Names Are Power

It’s not unusual for writers to use a pen name. Whether it’s due to sexism (Emily Brontë published as Ellis Belle), content (E.L. James is a pen name!), or splitting genres (Anne Rice as A. N. Roquelaure or Nora Roberts writing as J.D. Robb), pen names are common.

Scene names are also common in the BDSM world. There are folks I have known for years and I only know their scene name. Personally, I introduce myself as either my scene name (which is really just my FetLife name) or my given name. Daddy does the same.

But when it came to Queer Courtesan, I wanted something different.

Picking a pen name was something I’ve avoided doing for a long time when it came to my erotica or lifestyle-related writings. I’ve stuck most of the stuff up on FetLife under my current scene name and have left it that way. I’ve never pursued publishing because of not having an alternate name. Finding a new name has been a long time coming.

I took my given name off the table pretty immediately for privacy. My scene name has connections to my ex and I’ve been meaning to change it. Originally, I wanted to write completely anonymously. I considered a lot of names from various courtesans since my style of service is influenced by them – including Cora Pearl, the woman who was carried into her own dinner party on a silver platter, nude. Absolute goals.

One thing led to another and I came to Calliope.

Simon Vouet’s The Muses Urania and Calliope

The original Calliope is one of the nine Muses. The Muses are Greco-Roman sister goddesses that rule over different spheres, primarily poetry and music but later expanding. Specifically, Calliope is the Muse who presides over eloquence and epic poetry. She carries a writing tablet with her. Hesiod and Ovid called her the “Chief of all Muses”.

According to one account, Calliope was also the lover of the war god Ares and bore him several sons. While I have no interest in having children, this was another aspect that drew me to her name. Ares has been my main patron god for many years now. I turned to him and my faith during some difficult points of my life and he has been a source of comfort in many ways. Having a small connection to my spirituality is a nice bonus.

I moved to strictly they/them pronouns in the scene a while ago. I’d been using both she/her and they/them but I wanted the neutrality. So it’s been interesting playing with the concept of a different name too. I’m non-binary but femme and feminine and enjoy that. Calliope isn’t neutral particularly neutral, especially with connections to The Muse, but it feels more right than my current scene name and I’m almost surprised by that. I’ve never considered changing my legal name due to actually liking it and familial connections but it’s been fascinating playing with the idea of introducing myself to people as Calliope rather than X.

I’m still keeping Queer Courtesan fairly anonymous for now so I’m not changing my scene name yet. Being able to write freely and openly without worrying about what people I know think of it has been refreshing. I need that for now.

My current teacher quoted an article about this concept recently where Elena Ferrante was asked about why she used a pseudonym. To quote the article:

Ferrante said she wanted to shield the Neapolitan community from which she drew her inspiration. She was also driven, she wrote, by “the wish to remove oneself from all forms of social pressure or obligation. Not to feel tied down to what could become one’s public image. To concentrate exclusively and with complete freedom on writing and its strategies.

Elena Ferrante, The Guardian

But maybe in time, I will. I’ll become Calliope in the scene and in my fetish/erotica writing and mold my identity even further. The clarity of who I am will come in time and I’m delighted to take on the power of Calliope the muse as I move into this part of my life.

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