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Doubts Emerge About Brooke Magnanti's Life as a £300-an-hour High-Class Call Girl

Doubts Emerge About Brooke Magnanti's Life as a £300-an-hour High-Class Call Girl

Dr Brooke Magnanti, whom we recently exposed both for sockpuppeting to smear other female writers and plagiarising Wikipedia in the Telegraph, has claimed she worked as a prostitute in London for eighteen months between 2003 and 2004. 

She wrote about this experience in her infamous blog, Belle de Jour, and later in two supposedly non-fiction books. But is it true? Accusations that her journalism and her behaviour on social media have been less than forthright have reignited rumours in the publishing world that all is not what it seems.

One of those rumours is that Magnanti’s book The Sex Myth had to be pulped because it was full of factual inaccuracies and it grossly libelled a number of the people and organisations in it, including women’s support network Eaves.  

Another is that the entire basis of her career, conveniently unverifiable accounts of her time as a call girl, are themselves either wholly fictitious or heavily embroidered. Few doubt that at some point in her life, Magnanti may have been paid for sex. But the amount she was paid, the number of clients she saw and the length of her tenure in the industry are the subject of fierce debate behind closed doors. 

When it looked, in 2009, like Brooke Magnanti was about to be outed as the writer of the Belle de Jour blog, she revealed herself, claiming that she was the person behind the life portrayed by her blog. These claims have never been properly scrutinised, though a forthcoming court case in which her ex-boyfriend is suing her may bring more facts to light.

The books are fantasy, I don’t believe that Brooke was a prostitute and I should know as we were together and lived in each other’s pockets – Owen Morris

Such details as how much she charged clients have cast doubt on the blogger’s claims ever since she revealed them. To those familiar with the London prostitution business, several of her assertions appear wildly implausible. 

For example, Magnanti says she charged £300 an hour as a prostitute, £100 of which went to her “agency.” £300 in 2003 would be worth £425 in today’s money. The average appointment lasted two hours and she saw clients two or three times a week. 

The Office for National Statistics estimated that the average price per visit to a prostitute was £55 in 2004. In London today, the standard price for an agency escort is between £150 and £200 an hour for an out-call. A £300 an hour escort is at the top of the market. Only extremely good-looking and young escorts can get away with charging so much.

Does the claim that Magnanti saw clients somewhere between 150 and 200 times, charging an average of £600 a session stack up? As a point of reference, here’s a typical girl well-known London agency, Barracuda, will supply for £250 an hour.

If Magnanti really was a £300-an-hour escort, the 28-year-old woman would have looked dramatically different to other call girls in the same price bracket, a fact that has been overlooked by others so as not to appear sexist but which is now being openly discussed in media and publishing circles, because her credibility on other matters has been called into question. 

Here’s something else to consider. Despite Belle de Jour being the most famous and one of the most prolific British prostitutes of modern times, no-one has ever claimed to have been her client. Given the sensitive nature of prostitution, this may seem unsurprising – but there are established online spaces where men anonymously recall their time with prostitutes.

These spaces run the gamut between dodgy bedsits in Tower Hamlets and upper-class hotel rendezvous, and there is a large, dedicated group of regular punters who anonymously review prostitutes. It is a niche group, but they are thorough and between them have reviewed vast numbers of escorts in London. 

Not a single review of Taro, Brooke Magnanti’s escort name, has ever been found, and no one has come forward to claim they were her client now that she has come out. This is unusual – to put it mildly. 

Her boyfriend of seven years, who was with her while she claimed to be working as a call girl has also cast doubt on Dr Magnanti’s version of events. He is currently suing her for libel and defamation of character, claiming that she might have turned a couple of tricks, but the extent of her nocturnal work is nothing remotely like what she claims in her books. 

He has claimed that Magnanti had a job and was in a relationship with him during the time depicted in her first book, when she claims in the book to be both single and unemployed. He also alleges that clients in her book were fabricated and were based on her relationship with him.

Another former partner of Magnanti’s, Nick Wilde, told the Daily Mail that the character based on him in the book is an “amalgam of characters,”; doing and saying things he never did. He believes that Magnanti’s books consist of wild elaborations and half-truths.

“Characters in the book are based on people. There is truth in it, but where the line is of who is real, who is not, I can’t tell you. Time, place and context are all mixed up,” he says. 

Dr Magnanti has responded these attacks on her “integrity as a writer” by providing what she claims is proof of her former career. This evidence consists of one archived screenshot of her first escort advert from October 2003 and screenshots of her bank account that show she received two payments of £240 and £260 in October 2003.

No more evidence is given, though she claims she has more.

The escort advert reveals the agency she worked for was called Alphababes. The agency no longer exists, but when it did it had a reputation for bait and switch: the photos in the adverts did not match the girls. Other girls from the agency have been reviewed online, though never “Taro.”

Brooke Magnanti has been almost solely responsible for cultivating the myth of the “happy hooker.” Her books and journalism have over the last decade painted prostitution as the ultimate expression of female empowerment and of women taking control of their own lives. 

After coming out as Belle de Jour, Magnanti’s message that prostitution was a valid and fulfilling lifestyle choice went mainstream. The soft porn prose of her blog has been turned into a glamorous TV series that was widely criticised for whitewashing the realities of prostitution.

But although it’s fine to indulge in fantasies about being an attractive and alluring high-class hooker, readers deserve to know what is fact and what is fiction. And they deserve to know whether the message, propagated for years by the media as a result of Magnanti’s allegedly fanciful imagination – that prostitution is an empowering, positive lifestyle choice for women – is probably based on fiction.


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