Anonymity was no fun, she claimed, stating “I couldn’t even go to my own book launch party”

One of the best kept literary secrets of the decade was revealed last night when 34-year-old scientist Dr Brooke Magnanti announced she was the writer masquerading as call girl Belle de Jour.

Until last week, even her agent was unaware of her name. But now Magnanti, a respected specialist in developmental neurotoxicology and cancer epidemiology in a hospital research group in Bristol, has spoken of the time six years ago she worked as a £300 an hour prostitute working through a London escort agency. Magnanti turned to the agency in the final stages of her PhD thesis when she ran out of money. She was already an experienced science blogger and began writing about her experiences in a web diary later adapted into books and a television drama starring Billie Piper.



  1. #1 Rich Wilson
    November 16, 2009

    I’m not sure what to make of this line:

    “I did have another job at one point, as a computer programmer, but I kept up with my other work because it was so much more enjoyable.”

  2. #2 NewEnglandBob
    November 16, 2009

    Something seems off in this.

  3. #3 MadScientist
    November 16, 2009

    The story reminds me of a song by Gershwin: “I want to be just like that other trollop, the Lorelei!” I think perhaps Noel Coward’s “Alice” may have preceded that (all she was aiming to be was a pinked-up, minked-up fly-by-night floozy).

    Would there even be a story if people weren’t raised with bizarre ideas like “prostitutes are evil hell-bound people”? If not, the story may be every bit as interesting as “I became a computer programmer to earn money to finish off my PhD”.

  4. #4 Badger3k
    November 16, 2009

    Yeah, I have to agree – it’s people prudish attitudes on sex that has this story being a big deal (well, that and the “sexy scientist stereotype” from movies – the glasses, white coat…). I just can’t see this as being a big deal. I might have to look up the Billie Piper show, though. I think I remember seeing some ads or something on BBC America.

  5. #5 Mark F.
    November 16, 2009

    I’ve seen both seasons of the show starring Billie Piper. It’s been on Showtime here in the states the last couple of years. It was not on BBC America as far as I can remember. It was pretty good. During the first season it definitely focused a lot more on the sex than it did in the second season. As the series progressed it became a lot more about the conflicts she faced trying to lead two lives than it did about sex.

  6. #6 Brian X
    November 17, 2009

    I’d like to think that this revelation would lead to generally better understanding for sex workers. I’m not that naive though; maybe it’ll be good for the Brits, but if Dr. Magnanti ever has a job opportunity in the US, somehow I doubt she’ll have much luck. Which is a damn shame.

  7. #7 catgirl
    November 17, 2009

    Would there even be a story if people weren’t raised with bizarre ideas like “prostitutes are evil hell-bound people”?

    Ugh, on a different blog, a man who claims to be a completely rational, atheist skeptic resorted to slut-shaming. He said that none of her work can be trusted because she might have “slept her way to the top”, and also said that True Scientists care more about getting papers published than about being a “minor media personality”, as though the two were mutually exclusive.

    Although I’m not really happy about her glamorizing a job choice that isn’t nearly as great for the vast majority who don’t work in the “high-end” industry, I just don’t see what that has to do with her scientific career.

  8. #8 Andrew
    November 17, 2009

    The tragic thing is that a student,(one of plenty), had to resort to such measures to support herself.Prostitution per se is not”Evil”, it is the circumstances that require a resort to it that are evil, (Poverty, drug dependance, low self esteem due to child abuse etc.). This is to be expected when the current UK funding methods are in place. Prostitution is at least less likely to harm others than armed robbery, although the “moralists” would prefer armed robbery.