Prostitution did not finance Belle de Jour's PhD

November 19, 2009

The Bristol-based scientist revealed as the writer "Belle de Jour", who chronicled her life as a "high-class hooker", has dismissed claims that she became a prostitute to finance her doctorate.

Brooke Magnanti unmasked herself this week as the author of the famous blog Diary of a London Call Girl, which was turned into a best-selling novel and hit television series starring Billie Piper.

Dr Magnanti is a 34-year-old research scientist working in the Bristol Initiative for Research of Child Health at the University of Bristol. She graduated with a PhD in informatics, epidemiology and forensic science from the University of Sheffield in 2004.

The scientist worked as a prostitute in London for more than a year between late 2003 and late 2004.

"I couldn't find a professional job in my chosen field because I did not have my PhD yet," she told The Sunday Times.

"I didn't have a lot of spare time on my hands because I was still making corrections and preparing for the viva."

She added: "I started to think: what can I do that I can start doing straight away, 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?"

The case has raised concerns about students turning to prostitution to pay their way.

But in an email responding to Times Higher Education's inquiries, Dr Magnanti claims she did not use her earnings to finance her doctorate.

"I absolutely did not use sex work to fund my PhD, end of story," she says in a memo passed on by Sheffield.

It is understood that Dr Magnanti received partial industry sponsorship for her doctorate, for which she submitted her thesis in September 2003.

Bristol said her past as a sex worker was "not relevant" to her current role.

But Petra Boynton, lecturer in health services research at University College London and a sex and relationship psychologist, said Dr Magnanti's history could affect her career.

"I would like to say it should not make a difference, that academics should be accepting of it and what people do in their spare time - and I expect she will find loads of fans (of Belle de Jour) in her department - but there will be those who are negative," she said.

She added that the scientific community on the whole seemed "very positive" and "actually quite thrilled" to discover that Belle de Jour was one of them.

But she suggested the reaction would have been "very different" if Dr Magnanti was still working as a prostitute.

zoe.corbyn@tsleducation.com.

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Get a month's unlimited access to THE content online. Just register and complete your career summary.

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments