Thursday, February 11, 2010

Belle de Jour Talks Important SCIENCE!

My respect for Belle de Jour continues to increase, as this talented and complicated woman explores real issues on her award-winning blog.

Her latest blog posting is a perfect example of what makes this remarkable woman so very compelling. This time out, she discusses a topic very close to her heart: the impact of pesticides, and the need to ban specific ones that have proven harmful.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with her, Belle de Jour had been the nom de plume of a celebrated British erotic author, who was also a London call girl for two years.

Last year, Belle revealed her true identity is Dr. Brooke Magnanti, of Bristol, England, a noted scientist. Brooke’s specialist areas are developmental neurotoxicology and cancer epidemiology. She has a PhD in informatics, epidemiology and forensic science and is now working at the Bristol Initiative for Research of Child Health. She is currently part of a team researching the potential effects on babies of their mothers' exposure to toxic chemicals.

But, from 2003 to late 2004, Brooke worked as a prostitute via a London escort agency; she started blogging as Belle de Jour — after the Buñuel film starring Catherine Deneuve as a well-to-do housewife who has sex for money because she’s bored — shortly into her career as a call girl, after an incident she thought funny enough to write down.

She charged £300 an hour for her services, of which she got £200. The average appointment lasted two hours; she saw clients two or three times a week, “sometimes less, sometimes a great deal more,” she has said.

But, it another aspect of the real Brooke that shines through on this post, not the erotic author, but the scientist who cares about our planet and us. Read her post here in full, or directly from her blog then take time to reflect on what the fabulous Brooke has to say:

jeudi, février 11

Just for a minute, permit me to go all science.

For 10 years, rural resident Georgina Downs has been campaigning to restrict and ban pesticide use near human living areas. There are a number of substances which are strongly connected with immunological and developmental disorders (among other ailments), and these are legally and widely used in the UK and EU.

As it happens, my current job is researching the use of a particular pesticide, Chlorpyrifos, and its putative effect on neurodevelopment in infants and children. This pesticide is a known neurotoxicant that has been banned from home use in the US for the last decade, and extensive research and expert opinion supports a similar (or even wider-ranging) ban here.

It is possible – many would say probable – that exposure to pesticides at levels far lower than what is considered the safety threshold still has long-term health effects. For the most part, people tend to assume that if a chemical is used, then it has been fully tested and therefore must be safe. In fact the reverse is generally true: substances are used and it is up to scientists and the public to show that it is unsafe before it is banned.

You can read a summary of what Georgina Downs is trying to achieve here, and her organisation's website is here.

As a scientist, of course I have an opinion but am also obliged to note that there is not 100% consensus in the scientific community about these issues. However, in the last 12 months of my job, I have consulted leading researchers in this area, and without exception they believe that at a minimum we need to know more about the effects of pesticides on humans.


As Belle de Jour, Brooke has written four books in addition to her always fabulous blog about her work in the sex industry. Her fifth book, Belle's Best Bits: A London Call Girl Reveals Her Favourite Adventures, was released last month and is widely available across the pond and at Amazon UK's Division.

Here is a description of the book, provided by Orion Books:

“From the summer of 2003 Belle charted her day-to-day adventures on and off the field in a frank, funny and award-winning diaries. She was the first to reveal (among other things) how she became a working girl, what it feels like to do it for money, and where to buy the best knickers for the job. She also discusses her efforts to change from 'working girl' to working girl, whilst sneaking off to visit clients in her lunch hour. From debating the literary merits of Martin Amis with naked clients to smuggling whips into luxury hotels, this is a no-holds barred account of the high-class sex-trade, and an insight into the secret life of an extraordinary woman.”

Her other books are Belle de Jour’s Guide to Men, 2009; The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl, September 2005; The Further Adventures of a London Call Girl, May 2007; and Playing the Game, June 2009. Each of these books truly delivers – trust me!

Her writing has been so popular that it became the basis for the international hit TV series, Secret Diary of a Call Girl, starring Billie Piper. It can be seen on Showtime in the U.S., and the first two seasons are available on DVD. The third season premieres this month, and was previewed by a special 30-minute interview of Brooke by Billie. Hopefully, that interview will be included in the third-season DVD boxed set once it becomes available.

But let me be clear, it is an ENORMOUS mistake to reduce or dismiss Brooke as only an erotic author. She has so much more to offer, so much talent as a writer and depth as a unique and compelling human being that she transcends all labels and genres. She is Brooke Magnanti, doctor — and she is Belle de Jour. Give her the respect that she has earned and deserves.

— The Curator


  1. You either get it or you don't, and sometimes you don't because of censorship. Here's a comment the Times cut. (Posted under the name "Albert Clock")

    I began reading BDJ' blog in earnest after she had 'outed' herself. Before that I had looked occasionally at one or two contemporary posts and moved on - perhaps at the time I had other distractions. Now, I moved to the very first blog posting and read obsessively - I now understood the fascination. Somehow Belle seems quintessentially English, Up for
    +Anything, courageous and strong. Fearful, and for the early days, unconfined, she morphs from her version of Barbarella all the way, via Neytiri, through to Queen Maebh. Unbidden, the unlikely phrase 'virgin snow' surfaces in my thoughts.

    As I read on into the Blog, her doubts and fears flicker on the surface - 'Why buy the cow when the milk is free? - deception of those you love and those who love and trust you'.
    Friendship - so much of that. The black vortex - the Heart of Darkness? - that is the aftermath of love and lust given freely to First Date - is that real, or part of her writer's art? A girlish desire and attraction to a broken heart?

    She has boldly gone where I wanted to be but could not go for reasons I have long forgotten. Chameleon Avatar, Scientist Blogger, her IRL.

    As the Blog moves forward, constriction and paranoia progresses. 'Trust no-one. So much happening, even more that cannot be told. Trust no-one' And the contradictions - 'They are paying for their orgasm, not mine?' - while elsewhere the Director pays to watch her m********e? - and she does?

    At times I laughed out loud, ... At every web page I had to google for comprehension. There are more references than I will have time to follow up - Fritz Lang - what did she think of The Dance in 'Metropolis' I wonder? - Does she rate any of Zhang Yimou's films close to 'The House of the flying Daggers'? Why no mention of Princess Mononoke? Has she seen the pilot for 'Tripping the Rift'? ... And this made me weep:

    "This is what it's like to be born to a generation who imagined they were changing the world - you live up to neither their hopes nor fears."

    My generation put a man on the moon, ended the Cold War, and made obesity popular. My predecessors gave us 1984, Animal Farm, and defeated Fascism. BDJ's Real Life has subtly set a high water mark for her generation's ambitions - a cure for Cancers, and the possibility of living a long, joyful and guilt-free life. Go Girl!!! but ... that Photo of her in a dressing gown .... the Sunday Times has not yet Got It - She's a _Blogger_ - End Of.

    PS: Loved the photo - no, not that one - the one in the Blog. V mum and teenage daughter .... ;4)

  2. YOU should post your comment on every blog that writes about Brooke/Belle! It is fabulous, and captures better than I ever could how important she is because of the unique voice she has as a writer, as a woman. I too have eagerly looked up her copious literary references, and then just as quickly laughed out loud at a turn of phrase. Long may she reign! (I can't thank you enough for your incredible post :-)!)

  3. *blush* thanks for the thanks. I did mildly censor the comment to make it suitable for adult consumption before posting to the Times. I'm still wondering ... why?

    Reign? .... hmmm .... the Celts were much less inhibited about sex, seen this?