us, but because you love it so much (in various ways). Thanks for sharing!

  • Someone with the word “boy” in his username repping right here!

    I adore your online sobriquet and I always have, ever since you started this ten years ago (surely 11? Didn’t you start in 2010?). It’s simple, easy to understand, and unique enough to identify yourself by. And, yes, cringeworthy “brand recognition” comes into it too. You’re high-profile enough that a name change – however small – would be a logistical nightmare. Plus, you don’t need to change it!

    I’ve always considered myself a “boy”, and will continue to do so, despite the fact that I’m much close to 40 now than I was when I started my own blog in my early 20s. I don’t actually like “man” – aesthetically, I don’t like the way it looks, or the way it sounds, and I don’t think it suits me at all. Plus, there are so many connotations applied to “man” – either derisory (man bag, man bun, man pain, man flu) or negative (mansplain, manspread). My own mother refers to things like “man look” – akaI/i> “you’ve looked for something for hours but haven’t found it, because you’re a man!)

    I don’t mind being called “guy”, or even “dude”, but I’m happier with boy. Just a choice I made, I guess.

    I’ve noticed, as you mention above, the fact that woman of any age do tend to refer to themselves as “girls” more often than cis men referring to themselves as “boys”. Whether this is a confidence thing, societal expectation or just the fact that cis guys aren’t as keen on infantilising themselves as I am I don’t know, but I’ve definitely notice that. I still refer to my female friends as “girls” and nobody’s ever complained.

    When I was younger, the thing I wanted most in the word – girlfriend – had the word “girl” in it. Having gone so long without one, I have a certain attachment to the word. I still use it now, even though my current girlfriend isn’t a girl!

  • Kiss says:

    As a woman in my thrities… the amount of times I go ‘Hey girl!’ or ‘What’s up girlfriend?’ like I’m in some bad 1 season 90’s tv show, is farrrrr too many times than I care to actually admit… I honestly didn’t even think that much into the name ‘Girl On The Net’, I just thought it was a self explanatory title.

    But people on twitter going to lengths to mention it, are clearly very bored…

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