Belle du Jour, the once anonymous blogger behind the popular Diary of a London Call Girl blog, which spawned a TV show starring Billie Paper and several books, has today been revealed as Dr. Brooke Magnanti, a research scientist working for the Bristol Initiative for Research of Child Health.
Speaking to India Knight in the Sunday times, Magnanti reveals she chose prostitution to fund her life in London whilst writing up her PhD thesis in informatics, epidemiology and forensic science. With little spare time on her hands because she was “still making corrections and preparing for the viva” and money running out fast Magnanti pondered on the perfect profession that “doesn’t require a great deal of training or investment to get started, that’s cash in hand and that leaves me spare time to do my work in”. Her solution was working as a £300/hour escort.
Belle’s blog has been accused of glamourising sex work and the revelations that “Belle” is in fact an intelligent and well-educated woman demonstrates that sex workers come from all walks of the life. However, this tale also highlights the perils of undertaking an academic career in scientific research. Doctoral work in any field is an all-consuming affair where the final months of writing up require an other-worldy and single-minded devotion to one thing and one thing only. Finishing. Add to that, the horrors of endless corrections to your thesis, counting your pennies because your funding has run out and finding a job in the highly competitive field of science (a job which can be poorly funded with little stability) and it’s pretty easy to imagine the state of mind when struggling for money that leaps from science to sex work.