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Belle de Jour reveals herself.
November 14, 2009 4:51 PM   Subscribe

Belle de Jour reveals herself. She's Dr Brooke Magnanti. She's real and once wrote this column about autopsies.
posted by feelinglistless (74 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
There is also an ex-boyfriend with a big mouth lurking in the background; outing herself while she still has a measure of control over how it happens seems the sensible option.

Levi Johnston?
posted by Forktine at 4:57 PM on November 14, 2009


Jokes aside, though, I shudder to think at the attention she is going to be receiving over the coming weeks. There is so much stigma about sex work, and her writing sold so well, that her private life is gone. If not forever, at least for a long time.
posted by Forktine at 5:03 PM on November 14, 2009


Her full contact details are listed on the Newcastle University website.

I have to wonder what brought this revelation on.
posted by fire&wings at 5:20 PM on November 14, 2009


Mmmmm, sex worker tells all, how original. (Seriously, for all our society's supposed disgust with prostitution, we sure love hearing about it.)
posted by jonmc at 5:26 PM on November 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


"... whose books became runaway bestsellers, who was played on screen by Billie Piper in the television series based on them, whose brand is instantly recognisable to anyone who uses the internet or bookshops ..."

I use the Internet and bookshops, and have never heard of this "brand".
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 5:28 PM on November 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


I use the Internet and bookshops, and have never heard of this "brand".

Reasonably well known in the UK - nnot everywhere is America.
posted by Artw at 5:55 PM on November 14, 2009 [7 favorites]


How interesting, as a US person, to have the "The person who wrote this article clearly thinks the subject is a Huge Whopping Deal That Everyone Knows About, but I have never once heard of the subject."

Also, the idea of building your "brand" with a pseudonym that's the title of someone else's internationally-known work of art seems kind of like cheating to me.

brb changing my userbrand name to "Querelle de Brest"
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:56 PM on November 14, 2009


Huh. I am American and relatively culturally out of it, and I'd heard of her. I never read the blog, but I'd definitely heard about it. I'm pretty sure they showed the T.V. show on one of the American pay channels.
posted by craichead at 5:58 PM on November 14, 2009


Sidhedevil, I'm actually always interested at the situation when I encounter a piece, American or otherwise, where the fundamental assumption is "of course you know about this person" and the story is they just bought a house" or otherwise referencing the person with no background.

Being the minorest of Internet Celebrities, I run into both people who will blog "I went to this event and saw Jason Scott, but I was too nervous to approach him" and then other people, when a place does a story on me, going "who the hell is this choad". There's no monolithic culture, as much as people want to claim there is. And that's good.

Side note: You'd think, at 40, I'd be used to "way back when this all started in 2004" but I really, really am not.
posted by jscott at 6:06 PM on November 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


Yes, Showtime broadcasts "Secret Diary of a Call Girl" here in the US. I initially only started watching it because of my Doctor Who fandom (Billie Piper plays Belle in the show), but I did quickly grow to like the show on it's own merits.
posted by grahams at 6:07 PM on November 14, 2009


[A couple comments removed. Please do not out folks, speculatively or otherwise.]
posted by cortex at 6:24 PM on November 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've just returned from New Zealand, in which a recent story about a sex worker and a policeman made the news. The controversy wasn't that there was a sex worker involved - prostitution has been legal in New Zealand for years - but that they had sex in the back of his patrol car, while he was in uniform, and that she wasn't paid.

The police officer doesn't deny any of this, BTW - the reason the case has gone to court is the question over whether it was consensual, or with the expectation of payment: the prostitute alleges that she was intimidated by his badge.

I find it remarkable how straight-forward and ordinary things can be once the sheen of titillation and darkness of illegality have been removed, and consider it encouraging that a sex worker can take a police officer to court over non-payment for services rendered.

I enjoyed reading the original blog entries of Belle, and hope that Dr Magnanti outing herself - and shattering some assumptions in the process - contributes to some rapprochement to the sex trade.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 6:29 PM on November 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


Belle de Jour reveals herself.

Evidently not the first time.

/obvious
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:33 PM on November 14, 2009


And here I was thinking she was stuck in a parallel world with her mom, here parallel universe dad, and the blue-suit wearing faux Doctor. Guess you shouldn't trust everything you see on TV.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 6:38 PM on November 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


Wow. I remember reading her blog from the beginning and being fascinated.

The TV show is largely balls (ahem) though.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:09 PM on November 14, 2009


Apparently the Daily Mail had gotten her name last week

This is so weird. I googled her name and came across her Amazon Wishlist, and I own one of the books on it. "An Introduction to Support Vector Machines and Other Kernel-based Learning Methods".

It just struck me as an odd coincidence.

[A couple comments removed. Please do not out folks, speculatively or otherwise.]

Huh, is she a mefite?
posted by delmoi at 7:15 PM on November 14, 2009


Huh, is she a mefite?

Dammit. Thanks guys. I've been trying to keep a low profile.
posted by Justinian at 7:21 PM on November 14, 2009 [12 favorites]


There's no monolithic culture, as much as people want to claim there is.

Agreed, which is why when people write stuff like "everyone who has been to a bookshop or used the Internet knows who this person is" crack me up so much.

In other news, my father thought that a woman in our town was named Anne Klein because it said "Anne Klein" on her handbag. (This was 30+ years ago, and it was the first time he had seen anything like that.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:32 PM on November 14, 2009


I'M SPARTACUS BELLE DE JOUR
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:32 PM on November 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


Wow! I read her blog back in 2004-05 and was quite impressed that she was able to stay anonymous for so long. I'll admit, because of that, I was also convinced that she was a novelist playing a bit of a joke on everyone. And she's real. That's fascinating.
posted by jeanmari at 7:40 PM on November 14, 2009


Came for a Buñuel thread. Left disappointed.
posted by gimonca at 8:27 PM on November 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I suppose a few nice folks in london suddenly got a worried look on their faces upon spotting her picture in the paper this morning. is that someone I know?
posted by krautland at 9:04 PM on November 14, 2009


Anyone who paid any attention to sex blogging would know who she was, but that's hardly the mainstream. I always found the style of her writing intensely annoying (and the topic, honestly, dull). Her long term anonymity, even when publishing a book, was something of a feat though.
posted by nanojath at 9:04 PM on November 14, 2009


Jokes aside, though, I shudder to think at the attention she is going to be receiving over the coming weeks. There is so much stigma about sex work, and her writing sold so well, that her private life is gone. If not forever, at least for a long time.

Good on her for doing it, though, at least for sex workers at large. The more humanized they are to the rest of the world, the less of a BIG DEAL it becomes. Much respect for taking one for the team here, even if that wasn't her intention.
posted by middleclasstool at 9:17 PM on November 14, 2009


Has she been wildly hyped and then unpersoned by Xeni Jarden yet? That's the real question.
posted by Artw at 10:06 PM on November 14, 2009 [6 favorites]


I think I would not do well as an escort. I would have no problem not outing myself, but it would be impossible for me to not out my clients. The first celebrity--even internet celebrity--to cross my path (bed?) would get a Polaroid camera in their face and a nasty sex scandal.
posted by kathrineg at 10:18 PM on November 14, 2009


Somehow I never doubted she was real, but oddly I still expected to see Billie Piper in the photograph. I wonder if they'll alter SDOACG so that Belle is a med student?
posted by medea42 at 10:42 PM on November 14, 2009


Here's the wayback machine for her old science blog. I can't get any of it to load, though.
posted by delmoi at 11:13 PM on November 14, 2009


I wonder when her next book is out...
posted by rhymer at 12:06 AM on November 15, 2009


I've never understood why America hasn't legalized prostitution* (and come up with a better name for it) for both men and women. Isn't this the American dream? If you do something well, find a way to get paid for it; if you do it better than others, you'll get paid more--that's how the market works. Plus, the government could regulate and tax the hell out of it, and there could be escort services (again, we'll need better terms) for men, women, gay, straight, bi, transsexual, transgendered, and anything else available or desired.

It's not the concept or the practice that's the problem; it's the way it's currently implemented, and the ever-present buzzkill of the Bible. But The Prosperity Gospel teaches that "God desires the material, spiritual, and physical prosperity of his people.", and this seems to fulfill all three objectives! It would keep more politicians scandal-free, that's for damned sure. And If anyone fears that losing political sex scandals will reduce our sources of humor, I'm sure Rick Santorum would preach that this will bring about man-on-dog prostitution.

*(Of course I know why. Faux-piousness beats earning a living any time.)
posted by tzikeh at 12:24 AM on November 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've never understood why America hasn't legalized prostitution*

It's still legal in Rhode Island and Nevada. Er, or was. Actually it was banned in RI Just three weeks ago. Huh.
posted by delmoi at 12:59 AM on November 15, 2009


I have done voluntary work with sex workers, I'm on the Board of Trustees of a charity that supports street workers, and for a while I worked at a shelter for young people in the Kings Cross area where she said she operated, and Belle De Jour never rang true to me.

I have always thought it was not written by a 'real' sex worker. If this Times account is true, however, then I have been quite wrong. It's possible that there is a high end of sex work which is quite different from the group that interacts with voluntary support services. OK, it's a certainty there is such a high end of course. I'm just surprised at how different her experience is from the experience of our service users.

Also, walking around the back streets by Kings Cross was always much darker and more threatening to me than she describes it. Perhaps she has a a naturally sunny disposition.
posted by communicator at 1:41 AM on November 15, 2009


It's possible that there is a high end of sex work which is quite different from the group that interacts with voluntary support services. OK, it's a certainty there is such a high end of course. I'm just surprised at how different her experience is from the experience of our service users.

I dunno, this strikes me like being surprised at how different the experience of a sweatshop worker sewing clothes in China is from that of Vera Wang.
posted by Justinian at 2:05 AM on November 15, 2009 [6 favorites]


Most importantly, I wonder how long it will take the Inland Revenue to investigate her past earnings?
posted by tapeguy at 2:09 AM on November 15, 2009


It's possible that there is a high end of sex work which is quite different from the group that interacts with voluntary support services. OK, it's a certainty there is such a high end of course. I'm just surprised at how different her experience is from the experience of our service users.

I find it surprising that someone can be so involved with a project like this and yet know so little about the area in which they work.

(Actually, I don't. Some of the outreach workers who do needle exchange with sex workers in the city that I live tend to pull up to the kerb, wind the window down a crack, and do the transaction through the window, in exactly the same way that the punters looking to buy sex with them. Hardly surprising then, that they don't develop much of a relationship with the women, and so don't get to learn a great deal about the complexities of their world.

They justify it on health and safety at work grounds. My view is that such people are taking wages under false pretences and have got no business working in this field.)
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:31 AM on November 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, btw. The timesonline has updated their article. When I linked to it earlier, there was an article asking the question "Is Dr Brooke Magnanti, a scientist of 34, Belle de Jour?" with some speculation. Now they seem to have erased every trace.
posted by delmoi at 2:37 AM on November 15, 2009


According to Paul Carr on Techcrunch, there's a possibility she didn't out herself, despite how it's being presented by the Sunday Times:

Hellen [of the Sunday Times] proposed a deal: either Zoe [Similarly anonymous sex blogger] could agree to give her story to the Times, illustrated with a photoshoot in “glamourous evening wear” taken by their resident fashion photographer – or the paper would run its own hit-job expose, written by fellow-scum-bag Anna Mikhailova and complete with the (in Hellen’s words) “not particularly flattering” paparazzi shot.
posted by liquidindian at 3:11 AM on November 15, 2009


Checked out her blog now, and found that she too has been reading that schrodingers rapist post which started the long mefi and meta threads here.
posted by dabitch at 4:06 AM on November 15, 2009


there's a possibility she didn't out herself

Not according to her latest Twitter post. Well, sort of. Not surprised that the Daily Mail were acting like dicks over this.
posted by tapeguy at 4:44 AM on November 15, 2009


Loved the movie... but this, I suspect this will not Bunuel.
posted by From Bklyn at 4:53 AM on November 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


I never read her stuff, but I have read a couple of sex worker blogs, and it strikes me that they're pretty much all written by women working on the high end of the industry. They're also mostly written by middle-class women who have a lot of other options. (Actually, there seem to be lots of grad students.) I don't fault them for that: that's who they are, and people get to tell their own stories. And I don't think that's really any different from the rest of the internet, where you're more likely to hear from people who have time and regular internet access and the self-confidence to believe that people care what they have to say, which means that you're more likely to hear from relatively privileged people than from less privileged ones. But I guess that I do worry that it tends to distort and sanitize the realities of prostitution, and it always makes me a little nervous to read comments like Bora Horza Gobuchul's and middleclasstool's. I'm in favor of decriminalizing prostitution, but I'm pretty wary of making policy prescriptions based on the very particular experience of middle-class doctoral students who moonlight as high-end call girls.
posted by craichead at 6:33 AM on November 15, 2009 [7 favorites]


That's a really good point about the unrepresentativeness of call-girl blogs (and, for that matter, the type of prostitution depicted in the original Buñuel film). It's one of those things that seems totally obvious to me, but I think for people who've had no exposure to other forms of sex work, it's possible that they take these well-written and totally by choice depictions of sex work as being typical for the field. And it's so obviously not.
posted by Forktine at 6:45 AM on November 15, 2009


jonmc:
Mmmmm, sex worker tells all, how original. (Seriously, for all our society's supposed disgust with prostitution, we sure love hearing about it.)

Oooh, young kids in love, how original!

Hipster scorn aside, how well a story is told is infinitely more important than whether or not the plot summary is unique in this world.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:12 AM on November 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


"high-class" sex worker? that's sort of like "upper middle-class" - nearly everyone thinks they are it even when they're clearly not. I tripple-dare anyone to find a single callgirl website in london that doesn't advertise their hookers as high-class or similarly, yet I doubt anyone would seek the services of any prostitute because of the stimulating conversation. that's not the point.

all the sex worker blogs that got the description "literary," be it washingtonette, belle, college callgirl or all the other ones, are just blatantly honest. a girl writes she's fucking someone without much need for encoded language, describes the situation and let's us take a peek at an intimate part of her life we usually do not get to see. it's the intimacy of a complete stranger and the only thing literary about it that these authors were capable of writing sentences that wouldn't induce manic cringes every other paragraph, stfu lol lmao giggles. that doesn't make any of them the next gay talese.

I always found her blog to be okay but not terribly insightful. I only kept on reading it for a while because I had the odd hope of discovering more, being surprised the way a photograph can surprise you with an angle you had never considered. that never happened but that's only natural. prostitution is an industry that in its entirety seems to revolve around the hopes of their clientele. it's not about fulfilling but keeping hope alive.
posted by krautland at 7:26 AM on November 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


I expect HMRC will be in touch with her before too long for the outstanding tax on all those 'cash in hand' earnings she's now admitted to.
posted by essexjan at 7:48 AM on November 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


"What has thoroughly convinced me of the fakery is that just about every single blog I have ever seen which was written by someone in a service industry, whether a waiter, bouncer, comic-book store clerk, whatever - has had a strong component of hating moronic customers. In retrospect, "Belle de Jour" reeks of someone making it up."--Seth Finkelstein.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:58 AM on November 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


"yet I doubt anyone would seek the services of any prostitute because of the stimulating conversation."

Bless. Never investigated the history of courtesans and geisha? Or was it just that you did and formed the view that such an arrangement belonged to history rather than now?

Escorts/courtesans/ego boosting women who their client can't sleep with for some reason? In my time period? It's moar common than you think.
posted by jaduncan at 8:07 AM on November 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


I have done voluntary work with sex workers, I'm on the Board of Trustees of a charity that supports street workers, and for a while I worked at a shelter for young people in the Kings Cross area where she said she operated, and Belle De Jour never rang true to me.

I have always thought it was not written by a 'real' sex worker. If this Times account is true, however, then I have been quite wrong. It's possible that there is a high end of sex work which is quite different from the group that interacts with voluntary support services. OK, it's a certainty there is such a high end of course. I'm just surprised at how different her experience is from the experience of our service users.


communicator, you've hit the nail on the head. There is a high end, and the very few sex workers who inhabit it are very, very different from the many women trapped (economically, socially, addictively, etc) in the hell of streetwalking and other low-end sexwork jobs.

Knew an escort who charged $500/hr, disdained single-hour appointments (except from favorite regulars), and regularly took multi-month vacations overseas - which she announced ahead of time on her website calendar. She had a fabulous condo, and a paid phone screener who took all her appointments for her. I have also known pathetic, addicted, single-parent streetwalkers who frequented the local jails. VERY different people. Go figure.

Belle de Jour is a high-end girl. She would never show up at your clinic; if she felt she needed help, she'd hire a therapist. And in so many other ways, the generalizations of most of the (any) group just don't fit the unique individuals.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:23 AM on November 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Let me state for the record that if being a man was easy, hookers wouldn't exist. Fact.

What the fuck is she talking about. Fact.
posted by kathrineg at 9:57 AM on November 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Horace Rumpole: ""What has thoroughly convinced me of the fakery is that just about every single blog I have ever seen which was written by someone in a service industry, whether a waiter, bouncer, comic-book store clerk, whatever - has had a strong component of hating moronic customers. In retrospect, "Belle de Jour" reeks of someone making it up."--Seth Finkelstein."

All the sex workers I know hate at least a portion of their clients. Generally the ones who don't tip, don't respect boundaries, try to get things for free, tell boring stories, take up too much time/effort, whatever. Of course their working conditions are not as good as hers, so there's that.
posted by kathrineg at 10:02 AM on November 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


All the sex workers I know hate at least a portion of their clients.

Yes, all the sex workers I have interviewed--which includes some "high-class" call girls and call boys--hated a lot of their clients.

But most people hate some of their clients. I hate some of my editing clients with wild fury. On the other hand, I don't have to wash their foreskins, so at least I have that.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:21 AM on November 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


But most people hate some of their clients.
I think that's Finkelstein's point, though. He's claiming that her blog doesn't sound like the blog of a service worker, no matter what the industry. Service workers in general don't seem to like all their clients the way he says she does.

I'm not sure I buy that, btw. And even if it were true that all service workers hated their clients, she could be tailoring her blog for her audience, who don't want to hear about how she thinks some of her clients are annoying or pathetic or creepy. I'm not sure that's "lying" exactly. You could slot it under "artistic license."

None of this is to say that it's a good blog, or that it offers any great insight into anything. I haven't read it, and it definitely doesn't sound like my thing. But I'm a little wary of "she doesn't sound like I think she should sound, so she must be making the whole thing up." Although I wouldn't be terribly surprised if it turned out she was making the whole thing up.
posted by craichead at 11:32 AM on November 15, 2009


I'm just amazed that there actually is a sex worker who says she was studying to be a neuroscientist who *actually finished her doctorate* in that field.

It is such a cliche amongst those claiming to be "high class" sex workers that they are really graduate students supporting their esoteric research habits-- but my impression has been that they are more likely to be lying about their schoolwork than their sex work. The woman's science credentials, at least from what I've read, appear to be genuine.
posted by Maias at 12:58 PM on November 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've been out all day, and there are several comments here that I'd like to respond to, but this one from PeterMcDermott

Some of the outreach workers who do needle exchange with sex workers in the city that I live tend to pull up to the kerb, wind the window down a crack, and do the transaction through the window, in exactly the same way that the punters looking to buy sex with them.. Hardly surprising then, that they don't develop much of a relationship with the women, and so don't get to learn a great deal about the complexities of their world.

Is so crass that I can't reply in a measured way. I know my strong reaction would affect any response I make to the other much more interesting comments. Therefore I'm going to bow out.

I suppose I should just say that my comment was intended to express ironical scepticism. Along the lines of 'this lady is either not being quite honest, or not being at all honest' I don't know which.
posted by communicator at 2:25 PM on November 15, 2009


yet I doubt anyone would seek the services of any prostitute because of the stimulating conversation. that's not the point.
I don't think that's true at all. From what I've read, a lot of guys look for the "Girlfriend Experience" being able to talk to a girl and make her feels like she loves you, is interested in what you have to say, and can hold up a conversation on their level. That's just what I've gleaned reading metafilter threads, though.
I expect HMRC will be in touch with her before too long for the outstanding tax on all those 'cash in hand' earnings she's now admitted to.
What makes you think she didn't pay taxes? Prostitution is legal in the U.K, at least the way she was doing it. I imagine she probably paid some taxes on it (She might not have declared it all, but how would they ever know?) If you read the article, she actually employed lawyers and whatnot to cover her while she was blogging and selling books. I would imagine.
What has thoroughly convinced me of the fakery is that just about every single blog I have ever seen which was written by someone in a service industry, whether a waiter, bouncer, comic-book store clerk, whatever - has had a strong component of hating moronic customers. In retrospect, "Belle de Jour" reeks of someone making it up.--Seth Finkelstein.
I not only disagree with Seth Finkelstein, I think he's moronic for holding that view. He's essentially making the argument that because most of the people he's read who work in the low-paid service industry hate their customers, people who work in the expensive service industry must also hate their clients. And not just most of the people but all of the people. He refuses to believe that anyone could be different or unusual. But the truth is in some way everyone is unusual in some way.

And secondly I once worked in the food service industry. When I was in high school I worked at KFC and cleaned tables, did the cash register, etc. I never once felt antipathy towards the customers. In fact I actually cared if people were getting what they wanted. So it's simply false that every single service industry employee hates their customers. That's just a bizarre thing to think.

And thirdly, think about all the crazy sexual fetishes out there, many of them revolve around being decadent or transgressive in some way. Is it impossible to imagine that someone might actually get turned on by the idea of being a prostitute and really enjoy it?

I imagine someone who felt like they were doing this by choice and could quit any time they wanted (especially after getting another job) wouldn't have the antipathy of someone who felt like they had to do this or they would starve to death. And a lot of those service industry people that Seth mentions probably have higher ambitions and find themselves stuck. Brooke was hooking while she was in school and expected to become a scientist, which she did.

And of course if there were any clients she didn't like, she could simply have refused to work with them again

But really, the problem with what Finkelstein is that he's trying to prove something about the real world through literary analysis. He's hearing a new and unusual story about people's behavior, and he's going on to say it doesn't line up with the stories he's heard, so he's just going to disbelieve it. It's just stupid.

(Although I suppose it's theoretically possible that she made up all the stories. But I imagine the press will find some of her former clients, we'll have to see.)
posted by delmoi at 2:35 PM on November 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


You know what? I could not be more delighted about this. I have found all those people who just insisted that a sex worker could not possibly be as fluent, articulate, well-adjusted and well-educated as Belle de Jour to be highly irksome. And so to all of them I say:

NEE NER NEE NER.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:50 PM on November 15, 2009 [6 favorites]


Oh, let me be clear, I'm well aware of the it-could-be-true argument, also known as can-you-prove-it-didn't happen? However, my point is not to be gullible and credulous. There are far more writers faking being prostitutes than there are real prostitutes who are writers. What evidence do we have that her blog is not a total fabrication? I mean, it's theoretically possible that a deposed Nigerian prince really wants to contact you in order to give you a commission for helping him safeguard his fortune, but it's very unlikely.

The key aspect is to realize that the story panders to what the target audience likes to hear. That should put us on guard that we're possibly being taken. This is a probability argument. It is not correct to counter-argue I'm drawing only from my own experience. In my post, I quote extensively from a "madam" who says e.g. "This is a load of rubbish. It's unconvincing, it doesn't sound like a woman writing, and it certainly doesn't sound like a working woman. "

When improbability piles on improbability, when it is fair to say it can't be truth? Or at least to be very suspicious that it's too good to be true?
posted by Seth Finkelstein at 4:37 PM on November 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


prostitution has been legal in New Zealand for years - but that they had sex in the back of his patrol car, while he was in uniform, and that she wasn't paid.

Always blow off the pro.

Safer communities together.
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:02 PM on November 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, I don't have to wash their foreskins, so at least I have that.

I hate my clients so much I don't even wash my own.
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:10 PM on November 15, 2009


Cool.

That's all.
posted by darth_tedious at 6:12 PM on November 15, 2009


I think the PhD funding system in the UK is appalling. PhD students don't have it so great here in the U.S., but I knew many in the UK who had it way worse. Some are trying to change the system somewhat, and I wonder if they will use the fact that the current system drives grad students to become sex workers while they write up as an argument.
posted by grouse at 6:13 PM on November 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Seth: While it's theoretically possible that the blog could have been a fantasy, your "madam" also didn't even think the writer was female. Obviously her, and your ability to determine truth from writing style is a bit off.

Which isn't very surprising. The idea that you can divine truth from this kind of "literary analysis" is absurd.

The world is full of unusual and surprising people. The fact that something doesn't meet your expectations doesn't mean it's false.
posted by delmoi at 6:33 PM on November 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Au contraire - if she's aping novels written by male writers, that would explain the male aspects of the writing. After all, her very name is taken from a famous fictional-prostitute novel (written by a man) and film. That ought to be a red flag as to what we might be dealing with, as in a fictional-prostitute blog.

Isn't there a reversed burden of proof here? That is, is it fair that if skeptics don't get every aspect of debunking correct, the story-teller must be taken at face value? Why? Must we believe the alleged deposed Nigerian prince?

The world is also full of people making up appealing and attention-grabbing tales for their own benefit. The fact that something sounds really cool (Here's a smart hot woman who has a well-paid life of stylish call-girl sex!) doesn't mean it 's true.
posted by Seth Finkelstein at 7:11 PM on November 15, 2009


I think the "least hypothesis" here (at least for those who don't have some sort of ideological axe to grind) is that she wrote the blog based on her own experiences. It's fine to be skeptical, but it seems like you're grasping for some sort of straw to discredit this woman, and one really has to wonder why that's so important to you.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 7:25 PM on November 15, 2009


Wjy? Why isn't the "least hypothesis" that's it's a work of fiction?

No need to wonder - if you'd read my original post, I mention my intense dislike of blogging as a mechanism of conning people by faking sincerity. I've been writing about that theme in general for many years.
posted by Seth Finkelstein at 7:32 PM on November 15, 2009


So? Any form of human communication is potentially a "mechanism of conning people by faking sincerity".
posted by Crabby Appleton at 7:46 PM on November 15, 2009


Being the minorest of Internet Celebrities, I run into both people who will blog "I went to this event and saw Jason Scott, but I was too nervous to approach him"

Wow, what are the odds of them both attending the exact same event?
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:34 PM on November 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


My favorite-whoring has gotten me through...

Oh. Shit, I think I've been doing this wrong...
posted by dirigibleman at 9:29 PM on November 15, 2009


I use the Internet and bookshops, and have never heard of this "brand".

I think that about a lot of the threads here, because...well...it's a US site, and I'm not American, and so it doesn't ring a bell for me. But I don't post in them 'I DON'T KNOW WHAT THIS IS IS IT EVEN NEWS' because that's just noise. And it would add about as much to the discussion as a post picking over spelling mistakes in the header.

ANYWAY. I thought from reading BdJ, that she was Jewish and came from Northern England - is Brooke? And the dates for me didn't add up - if she'd have gone out with all the men for all the time she mentioned, she would be in her forties. However, the writing was good, and I enjoyed it as a story (I read it mainly in book form) enough not to worry about the veracity.

I'm very good at picking up on authors from writing style, and nothing about this suggested to me it was written by a man. I'm not sure it's that relevant a question - enough writers have shown ability to write in the opposite gender, or another era, or another nationality extremely convincingly - and only becomes so because we don't want to believe that women who are sex workers find their job as satisfying as any other career. A while back I read In My Skin it wasn't as graphic as BdJ, being primarily a story of heroin addiction, but the author derived some satisfaction out of sex work.

All diaries are fictionalised to an extent, because the mind is unreliable, and the hand wants to describe things beautifully. Writing diaries for an audience magnifies this.
posted by mippy at 2:38 AM on November 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


After all, her very name is taken from a famous fictional-prostitute novel (written by a man) and film. That ought to be a red flag as to what we might be dealing with, as in a fictional-prostitute blog.

If I could be bothered to look it up, I'm sure there are many, many blogs dealing with work that derive pseudonymity from works of fiction. She could have called herself Salome, or Whore of Babylon, or Leanne Battersby. You're mistaking the wood for the trees here.

I have found all those people who just insisted that a sex worker could not possibly be as fluent, articulate, well-adjusted and well-educated as Belle de Jour to be highly irksome.

I've met two sex workers in the past few years - both dominatrix (dominatrices?). One went to university with my SO and was forthright and intelligent. The other was a friend from an online forum who was an exceptionally cheerful and funny person. The thing that surprises me most here is that her PhD was in science and not literature.
posted by mippy at 3:14 AM on November 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


After all, her very name is taken from a famous fictional-prostitute novel (written by a man) and film. That ought to be a red flag as to what we might be dealing with, as in a fictional-prostitute blog.
Seth, the fact is that that isn't a red flag for anything. A literary allusion is not evidence for anything in the real world.
I think the "least hypothesis" here (at least for those who don't have some sort of ideological axe to grind) is that she wrote the blog based on her own experiences.

Wjy? Why isn't the "least hypothesis" that's it's a work of fiction?
Oh dear. Occams razor only applies to explanations that have identical results, as in, there would be no measurable difference. But that's kind of beside the point. Generally, we assume people are telling the truth. But more then that, presumably the times has some fact checkers who verified that she was more then just a storyteller. After all, the author of the article was someone who had been skeptical. Don't you think she would have verified that she was actually a prostitute before admitting she'd been wrong?
The thing that surprises me most here is that her PhD was in science and not literature.
If she'd gotten a PhD in literature, she'd still probably be hooking to make ends meet.
posted by delmoi at 9:08 AM on November 16, 2009


Via Kottke:

Darren from LinkMachineGo, an old school blogger, guessed Belle de Jour's identity soon after her blog started. How? Pre-Belle, Brooke Magnanti ran an obscure Robotwisdom-style link blog and wrote in a few other online forums and Darren recognized the writing style. Not only didn't Darren tell Magnanti or anyone else, he even set up a clever Googlewhack honeypot to detect people searching for her secret identity and tipped Magnanti off that The Daily News was sniffing around.

I guess someone didn't think she was writing like a man ;-)
posted by Jakey at 3:52 AM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


From Darren's summary, linked from the Kottke page:
And then early last weekend I received an email signed by Brooke that confirmed that she was outing herself in the Sunday Times because the Daily Mail had discovered her identity via an ex-boyfriend.
Has anyone yet said here that her ex-boyfriend is a shit? Because I will.
posted by grouse at 7:22 AM on November 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Brooke Magnanti says she misses parts of old Belle de Jour life
posted by homunculus at 9:24 PM on November 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


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