Friday, February 26, 2010

Belle de Jour Talks Sex Ed on the BBC, and MORE BLOG!

As the former high-priced call girl Belle de Jour she has published five acclaimed books (and a sixth on the way in May) about her exploits and issues related to relationships, as well as an award winning blog that started it all, and continues to add devoted fans from across the globe since its debut in 2003.

Last year, Ms. de Jour revealed her true identity. Since then, the woman behind the legend has been interviewed (sometimes unfairly grilled) about her real-life erotic adventures – why did she become an escort, why did she gave it up, why she disclosed her identity? Why, why, why? At long last the media furor appears to be dying down a bit so that this truly incredible and accomplished woman is finally being asked to provide her opinions about social issues of the day.

Last night, she appeared on the BBC in an interview about the relative merits of the success of British sex education efforts in non-religious and religious schools.

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 escort for two years. Her blog TRULY cannot be missed.

Last year, Belle revealed that she 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 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.

Last night, she was the guest on the BBC’s This Week, hosted by Andrew Neil, with regular commentators Michael Portillo and Diane Abbott. Watch it at the BBC website or read the following synopsis:

According to Neil, sex education has always been a bit embarrassing for the British. Unfortunately, the U.K.’s teen pregnancy rates highest in Europe.

What’s the solution? The government believes that part of it lies in compulsory sex education in schools, and officials have stated that they will ensure for the first time that students in every school faith (religious) and non-faith alike will receive that education.

According to Neil, a controversy developed when the government decided to allow faith schools more freedom to tailor that compulsory education to their own religious beliefs.

Does sex education even matter, Neil asked Brooke.

“It absolutely matters. I can’t believe there’s anybody who would question whether it is relevant or not,” she replied.

What evidence is there that more sex education that kids are given “deals” with lessening teen pregnancy or sexual transmitted diseases, he asked.

“It’s not really a question of quantity so much as quality. I think kids have been stuffed up to the gills with how to put a condom on a penis-shaped dummy. What they’re not getting is the full context of how to be an adult with sexuality, how to have respect for yourself, how to carry that over to your relationship,” Brooke responded.

“Has sex education in Britain failed then, because there’s a lot of it around?” Neil asked.

“There’s a lot of it around but it’s very inconsistent between different schools,” Brooke said. Some school handle it very well, while others do little or nly answering questions about pregnancy or HIV.

“That’s not good enough. A patchwork that isn’t matching up isn’t good enough,” she said.

“Is there something about the British attitude toward sex that just means sex education doesn’t work (here)?” Neil asked.

“I don’t know if you’d call it a British attitude to sex so much when anyone who is dealing with young people, is dealing with teenagers, it is awkward – awkward questions are going to come up; which is why it needs to be taught by people who are prepared to teach it, who are comfortable with teaching it, who are qualified to teach it. There’s no other subject in school where you can go and teach having never studied it yourself. You wouldn’t have history teachers who were in fact scientists, it just wouldn’t happen,” Brooke noted.

Portillo said that he thinks Britain is insular, noting that teenaged pregnancies are several times higher in the U.K. than in the Netherlands. He said the government has known that for 20 years, but has never studied if Holland is teaching sex education differently than in Britain.

That comment seemed reasonable enough, but then he launched into a fairly bizarre tangent.

“If you are pregnant here, you are economically rewarded. It is a lifestyle choice. If you have a baby when you are very, very young you’ll be housed by the state, you’ll be looked after by the state, it will become the father of your child. And that, is a very big economic incentive,” Portillo opined.

“Do you really think, though, that a teenaged girl is going through that specific logical process – ‘choosing’ to become pregnant?” an incredulous Brook asked. “Do you really think it’s that calculated?”

Abbott concurred with Brooke, saying she had met a lot of teen girls who felt that having a baby would make them be more of an adult, not that they were seeking a financial incentive to becoming pregnant.

“You have to start somewhere,” Brooke said. “The question is, if people are not getting (sex education) at home, where are they going to get it from?” She noted that everyone agrees that is unacceptable for teens to get sex education from salacious celebrity stories in tabloids.

Brooke also agreed with Abbott’s assessment of how some young girls feel that getting pregnant makes them feel “like a grownup.”

Next, Brooke brought up an important point, and also ended up getting the last word in the segment. “A lot of sex education is focused on prevention and is very, very focused on the girls. There’s not really so much focused on the boys, and how they become sexually mature adults, responsible adults – or not, as the case may be. There’s just not enough being given to them.. You know, they’re the other half of the couple here,” Brooke noted.

Meanwhile, back at Brooke’s blog, she posted two followups to her initial post from the day before. Her bestselling book from last year, Belle de Jour’s Guide to Men, provides some wonderfully written relationship advice to women about men.

After that book appeared to widespread acclaim, the author promised a sequel for men about women was in the works. Well gentlemen, soon it will be your turn to hear her advice, using the same literate, amusing and entertaining style that has delighted old and new fans for years – but not just yet. The new book is expected to be released in May, but until then, Brooke has begun posting a few tantalizing excerpts.

So fans, sit back and begin to learn a bit of what every man should know about dating and relationships. Here are her second and third post on the topic in full. Read them here, or read it directly on Brooke’s blog, but whatever you do, just read them:

mercredi, février 24

Now before we get on to the next myth that needs busting, I feel compelled to offer a real-world example of the last piece of advice.

Because I feel you already: 'Yeah, but the women I meet...' 'It's different in this case because...' yadda yadda yadda. I'll bet folding money you've convinced yourself that women (and relationships) are complicated, so something as simple as three steps on how to tell the truth do not apply in your case.

I call bullshit. But you don't have to take it from me.

Take it from N.

You remember N, right? London-based bessie mate and all round wingman with a heart of gold. Now, N's the sort of man who has put the steps to work and gets what he wants as a result.

See, what N wants, generally speaking, is hot sex with very kinky ladies, not a relationship. Which is probably one of the more awkward things you can propose to a near-stranger, and a situation in which some men might be tempted not to tell the full truth for fear of damaging their chances. And yet radical honesty is the way he does it... he'll be the first to say that he gets more of what he's after, more often, since he started being straight about it.

In other words, if being honest works in his case, it should work in most others. If what you're dreaming of is a little hanky-panky, or a full-blown girlfriend, it can work for you too.

So let's say you're N and no-strings action is what you're after. Here's how the steps work in the real world:

• Say what you mean, mean what you say. N does not ask women on cosy dinner dates because dating is not the result he's after. Rather, he approaches women in public places, does not make a secret of his preferences, and does not pretend to be interested in more than a physical connection.

• Be up front at the right time. He likes it rough and he likes it messy. You know when this comes up? Before numbers are even exchanged. Why? Because seriously, if you like kinky sex, in flagrante is totally not the time to whip out the professional grade handcuffs. That much should be obvious. But guess what? This is a concept that generalises beautifully to most things about relationships - state where you're at before it's too late or too awkward for the other party to back out.

• Take criticism, leave the rest. Not everyone goes for his kind of recreation, and that's cool. He gets the odd funny look and a few women walk. But you know what he never gets? A slap, or a stalker. Why? Because he's been honest. And using the (largely positive) reception this approach has gotten has enabled him to tweak it so no matter which way things go, no one gets offended.

And believe me, if it works for something off-piste like this, then it can work for plain-vanilla date and a cuddle. Gents, the standard has been set. Whether or not you go with it is entirely up to you.

POSTED BY BELLE DE JOUR AT 3:57 PM

jeudi, février 25

Right, this next one is for the men who are about to be, or already in, a relationship.

Stereotype 2: "Women are never satisfied with anything I do!"

This is a hard one. No matter how cool the girl – she might be the kind who can beat you at snooker, a penalty shootout, and a whisky drinking sesh all at the same time – I guarantee you will think this at least some of the time.

So inevitably a day will come when you’re doing what you usually do, bumbling along in your busy world...getting ready for work, coffee in one hand, morning paper in the other, blah blah relationship? Under control! And she storms in all hellfire in a dressing gown and demands to know why she isn’t getting your full, undivided attention right! Fucking! Now!

And man, I feel your pain. You’re out taking care of bidness, bringing home the bacon and all that shite. You’re running the country single-handed and running marathons in your spare time. You wooed her, you won her, and you’re with her – if the situation had changed, you would tell her. That should be enough, right? She’s being unreasonable, yeah?

Wrong. So, so wrong.

On the one hand you might have stumbled across someone whose issues are so deep, and anxiety about abandonment so ingrained, that nothing will ever be enough. You can usually tell these by the long trail of bitter exes – if she has burned all her bridges with other men, beware. But if this happens more than once in your lifetime, odds are the Black Widow isn’t what you got. What you got was a woman who has every right to expect you to treat her with tenderness and consideration even well after she’s the missus.

(Before someone goes and accuses me of all the usual nonsense - perpetuating stereotypes, &c. - let me rush to assure you that men do exactly the same thing. Exactly. The. Same. Thing. My man is never so interested in gaining my attention as when I’m distracted and totally not focussing on him. ‘Twas ever thus. This is not something specific to women. But, I addressed this for women as re: men in a book. If you’re curious, go buy it. Now it’s the guys’ turn.)

See, thing is, the vast majority of women know you’re busy and that other things are taking your attention. And believe it or not, they also know that you still feel love and desire for them even when you’re pulling twelve-hour days.

She knows you feel it, but she wants reassurance too. Your feelings are important, but they don’t keep her warm and safe at night. There is no way for her to be reassured she’s still in an equal partnership unless you find a way to show her – especially when it’s difficult, because the little things mean more then. She doesn't care what you feel. She cares what you do.

You are trying to have it all, but you can't. You limp along doing the best you can, hoping eventually somehow you'll have more time or energy for your relationship. But her mind knows the situations you are in daily don't just happen to you, they are decisions you are making. You could decide in the morning that you are going to pace yourself during that cabinet meeting/20 mile run/Oscar acceptance speech today so you have the energy to make sweet sweet love to your lady tonight, but you aren’t. To her it looks like you’re being ruled by your life, instead of being the ruler of it.

I don’t have to tell you that is not the mark of a Man.

Man would look on the health of the relationship as he would other responsibilities. If he neglected his work, he would get fired. If he didn’t study, he would get rubbish marks. So if you neglect your woman… I think you know where this is headed.

You can do it. You can make the effort. When it seems like you can’t, tell yourself this: making an effort takes less time than arguing. It also takes less time than going out on dates and having to start over with someone new.

So, an example: Recently my boyfriend T was away for two weeks (work thing) and had been more or less an absent partner for the six weeks before that (also, work stuff). I knew he’d be away on Valentine’s, and it was no problem because some girl friends were coming to visit that weekend, and V-day was never so big a deal for me. I pretty well suspected it would go uncommented and we’d make it up when he got home a week later. That was me, playing the Good Girlfriend.

Know what came to my door the morning of the 14th? A huge spray of red roses and a bottle of champagne.

I’m not a red roses kind of girl. Champagne is not my tipple of choice. But fellas, I tell you this, I cried. In my dressing gown, in front of all my mates and our hangovers, I cried when I read the silly little card. He was playing the Good Boyfriend even hip-deep in goodness knows what in the middle of nowhere. He made an effort in a situation where no contact would have been perfectly understandable. That, friends, is what makes a Man.

Good interpersonal management skills, you see? Some give, some take. And yes I do feel pretty unbearably smug about it. Don't hate me because I'm a lucky woman, yo.

From the woman's point of view, she's probably been quietly making adjustments to your needs all along and would love a little of that back. If any woman, anywhere, has ever accepted the difference between her sex drive and yours through healthy application of K-Y and the spirit of compromise, then you have to do it too and I’m afraid to say scented candles will probably be involved. Too damn bad. Rub her back and she’ll rub yours, so to speak.

You may not think so, but you might be taking her presence for granted, counting on being able to make it up to her later. Don't fault her for suspecting that "later" may never arrive. Take control, and if you love her then give her the meat, not the leftovers. Believe me, everybody wins.

POSTED BY BELLE DE JOUR AT 4:13 PM

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.

Here is a description of the book, kindly 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.”

In addition to Guide to Men and Belle’s Bits, her other books are: 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.

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 premiered this month, and was previewed by a special 30-minute interview of Brooke by Billie.

— The Curator

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