The identity of the woman who writes Belle de Jour has finally been revealed. As it turns out, she is a research scientist who supposedly turned call girl to pay for her education. Dr. Brooke Magnanti, who works at the Centre for Nanoscience and Quantum Information, revealed that she is the mysterious London call girl. So, one of the literary (if we can call it that) world’s most sought after secrets is revealed.
According to the various news stories, Magnanti was working on her doctoral thesis when she found herself broke. Not being able to find a job within her profession, she turned to prostitution to pay the bills. But hold on. “I cannot be a full fledged research scientist yet, so let me see what I can do”, is somehow convoluted into; “Hey, I can sell myself for $500 an hour, and finally get that paper done!” Wow, there is a disparity if there ever was one. Not to seem prudish or anything, but since when does someone with the brains to be a research scientist need to climb into the gutter in lieu of taking a real job? One can almost sympathize with women with no possible way out of despair turning to what they “perceive” is their only way out, but someone in their last year of post graduate school?
Dr. Magnanti operates the Belle de Jour blog and has written several anonymous books about her exploits as a call girl. Apparently, she intends to continue the blog for a period (God knows why), while Bristol University, one of the world’s leading universities, is apparently supportive of her no matter what. An official there, Barry Taylor, made the following statement to The Times Online:
“This aspect of her past bears no relevance to her current role at the university.”
Well, from a PR perspective, I beg to disagree with Mr. Taylor. Not to over vilify Magnanti for taking up the world’s oldest profession, condoning the actions of representatives of this institution sends a message. The exact decoding of such a message? Well, for one thing it says; “We do not care if you are a criminal, as long as you are smart and we can use you.” By Magnanti’s own admission, she seemed to be looking for “anything” which would allow here to finish school, and obviously too, not cause her one wit of discomfort, I quote;
“What can I do that I can start doing straightaway, 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?”
Being driven a little cynical here, I took note at the good doctor’s attitude in all of this. Being an author herself, she should be prepared for a little close textual scrutiny. The poor little doctor, like so many of this type, was just so put out by her anonymity all this time. Why, she could not even attend her book launch party. According to Magnanti, she has no intention of going back to being a high priced call girl. My contention is that she still is by all outward appearances, at least in principle.
Her latest posts promote such valuable research as; tweeting erotic tweets contests, promoting herself and this story via her Twitter account, and it appears at least – working this story. Look, devoting time to her own personal visibility as Belle de Jour, after having professed to be past all this, well, it just doesn’t fly. Her employer has given her approval, doesn’t she have research to do? I think we are looking at another case of shameless self promotion here. I know I will take some heat for not being Mr. Liberal, but exactly what would Bristol University consider past behavior fitting disapproval? Hannibal Lecter’s eating habits? The statement might go something like this; “Whether or not Dr. Lecter’s eating habits are applauling, the University sees no pertinence to current position as chief surgeon. He is a brilliant man, and a valuable resource to the hospital here.”
Bristol University is without a doubt this week’s winner of the Everything PR Goofy Award. We would never suggest that Dr. Magnanti be terminated or anything of the sort, but openly condoning here seems inappropriate, especially since Magnanti apparently intends to go forward. I would think they would be considering the implications of what her ongoing contributions to Twitter, books, and her blog might have for them? Maybe they need the notoriety too? Any way, her actions so far do not point to sincerity.
Editor’s Note: In the paragraphs above I made mention of the University perhaps not caring if the good Doctor were a criminal. Prostitution is legal within certain limits in the UK. The comment was more about the University’s handling of the situation than it was about Magnanti. As for the legality of her actions, there is some doubt also with regard to the letter of the law. According to my brief study it is illegal to engage in prostitution under some guidelines; Activities which are illegal include soliciting in a public place, kerb crawling, keeping a brothel, pimping, pandering and outraging public decency. Using an escort service? That might be considered in violation in certain instances, and certainly any instances in the lady’s book where other infringements are admitted could cause problems, but that is outside my domain. I hope this made my position and intent a little more clear.