Monday, October 25, 2010

Belle de Jour on the 'Real Princess Diaries' Scandal

The exposure over the weekend of a so-called female escort who allegedly penned ‘The Real Princess Diaries’ as a fraud that was perpetrated by a male government employee has generated a lot of comment within the sex worker community and outside of it.

I was especially interested to read comments by two of the genuine article: One who remains a sex worker, Tasty Trixie, and the other who left the field, the always fabulous British erotic author, Belle de Jour.

Last year, Belle step out from behind her famous pen name and revealed her identity. She is Dr. Brooke Magnanti of Bristol, England, a noted scientist whose specialist areas are developmental neurotoxicology and cancer epidemiology. She has a PhD in informatics, epidemiology and forensic science and had worked at the Bristol Initiative for Research of Child Health as part of a team that researched the potential effects on babies of their mothers' exposure to toxic chemicals.

But, from 2003 to late 2004, Brooke worked as a high-class call girl for a London escort service. She has written an award-winning blog and several bestselling books based on her experiences as a high-end, call-girl in the sex industry. Her writing also formed the basis of the hit TV series Secret Diary of a Call Girl, now in its third season on Showtime, which stars Billie Piper in the title role of “Belle.”

Brooke was pretty much hounded by journalists throughout the U.K. who sought out Belle’s true identity relentlessly for years. During that time, there was constant speculation that Belle was also a fraud, and that the author was a man. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Brooke came forward on her own terms, after learning that a newspaper had managed to finally discover who she was, and had been planning an unauthorized expose. Brooke was everything, and more, that she had ever purported to be. She is also an incredibly talented writer, who may have gained fame because of the topic that she wrote about, but has maintained that fame because of the quality of her writing – and that sparkling ability continues to amaze.

Disgustingly, the ‘Real Princess Diaries’ took much of Brooke’s real-life experiences and turned them into poorly written fiction that the author asserted to be non-fiction. So, who better than Brooke to comment about this whole mess.

This is Tasty Trixie, in her own words:

“My name is Trixie. I live in a small town near Seattle, Washington. I also feel like part of me lives on the world wide web because of this site; I'm alive wherever people see me on their monitors and hear my voice through my videos, spycams and live shows.

I began doing private webcam shows and phone sex back in the year 2000 and started building this website for myself and my fans in 2002. I do a lot of different things online (blogging, podcasts, etc.) but for the past six years my main focus has been here on my site, sharing myself with my members.

...My website is a very personal labor of love where I share my homemade porn, true stories, and spycams allowing my members to see and hear inside our house around the clock.”

The real author of Diaries had claimed to be the sexy, 24-year-old “Alexa Di Carlo” who plied her trade in San Francisco where “she” was supporting herself while she attended grad school. “She” was unmasked as Thomas "Pat" Bohannan, who works for a government agency in Delaware.

The persona of Alexa DiCarlo (aka AlexaRPD, aka Caitlain of 'Caitlain’s Corner'), was allegedly that of an on-line sex worker/escort who wrote explicitly about “her” experiences and struggles.

By lying and posing as a sex worker, Bohannan insulted all readers, but especially those who do make their living in the sex industry, and most especially women. He created then hid behind a character – a sexy woman – that would entice and even arouse readers. He also pretended to be a knowledgeable sex educator, who frequently gave advise to readers in that guise.

Bohannan pulled the plug on his blog, which sadly won awards for its content! He did so without remorse, instead claiming his privacy was invaded by the disclosure. This is not an issue of privacy but of intellectual and literary fraud perpetrated perhaps for monetary gain, but certainly for ego enhancement and aggrandizement, and maybe for some hidden personal sexual agenda.

One can only imagine that Bohannan patted himself on the back quite a lot during the past two years for so thoroughly duping his readers – but not most sex workers, as they were the ones who often challenged the blog’s authenticity. It seems clear that his worst derision was directed at women. I can only hope that Bohannan is no longer amused.

Both Tasty Trixie and Brooke wrote about the ‘Real Princess Diaries’ scandal on the blog of Charlie Glickman, a respected Adult Sexuality Educator. Trixie’s comment appeared before Brooke’s so I have reposted them here in that order. Do check out Glickman’s post directly at his blog.

Oct. 23

“You can create a harmless fictional or semi-fictional persona WITHOUT fabricating specific educational credentials you don’t have (name of school, etc. and relying upon that to establish trust you don’t deserve & set yourself as an expert you are not), WITHOUT stealing images to use on your blog & fake escort portfolio from a real sex worker who specifically does non-nude, tease-only projects, WITHOUT putting real sex workers at risk by using your fake fucking self as a reference to so they’ll see you or others as clients when you have not been vetted by a real sex worker, WITHOUT telling real sex workers and real sex educators how to do (and not do) their jobs, etc.

“Alexa” did all that and more, WITHOUT one morsel of apology, expression of remorse, or admission of any wrongdoing whatsoever, instead consistently manipulating her rabidly loyal fans into thinking S/HE is the person wronged.”

Belle de Jour
Oct. 23

"I’m 100% with Trixie on this one.There have been anonymous blogs in the past that turned out not to be authentic (Shirley Shave for instance) – it’s disappointing for sure, but it’s a whole other world when someone puts themselves forward NOT as telling their own story, but as an actual source of counselling and advice.

To claim to have academic qualifications you don’t have in order to gain others’ trust is unethical. We bloggers do not have a written code of conduct, but there is certainly a code that most people adhere to, especially in sex blogging.

I hesitated to comment on Alexa in the past, because I knew before coming out there were people who doubted me too. It’s frustrating to hear people call you fake when you know you’re not, but cant fight back because you have a life and career to protect.

However, it’s worth pointing out (and this is true for many anonymous or pseudonymous sex bloggers) that you have to gain trust. Obviously my agent and publisher believed in me, as did a couple of people in sex education in London who met me in person. And crucially people whose opinions I respected ([Tasty] Trixie and [Mistress] Matisse for instance) believed in me and supported me. So it’s possible to be anonymous and still prove your bona fides to the people who count. The person writing the Alexa blog has never done that, even though plenty of discreet, trustworthy people tried to reach out and make it happen.

Why does any of this matter? Why is this not just ‘oh, someone’s having a bit of fun?’ Because “Alexa” referred men to sex workers, potentially putting them at risk. Because some sex workers were threatened with exposure – perhaps not by Alexa, but certainly due to the situation. Because there are already countless bullshit stories about sex work peddled to the media every day, and someone claiming experience they don’t have Does Not Help. Because genuine sex educators fight to have their research taken seriously by prurient morons in mainstream media, and someone who tweets about “teaching your sons and daughters to suck ass and lick pussy” is absolutely not for real.

If someone was blogging about being disabled, and turned out to be able-bodied, there would be an uproar. If an anonymous blogger wrote about being a racial minority or queer, but wasn’t, that would be clearly manipulative and unethical: that person would rightly be shunned. But somehow, because it’s sex work, people still queue up to say “don’t take it so seriously!” Fuck that – we are a targeted, criminalised, marginalised minority who have the right to tell our own stories, and the right to protect that right.

At Desiree this summer I was very aware of how privileged I am to have the support to be fully out as an ex-sex worker to the world. I don’t take the position lightly. What offended me most was knowing someone like “Alexa” was riding the coattails of what I and countless others have achieved with real work, hurt, sweat, graft, fear, and love. Making a mockery of us, as if sex work is something anyone can do. It isn’t.”

Recently, Brooke took a hiatus from penning new entries for her REAL and award-winning blog (where she says simply, “Belle de Jour is the pen name of Brooke Magnanti, a UK-based writer and science researcher. Interests: whisky, taphonomy, PGP encryption), and from commenting on Twitter, or other social media outlets, except for an occasional tidbit or comment like the above gem.

Brooke’s books are Belle de Jour’s Guide to Men, 2009; Belle’s Best Bits, 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 one is worth reading, and not just because of the sexual content, but for Brooke’s unique writing voice – trust me! You can find her books at the U.K.'s largest independent booksellers, Waterstones.

Also check out Brooke’s op-ed articles on a variety of topics including reforming Britain’s libel law.

— The Curator

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